International – Genre Study

September 13, 2012


Our LSTA grant is wrapping up at the end of this month. We will start a new genre study based on a genre decided by the survey Molly sent out. The meetings will be quarterly for a slightly shorter period of time. Because not everyone has voted yet Molly will wait to reveal what our new genre will be.

Most of the supplies have been purchased for the grant including shelf end book displays and shelf talkers. These will hang off the front of book shelves and can be used by staff to provide details about “if you liked … try …” or about a genre, an author or even a particular title.

It would be great to get more staff involved in writing staff picks. These get posted on the blog, fed to Facebook and are shared with patrons in other ways. They can be written about any material type we circulate (movies, music, audio-books, etc). If you write something you can send it to Molly or she can teach you how to post it yourself.

An idea came forward to make a bookmark alerting patrons that books on display at the end of the aisles can be borrowed. Only a couple of the stack end displays are up so far but the rest will be going up soon.


“The most obvious trend in the mystery genre”  – Saricks.

Maigret on the Riviera by Georges Simenon – Jason Mazzotta
Light but not cozy because of at least one graphic scene. Main character is a police detective in the French Riviera. Crime of a man with multiple wives in his life. Some seedy elements and secondary characters. Told from the third person and detective is reserved. Subtle writing, enjoyable. Great sense of place. Light, subtle, well drawn.

Dogs of Riga Hemming Mankell – Erica
PBS has been turning these into a TV series. Scandanavian.  Police procedural. Bleak, lots of description of gray, open spaces and sleek clean architecture. Brutal. Some takes place in Latvia right after the fall of Soviet Union. Corruption, mafia, some romance. Slow and methodical for the most part. Exhaustively descriptive, bleak, corruption.

Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg – Susana
First book in series. Set in Sweden.  Popular worldwide.  Amateur detective. Set in winter, bleak, who-did-it, bloody, some romance, ok but rest in series may be better. Simple and fast read. Quick read, captivating, descriptive. 

Magdalen Nabb (Marshal Guarnaccia series) – Portia
Portia read several in series by Nabb. Set in modern day Florence based mostly on real crimes. The military police solve them. Characters are well done. Ponderings of main character are very interesting. Author was a potter and she draws on this experience. Draws in issues and events of past and present. We need to fill in our collection of her books. Engaging, evocative, empathetic.
*series should be read in order, start with Marshall and the Murderer

Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – Dylan
English author who writes books set in Netherlands and France. Police procedural. Horrific crime, teenage gang, plot follows detectives meanderings. Set in 1960’s when it was written. Goes against advice. Well written. Incisive, witty, evocative setting.

Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith – Ben
4th in series.  Extreme cozy. No villains whatsoever. Extent of crime is having stolen a radio as a youth, boasting, someone who goes on a date while he is still married. Doesn’t really feel like a mystery. Focuses on lives of those involved. Language evokes a sense of place even more so than description of landscape. Language is so stylistic that it will either appeal or detract readers. Cozy, simple, interesting language

Neruda Case by Roberto Ambrero – Faith
First book translated into English although he has many before this. Not a strict mystery. Middle aged Cuban PI living in Chile. Story takes you to several places including Berlin and Cuba. Strong sense of place. References Maigret  by Simenon to be a detective. Set in 1973 and involves Neruda, Allende and other people and events of the time.   Great language, well written, interesting perspective. Beautiful translation, evocative of time and place, political/philosophical.

Good Blood by Aaron Elkins – Julie
11th in series. Forensic anthropologist. Series is usually set in Rome/Florence but this one is set in northern Italy. Family secrets. Wealthy family. Twists and turns. Some police procedural. Two plotlines with many characters to keep track of. Engaging, quick read. Sense of place, suspenseful, family drama.

Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall – Paula
Written in English takes place in India. Difficult Indian slang interfered with enjoyment.  Glossary in back of book.  India’s best private detective takes on murder after cricket match. Poisoned chicken, many people ate, only one died.  Some humor. Contemporary setting , clash between generations. Good for fans of Bollywood. Really strong sense of place. Interesting information on strength of Indian family. There is a recipe in the back for Butter Chicken, despite its role as the murder weapon. Cozy, Slang, Strong sense of place.

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith – Frank
Cozy, quick read, which is important for outreach patrons. Investigation of disappearance of young man. Written by Scotsman with embarrassment for English colonial past. Great African setting, sense of place, soul of Africa. Chides western conditions.

Mixed Blood by Roger Smith – Steven
Set in South Africa. Opposite of Alexander McCall Smith. Raw, vulgar, assumed to be reflective of Cape Town. Less of mystery because everything was on the surface. Bleak, characters cruel to each other. Pacing and atmospheric is cinematic. Cat and mouse chase. Quick read. Cinematic thriller pacing, raw, vulgar.

Disco for the Departed by Colin  Cotterill – Molly
Third in the series. Set in 1970s Laos just after the communists took over. Main character is the 70 year old national coroner of the country, got this position politically. London author who has lived around. Written in 2006. Main character is semi-possessed by a deceased shaman and has contact with the dead.  Look for the disco dancing mummy. Witty, other-worldy, strong sense of place and time.

Broken Shore by Peter Temple – Lisa
Strong sense of place both through description of landscape and culture as well as use of language. Main character is a detective who was sent from his usual post in the city to a rural coastal village after a near death experience. There a murder of a prominent person is believed to be committed by aboriginals. Race, prejudice, hate crimes are all addressed. Bleak, sparse writing, witty dialogue.


Terminology and ways to talk about books. Can easily be done with other formats as well? Getting more information though a “reference interview” instead of just listening to first thing said.

For outreach it has made a big difference in getting a better understanding of the genre and can pass along books with more confidence.

When patron says they like mysteries more information is needed – the genre is so diverse with many different appeal factors.

PIs, police procedurals, amateurs… we can talk mysteries with our patrons. Increased author familiarity. Gave opportunity to read things I normally wouldn’t have.

Grateful that this study has gotten me to read fiction again.

What else am I missing?

Thinking about appeal factors while reading. Completely changed the way I read. This can be distracting as a reader but is a great way to be able to build cross-genre patron suggestions and reading connections.

Many books cross genre.

When working with patrons, can determine based on what people are checking out can more easily figure out what the appeal to them is.

When reading, who would this appeal to?

Looking at our book recommendation materials with more depth and insight, in order to hone in on items of particular interest to the reader.

General appeal of Mysteries? What can we say about them? Resolution, some sort of justice or finality.

Definition of mystery? Something needs to be solved.


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