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Robert B. Parker's Spenser Returns

The great book detective, revived in best-seller 'Lullaby,' is just one of 5 crime solvers we love

Detective: Precious Ramotswe
Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Precious is the first female detective in Botswana and owner of the aptly titled No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in its capital, Gaborone. The rural South African setting and the interactions of the characters who live there are as important to these novels as the cases themselves, which often put the talents of the wise and kindly Precious to a stern test. In the 13th and latest, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection ($24.95; ebook $12.99), strange doings at the local orphanage threaten the livelihood of its formidable matron. As Precious looks into the matter, she receives some unexpected help from the author of The Principles of Private Detection, a book Precious regards as the bible of her beloved agency. The books are designed to follow one another, but you'll get right up to speed on the evildoers (and their undoing) no matter where you start.

Detective: Matt Scudder
Author: Lawrence Block

Scudder is an ex-New York cop turned unlicensed private investigator, struggling to pull his life together after years of hard drinking that cost him his job and family. Haunted by an incident from his days on the force — the accidental fatal shooting of a little girl — Scudder lives in a rent-controlled hotel room in Hell's Kitchen and cobbles together a living "doing favors for friends." Each of the 17 books in the series is a first-rate crime thriller; taken together, they present an unflinching portrait of an alcoholic's journey to redemption. Though you can start anywhere, Scudder's latest outing — A Drop of the Hard Stuff ($25.99; ebook $9.99) — has him looking back on a long-buried episode from his early days, which makes it an ideal place to begin.

Two-time Edgar award winner Daniel Stashower is completing a biography of Allan Pinkerton.

You may also like: Full review of A Drop of the Hard Stuff.

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