Library books

After I shared my summer reading list a couple of months ago and mentioned William Kent Krueger’s Cork O-Connor series, a reader was kind enough to send an email and tell me about two of his and his wife’s favorites book series: Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache and Marc Cameron’s Arliss Cutler.

I was pleased to tell him I am already a big fan of Canadian author Louise Penny and her loveable protagonist, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, the provincial police force for Quebec. Gamache is the main character of the 17 books in the series. I recently finished number six, so I have many ahead of me to enjoy.

As an aside, Penny teamed with former U.S. Senator, First Lady and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to write State of Terror, a geopolitical thriller released last year which I have not read but which, according to my wife, is a page turner. (Although not part of the Gamache series, there is a nod to the chief inspector and the fictional Canadian town of Three Pines, where the stories are set.)

Seems Hillary is following in the steps of husband Bill who co-wrote The President is Missing and The President’s Daughter with James Patterson. I am not a big Patterson fan (or Clinton fan, for that matter), but I read both Patterson-Clinton collaborations and thoroughly enjoyed them.

I was not familiar with the Arliss Cutler series my friend told me about in his email. The author, Marc Cameron, is a contributor to the Jack Ryan universe,” the loose name given to the dramatic and media franchise created by the late Tom Clancy.

There are four books (so far) in the Cutler series of crime thrillers set in Alaska. I have number one, Open Carry, near the top of my TBR (“To Be Read”) stack and look forward to getting into it.

Speaking of Clancy, I read his first, The Hunt for Red October, many years ago and felt an immediate affinity for main character Jack Ryan, who would go on to achieve fictional fame. I read a few more but became bogged down with the length and intricate detail. That is certainly my problem, not a problem with the books. Maybe I’ll pick up another one someday.

I very much enjoy fiction book series. Certain characters (like Gamache) endear themselves to me, and I want more. But just as it is with the book universe in general, there are too many to think I will ever read all that go on my TBR. To pace myself, I will read a couple here and there, and then go back to them.

I would need to read ten more Inspector Gamache books to become current. I would love to do so, but there are too many other books I want to read to confine myself for an extended time only to those. 

My one hard and fast rule with series books is I read them in order. I am just anal-retentive enough that it would bother me greatly if I were to read one that had references to subjects of previous books in the series, and I would not understand the context. Therefore, for me, book two will always follow book one, and so on.

If you were to ask my favorite book series, it would probably be The Mitford Years by Jan Karon. Set in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina, I have read each of the 14 in the series. The lead character is Tim Cavanaugh, rector at Lord’s Chapel, Mitford’s Episcopal church.  

He and a cast of equally loveable characters form the backdrop of inspirational, humorous and poignant stories. I am not much of a re-reader, but if I did not have so many other books I want to read, I would read all 14 again.

Until three books ago, I was current with the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith. The novels (which total 22) are set in Botswana and follow the antics of the main character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, and her sidekick Mma Grace Makutsi, as the two go about solving mysteries, working out of office space adjacent to the car repair business run by Precious’s mechanic husband, Mr. JLB Matekoni.

I do not know how Smith does it, but he creates a fresh and unique story with each book (which, I suppose, is the common gift of a book series author).

Other series I have enjoyed include Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta police thrillers; Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti mysteries, with a main character who seems like an Italian Inspector Gamache; and Greg Iles’s Penn Cage series about a Natchez, Mississippi-born lawyer turned novelist.

With a day job and other obligations, my reading time is limited. But when I carve out the time, any books from these series will take me on an enjoyable journey.

Please let me know if there are others you think I need to know about.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].