Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I love a good mystery. This is a common thing among comedy writers I know, I think. There's a narcissism of small differences/jealousy thing going on that keeps me from enjoying a lot of comedy books (with some notable exceptions: anything George Saunders and "Confederacy of Dunces" -- these are not original, please don't make fun of me). My co-worker Michael Schur and boss Greg Daniels love Terry Southern a great deal, whom I have not read. Danny likes the writings of his Simpsons's great John Schwartzwelder, and since he basically doesn't like anything, I bet he's good, too.

Reading good mystery books is one of the great joys of my life. But finding them is very difficult. The genre is bloated with poorly written and formulaic crap. I found a similar thing with the chick-lit genre. For every one "Bridget Jones' Diary" there are 100 terrible, terrible books, like "Babysitting for the Barney's Blonde" or "Thirty-Nine, Single, and Manolo" or whatever.

But Mysterary, the genre of mystery books that are written with substance, is probably the best type of book written. When a writer can weave a compelling, suspenseful story and the prose is inventive and smart, I'm like, damn.

Here are a few I highly recommend:

1. Duplicate Keys by Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley, beautiful genius I adore. "A Thousand Acres" is one of my favorite books ever, and I was surprised she had written this great little mystery novel. The characters are amazing and the twists and turns of the story are delicious. Jane Smiley is amazing because she jumps genres so much and masters them so fast. I love this book.

2. What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

This is amazing book I read over Christmas break. I read it in like three days, then re-read it because the first time I was focused on the brilliant plotline unfolding and the second time I focused on Ms. Lippman's crisp, unusual writing.

Both available at Amazon.com for under $15


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