Reading the Alex Kava books in order for her two series, Maggie O’Dell and Ryder Creed, is worth it, especially since the second series is a spin-off for her first main series. Of course, the books should be read in order starting from Before Evil (a prequel novella which was published several years after the main series started), all the way to Desperate Creed, which was published in 2019.
The reason why I prefer reading the two series is order is because there is a connection between the characters that develops over the course of the series, and also there are several secondary storylines that pop up which make more sense when you know what came before. However, for simply enjoying the main plots in each book, they can easily be read as standalones. Still, I haven’t met so far many Alex Kava fans who haven’t read all the books from the beginning once they got hooked on the writing of this author.
Here are the Alex Kava books, which also include her standalone novels.
New Alex Kava Books
Maggie O’Dell Series
- Before Evil (Maggie O’Dell #0.5), 2017 (prequel novella)
- A Perfect Evil (Maggie O’Dell #1), 2000
- Split Second (Maggie O’Dell #2), 2001
- The Soul Catcher (Maggie O’Dell #3), 2002
- Goodnight, Sweet Mother (Maggie O’Dell #3.5), 2017 (novella included in Off The Grid)
- At The Stroke Of Madness (Maggie O’Dell #4), 2003
- A Necessary Evil (Maggie O’Dell #5), 2006
- Exposed (Maggie O’Dell #6), 2007
- Black Friday (Maggie O’Dell #7), 2009
- A Breath of Hot Air (Maggie O’Dell #7.5), 2011, with Patricia Bremmer (novella included in Off The Grid)
- Damaged (Maggie O’Dell #8), 2010
- Hotwire (Maggie O’Dell #9), 2011
- Cold Metal Night, 2011 (novella included in Off The Grid)
- Fireproof (Maggie O’Dell #10), 2012
- Stranded (Maggie O’Dell #11), 2013
- Electric Blue (Maggie O’Dell #11.5), 2012 (novella included in Off The Grid)
- Off The Grid, 2016 (collection of novellas)
Ryder Creed Series
Standalone Alex Kava Books
Alex Kava Biography
Alex Kava was born in 1960, in Silver Creek, Nebraska, as Sharon M. Kava. Being the daughter of children of Polish immigrants, she grew up in a family that valued strong work ethic more than books; however, Sharon always wanted to become a writer. The only time reading was looking at favorably in her family was when it was time for homework. As she wrote short stories in her spare time as a teenager, she would hide them from her parents, showing them only to her brother.
To be able to enroll at college, Alex Kava got a scholarship. She attended the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, from which she graduated with a B.A. In English, Summa Cum Laude, in 1982. Also to pay her incurring expenses, she began working at the central supply department of a nearby hospital. Her job was to collect and sterilize surgery equipment, instruments for pathology, and for the morgue.
After graduation from college, she began working in marketing and advertising, until, at the age of 26, she started her own company, a graphic design firm called Square One, focusing on designing logos and various packages for various corporations. She also created brochures and wrote newsletters, along with a line of greeting cards. In addition, she was involved in directing TV and radio ads. She remained there until 1992 when she started working as director of public relations for a small college. In 1996 she left her position to start writing books and become a published author. It took her 15 years of working in marketing, advertising, and PR, to realize that she was fully burned out and she wanted to do something else with her life: write books.
However, there were bills to pay, so she brought her company, Square One, back into the limelight once again, she refinanced her home, and started working as newspaper delivery. It took her one and half year to write Perfect Evil, her debut novel, and four years later, in 2000, she published it, the first book in the Maggie O’Dell series. Initially, to avoid any gender bias, she changed her first name to Alex, so that her gender could not be identified.
Before she published her first novel, she got no less than 116 rejections on a book that she never ended up publishing. The manuscript is still sitting in her drawer. Most of the editor comments were noting her book was to harsh to be a romantic suspense novel (based on the author’s female name they all expected something lighter than a gory thriller). So when she changed her name to Alex, it became much easier for her books to be published since there were no longer expectations as to the genre she should be writing in.
The author’s first book became an international bestseller, and while Alex Kava initially didn’t intend to write a series, the publisher’s pressure was strong, the readers wanted more of Maggie O’Dell, so the series was finally started when she wrote a second book, Split Second, published just a year later, in 2001.
For her books, Alex Kava does extensive research, especially for her police procedural parts of her stories. Usually, she researches for 2-3 months prior to writing her novel. Also, she has several professionals in their fields in her circle of friends and acquaintances, all people who can give her details about their work and correct anything that missed the mark in the technology and techniques the author uses in her books.
The main place in her books is the Midwest, especially Nebraska since the author knows the small-town settings and can easily place her characters there. In fact, when she first started the Maggie O’Dell series, she didn’t intend to even write about serial killers. All she wanted was to capture that Midwestern small-town community that is caught up in a hostage situation involving a serial killer. The killer in her book was loosely based on a real killer who kidnapped and killed two small boys in Nebraska prior to being caught.
While the Maggie O’Dell novels are about Maggie hunting killers (mostly serial killers), the Ryder Creed stories have a much bigger scope in play: drug cartels, or secret government research facilities, or even groups of domestic terrorism. Also, former marine Creed is not a law enforcement officer. He is a dog handler who rescues dogs and trains them to sniff all sorts of nasty things like cadavers, drugs, and even bombs, and of course to rescue people if necessary. He has his dogs, and Maggie goes to help (hence the offshoot novels from the Maggie O’Dell books), however, Creed is a character of his own. Bridging the two series through the last Maggie O’Dell novel, Stranded, allows readers of the first to learn and get a taste for the second, and maybe even love this guy with a dog whose family and circle of friends is constantly put into dangerous situations.
In Stranded, Maggie O’Dell and Tully discovered a burial site for a serial killer, and they needed a cadaver dog to sniff out the bodies. However, working dogs need a handler, thus Ryder Creed was born.
Alex Kava loves dogs, she knows more about them so it felt easier for her to write her second series, whereas for the Maggie O’Dell series she needed constant research for things she didn’t really know much about. The K9 working dogs are a major theme in her life, and she loves reading books and articles about them. She is also attending K9 cop conferences and meeting professionals in their field. Of course, she still does research for her dog books, however since dogs are also her passion, she feels way more comfortable writing about a guy who shares the same passion with her.
When Alex Kava was writing her first Creed novel, she had beside her Scout, her 16-year-old companion dog who was dying of kidney disease. During those times she was taking care of him, preparing his meals, so this transferred into the Ryder Creed novels, where the main character also constantly takes care of his dog, even so much as preparing homecooked meals and sleeping with the dog in the kennel.
Even Maggie O’Deal got herself a dog after rescuing the white Labrador, Harvey, in Split Second, which became her dog for future books.
Alex Kava is a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild and International Thriller Writers. Her Stranded novel received the 2014 Florida Book Award and the 2015 Nebraska Book Award.
Praise for Alex Kava
Kava shows mastery in constructing a plot with nonstop action and suspense rising to a nearly unbearable level. (Booklist on Stranded)
The Maggie O’Dell thrillers have been getting better with each installment. (The Omaha World Herald)
Kava teaches us timely forensics. (Providence Journal)
If you love Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta cases, you have to meet Kava’s FBI special agent Maggie O’Dell. (The Peterborough Evening Telegraph, UK)
Tension, suspense, masterful twists . . . Alex Kava’s writing has it all. (Crimespace)
O’Dell could be Reacher’s long-lost twin. (Lee Child)
A pro, Kava writes as coolly and adroitly as O’Dell profiles. Supremely paced. (The Lincoln Star Journal)
Twisted plots, shocking characters, breakneck pacing. Guaranteed to keep you up all night (Lisa Gardner)