Sunday, June 27, 2021

Notes from "The Secret of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction" (The Great Courses) - Part 2

This is Part 2 of the notes I took for myself while watching the 36 lectures from The Great Courses class on "The Secret of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction." While I took the notes primarily as a checklist for my own reference, a list I could choose books and authors from for a long time to come as I more deeply explore the genre, I hope that others might find it useful in their own reading.

Nordic Noir and Mystery:

  • Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahloo - Swedish co-writers (1965-1975) of a ten-book series featuring police detective Martin Beck
  • Jo Nesbó - Norwegian author of the Harry Hole series
  • Henning Mankell - Swedish author of the Kurt Wallander series
  • Hanne Wilhelmsen - Former Norwegian Minister of Justice and author of the Ann Holt books

Latin American Mysteries:
  • Leonardo Padura Fuentes - Cuban author of the "Havana Quartet", Havana Blue, Havana Gold, Havana Red, and Havana Black
  • Paco Ignacio Taibo II - Spanish/Mexican author of the Hector Belascoaran Shayne series, including The Uncomfortable Dead (2004)

Japanese Mysteries:
  • Edogawa Ranpo - author of surrealistic mysteries
  • Seicho Matsumoto - author of the realistic mysteries featuring Inspector Imanishi
  • Soji Shimada - author of over 100 mystery novels, including The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
  • Natsuo Kirino - novelist best known in the mystery genre for the novels Real World and Out
  • Fuminori Nakamura - Award winning author best known for Evil and the Mask and The Gun

African Mysteries:
  • Kwei Quartey - Ghanan author of police procedurals featuring Inspector Darko Dawson, including Wife of the Gods and Children of the Street
  • Mukoma Wa Ngugi - Kenyan poet and author  best known for Nairobi Heat
Female Mystery Writers:
  • Dorothy Hughes - 1940s author of "Domestic Thrillers" such as The Blackbirder (1943) and In a Lonely Place (1947)
  • Evelyn Piper (pen name of Merriam Modell) - best known for Bunny Lake Is Missing (1957)
  • Vera Caspery - best known for Laura (1942) and Bedelia (1948)
  • Margaret Millar - Canadian wife of Ross MacDonald (pen name of Kenneth Millar) best known for The Invisible Worm and Beast in View
  • Stella Remington - former Director General of MI5 who writes well received spy thrillers

As in the first list I posted, these are hardly the only authors featured in "The Secret of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction" lectures. I've confined the two lists almost exclusively to writers who were entirely, or relatively, new to me so that I can use the list for my own future mystery and suspense reading choices. Hopefully, there is something here that others can also use for that purpose. I highly recommend the entire lecture series to anyone interested in the topic; it's fun, entertaining, and instructive.

Course Lecturer David Schmid


  1. It does sound like a very interesting and fun lecture series. :)

  2. It was, I think, time well spent. It's already led me in some interesting directions as I choose the next books to read, and I suspect it will do that for a long time to come.

  3. I'm thinking that Japanese crime fiction and authors ought to be rather different and interesting. Never thought to try that.

    1. I've enjoyed several Japanese crime writers in the past, Cath, and I plan to explore a few more of them. The Japanese crime novels I've read gave me a completely new perspective on everyday life in Japan. I loved them for exactly that reason.

  4. So much to comment on. I have read all the Nordic authors listed here, but only one or two of each. Except for Ann Holt. I don't know how many I have read of her books but I loved them all.

    I have read one book each by Seicho Matsumoto and Fuminori Nakamura. Really liked the one I read by Matsumoto, A Quiet Place.

    I am a big fan of Margaret Millar. She and Kenneth Millar lived many years (until their deaths) in Santa Barbara, and both of them wrote books set in a fictitious version of the area. And several of Margaret Millar's earlier books were set in Canada and I enjoyed those a lot too. I have read Laura by Vera Caspary and In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes. I have more books to try by Hughes.

    I read the first book by Stella Rimington only recently and liked it better than I thought I would so I bought the next one.

  5. Wow, you've managed to read deeper into the crime fiction genre than most folks a long shot. I am hoping to read something from all the ones listed at some point. Who knows? I may turn up a new favorite that way. One of the best things about delving into authors from the past decades is discovering someone you really love who left behind a large catalogue of books to be enjoyed.

    1. It is great to find authors with lots of books still to be read. When I first started blogging I intended to read all the books by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahloo, and I am still far behind on that. And for both Margaret Millar and Ross Macdonald, I have many more books left to read. Last year I read a wonderful biography of Ross Macdonald by Tom Nolan, which was probably of more interest to me because so much of it was set in Santa Barbara.

    2. I'll have to take a look at that Ross Macdonald bio. I find his life to be interesting but have never read an entire biography on him.

      Finally reading Sjöwall and Wahloo is one of the things I want to rectify as soon as possible. Can't believe I still haven't read their work.