The best first books in a suspense/mystery series

Michael Bradley Author Of Dead Air: A Novel of Suspense
By Michael Bradley

Who am I?

I fell in love with the mystery genre at a young age, starting with Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown series. It didn't take long to graduate to the likes of Sherlock Holmes, particularly once PBS began broadcasting the series with Jeremy Brett in the titular role. Over the years, my passion for mystery and suspense stories has branched out into numerous sub-genres and a variety of classics from such superb authors like Agatha Christie, Leslie Charteris, P. D. James, and Charles Todd. As much as I enjoy individual mystery and suspense novels, I enjoy even more a series with a cast of characters that I can follow from book to book. 

I wrote...

Dead Air: A Novel of Suspense

By Michael Bradley,

Book cover of Dead Air: A Novel of Suspense

What is my book about?

Three can keep a secret, but only if two are dead. No one knows that better than Kaitlyn Ashe, who has been running from a childhood secret her whole life. Until now. Crowned the top-rated radio DJ in Philadelphia, she is finally ready to settle down with her lawyer fiancée and a whole new set of friends who know nothing about her past. When she suddenly receives anonymous letters threatening her, she realizes that someone out there knows. But who? Isn’t her secret buried with the dead? When the threats reveal murderous intent, Kaitlyn has no choice but to trust Detective Rodney Shapiro as her life spirals toward a reunion in the one place she’d hoped to never visit again: The Shallows.

Winner of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards and the 2020 Foreword INDIES Awards, Dead Air weaves a suspenseful tale of past misdeeds and present murderous instincts as Kaitlyn plays a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious killer who will stop at nothing to get revenge.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat (A Conan Flagg Mystery)

Why did I love this book?

I first met Wren's character, Conan Flagg when I was a teenager. I'd picked up this book in a secondhand bookshop and decided to give it a try. Even at that time, the book had been out for over ten years, so it was already a bit dated, but Wren's writing and plotting drew me. Set in a small seaside town in Oregon, this book contains a cast of quirky, unique characters that outshine any of the archaic references that make this book seem a bit out of date. You tend to forget that smoking in public is no longer as acceptable as it was when this book was written. Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat is a great start to this eight-book series. Although these books were out of print for many years, they've recently been reprinted, and I've enjoyed getting reacquainted with the series.

By M.K. Wren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat (A Conan Flagg Mystery) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A widow who feels her husband's drowning was not accidental calls upon a former intelligence agent and private detective to uncover the truth

Book cover of Groucho Marx, Master Detective

Why did I love this book?

I've been a huge fan of the Marx Brothers for many years. So, when I found a book that featured Groucho Marx as an amateur detective, I jumped on it. This, the first in a six-book series, is a treat to anyone who is a fan of the golden age of Hollywood. It is a cavalcade of famous names from the era of black and white films. Goulart does a tremendous job balancing a mysterious plotline with the lighthearted fun that you'd expect from a novel featuring Groucho Marx. And I'm happy to report that Goulart captures the essence of Groucho perfectly. The book, as well as the series, is a terrific tribute to one of Hollywood comedy geniuses. And it's a damn good mystery as well.

By Ron Goulart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Groucho Marx, Master Detective as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To stay busy between movies, Groucho Marx agrees to act in a radio serial, but before the first episode can even be aired, his beautiful co-star is found dead, and he becomes determined to find her killer.

Crimson Lake

By Candice Fox,

Book cover of Crimson Lake

Why did I love this book?

This was my first foray into suspense from down under. I met Candice Fox a few years back when we shared the table on a panel discussion at ThrillerFest. However, it took me another five years to pick up her book. The big mystery should be, why did I wait so long? Crimson Lake is a dark read that is suspenseful and mysterious. The two main characters, Ted and Amanda, apart are damaged individuals, but when together make for a quirky, if not unusual team.

These characters are the book's biggest strength. They are compelling, and you can't help but feel sympathetic for Ted who has been convicted in the court of public opinion despite never having been convicted in a court of law. Amanda, as well, is a character that I found more and more interesting with every page turn. And Fox is an incredible wordsmith when it comes to creating visual imagery that drops the reader right in the middle of the action. This is the first book in a three-book series that I hope will soon have a fourth book.

By Candice Fox,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crimson Lake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling co-author of Never Never comes an ingenious and edgy suspense novel that will keep you guessing to the very last page . . .

12.46: 13-year-old Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop

12.47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her

12.52: The girl is missing . . .Six minutes - that's all it took to ruin Detective Ted Conkaffey's life.

Accused but not convicted of Claire's abduction, he escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

Amanda Pharrell knows what it's like to be public enemy no.1. Maybe it's her…

Type and Cross

By J.L. DeLozier,

Book cover of Type and Cross

Why did I love this book?

This book, in this day and age, might actually hit a little too close to home, but it is worthy of a read anyway. Delozier writes a thrilling tale about a mad scientist that has created a deadly virus that could wipe out half the population. It's up to psychologist and empath Dr. Persephone Smith to track him down and stop him. Type and Cross, Delozier's debut novel, is a medical thriller that intermixes just enough medical terminology to make the premise sound plausible without losing the reader. Delozier's writing isn't overburdened by over-embellished description or unwieldy dialog which makes the book a pleasure to read.

Unlike your traditional trilogy, the second book in the series acts as an origin story of sorts, while the third wraps up the storyline from this book.

By J.L. DeLozier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Type and Cross as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dr. Persephone Smith has the gift of enhanced empathy, or the ability to get inside the heads of criminals too twisted for other psychologists to unravel. When a bioterrorist triggers a pandemic, the government hires Seph and a crack team of scientists to hunt him down.Seph discovers that Dr. William Baine has a genetic secret of his own, one which holds the key to both his coded journal and the formula for the cure. His special abilities are a perfect foil to her own. As their psychological link deepens, he taunts her in her pursuit, from the smoky tobacco shops…

The Fourth Monkey

By J.D. Barker,

Book cover of The Fourth Monkey

Why did I love this book?

If you have not heard of J. D. Barker, you are missing out on a lot of great stories. The Fourth Monkey is the first book in his 4MK series and is like riding a roller coaster without the safety strap on. You end up clinging to the handrail in a white-knuckled grip, hoping that you don't fall off. This book tells two stories that, at first, seem completely unconnected. Both stories were fascinating to watch unfold as I turned the page. As the threads of each story begin to wind together into one, I found myself unable to put the book aside. This is a book, as well as a series that is all about the plot twists, and they come at you in abundance. The Fourth Monkey was a "finish it in one weekend" book because I simply couldn't put it down.

By J.D. Barker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Fourth Monkey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`The Fourth Monkey has one of the most ingenious openings that I've read in years. This thriller never disappoints.'
James Patterson

`Superbly constructed and immaculately paced' - The Daily Mail

Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.

That's the Four Monkey Killer or `4MK'. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK's victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer's twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible - find 4MK's latest victim before it's…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, Chicago, and comedians?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, Chicago, and comedians.

Private Investigators Explore 265 books about private investigators
Chicago Explore 341 books about Chicago
Comedians Explore 33 books about comedians