It's summer! Time to pour a cocktail, kick off your shoes, and let the lawn turn into environmentally-responsible jungle. And what better way to while away those hours in the hammock than by diving into a purely entertaining read?
Diving into a whole pile of them, of course!
The following are my utterly arbitrary picks for series you should absolutely get hooked on this summer. Each one is smart without turning stodgy, and never lets literary pretensions get in the way of quick pacing, page-turning tension, and brilliant wit.
So skip that 18th reading of A Song of Ice and Fire and try one. I guarantee you'll devour the rest faster than a melting cone of rum raisin.
Veronica Speedwell - Deanna Raybourn
They call them mysteries - and of course, there will be corpses - but Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell series are as much rollicking adventure stories as they are anything else. There's taxidermy. Carnies. Vast government conspiracies. A delicious sexy knife-throwing bit. Not to be missed.
Start with: A Curious Beginning
PC Peter Grant - Ben Aaronovitch
This wildly funny police procedural from a one-time Doctor Who screenwriter is like an insider's guide to London on peyote. Think chip shops and dodgy nightclubs mingling with wizards, jazz vampires, and sewer people with the humor of Terry Pratchett and the pacing of Guy Ritchie.
Start with: Midnight Riot
Sigma Force - James Rollins
Nobody does history-mystery-sci-fi thrillers like James Rollins. His Sigma Force books will each throw you into a regular AP course of cutting edge science and archaeological wonder. Add to that pacing so relentless it burns your eyes and a cast of smart, well-crafted characters, and you'd better clear your calendar.
Start with: Map of Bones (Yes, I know it says it's book two, but trust me on this one.)
The Blades of the Rose - Zoe Archer
Exotic locations! Dashing heroes! Dangerous magic! If H. Rider Haggard and Nora Roberts enjoyed a romantic interlude on a remote Greek island, Zoe Archer would be the likely result. Her Blades of the Rose series of romances are good, old-fashioned, rollicking adventure stories, involving action-packed races to control history's most powerful artifacts... and lots of hot, steamy sex. Totally addictive.
Start with: Warrior
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Yes, there's more than one of them! Adams' lunatic space epic trilogy now contains a total of six books (yes, you read that correctly). Each one is as irresistibly and irreverently goofy as the first. Have towel, will travel.
Start with: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Bernard Sampson - Len Deighton
Why not indulge in a little nostalgia for the last Cold War before we turn around and start a new one? Len Deighton's classic spy trilogy is chock full of everything you love about espionage before cell phones: daring escapes, exotic locations, stunning betrayals, and East Germans.
Start with: Berlin Game
Flavia de Luce - Alan Bradley
I'm not usually into books narrated by children. I make an exception for Alan Bradley's borderline sociopathic eleven year old heroine. A chemistry prodigy with a maniacal sense of revenge, Flavia de Luce finds such genuine delight in the corpses that keep cropping up in the sleepy-yet-deadly village of Bishop's Lacey, you can't help but join her.
Start with: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Survivors Club - Mary Balogh
Mary Balogh's Survivor's Club revolves around the lives and loves of a cadre of veterans of the Napoleonic wars, each of whom has been scarred physically or emotionally by their experiences. But it's also historical romance, a genre that is fun and sexy by definition. Balogh expertly manages to resolve this seeming conundrum, crafting a series of stories that unflinchingly address issues like PTSD and survivor's guilt without compromising an ounce of intrigue or sexual tension.
Start with: The Proposal
Amelia Peabody - Elizabeth Peters
The heroine of Elizabeth Peter's Egyptian mysteries is one of my all-time favorite characters. She's smart, daring, ferociously loyal, infinitely practical... well, perhaps that last point depends on one's point of view. Regardless, she and her eccentric family are so delightfully witty and admirably brave, you'd be entertained reading about them gardening, never mind coping with an unequal share of murders.
Start with: The Crocodile on the Sandbank