Having grown up with PBS’s Mystery on Sunday nights, one of my particular pleasures is the British mystery. I’m not talking any of the more recent offshoots of the genre, the historical mystery, and so forth, but the standard, bread and butter fare: the Detective Chief Inspector or dedicated amateur who goes around solving a murder at a time, either via Scotland Yard or in a small town with the proper quirky cast of inhabitants. With, of course, the proper pause for tea.
If you like British mysteries, you’ll probably like:
— The classics of the genre: Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poiot and Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey (Gaudy Night is one of my all time favorites, although if you’re being responsible about it, you should probably start with Whose Body?);
— Georgette Heyer’s golden age mystery novels, such as Duplicate Death. We tend to think of her as the mother of the Regency romance, but in her day, she was just as well known for her mysteries;
— Josephine Tey’s Inspector Grant books. For years, I thought of Tey as merely the author of The Daughter of Time, the famous novel in which a bed-bound detective attempts to solve the conundrum of Richard III and the princes in the Tower (not that there’s anything mere about that). It turns out that Grant has a number of other more contemporary adventures in the course of his time at Scotland Yard, including A Shilling for Candles and The Man in the Queue;
— Sticking with Scotland Yard for the moment, it’s hard to ignore Elizabeth George’s magisterial Lynley series (starting with A Great Deliverance, which came out back in the late 80s, all the way up to, most recently, Believing the Lie, featuring an earl who has worked his way up in Scotland Yard and his prickly, working class partner, Barbara Havers;
— In the spirit of Lynley, Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mysteries, starting with A Share in Death (these are a recently new find for me, so I still have the joy of reading my way through);
— P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh novels, of which the most famous is arguably The Murder Room;
— Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby books, starting with The Killings at Badger’s Drift, all set in the fictional county of Midsomer– which my fellow British television addicts will probably recognize as the ITV series Midsomer Murders.
What are your favorite “an inspector calls” British mysteries?