Remember the good old days? When P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill, or Colin Dexter published a new mystery novel, and you’d rush to the book store to buy it, or put yourself on a very long list at the library? Then once you had the book in your hot little hands, you’d scurry home with your treasure tucked under your arm, perhaps you called ahead to tell Hubby to put the kettle on because you didn’t want to waste a minute before you hunkered down with a cup of tea and this latest masterpiece?

Okay, the part about calling Hubby is a bit of an exaggeration. Still, you get my point. I miss the day when all of the mystery writers I most admire were still writing, and publishing regularly. I miss those halcyon days when I knew that after the skiing on a wintry Sunday afternoon, I could look forward to a cup of tea, a fire in the fireplace, and a great mystery novel.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still great mystery writers out there, and I wait impatiently for each of them to publish their next book. Elizabeth George’s umpteenth Inspector Lynley for instance came out last year. Now there’s a great, old-timey mystery: well written, with recurring characters I love, and a plot that really hangs together and doesn’t do anything ridiculous in the last fifty pages. I need all of those things to consider a book a really great mystery.

And writers like Ann Cleeves, Tana French, or Peter Robinson rarely disappoint. Similarly, Denise Mina’s dark, edgy novels set in Glasgow, or Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels, and Jim Kelly’s Shaw and Valentine books, set in Norfolk. I’m a sucker for an evocative setting. Last year I discovered Susie Steiner about whom I wrote a rather effusive post. Then there are writers who write both mystery and literary fiction. Like Kate Atkinson whose first foray into the spy genre, Transcription, I finished a few weeks ago. Or Susan Hill who writes the Simon Serrailler series, and also has several stand alone books. I love all of these writers; I always pour a cup of tea, and find myself a comfy spot to burrow down for a good, long read whenever I get my hands on one of their books.

But it’s not enough, people.

Even though Kate Atkinson, Denise Mina, and Elly Griffiths all have new books out, or coming out this year, it’s still not enough. Why when it appears as if there are so many wonderful writers writing wonderful mystery novels am I still searching for something to read?

Maybe I’m reading more. I probably am, now that I don’t have to spend my evenings reading and marking student work. Even on those nights when I work late on the blog, I read before I go to bed, unlike when I was still teaching. So I consume more books, I guess.

But that isn’t the whole story. These days, I find myself discovering and casting aside many more writers than I used to do. I loved Scottish writer Stuart McBride for a time, until his plots became crazy violent, and sometimes just plain crazy. Same with S.J. Bolton, whose writing I initially liked and then became exasperated with as her plots began to verge on the ridiculous. Peter May’s latest stand-alone was disappointing, the plot down-right silly at the end. Even Hubby felt like tossing it, and he’s way more tolerant for authorial weakness than I am. Lately I find Val McDermid’s recurring character Dr. Tony Hill just plain annoying, and Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus slightly exasperating, and a bit boring. Both Hubby and I have enjoyed Peter Lovesey’s Inspector Diamond series, though. We powered through all fourteen of those, even though some of them are a bit uneven, and definitely not up to P.D. James or Kate Atkinson standards.

So what’s a mystery lover to do when there are not enough great books to satiate the hunger for them? Well, go on a big book hunt, that’s what.

I remember back when I was younger, and had a lot less reading under my belt, I’d sometimes discover a new-to-me mystery writer whose work I loved, and who had a huge back-list of books that I could then relish. That was awesome. So I began my hunt by looking for writers who had been around a while, but were new to me. Or about whom I had forgotten.

Writers like W.J. Burley who wrote the Wycliffe series set in Cornwall. Hubby and I used to love those quiet and competently written novels. So I bought a couple of titles which had been reissued, and then I went on the search for the whole list. I’ve read three or four in the past few weeks, most on my Kindle. It’s Burley’s tone, and his superbly restrained style which I love the most. I even started calling him the Barbara Pym of mystery writers, but that comment was lost on Hubby. Ha.

Based on the recommendation of Frances of Materfamilias Writes, I ordered the first novel in a series of books by Michael Robotham. I loved The Suspect right away, then I became a little exasperated at the main character and kept yelling at him in my head. But I persisted, and I’m glad I did because now I’m loving it again. I’ll bet Frances just heaved a big sigh of relief there. Ha. I always feel the same when I speak highly of a book that someone then reads. As if by recommending it we become responsible for the reader’s enjoyment

I subscribe to a newsletter called “The Crime Lady” written by Sarah Weinman, a former student of mine. She always publishes her “best of” list at the end of the year, and I always pay attention to it. I discovered Laura Lippman five or six years ago from one of Sarah’s lists. Her tastes don’t always align with mine; as she says herself, she likes her crime fiction “a little weird, a lot bold, and plenty off-kilter.” Still, she knows her stuff. And I can filter out the titles that are too off-kilter for me. So I ordered a few of her suggestions from the library: the latest Laura Lippman, and one by a writer called William Boyle, who is new to me. I ordered Boyle’s first novel. I hope I like it because he has several others available. Based on Sarah’s review, I also ordered a book called Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht. I’ll let you know how I get on with these.

If I couldn’t get new mystery novels from favourite writers, I thought I might explore others works of theirs. I decided to try some of Susan Hill’s non-Serrailler books. Mrs. De Winter, which she wrote way back in the nineties and is the follow-up to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, is wonderful. I devoured it. Hill definitely knows her du Maurier. Even the style she adopts in her writing is evocative of du Maurier. I also discovered that mystery writer Minette Walters, a big favourite back in the day when she was writing the likes of The Sculptress or The Shape of Snakes, has a new book on the shelves at the library. The Last Hours is not a mystery, but historical fiction set in England in the era of the Black Plague. I found it gripping. And I was tickled to see that it’s the first in a trilogy, with the second book, The Turn of Midnight, coming out this year.

I think my research has proven fruitful. The other day, I found an on-line journal called Crime Reads, and I subscribed to their weekly newsletter. It’s pretty interesting with links to articles about all kinds of mysteries and crime novels, new and old. Like this one about “cosy bookstore mysteries.” I like some of the “cosy” genre, as long as they are not too cosy, or “twee” as some of you Brits might say. Plus I’ve stumbled upon a couple of older writers whose back-lists I’ve yet to explore. I’ll let you know if they pan out.

I may not be able to bring back the halcyon days of P.D. James, and Colin Dexter, and my beloved Reginald Hill, but I think I’ve found enough books that I may be able to last the winter reading-wise. Hopefully. I admit that I’m addicted to mystery novels. I love to read a whole lot of different books, with the exception of horror and science fiction. But mysteries are my passion, my not so secret addiction.


And, you know, I’ve been thinking… we should start a club. Mystery Lovers Anonymous.


I’ll go first. My name is Sue, and I am powerless in the face of my need to consume mystery novels. I cannot curb my appetite for murder and mayhem.

Maybe I should blame my grandmother Sullivan who got me started on Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen back when I was a kid. Maybe that’s why I’m addicted. I don’t know, it’s a mystery.
I love that line. Hubby and I use it all the time. I cannot believe that it’s been twenty-one years since Shakespeare in Love, with the wonderful Geoffrey Rush as Henslowe.

Now, speaking of books, I’m off to book club in a few minutes, and I haven’t read the book. I know, I know. Bad book club member. I’ve just been too darned busy searching for good mysteries to do my assigned reading.  

Hope I don’t get in trouble.      

What about you folks? Are you addicted to books of a particular genre? Care to join Mystery Lovers Anonymous?    

P.S. Book links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking my link I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


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70 thoughts on “Mystery Lovers Anonymous”

  1. Well, it's far too late for me to be Anonymous — No way to hid my Mystery Lover status.
    Have you never read any Fred Vargas? Her novels featuring Commissaire Adamsberg are wonderful, although they always have a touch of the surreal/supernatural — which is mostly revealed as metaphorical or explicable by logic/science. They're set in contemporary Paris, for the most part, but they occasionally involve travel, geographic or historic. Hard to describe, but worth trying at least one. . .

    1. Ha. I love Ines' below …"Mystery Lovers Not So Anonymous." I have seen Fred Vargas on the shelf and never picked it up. I will now. Thanks, Frances.

    2. Fred Vargas is amazing – especially if you have a taste for the slightly bizarre side of history. And definitely non-standard detectives.

      1. I’ve not tried Fred Vargas, although the books have been recommended to me. I have to do better at reading what’s actually on my “to red” list. 🙂

  2. So many great recommendations, so little time currently. Yes Mystery Lovers Anonymous is for me! Know what you mean about the pleasure of a new book in a series you know and love or the discovery of a new one. Came across Martin Walker's Bruno books a few years ago and read them back to back one holiday. Very much "murder lite" requiring high level of suspension of disbelief but very addictive at the time. Have tended to avoid books if I've seen tv version exception Anne Cleeves Shetland books which I recently worked my way through. Love and always look forward to Donna Leon's Brunetti books though I suspect there won't be many more. Most recently enjoyed the latest Robert Galbraith ( have you ever read that series?) Elly Griffiths recent stand alone and very excited to see in your post that Kate Atkinson has a new Jackson Brodie novel coming out. Ah yes, nothing like a good mystery. Hope your latest finds fill the void. Iris

    1. I have not read Martin Walker; they might be good books to take along on a trip and leave behind. We have a stash of light reads to take on trips, which we buy at Gus's store when we are in Fredericton. I'm sad that Ann Cleeves has wrapped up the Shetland series. Hopefully she has new and just as wonderful endeavours coming up.

  3. Hello Sue,

    count me in with Mystery Lovers Not so Anonymous.
    Thanks for your recommendations. Again my wish list has grown after reading your post.Those Minette Walters books sound intriguing.
    I have two recommendations for you that might be redundant since I might have read about them right here on your blog but I don´t always remember where I get ideas for new reads. Once you start investigating one idea, it leads to the next and from there… you get the idea.
    I just finished and utterly enjoyed Longbourn by Jo Baker. This was one of the books I was really sorry when it ended as I wanted to stay in it a while longer. Not a mystery, though. And isn´t Wickham, well, wicked?
    If you like historical mysteries then you might enjoy the Matthew Shardlake series. I have learnt more about Henry VIII´s England than I did in school.

    Good thing the weather is dismal. I´ll have to retire to my couch and read. ; )


    1. I have read and written about Longbourn. So you may have heard about it here. But I am so glad you love it too. I wish she'd do something similar with other classics. Funny you should mention the Shardlake series. I rediscovered CJ Sansom thanks to Materfamilias a couple of weeks ago. I'd totally forgotten about those books.

  4. Count me in,too!
    I was childishly happy when Frances revealed Michael Robotham-I love it so much….and still a lot of his books to read…yay!
    I agree with Ines,I'm a great fan of CJ Sansom and his Matthew Shardlake series. I loved The Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin,too,if we are talking about historical mysteries
    I loved the first and the last of Robert Gailbraight books and all (more or less) of Ann Cleeves books
    Can't wait to read W.J.Burley (and hope that there are a lot of them….we have very similar mystery books taste) and give a try to new Minette Walters-I've read one of her books and wasn't enchanted
    In the category of Scandinavian mysteries,I prefer Camilla Läckberg so far,less sadistic and noir than the (excellent) other writers
    William Boyle sounds familiar-have to check
    Yes,I am a mystery book addict, from childhood! As long as there are excellent mysteries,life is good

    1. I have some C.J. Sansom on order at the library thanks to Frances. I didn't immediately take to the Robert Galbraith books, I can't remember why. W.J. Burley was very prolific. They are light, but I find them interesting and engrossing to read. Partly because they are well crafted.

  5. Your post came at the perfect time. I've been so caught up in life and work, and now know that I NEED more reading time. I totally agree with you on Elizabeth George and I have discovered Ann Cleeves (strangely, after watching Shetland on Netflix). I used to read Jonathan Kellerman and James Patterson but now they feel simple and repetitive and I hate how they team up with other writers to create predictable work. I think you've written about Louise Penny before. She must be one of my favourites. For sheer enjoyment and a good laugh, Janet Evanovich can't be beat! I will happily look into the other names you have mentioned. I just paid my $70 to renew my 'out of town' library membership yesterday! -Jenn

    1. I love Ann Cleeves and will miss her Shetland books. Maybe they will carry on the series regardless of the lack of future books, like the Inspector Lewis series carried on after Morse. I'm not a Louise Penny fan although lots of people who read this blog love her.
      I know what you mean about Kellerman et al. Too slick by half for me.

  6. I keep thinking I have read all the good mystery series and there is nothing left to read. Thank you for a few new recommendations. Ohhh a new Jackson Brodie. A mystery series I enjoyed is by Sujata Massey. There are 11 books in the series starting with The Salaryman’s Wife. Rei Shimura is a Japanese American English teacher who unexpectedly becomes a detective. The books have wonderful details about life in Japan. I spent time in Japan, so l loved all the details about a Japanese culture and art.

    1. I will have to prolong reading the new Jackson Brodie as long as possible. I won't want the experience of reading more Kate Atkinson mysteries to be over too soon. I'll check to see if the library has any of those Sujata Massey books. Thanks, Deborah.

  7. When I saw your Instagram post, I was going to recommend Michael Robotham..I just finished The Suspect after I inadvertently read, I believe the 8th book in the series. I thought The Suspect was slow in parts, but it sort of sets you up for the rest of the series. The 8th book, read first, I couldn't put down. I also love Lisa Jewell, a British mystery writer. Have you read any Ken Bruen? Count me in…

    1. I was so exasperated with the charater in places in the first half of The Suspect. He reminded me too much of Val McDermid's Dr Tony Hill and Jonathan Kellerman's character Alex Delaware, both of whom I grew very tired. Stu and I both read the Lisa Jewell (I Found You) on your suggestion, and enjoyed it. And Ken Bruen I discovered when we were in Ireland. I visited a bookstore in Galway and chatted with a young man who worked there about local writers. Bruen lives in Galway. I like the books, but have to ration them because they are quite dark. I find them a little depressing especially with respect to the main character's alcoholism. There is a TV series called Jack Taylor, based on the Bruen books, that we love. Bit violent for Galway, but quite good.

  8. Fellow mystery lover here. I have read all by Tony Hillerman, who writes about a policeman solving crimes on the Navajo reservation. What I love about his books is the sensitivity his protagonist has to Native American ways and traditions, which enable him to solve crimes and/or seek justice in ways that honor the Navajo (and the author has been honored by the Navajo in return so I respect his writing).

    1. I was going to suggest Hillerman, so I'm glad I read through all of the comments and can whole-heartedly add my voice to the chorus. Wonderful character development and an interesting glimpse into the culture

  9. I, too, love mysteries (not thrillers, but mysteries)! Thanks for mentioning all the authors you did as some of them I don’t know about and will add them to my list. I note you didn’t mention Louise Penny and her Inspector Gamache series, which is one of my favorites.

  10. I have been in a mystery slump since finishing Elizabeth George’s latest. I will definitely look into some that have been mentioned here. I have enjoyed the Maisie Dobbs series particularly the first one which is about WWI. I do think that series has just about run it’s course, however, and later ones are not as good. Also liked Deborah Crombie, and am waiting for a new one from her. My book group read “The Color of Law” by Mark Gimenez who is a Texas writer. He has written 6 or 7 mysteries set in Texas. I had not heard of him, but his books seem to sell well in other countries. Although his plots can be a little flawed, he gives an intelligent insider’s view of Texas. “The Color of Law” is a great cultural description of Dallas!

    1. I think I read the first Masie Dobbs ages ago. Can't remember but it sounds so familiar. I too like Deborah Crombie; she seems to have slowed down in the past few years, or am I just more impatient?

    1. I tried two Donna Leon books and didn't love them, but I have another one at the moment to try, thinking that having been to Venice might make me like them more.

  11. I so appreciate all the wonderful authors mentioned in your blog, as well as all mentioned by your readers. I will definitely be seeking some of them out at our local library! I have read most of Anne Cleeve's Vera and Shetland series and never miss a chance to read a new Louise Penny book. Another author whose mysteries I enjoy is Anne Perry, with her Victorian murder mysteries.

  12. Have you read Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache novels-Still Life is the first. Love that they're set in Quebec and such wonderful recurring characters.

  13. Addicted to the mystery genre also. My new favourite author is Louise Penney and I recommend reading them in order. Thanks for all the recommendations in your enjoyable post. I have been listening to audiobooks lately, l’d be interested to know how readers view this?

  14. What a great blog post, Sue. I love to read but never know what to read next and my hubby loves mysteries so you have given us some ideas. My favourite mystery writer right now is Louise Penney as one of your commentators also recommended. I'm going to write down your list and try some of them. Thanks a lot!

  15. Hi Sue
    So many titles/authors to hunt down at the library. This is great!
    I’m finishing the 13th of 14 Louise Penny books. I’ll miss this series though number 15 is in the works.
    Book Hub provides me with the Cozy mysteries I enjoy. Some are free or at a minimal cost.
    You and your readers have taken the quilt (in my mind!?!) of sitting and enjoying a good book in my retirement years. Now I’ll add a cup of tea!
    Stay warm!

  16. Retirement years…Baaa! There must be a better choice of words for this awesome period in our life! Suggestions?
    BTW…My Palm Desert get away with “the girls” was wonderful. It may become an annual trip!

  17. I devour mysteries and have since I was a child. I still have all my Nancy Drew books.

    I’ve read all the Kate Atkinson, Susie Steiner, Peter Lovesey, Jane Harper, Colin Dexter, Sara Paretsky, Elizabeth George, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Jim Kelly, to name a few. For Christmas, my daughter gave me the Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) books; I’m currently reading the first one and enjoying it very much.

    I tend to re-read books that I’ve enjoyed. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a LOT of favorites, and when I can’t find a new mystery to start (or the library is closed), I go to my shelves for an old friend—one of the authors listed above, or an Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Gilman, Agatha Christie, or Rex Stout. Such fun!

    I’m on board for Mystery Lovers Anonymous. My name is Peggy and I enjoy losing myself in a well written story. I also tend to think about creative murder methods and body disposal, although I have no plans to apply these! Really.

    1. Oh gosh, Rex Stout. I remember stumbling upon some Rex Stout mysteries in a used book store in the 80's. I always enjoyed the Nero Wolfe books. Just checked and there are 33 of them Must be some in there that I haven't yet read.

  18. I'm laughing at how many people are recommending Louise Penney, and how you keep having to say she doesn't do it for you. I'll skip recommending her. 🙂 Have you tried Cara Black? Her Aimee Leduc series is set in Paris in the 90s, and features a private eye who loves vintage fashion – might be right up your alley!

  19. I used to read every Martha Grimes that ever came out. And then of course Tana French more recently. But I admit I've strayed to fantasy? Is that appalling?

  20. As a lifelong mystery lover I LOVE this post and all the comments — I've got quite a list going now.
    I was wondering if you like authors like Anna Katherine Green ( Mary Elizabeth Braddon ( I first discovered these authors on Librivox,org when I was looking for free audiobooks, but since then have downloaded print versions of books from I probably developed my taste for these as a result of reading through my grandmothers' libraries, but, if you have a taste for Victorian literature, these may appeal to you too 🙂

  21. I often find myself completely stunned when standing in front of the mystery section because I don't know where to start. The British Library has reissued many old mystery tales from the Golden Age and I occasionally pick up a couple. You can see why Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers were so good because a lot of them are a bit cod. Comforting, though. I struggle with graphic violence and had to give up with Patricia Cornwell because I started to pray that Kay Scarpetta would get murdered and thereby stop being so annoying. Michael Dibdin's Zen detective is worth reading. And I will admit to loving Lindsey Davis' Roman detective, Falco. Soon it will be time to do the annual book cull and I am wondering who will get the chop?

  22. Thanks for the heads-up that a new Jackson Brodie is coming! I scurried over to my library website, and I am now second on the waiting list — quite a coup! (Just have to wait for it to be published …)

    Like you, I have tried Louise Penny (the first several) and just cannot get into her series. I feel as if I should like her for many reasons, and legions of readers obviously do — funny how sometimes an author just isn't the right fit. (I keep thinking that maybe I should just try one more, but perhaps I won't now that I've discovered I'm not the only one in the universe who hasn't warmed up to her.)

    In terms of old classics, have you read any Josephine Tey? I have a few of hers on my shelf that I haven't read in many years; I was just thinking recently that I should reread them sometime this year.

    Denise L.

  23. This is funny – I'm really in the same boat , and have read so many mystery series that I bail on after a few books. Louise Penny comes to mind …..powered through 4 or 5 of them before they got repetitive and more than slightly preposterous. I've moved over into crime thriller territory (Rankin, Connelly, etc) where my luck is better .

    1. I've kind of bailed on Ian Rankin after seeing him at an Ottawa Writer's Festival event. He was so dismissive and almost disdainful of audience questions. I'm sure writers get sick and tired of fawning readers… but if he can't be nice he should stay home. I haven't looked at his books the same since.

    2. I've met him in person too (I worked in publishing for years and sold his books) and frankly was put off by him too. He was inappropriate , is all I'll say.

  24. Mystery book lover here too. Being your age I can relate to waiting for their next books to come out. Some writers I used to love are just dialling it in now. Old faithful who has kept up the standard imo is Sarah Paretsky.
    I recently read Susie Steiners books based on your recommendation.
    I hate it when I pick up a new writer and it is later on in a series, recently did that with Karin Slaughter and wished I'd started her eariler work first.
    Looking forward to others suggestions.

    1. "Dialing it in" is a good way to put it. I like Sara Paretsky too. I though about her when I was in Venice this year, and looking at the glass on Murano. Remembering her character's red wine glasses.

  25. not sure if you like political mysteries but i really enjoy daniel silva. another author i really like is mark billingham. he writes about a london detective and tends to focus on particular social issues without being preachy. they can also be very funny in a dry way. i love stuart macbride but then i am a scot and find him hysterically funny whereas my Australia friends dont really get it. i agree about peter robinson and jonathan kellerman et al. same story with slight tweaking in each book. i like kathy reichs but too many in a row get very depressing.
    thank you for all the great suggestions from everyone. its so exciting when you find a new author you love who has written lots of books. there are quite a few i am dying to try.

    1. I was disappointed when McBride started getting too violent for me because I love the way he writes. And he is indeed hilarious sometimes. I always remember the line about how a character looked like she'd had her hair styled by seagulls.

    1. I'm not a Si Fi fan, although I taught some wonderful Sci Fi books. I did enjoy Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, though. Couldn't put it down actually.

  26. You could try some Australian Bush Noir. Jane Harper has three novels out, start with The Dry. Peter Temple start with The Broken Shore. A debut novel Chris Hammer Scrublands. An excellent new Irish author Dervla McTernan The Ruin. I started on Michael Robotham with his latest, The Other Wife, which I enjoyed much more than his first novel The suspect.
    A bit of heatwave atmosphere might be a nice antidote to your Canadian winter.

    1. I read your comment last night just as I was tossing aside another book I'd started and couldn't bear to persist with. I usually love Laura Lippman, but her latest, Sunburn, was too dark for me. Too many ruined lives right off the bat.
      I've read all the Peter Temple, and loved his Broken Shore series. Didn't love the Suspect by Robotham. Too much of an out and out thriller. But I'm willing to try another of his. Anyway, I'd never heard of Dervla McTiernan, so I read a bit about her, ordered The Ruin on Kindle, and dug into it happily for at least another hour before bed.
      Thank-you, Sue N. Great suggestions.

      1. HI Sue
        Glad you liked the suggestions. We recently visited the Orkney Islands and were recommended the Lewis trilogy by Peter May. They are exceptionally good and very atmospheric. Start with the Black House. He has also written another series set in China but I have yet to read them.

  27. Laurie R. King has 2 series of mysteries I've enjoyed. The Kate Martinelli series is about a female detective in San Francisco. The Mary Russell series is about a young woman who becomes the apprentice of Sherlock Holmes and eventually his partner and wife. As a fan of the original Holmes stories, I've especially enjoyed the Russell series.

  28. So many new authors, so little time! I am reading all of the Ian Rankin books. If I had met him and he acted that way, I probably would have stopped reading him also. I do read Louise Penny, but I will admit that some of her latest books have very strange plots. Have you read Julia Keller books? They are really well written. I read all of the C. J Box books. I loved them. I am so tired of James Patterson and Jonathan Kellerman. They have become very tiresome. Patterson's stories are so simplistic, almost as bad as Stuart Woods' books. Your author list is going to keep me very busy!

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