Every summer for the past 33 years, a widely scattered group of close friends my husband made in summer camp in the 1960s has rented a beach house on the Jersey Shore for two weeks. I was enfolded into the group some five years into its existence. Apart from the camaraderie — which is precious beyond measure — one of the pleasures of returning to the same place every year lies in observing the subtle changes in the landscape: some new sand on a beach that's suffered erosion; the appearance of a new coffee-and-bagel joint within jogging distance of the rental house.
Genre fiction offers rewards akin to vacationing in the same spot summer after summer. You pick up a favorite author, reacquaint yourself with familiar characters and locales, and yet are ready to be surprised by any welcome changes rung on old formulas. All of the following mysteries are written by veterans of the form. Most are part of long-running series; all are standouts, either because of their distinctive literary delights or because of ingenious variations on familiar plots and characters.