Book Flight: Suspense With Unique Detectives

Some of the earliest books I fell in love with were mystery and suspense. I read every Trixie Beldon, Three Investigators, and Nancy Drew book my little hometown library had to offer when I was in elementary school. Suspense is still my favorite genre.

While I absolutely love a good, traditional suspense, some stand out for their unique perspective. Here are four great series that feature unique detectives as the main character.

Steven James: Patrick Bowers series

Patrick Bowers has to be one of my all time favorite fictional characters. Patrick is an FBI agent and environmental criminologist – he studies crime as it relates to place. In other words, they try to figure out why a killer chooses a certain place to kill or to hide the victims, which can help lead to finding suspects. There’s also an ongoing storyline throughout the series related to one of Patrick’s earlier cases. Start with The Pawn and read these in order. While James has written several prequels, I think it adds to the story to figure things out along the way, so read Opening Moves and his other prequel books after you finish Checkmate.

This multi-award-winning series is not for the faint of heart – while this series is Christian fiction, James doesn’t shy away from realistic and sometimes gruesome details. I personally love this series, but if you like slightly less intense books, skip this one and check the Gwen Marcy series.

Carrie Stuart Parks: Gwen Marcy series

Carrie Stuart Parks balances the perfect amount of humor with suspense in her Gwen Marcy series. Gwen is a single mom, divorcée, cancer survivor, and forensic artist. Parks herself is a forensic artist, so she draws on her experience (no pun intended) to make these books realistic. Be sure to start with A Cry from the Dust and read these in order. While intense at times, I don’t think any of the details in these these would bother the average reader.

Sibella Giorello: Raleigh Harmon series

FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is a forensic geologist whose life was shattered when her dad was murdered. Now she’s juggling her career with helping her mentally ill mother. Raleigh draws on her geology expertise to find details others might overlook as she solves crimes.

Another unique thing I love about this series is the Southernness. I was born and raised in south Arkansas, so Southern culture (like our manners and our food) are deeply ingrained in me. Giorello perfectly describes the one-of-a-kind culture of the South. The characters are so real you almost feel like you know them personally.

There are technically three parts to this series: the original five book series, the newer series (which picks up after Raleigh makes some major life changes), and the YA series that covers some of Raleigh’s teen years. My recommendation: start with the original series (The Stones Cry Out is book one), then read either the new books or the YA series.

Tim Downs: Bugman series

This really unique Christian fiction series is another series that is not for the faint of heart. Dr. Nick Polchak – the Bugman – is a forensic entomologist. He studies bugs at crime scenes, so as you can imagine, this series can get a little gross. However, it is Christian fiction and very clean reading, if you can handle the subject matter.

What books have you read with a unique detective? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. I’m always ready to try a new-to-me author!


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