Janet Evanovich Books – A New Stephanie Plum Novel for June

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich - On Sale June 17

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich - On Sale June 17

 

Here’s a guest post from my friend Kate Goldstone, a big fan in the UK of crime shows, crime novels and everything noir, who has just discovered, thanks to The Chase, my good friend and co-author Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum books, which she says aren’t yet the mega-bestselling sensation over there that they are here… 

Plenty of US crime fiction authors have already crossed the Atlantic with ease and aplomb, delighting British audiences with their books. Others are right on the cusp: massive over there, right on the edge of hitting the crime books best seller scene big time over here.

Lee’s friend and writing partner Janet Evanovich is the creator of the tremendously engaging bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, the heroine of 20 novels that have sold tens of millions of copies in the states… but haven’t made the same splash here yet.

Well, now that her 21st novel in the series,  Top Secret Twenty One, is coming out in a few weeks, I think it’s about time Janet took our British crime book readers by storm. So I thought it’d be cool to take a look at Stephanie Plum and whet the appetites of all you UK readers out there.

Janet Evanovich Books – Treat yourself to a compelling 21 novel series

Janet’s writing career began with a series of short romance novels, written under her pen name Steffi Hall. They were pretty damn good. But she hit big time in the states with her light hearted mystery novels starring Stephanie Plum, an unlikely heroine, originally a lingerie buyer who became a Trenton, New Jersey bounty hunter to make ends meet after losing her job.

Now that’s what I call a great back story: knicker buyer turns crime fighter!

Janet and Lee on Set for TV interviews 1
Janet Evanovich and Lee on the set for a TV interview for their book THE HEIST.

About Stephanie Plum – Best selling books with a difference

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum character was inspired by Midnight Run, the Robert De Niro movie. What was appealing to Janet about bounty hunters is that they are not nine-to-fivers, they can wear what they want, work when and how they want, with whomever they like. That gave Janet a lot of creative flexibility for her heroine and the stories she could tell. Janet then went out and spent a lot of time with bond enforcement agents, studying the way they work as well as spending time getting familiar with the novels’ setting, the city of Trenton in New Jersey.

The first in the Plum series, One for the Money, came out in 1994 and struck an immediate chord with U.S readers. The fact that the heroine is barely competent at her job lent the book considerable charm and it soon shot to stardom, becoming a New York Times ‘notable book’  of the year  as well as earning Publishers Weekly’s award for Best Book of 1994. She even sold the movie rights, though it would be almost twenty years before the movie got made with Katherine Heigl in the starring role.

Hot Six, the sixth in the series, was the first to grab a place in the New York Times bestseller list and since then every one of Stephanie Plum’s romantic adventures has debuted at number 1, an astonishing achievement. As someone with one foot in the romance camp and the other firmly planted in crime fiction, Janet Evanovich’s work has an enviably wide appeal.

is the star of the novels anything like the author? It’s a question every reader loves to find the answer to. In Janet’s case it’s a resounding ‘yes’. Both are from New Jersey. And they share a bunch of seriously embarrassing real-life experiences. There’s nothing quite like a perfect, all-knowing, flawless character for making a reader feel inadequate. Plumb’s beautifully-expressed balls-ups are nothing if not realistic, and knowing that she is – on occasion – a bit of a twit adds an extra human dimension to the character and makes her even more appealing than if she’d been disgustingly, annoyingly, unrealistically perfect.

Janet Evanovich books – The Stephanie Plum series in order

It’s always better reading a series of novels in the right order, and it’s easier with her series than others, since the numbers are right there in the title! Here are the Stephanie Plum books in chronological order:

  1. One for the Money (1994)
  2. Two for the Dough (1996)
  3. Three to Get Deadly (1997)
  4. Four to Score (1998)
  5. High Five (1999)
  6. Hot Six (2000)
  7. Seven Up (2001)
  8. Hard Eight (2002)
  9. To the Nines (2003)
  10. Ten Big Ones (2004)
  11. Eleven on Top (2005)
  12. Twelve Sharp (2006)
  13. Lean Mean Thirteen (2007)
  14. Fearless Fourteen (2008)
  15. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen (2009)
  16. Sizzling Sixteen (2010)
  17. Smokin’ Seventeen (2011)
  18. Explosive Eighteen (2011)
  19. Notorious Nineteen (2012)
  20. Takedown Twenty (2013)
  21. Top Secret Twenty-One (to be released on June 17, 2014)

More Janet Evanovich books – Fox & O’Hare

I hate it when I finish a writer’s work while I’m still more than halfway in love with the writing style, the characters, the settings, the plots, the Zeitgeist. Once you’ve read, enjoyed and digested all twenty-one of the current Stephanie collection, what’s next?

Luckily there’s the Fox & O’Hare series to get your teeth into, courtesy of Janet and co-author Lee, a literary collaboration well worth exploring. Pros and Cons, The Heist and The Chase, the third novel released earlier this year, await you. They’re action-packed stuff, rich in thrills, starring the master con artist Nicolas Fox and his sidekick, the tenacious FBI agent Kate O’Hare.

Let’s talk Plum…

If you’re already a convert, what’s your favourite Stephanie Plum novel, and why?

 

Robert B. Parker’s Latest Spenser Crime Novel – Courtesy of Ace Atkins

Lee Goldberg and Robert Parker at the Edgars

Lee Goldberg and Robert Parker at the Edgars

Here’s a guest post from my friend Kate Goldstone, a big fan in the UK of crime shows, crime novels and everything noir, who has just discovered Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels (that’s me with Parker in the photo above at the Edgars). I envy her reading all of those great books for the first time…

Are you constantly on the look-out for the very best thriller books, from the pens of the finest thriller writers? If so, have you heard of Robert B. Parker, the ‘Dean of American Crime Fiction’? As a Brit, I hadn’t until recently, much to Lee Goldberg’s shock and disbelief.

Parker is best known for his remarkably popular Spenser private eye novels, which became the basis for two TV series (Spenser: For Hire and A Man Called Hawk) and even a bunch of well-loved made-for-TV movies. In fact, Lee broke into the TV business by writing four episodes of Spenser: For Hire, so he owes much of his career to Parker and the fictional private eye.

Parker died aged 77 in 2010. The author’s estate decided to continue his Spenser and his Jesse Stone novels with new writers. The Jesse Stone novels were initially written by the Parker’s friend Michael Brandman, who produced the TV movies based on the books, and they are now being written by Reed Farrell Coleman. The Spenser novels are being written by Ace Atkins to wide acclaim.

Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby was published in 2012, the first posthumous Spenser novel crafted by Atkins. Then came Wonderland in 2013 and the latest, released to considerable fanfare on 6th May, Cheap Shot.

If Parker’s work is new to you, an unexplored star in your crime fiction books firmament, you might like to find out a bit more about him and his work. If you’re into the best thriller authors, he’s an all-American classic. They aren’t just good thriller books. They’re great thriller books.

Avery Brooks as Hawk and Robert Urich as Spenser in Spenser For Hire
Avery Brooks as Hawk and Robert Urich as Spenser in Spenser For Hire

About Robert B. Parker – His Crime books and TV mystery series

Robert Brown Parker was known and respected for his epic, encyclopaedic knowledge of the city of Boston, Massachusetts. His crime novels are adored by readers, the great man’s fellow authors and critics alike, including stateside crime fiction luminaries like Robert Crais and Harlan Coben. In fact, they’re so good they’ve been cited as ‘reviving and changing’ the detective genre altogether. Big stuff… but then again Parker was a big writer in every sense of the word.

Robert B. Parker’s awards included two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America and, in 2002, Grand Master Award for his Lifetme Achievement in the crime writing field. There are currently forty Spenser novels in print, and you’ll find a list of them all here, on Wikipedia.

About Ace Atkins – Continuing Parker’s legendary work

Ace Atkins is a popular New York Times bestselling author and Edgar Award nominee with fifteen runaway hit novels under his belt. As a journalist he was originally a newsroom crime reporter for the Tampa Tribune. His first novel was published when he was twenty seven and he threw in the journalistic towel completely at aged thirty to write crime fiction full time.

Ace won a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a TV series based on his investigation into a forgotten 1950s murder, which ultimately formed the core of his excellent novel White Shadow. He’s best known for his masterful grasp of plotting, totally believable characters and highly entertaining, seamless and convincing mix of fact and fiction. And, by all accounts, he’s also blessed with an uncanny gift for mimicking the late Robert B. Parker ‘s style, to the delight of Parker’s many millions of fans.

Praise for Ace Atkins’ Cheap Shot

With a bit of luck the first three uncannily Parker-esque Spenser crime fiction novels will turn into a long run. Some things are just too good to come to an end. In the meantime, if you haven’t grabbed a copy of Cheap Shot yet, here’s what a few reviewers say about it on Amazon:

“Spenser is as tough and funny as ever, and Atkins has become a worthy successor.” – Booklist

 

“Assured… Atkins’s gift for mimicking the late Robert B. Parker could lead to a long run, to the delight of Spenser devotees.” – Publishers Weekly

 

“A well-conceived adventure that balances Spenser and friends’ experience with Akira’s innocence while drawing on Atkins’ own Auburn football days.” – Crimespree Magazine

 

Cheap Shot is the best yet, with a whip-crack plot, plenty of intriguing and despicable characters, and the lovable, relentless Spenser at its center. Atkins also has a deft way with Parker’s style… Atkins is bringing his own energy and strengths to Parker’s series. Cheap Shot is Spenser, by the book.” – Tampa Bay Times

Diagnosis Murder: 178 Epic Episodes of Crime Fiction Heaven

Diagnosis Murder Complete Box Set

Diagnosis Murder Complete Box SetHere’s a guest post from my friend Kate Goldstone, a big fan in the UK of crime shows, crime novels and everything noir, who has finally discovered Diagnosis Murder, the TV series that I wrote & produced…and the series of eight novels that I wrote based on the show. 

I don’t know about you, but TV-on-demand has changed my life. Whoa girl, that’s a bit evangelistic, isn’t it? Yup, but its true. Instead of flipping in increasing desperation through millions of channels looking for something cool to watch – a worldwide phenomenon, I should think – at our place we dive right in and immerse ourselves in entire TV series (which is also available now on DVD!). And Diagnosis Murder has been a telly experience of epic proportions, all 178 episodes of it.

Watching the Diagnosis Murder complete series

 Lee Goldberg - Diagnosis MurderLee was the  executive producer and principle writer of the Diagnosis Murder series, which made our adventure into medical crime drama even more exciting. We knew the writer/producer personally. We don’t usually have that kind of connection to the shows we watch. So what’s Diagnosis Murder about? As the plot summary on IMDb says:

“Dr. Mark Sloan is the chief of staff at Commmunity General Hospital. Even though his duties as a doctor keep him busy enough, he still finds time to help the police solve murders (Mark’s father was a Los Angeles police detective). He is assisted by young doctors Amanda Bently and Jesse Travis, as well as by his own son Steve, who took after Mark’s father. Together they solve some of Los Angeles’ toughest murders.”

Us Brits do it pretty damn well. The Scandanavians do it beautifully. But top quality US crime drama is something else altogether. You lot tell great stories. And watching a series back-to-back is a completely different experience from drip-feeding your thrill-starved imagination bit by bit, week on week. .

Watched in action consecutively, a series’ characters are more colourful, with more depth and subtlety. You don’t forget the plot, spending half the next episode puzzling over who did what, to whom, why, when and where, wondering “who on earth is that bloke?”. Freed from all that tedious brainwork, you can relax and enjoy the ride in its full glory. Fine detail assumes greater importance, backgrounds and landscapes have more meaning and relevance. It’s richer, deeper, broader, a million times more absorbing and lets you appreciate the programme makers’ skills to the full.

The only problem is, it’s like a good book – you can’t put it down. If I had a pound for every night we’ve crawled into bed far too long after bedtime, eyes gritty and stinging, with heads full of murder and mayhem, I’d be a rich lady by now. As it is, I’m just knackered. But boy, have I had fun.

Diagnosis Murder IMDb – Outstanding mystery medical crime drama

dm-boxsetWatch the first few Diagnosis Murder episodes in a row and you’ll be hooked. It’s so popular there’s even a roaring trade in Diagnosis Murder fanfiction, some of it uncomfortably X-rated. There are literally hundreds of guest stars listed on the show’s Wikipedia page. And the stars of the show, including Dick Van Dyke, Barry Van Dyke, Victoria Rowell and Scott Baio of Happy Days fame, are developed beautifully throughout the series. The plots are satisfyingly twisty and turny, the science bits are fascinating and the stories don’t date. All the hallmarks of top quality crime fiction entertainment, and great fun.

TV.com rates the show 8.6 out of ten, a great score for a vintage show. Here’s what one of their reviewers says about it:

Diagnosis Murder is an excellent medical drama without all the blood of those other medical shows. Dick Van Dyke is classic. Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke) is always interesting being the chief of internal medicine at Community General Hospital and still finding time to help his son, Detective Steve Sloan (Barry Van Dyke), solve homicides as an unofficial consulant to the LAPD. Every episode they manage to find themselves in the middle of a murder, and wittily solve it. It just never gets old. This is just purely a superb show. I’m am very glad that they decided to put Diagnosis Murder on DVD. Many more people need to discover the fascinating addictive show of Diagnosis Murder.”

But there’s more…there are Lee’s Diagnosis Murder books. Which means I am in heaven.

Diagnosis Murder novels

Lee wrote eight novels based on the Diagnosis Murder TV show. I’m currently working my way through them. And it’s another completely different experience. I was unable to get the TV actors out of my head as I read the first few chapters of the first book, The Silent Partner.  I suppose that’s kind of inevitable when you’ve just watched 178 episodes in a ridiculously short space of time. But then I got lost in the reading, which is exactly what should happen when you enter a jolly good book. I’m developing my own images of the characters now that I am half way through The Death Merchant, the second in Lee’s series.  They don’t look or sound like their TV counterparts. I’ve made them mine. That’s books for you.

Lee Goldberg - Monk Series

Oddly enough, the TV series also dovetails cleverly with Lee’s Monk books, with two of the characters he created for The Death Merchant turning up out of the blue in Mr Monk Goes to Hawaii and Mr Monk and the Two Assistants. I love it when that happens, when two fictional worlds collide. It makes their reality seem even more alive, populated with comings and goings that are hidden from the reader or viewer, in the imaginary background. Almost uncanny.

5 Diagnosis Murder TV movies for bereft DM obsessives

In case you didn’t know, there are also five Diagnosis Murder TV movies to watch. Good to know when the end of a particularly thrilling TV crime series leaves you feeling oddly bereaved, like you’ve lost a good friend.

  • Diagnosis of Murder, 1992
  • The House on Sycamore Street, 1992
  • A Twist of the Knife, 1993
  • A Town Without Pity, 2002
  • Diagnosis Murder: Without Warning, 2002

Movies, books, TV shows. If that lot doesn’t fuel your obsession with classic TV crime drama, I don’t know what will. Give Diagnosis Murder a whirl. Just don’t blame me if you lose sleep because you can’t leave the TV remote alone, can’t put the books down, can’t walk away from the movies. With a bit of luck it’ll keep you off the streets and out of trouble for a few months.

What keeps you up nights?

Breaking Bad, Dexter, Deadwood, The Wire, Justified. They’ve all kept millions of us awake long past bedtime. What’s your latest crime TV series obsession, and why?

The USA’s best thriller books from 2013 – 3 brand new crime classics

The USA’s best thriller books from 2013 - 3 brand new crime classics

The USA’s best thriller books from 2013 - 3 brand new crime classicsHere’s a guest post from my friend Kate Goldstone, a big fan in the UK of crime shows, crime novels and everything noir, talking about the amazing year 2013 was for mystery thriller books.  Do you agree with her? I’d be interested to know your recommendations, so leave a comment…

What a year 2013 was for US mystery thriller books. It was an epic twelve months in which some of the best and least well-known thriller authors scored massive commercial hits. Stephen King delivered a sequel to The Shining, to the delight of millions of fans who never quite forgot the skin-crawling terror of redrum and always wondered what happened to little Danny. Lee Child, Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly released the latest in their iconic series’ too, making 2013 a year to remember in the best thriller books stakes.

All of which made me a very happy bunny, as we say in Brit-land. Hand me a new crime mystery or thriller, switch the sunshine on, let me loose in the yard and I’m sorted.

Here are three of the best from last year. If you’re on a mission to identify the best of the genre in time for the Easter break, you could do a lot worse than grab these three and run with ’em.

Read moreThe USA’s best thriller books from 2013 – 3 brand new crime classics

6 Great Crime and Investigation TV Series

5 Great Crime and Investigation TV Series

A guest post from Kate Goldstone.

Here’s another guest post from my friend Kate, a big fan in the UK of crime shows, crime novels and everything noir, talking about her six favorite crime TV series that are now available in boxed set DVDs. I’d be interested to know your recommendations, so leave a comment…

It’s the season of goodwill to all men, when boxed set sales go crazy. I thought it’d be fun to explore six of the very best crime and investigation TV series, to inspire this year’s joyous boxed set shenanigans. If you’re not sure what to immerse yourself in, why not give one of these little beauties a go?

6 of the best crime and investigation TV series

Crime TV series don’t get much better than The Wire, a show series friends and family are probably sick to death of me banging on about. Sorry, sorry, but it’s just such a class act. How about I shut up about it and cover something a bit different instead… Sherlock Holmes, anyone?

Sherlock

SherlockGood old Holmes and his sidekick Watson are international stars, covered time and time again on film and TV. But my favourite and freshest take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-selling character is the recent series Sherlock, starring the marvellous Benedict Cumberbatch and my old friend Jamie’s brother Martin Freeman of The Office and The Hobbit fame. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

“Sherlock is a British television crime drama that presents a contemporary update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson. Six episodes have been produced, the first three of which aired in 2010. Series two aired in 2012, and a third series began production in March 2013. The series has been sold to over 180 territories.

Gatiss has criticised recent television adaptations of the Conan Doyle stories as “too reverential and too slow”, aiming instead to be as irreverent to the canon as the 1930s and 1940s films starring Basil Rathbone, which were mostly set in the then-modern post WWII era. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock uses modern technology, such as texting, the internet, and GPS, to solve crimes. Paul McGuigan, who directed two episodes of Sherlock, says that this is in keeping with Conan Doyle’s character, pointing out that “in the books he would use any device possible and he was always in the lab doing experiments. It’s just a modern-day version of it. He will use the tools that are available to him today in order to find things out.”

The update maintains some traditional elements of the stories, such as the Baker Street address and Holmes’s adversary Moriarty. Although the events of the books are transferred to the present day, some elements are incorporated into the story. For example, Martin Freeman’s Watson has returned from military service in Afghanistan. While discussing the fact that the original Watson was invalided home after serving in the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880), Gatiss realised that “it is the same war now, I thought. The same unwinnable war.”

As quirky, eccentric colourful and unpredictable as Holmes himself, it’s a fabulous series available as a boxed set on Amazon. Better still there’s another series on the wind, as reported by the Mirror newspaper earlier this week. Jolly good.

The Sopranos

SopranosCrime TV shows don’t come much better than the epic classic The Sopranos and the boxed set is a six-series whopper, perfect for total telly immersion.

If you’ve been in outer space or at the centre of the earth for the past decade or so, you may have missed it. Otherwise you’ll know what I’m on about. It’s a cracking US television drama created by the seriously talented David Chase, about the life, loves and disasters befalling a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster called Tony Soprano, played by the sadly-missed James Gandolfini. Conflict threads its way throughout the show, as Tony tries his best to balance the conflicting requirements of his home life and his career in organised crime. He’s one of those characters I love to hate. In many respects the man is a violent, amoral, fat fool. In others he’s a straight up gentleman and scholar. For me, it’s the stark  contrasts that make it so compelling.

Here’s what one Amazon reviewer, Simon Brew, says about it:

A flat-out treasure trove of television, The Sopranos Complete HBO Seasons 1-6 box set brings together every episode of a genuinely extraordinary series. Those that call it quite possibly the best show America has produced in the last decade aren’t far wide of the mark (although fans of The Wire could have an argument there).

To think The Sopranos all started from a simple sell: that a New Jersey mob boss falls into depression, and seeks out counselling to help him cope. And while early episodes followed Tony Soprano’s balancing act as he sought to keep this from his mobster friends, The Sopranos took this foundation and built upon it a collection of layered, intriguing characters from both Tony’s ‘work’ and ‘home’ families.

That’s only part of the reason for The Sopranos’ extraordinary success, though. Because the writers then seeded many delightfully intricate plotlines, that seemed to seamlessly weave between one another. The end result was that every character was important, and–crucially–there was a real sense of unease, as fans began to realise that The Sopranos could have a quiet run of episodes, and then suddenly take out a character you’ve spent hours engaged with.

It’s a fascinating cocktail. Ruthless yet emotional, violent yet intimate, brash yet insecure, the characters of The Sopranos are as three dimensional as television drama gets. It’s a tragedy it’s finished, but the six series in this box offer a stunning legacy, and a masterclass to anyone else in the planet looking to make a character-driven drama.

Dexter

dextorAnother epic, the Dexter crime series on TV covers eight seasons, so is perfect for whiling away a few post-Christmas totally-fed-up-with-turkey days. Based on Jeff Lindsay’s books, it’s about a Miami police blood spatter pattern analyst and forensics expert who kills baddies in his spare time.

The character Dexter himself, played by Michael C. Hall, is profoundly affected by his mother’s murder when he was a toddler. So much so that he embarks on a murderous spree punishing the bad guys who he feels have escaped justice while trying his best to avoid suspicion. It’s quite a balancing act, pulled off via a deceptively mellow daytime facade. By day he’s a sweetie, by night he’s a serial killing monster.

I know it’s all a bit silly. The plots stretch credibility way too far, the ending of the final series has been slammed by reviewers, and I dearly hope there isn’t a real-life Dexter out there. Who says he owns the moral majority, after all? But it’s grand entertainment. Sometimes storytelling is about pushing the boundaries, suspending belief rather than sticking slavishly to realism. If you fancy a bit of escapist fun, give the complete boxed set a go.

Breaking Bad

Breaking BadMy all-time favourite, I can’t resist including Breaking Bad in my top 5, even though it’s only partially a crime drama TV series. I love the way the makers don’t  moralise one way or the other about crystal meth production and use, keeping moral judgements to themselves, letting viewers make up their own minds and allowing the storyline to stand up for itself. The characters are about as far from black and white as you can imagine, which is extremely refreshing. The main character, Walter White, played by the remarkable Brian Cranston, is about as believable as it gets. The story telling is quality on a stick, matchless and peerless. The scripting is unbelievably good. The acting is superb. And the storyline will have you on the edge of your seat from the start.

Here’s what the Time Entertainment review says about the last episode, which should be enough to send you running to the nearest DVD store with a bunch of hard-earned cash held tight in your sweaty little hand for the Complete Series boxed set.

“Felina,” the last episode ever of the magnificent series Breaking Bad, was a kind of machine gun of narrative, knocking down all of those questions with auto-fire efficiency. (Well, almost all. Sorry, Huell!) It was not flashy. It wasn’t structurally ambitious, in the way other Breaking Bad episodes have been. It was not, in most respects, surprising. (Except for Walt’s laundering scheme with Gretchen and Elliott, I think I saw nearly everything predicted, at least in general terms, by people besides me in the last week.)

And that’s OK. Because what “Felina” was–as effective, satisfying series finales are–was true. It was true to the five seasons that preceded it, true to Walter White’s obsessions and pride, and true to what Breaking Bad is at heart: a Western. As in the song “El Paso,” the protagonist (I’m not going to say hero) rode back to town, faced his enemies, said his goodbyes, and died. A Western is meant to go out with a bang, and Breaking Bad went out with about 40 of them per second (plus a dose of ricin).

It’s a Western, though, in which we were following the man, literally, with the black hat. Having seen the trail of suffering Walt has selfishly left behind him, I didn’t necessarily want to see Walt end up triumphant, feeling like a hero. But as I wrote when this final run of episodes began, the definition of a “good” Breaking Bad finale was not whether it punished Walter White. It was whether the series stayed true to his character, to its themes, whether or not it was pleasant to see.

Poirot

PoirotIf you like your crime TV shows a bit more laid back, less in-your-face, you could always give Hercule Poirot a go, one of Agatha Christie’s best-loved detectives and a much gentler telly experience than the usual contemporary murder, mayhem and violence.

I thought a US viewpoint would be interesting, so here’s what ‘Mad Max’ from Florida has to say about the latest series, now available on DVD:

Ever since David Suchet indicated that he wanted to film the last five episodes, most lovers of Poirot have been waiting impatiently for them to be released. “Clocks” was aired in December 2011 in the UK but “Elephants Can Remember” was not shown until June 2013. A long hiatus, but they are now finally here.

Except for “Elephants Can Remember” which was on YouTube for awhile until it was removed for whatever reason, and which I really enjoyed, I haven’t seen these episodes yet.

I live in the USA but because I am so impatient to see them, I purchase UK DVD editions (it’s not a problem to get a DVD player that plays all regions/all codes). The US releases are just too delayed. I think ‘Third Girl ‘ and ‘Appointment with Death” and “Orient Express” from 2010 are now, finally, available. It’s ridiculous it takes so long for a US edition to be released.

So, I am thrilled that the final five mysteries are now finally released. I didn’t expect a DVD release until next year, since “Curtain” was just aired in the UK on November 13, but whoever rushed these to market should be congratulated. Poirot lovers thank you and I will wait with bated breath until the Amazon box shows up in my mailbox. A great review of all five episodes has already been posted so I will just enjoy them without further comment. Ciao from Florida.

Poirot isn’t exactly quintessentially English, he’s Belgian, but you get the picture. Classic British period drama-style whodunits with exceptional sets, costumes and scripting, and a charmingly eccentric feel. Perfect for family viewing, something that won’t shock the pants off your elderly aunties or scare the kids so much they have nightmares.

Diagnosis Murder

DM_largeDiagnosis Murder is bigger right now in the UK than anywhere else, and for good reason. It’s a terrific mystery starring Dick Van Dyke as the chief of internal medicine at a Los Angeles hospital… and a genius when it comes to solving crimes, often assisting his son Steve, an LAPD homicide detective, in his investigations.

The series, which Lee wrote and produced, is known for its well-plotted mysteries, warm humor, and big-name guest-stars from classic TV shows. My favorite episode brought back Robert Culp from I Spy, Patrick MacNee from The Avengers, and Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter from Mission Impossible in a clever mystery set in the world of espionage. Wes Britton, author of the Encyclopedia of Television Spies, interviewed Lee about the show’s popular stunt casting:

It all began with one starring Mike Connors reprising his role as Joe Mannix. Goldberg recalled.

“The Mannix episode was such a huge hit – in terms of publicity and ratings – that we knew we had to do more like it. Not only that, but I am a major TV geek. I was reliving my TV youth by doing these shows. I think the first one we did after Mannix was TV cops (an episode with Fred Dryer, Martin Milner, Kent McCord, Angie Dickinson and James Darren), then TV spies, TV doctors (Wayne Rogers, Chad Everett, Jack Klugman, Bernie Kopel, etc.) TV SciFi (with George Takei, Walter Koenig, Grace Lee Whitney, Majel Barrett, Billy Mumy, etc.) and even a “fire” show with cast members from Emergency. We also did some bizarre `theme’ stunt casting shows . . . like one entirely comprised of people from various versions of M*A*S*H (Elliott Gould, Jamie Farr, Sally Kellerman, Loretta Swit, etc.) and another of just actors who’d starred in Garry Marshall sitcoms, another full of country music stars. We just wanted to have fun . . . and to indulge our love of old television. Plus the stunt episodes all got big ratings and tons of publicity. The public loved it as much as we did.”

Diagnosis Murder is television comfort food…not as old-fashioned as Poirot or as dark and edgy as Dexter, but hitting the sweet spot right in the middle. It’s good fun for the entire family. All eight seasons, including the pilot and the three TV movies that preceded the series, are now available in a boxed set .

Place your vote now…

It’s always fascinating to find out what other people like best and why, and there’s plenty to talk about in this massive and ever-popular genre.  What’s your favourite crime series on TV? And which boxed sets will you be enjoying this Christmas?