It's been more than a year now that I have been blogging on Dead Guy and as I read or listen to more and more crime fiction, I'm starting to figure out a little more about the kind of books in this genre that I'm attracted to:
1. While it's not a requirement, I'm definitely developing a prediliction for stories featuring a female law enforcement officer and especially those stories that focus on the challenges of being the ony woman in the department . Maybe because I'm a librarian working in a female dominated profession, I get some sort of vicarious pleasure from reading about an overwhelmingly male work environment.
2. I enjoy stories that are set in small towns in geographically unfamiliar locales; aside from satisfying a certain element of voyeurism that comes from peeking in on the lives of people with a different lifestyle, I am also more easily able to accept the descriptive details of place and character development because I am otherwise unfamiliar with them.
3. A certain amount of sexual tension between the characters is always fun but I have enough of an imagination that I don't need to have every physical detail of their relationship spelled out for me.
4. The plot has to be believable and without contrivances. The author loses me at the point in a plot where I find myself saying out loud, "oh, give me a break." Unfortunately - and especially when sampling an author who is new to me - a lot of time can be invested in reading a book, only to be disappointed at the end because the plot plays out in a way that is so unconvincing.
5. I have to be able to keep all the characters straight. (Can you imagine what it would have been like if Tolstoy had decided to write a mystery series? )
6. I neither want nor need extremely graphic descriptions of killings or crime scenes. I understand that there may be blood and guts, but I don't need to feel like I'm standing in the middle of it.
7. In spite of what I just said in point #6, I really enjoy plot elements that get into descriptions of the crime scene forensics, even including autopsies.
8. Characters have to come across as real people who I might be comfortable hanging around with. They should not be so attractive, brilliant or otherwise gifted that I have an inferiority complex by the time I have finished the book.
9. Psycopaths and serial killers are really scary - I'm much more interested in reading about a criminal who is more or less an ordinary person until he or she somehow gets mixed up with something bad.
Breaking Silence, by Linda Castillo, an audiobook that I recently listened to, fits pretty well into the profile I've just described. Kate Burkholder, a female police chief, is investigating the possible murder of three members of an Amish family and must work on the investigation with a state law enforcement agent with whom she had previously been romantically involved. The writing was good, the characters came across as real people and the story was well paced. The book was number 3 in a series and while some references were made to events from the earlier two novels, I never felt as if I were coming in in the middle of things or that there were significant gaps in my understanding of who the characters were. Castillo has definitely made my list of authors to look out for.