Must reads of the genre?
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What books do you think must be read for a good sampling of British/Irish crime fiction?
1) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, definately. Though it's hard to stick with one story since most of the short stories are excellent; but a as a novel Hound of the Baskervilles is very good and a cornerstone of the mystery genre I think.
2) Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter mysteries. Sayers' stories brought a new, intellectual flair to a genre that wasn't known for its appeal to deep thinkers.
Any others you can think of?
Agatha Christie, of course, is a must read. E.C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case is an early classic. For the classic era one should also read some Margery Allingham.
In more recent times, P.D. James is a must read starting with Cover Her Face. I would add Reginald Hill, Colin Dexter, and John Harvey as well.
Must-read authors are very well and good, but I'd love to have a couple of specific titles attached to each author; I'm relatively new to the mystery genre and need guidance!
For instance, which Dorothy L. Sayers book is a must-read?
(Thanks, quartzite, for pointing it out! My brain hasn't been all here.)
Oh, yes, hailelib; quite right. I'm sorry, my brain was on the fritz. It's ten years into the series.
I confess I've never actually read Dick Francis. Anyone want to enlarge on his appeal, strengths, characteristics?
I believe Francis began writing mysteries about 1968-1970. He began by using main characters involved in British horse racing, an area he was very familiar with from his first career as a jockey. As a second career, he wrote about racing as a reporter/commentator which has probably affected his style.
The books are told in first person and do contain somewhat graphic violence (though it seems less so to me now than it did 30 years ago). The puzzles are generally interesting and Francis tends to explore a different facet of racing with each book and eventually branches out into other professions such as pilot, glass-blower, banker, etc. One reviewer once said that part of the fascination was to see how the horses would be worked into the plot of each book. For instance the investment banker was involved in financing the syndication of a stallion purchased for stud purposes.
My husband feels that the last half dozen or so are weaker stories than the earlier ones and I have noticed that my personal favorites are mostly among the first half of his works.
Thank you, hailelib! I've a lot of fondness for older mysteries worked into some setting of that sort - a profession of some kind, or a given milieu - but admit horse-racing has little appeal for me. - Still, I won't sell him short without a fair trial. I'll keep the titles you cited in my browsing list, mental or otherwise, and see if I run across a copy one of these days when I'm in a mood for something different. :)
I think Minette Walters is becoming one of the best in the genre. Only a couple of her books have been less than totally absorbing, intelligent and bold.
I have to put in a vote for Ian Rankin here - the Inspector Rebus series is extremely gripping and well-written. I also really like Lindsey Davis and her Falco novels. The Best British Mysteries compilations are excellent tasters - I hadn't read any Reginald Hill (although I'd seen Dalziel and Pascoe on tv) and was tempted to try him after reading a D&P short story. Well worth it.
with Cadfael I think it is important to begin at the beginning of the series and not continue to the end.
Can you count Peter Robinson (born in Yorkshire with his undergrad degree from Leeds,and also the UK is the setting for his Inspector Banks novels) as British? He did post-grad work in Canada and has lived in Canada for quite a while, but his settings and characters seem quintessentially British. IF he counts as "british" then I would highly recommend his works, and particularly the Banks novels. Gallow's View (#1) in the series is a great introduction to the author and his characters. I've asked for his latest one (Piece of My Heart) for Christmas this year.
Gaudy Night and Murder Must Advertise have my votes as well for Dorothy Sayers.
And, for a taste of the WWI era, I will also recommend Gillian Linscott. Perfect Daughter in particular, though I haven't yet read everything by Linscott, but if what I've read so far is anything indicative of her other books, she's truly stellar work and should be listed as a sampling of what modern British authors can do.
Peter Robinson is labelled as a Canadian author in our Canadian book stores, but it sounds like the English would also claim him as a native writer. I agree, his Yorkshire mysteries are superb, and get even better as the series goes along.
If I could say three from Sayers, they would be Whose Body because of what you learn about Lord Peter, a toss up between Strong Poison and Murder Must Advertise as the middle though probably with some leanings towards Murder Must Advertise, as it's possible to enjoy Gaudy Night without actually having read the earlier Harriet novels. Gaudy Night in particular I think is important at least in part because it's not a murder mystery - and it's a great book regardless of genre.
There was a question on the LJ Baker Street community which was the 'one' Sherlock Holmes to read - I think the consensus was The Sign of the Four for the novels, though the short story choice was a bit up in the air...
A quick addition - I haven't read that much Chesterson, but surely some of his Father Brown would also make the list? After all, it's our group's picture :)
It's amusing how different folks like different books from the same author. For Dick Francis I'd recommend Nerve, Rat Race, or Break In. Others think the Sid Halley books from Francis are the best. And above, hailelib picks three completely different ones.
I'd agree that the earlier-to-middle ones are the best. I have the latest (first in six years), and it (Under Orders) isn't bad, but there's a bit of rust showing.
I`m going to play a rogue card and suggest The season of The skylark by Jack Trevor story, which is a slice of the British life in the `60s combined with a rather good crime/adventure story. Reminds me a bit of some of the Ealing films.
JTS was one of those strange writers who wrote under a variety of names, in a variety of styles. Should you be interested, there is a rather good Jack Trevor Story web site, run by Guy Lawler.
Just remembered - you might know of Jack Trevor story as the man who wrote The trouble With harry, which became a Hitchcock film.
Jill McGown - she's written a couple of duds, but most of her books are excellent. I particularly liked Death of a Dancer, Murder Now and Then and The Murders of Mrs A and Mrs B.
I'm another fan of Dorothy Sayers and, like several others here, liked Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night most.
Dorothy Sayers was a good stylist. She wrote a short story, about a man who attempted to murder someone by pushing him through a plate glass window, that actually made me faint. Her description of what happened to the victim was so vivid that I passed out while sitting down in my armchair.
valz, If I read that Sayers description I might have flashbacks.
Not quite either. But I have vivid memories of an encounter with a plate glass door.
Linkmeister, a very interesting story. I can sympathize as about 4 years ago when coming down the stairs at my house (to let a cat out in the early morning hours) I totally missed a step and had an $8000 'simple' fracture of my dominant arm.
But back to mysteries. Has anyone else read anything by Elizabeth Lemarchand? It's been a while but I do remember enjoying them. I think they were written in the '70's.
To those of you who mentioned Christianna Brand as a must-read, thanks. I had never heard of her before, but I've just completed Green for Danger and found it very good. I'll certainly be looking out for other books by this author.
Is it me, or haven't I read about Ngaio Marsh yet. I know it's New Zealand, but since the books are set in GB and NZ is part of the Commonwealth (I AM dutch so if i make mistake don't be to harsh please... ;)
Oh of course, I'd nearly forgotten about her! What are your favourites there? I really love the ones with a stage setting, but the best of all must be Off with his head.
Hmm, difficult to say, I haven't read Off with his head as yet (in the Netherlands she is rather hard to get). I like the stage ones as well, but mine would be Death In A White Tie or Surfeit of Lampreys. Blackmail has always fascinated me, don't know why and Robin Grey is a favourite character of mine.
Does Lee Child count? he's a british writer, though currently living and writing in the states. His latest Hard way is I believe due to take the action back to England.
Ruth Rendell's inspector Wexford is pretty good, though I don't own any, and can't remember the titles of those that I enjoyed.
For Dexter the last Remorseful day is probably the best IMO but you need to have read some of the previous to get a feel for the characters.
#43> I haven't read Off with his head as yet (in the Netherlands she is rather hard to get).
You are a logical candidate for joining Bookmooch. Today there are 32 copies of her books available.
Could be, but I've had bad experiences with such things. Besides it takes away the fun of trying to find ALL the little bookshops in the Netherlands. I've only visited about 50 yet...
#48> you thought he was British, huh? Well, so did I at the beginning!
For more modern stuff, I really like Ken Bruen. He has one series that features Detective Sergeant Brant. These stories, set in London, are like 82nd Precinct
meets NYPD Blue with more than a little of the tv series, The Shield. Darkly humorous. I think the first featuring Brant is A White Arrest (1998)
Also, I've just started his Jack Taylor series about a former member of the police force (the Guards) is a finder of things and helper of people since they don't appear to have private detectives. The Guards is the first in this series.
I'm reading Margery Allingham's Look to the Lady, the third Albert Campion mystery and have just been looking up the Internet to find out what a "jumper suit" is - the book's been translated into American!! I know for sure because Campion mentioned Lugg's fanny - Lugg wouldn't have one in England unless he were a hermaphrodite, and Campion wouldn't be guilty of such crudeness. In future I will be very careful to buy English editions.
Couldn't get the touchstone to work - English title is The Gyrth Chalice Mystery.
I really enjoyed 4 of the Dorothy L. Sayers' books involving Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. Lord Peter meets Harriet when she's on trial for the murder of her lover (with whom she lived out of wedlock). It's called Strong Poison. He felt and instant attraction to her and decided she was the woman for him. In the meantime he solves the murder, but she declines his offer of marriage and goes off on a walking holiday in Have His Carcus where they come together again to solve a murder. The relationship between Lord Peter and Harriet is very true to life. Gaudy Night finds Harriet at Oxford (both her and Peter went there). Of course there's another murder to solve and Busman's Honeymoon where they finally marry. I believe D. L. Sayers fell in love with Lord Peter.
I just read Death Notes by Ruth Rendell. It's one of her Inspector Wexford series. I enjoyed it and intend to find others by her. I'm in the Sid Halley camp when it comes to Dick Francis, but I've enjoyed all his books.
I would also mention the "Gideon of the Yard" series written by John Creasey using the pen name J. J. Marric.
Message 58: Storeetllr: I wonder if he's written any Sargeant Cribb mysteries more recently than the 70s.
I don't think so...he seems to be concentrating on Peter Diamond lately.
62sunniefromoz First Message
#4 and #41
Ngaio Marsh is a New Zealander and not British (unless she has, unbeknown to me - but quite possibly - taken out British Citizenship).
I know this "Commonwealth" thing is quite confusing!
Ah, but many of her books were set in Britain, so we tend to include them as with books written by Americans but set in Britain.
Thanks quartzite - I hadn't understood the rubric of this group. Thought it was about British and Irish authors exclusively.
A British crime author who ought to have wider exposure is Mark Timlin.
His PI, Nick Sharman, patrols the mean streets of south London. Some of the novels were adapted for TV in the 1990s with Clive Owen playing Sharman, who, although a fine actor, was not the right man for the job. Many are, quite wrongly, out of print at the moment.
Christopher Brookmyre's so-called "Tartan Noir" is good fun too. Imagine Carl Hiaasen if he was Glaswegian.
Speaking of Glasgow, the British crime book I've probably enjoyed most recently was Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room.
Adding Cyril Hare to the must reads. I am currently reading An English Murder, a classic country-house murder, suspects isolated from the outside world by snow. Light, witty, erudite.
Looking forward to reading Hare's Tragedy at Law next, then two Francis Iles classics - Malice Aforethought and Before the Fact. Francis Iles also wrote as Anthony Berkeley.
Cyril Hare is one of my favorites and I especially liked An English Murder because I was able to guess the motive and thus the villain because I had read Trollope's Palliser novels!
Lovely! And I do like Hare very much. I've yet to acquire Anthony Berkeley, under his own name, but do think very well of his duo, written as Francis Iles.
Pamela, quartzite: nice thoughts on the part of both of you.
Grammath, I look forward to checking out the books you mention.
My own current TBR, looked forward to, include Peter Dickinson's The Old English Peep Show, and Michael Innes' Seven Suspects, aka Death at the President's Lodging. Also, Hare's The Wind Blows Death/When the Wind Blows. :)
Have just finished my first Peter Robinson - Past Reason Hated. Thanks for the recommendation #21 trawna.
The only annoying thing about this book (at least to me) was the title. I shall read more of this Inspector Banks series.
I suppose some of you have read the "Frost" novels bij RD Wingfield. I just started with my first one, Winter Frost. Very good, especially if you're in to British humor. Looking forward to possible comments on this series.
Ah, then you must read The Moving Toyshop - a favorite, and his best book! It instantly converted me. Whimsical, literary, and witty. (Or utterly daft, as Fen may be. :))
I love R.D. Wingfield's Frost books. After a 20 year break he just wrote a new one that I have ordered from the UK. There is also quite a good British TV series based on the books that I think does a good job of getting the character and mood of the books right.
#75> Eurydice, I actually plan to read them all, and in order of publication, if possible. Thanks for the input!
Very sensible. I'm afraid I did them haphazardly, as they could be found (mostly in shops, so not efficiently). But Fen is great fun.
Donnish detective stories really charm me. Especially whimsical ones, like his and Michael Innes'.
Hm... I have a feeling there's an unread Edmund Crispin in the house...
#76 That's too bad. I was so pleased to see a new one, and hoped that meant more to come.
My dad's book Little White Lies came out in July and has done very well so far. It is very popular in Libraries in Lancashire and Oxfordshire. it is a similar style to Midsomer Murders and he sold out at his book signing. If anyone does choose to read it we would appreciate a review as these help to get books into libraries and book shops. My Dad's name is Ian McFadyen and his book was published by the book guild.
Just read my first Brother Cadfael books. Although I enjoyed them, I knew whodunit by the time the misdeed was committed or the body was found, which was usually halfway thru the book. I'm not normally so astute at figuring out who the criminal is, but here I usually even had motives right long before Cadfael figured it out. I'm surprised these mysteries were so easy to figure out.
Thought I should clarify my post #84. The Cadfael books I read and easily figured out were late in the series. I've now read the 2nd Cadfael book, One Corpse Too Many, and had no clue whodunit until Cadfael figured it out. Perhaps Peter's early books are better than the later ones.
I think there are some good suggestions here. Most of the best ones have been covered. I know Ngaio Marsh is from New Zealand or Australia originally, but her series is a good one too-written in the "Golden Age" manner. I also have to mention Peter Lovesey. His Victorian series with Inspector Crabbe is wonderful, but so is his Peter Diamond series. And we can't forget to mention Ruth Rendall (or Barbara Vine). No matter what name she writes under and whether or not the book is a series book, she can't be beat.
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