As a lifetime fan of mysteries and thrillers, I sometimes find myself getting a bit burned out with the traditional detectives—whether it’s the morally upstanding detective who is beloved by their community and has a knack for solving crimes, or the divorced, prickly detective who drinks too much but always gets the bad guy. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy those detectives, but just like I would get bored with every book having the same setting, I need to read about different types of characters—from personality to ethnicity—solving crimes.
It’s why I seek out mystery novels with detectives who are, let’s say… probably not your grandmother’s detectives. Unless, of course, your Nana is here for edgy, interesting, and/or non-traditional gumshoes. In that case, she’ll love these mysteries—and you should buy her a few because your Nana deserves nice things.
Isaiah Quintabe (AKA IQ) in:
In this novel told in past and present chapters, we get to know IQ in his current life and his life seven years before—including a traumatic, life-changing event, and his relationship with Dodson (rhymes a bit with Watson, hint-hint). IQ is currently a private detective in racially and ethnically diverse East Long Beach, California and serves his community by taking on cases even when clients can only pay with things like a chicken. To pay the bills, though, he sometimes has to take on clients that pay in actual money, like a rap mogul whose life is in danger. With his brain for deducing and solving problems, IQ is the PI you want, and Ide is the author you want bringing East Long Beach to life. The characters are so well written, you'll feel like they're in the room with you. When you're finished, you can pick up the follow-up novel, Righteous, which is excellent and will scratch your itch for more IQ. This series is perfect for fans of Walter Mosley.
Juniper Song in:
Song—a mid-twenties Korean-American with a fixation for Philip Marlowe—begins as an amateur sleuth in the first novel when she helps a friend investigate his father's possible affair. The series continues with paid cases as Song works her way through an apprenticeship to earn her PI license in the second and third novels. Song is broken from the past, dripping with sarcasm, relentless, and my new favorite PI (amateur or not) in a noir series. Cha brings the Korean communities in L.A. alive while creating a fantastic noir heroine who sees the world as it is: always with a little bit of a dark stain.
Detective Mark Hutton (although Cat and Bess may steal the show) in:
This novel is the perfect blend of “chick-lit” type women working in fashion (think The Devil Wears Prada—except the women are friends and activists! And there are dead people!) and mystery detective novel (hot detective!). Hutton is like a detective from a romance novel who jumped genres so, if you ever wanted to have a crush on a detective, get your emoji heart-eyes ready. A postcard mailed by Hillary Whitney appears AFTER she's found dead in a locked room at the fashion magazine she works for. Suspicious much? It gives Detective Hutton what he needs to keep digging into the case along with Whitney’s friends/coworkers Cat and Bess, who are funny, smart, determined, and a bit of a mess. There may also be some blooming romance... If you've just finished binge-watching the show The Bold Type, this should help with the withdrawal.
Renée Ballard in:
The creator of Harry Bosch has a new detective! Renée Ballard works the night shift as punishment for filing a sexual harassment complaint against a boss. While she's supposed to give the cases she catches in the middle of the night over to the day shift detectives for them to solve, she can't help but work on two new cases on her own time. She does, after all, have to work her way back to being an up-and-coming detective. While her partner is against her going rogue to work on these cases, it works out just fine for Renée, who has mastered being a loner. Tenacious and with a strong moral compass, Renée Ballard will have Connelly fans waiting impatiently for the next book in the series.
Betty Rhyzyk in:
Brooklyn born-and-bred detective Betty Rhyzyk is trying to make a name for herself in Dallas, Texas. Good thing Rhyzyk is a brilliant detective with hard edges and heart because the case she starts on is gonna go in directions she can't even imagine. And readers won't see it coming, either! She's also dealing with the death of her uncle, who was the only person always there for her, and her doctor girlfriend, who has an equally demanding career. Besides Rhyzyk being a fantastic character, the novel strikes a perfect balance of humor, violence, action, and procedural which is sure to satisfy crime novel fans.
What to Read Next
Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor who always has a book in one hand. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and spends way too much time asking her goat-dog “What’s in your mouth?!” Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.