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My Favorite Mystery Writers: A List
Hello! So, I hate writing book reviews. I am also not terribly good at writing them. So, I have decided not to clutter up the Internet with my book reviews. However, I do want to tell you about some of my favorite mystery writers, especially since many of my favorite mystery writers have been largely forgotten today (I estimate that 80% of my favorite mystery writers are dead). So, I’ve made this list. Names of writers are in bigger type; after each writer, you will see a mess of keywords, commentary, and approximate quotes, all jumbled up together. My purpose is to give you a sense of the quality of each writer, and to intrigue you into checking some of them out for yourself. My other purpose is to not write book reviews, since, as I have said, I don’t like writing them and I’m not terribly good at writing them.
Oh yeah, and I guess I should say that I am especially fond of the humorous mystery novel; most, though not all, of the names on this list are masters of this form. Some of them, like Robert Barnard, have written some screamingly funny mysteries and some deadly serious ones.
I will add to this list regularly, so, if you find this list useful, check back from time to time!
Such as it is, then… I give you…
Mystery Authors: an alphabetized list of my own recommendations
Allingham, Margary – Campion, Lugg, glubalubalum, The Beckoning Lady, The Mind Readers, Look To The Lady, The Case Of The Late Pig, in fact, most of them are glorious, “professional uncle,” business cards, unspecified upper-class origins, Campion knows someone, the Blitz, the war, the other war, comedy, tragedy, tragicomedy, possible magic, old names are magic, fame is magic, Amanda is an airplane engineer
Barnard, Robert – Corpse In A Gilded Cage, Political Suicide, A Little Local Murder
Blake, Nicholas– author is poet laureate, Nigel Strangeways, the war, the other war, sex, sadness, a funny way of putting things, department of morale, the wife Georgianna who is an explorer, Claire the other wife (or girlfriend- can’t remember if they get married) who is a sculptor, really awkward sex scenes; Minute For Murder, Ministry of Morale, the Blitz
Brand, Christianna – Inspector Cockrill, known familiarly as “Cocky,” Heads You Lose, “I wouldn’t like to have a German dog, not in wartime. Where did you get him?” “He parachuted down disguised as a Church of England parson.” “Hence the dog collar” (this is, I fear, an approximation based on my memory of the text, and not an exact quote; it is from Heads You Lose, and it made me snort with laughter)
Brett, Simon– Charles Paris, failure and actor, the nasty reviews of Paris’s acting sprinkled throughout the texts, Blotto and Twinks, brain-box, slang, Simon Brett made it all up
Cannell, Dorothy– Ellie Haskell, How To Murder Your Mother-In-Law
Carr, John Dixon – Dr. Gideon Fell, The Blind Barber, hilarious yet scary mysteries, locked room mysteries,
Caudwell, Sarah – Hilary Tamar, Professor of Medieval Law and Detective, whose gender is never revealed over the four excellent novels that Caudwell wrote, all of which I will list here, for all of them are brilliantly funny and wicked and wonderful, though the last one is also painfully sad (but totally worth it, and damn funny, too): Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way To Hades, The Sirens Sang Of Murder, The Sibyl In Her Grave
Chesterton, G.K.- Father Brown, unassuming priest, Flambeau, The Father Brown Omnibus- buy it if you don’t own it already, just do it, you’ll be the better for it, beautiful writing, clever and occasionally brilliant mysteries, a stick points in two directions, sentences that stand on their heads and do tricks, The Absence of Mr. Glass, The Honour of Israel Gow, The Sins of Prince Saradine, pine trees and more pine trees, The Purple Wig, “Dear Nutt,” “worse than that,” hiding a leaf in a forest and the chilling significance thereof,
Christie, Agatha– mysteries like clockwork, I think Christie succeeds in inspiring in her readers that combination of inevitability and surprise one should feel at the end of a mystery story more often than most, the clever, clever plotting, there are no real characters to get between you and your admiration of the workings of her mystery-machines (by which I mean, not the vehicle in Scooby-Doo, but her elaborate-yet=simple, glorious clockwork plots), Murder Is Easy,
Crispin, Edmund– Oxford, don as detective, Gervase Fen, hapless sidekicks (poet, composer of ecclesiastical music), extraordinary hat, the tall mad fellow, the Rector, the Major, abruptly growing bored with subjects, idiosyncrasies, great scenes on trains, Crispin was very influenced by M.R. James, and references him constantly, Michael Innes also seems to have often been in Crispin’s thoughts, for he is referenced lots too, these are two excellent influences, and Crispin works well with them, Lilly Christine III, Glimpses of the Moon, The Moving Toy-Shop, Holy Disorders, Buried For Pleasure, Swan Song, in fact, all of them are worth at least three reads, and some of them can be re-read almost indefinitely, so very funny,
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan – Baker Street, etc., I don’t need to say more, do I?
Freeman, R. Austin – Dr. Thorndyke, Edwardian forensics, The Eye of Osiris, The Red Thumb-Mark, Jarvis, Polton, “and my client is a man with bones,” gentle sense of humour
Green, Anna Katharine – Ebenezer Gryce, drama, court-room scenes, melodrama, legal knowledge, romance, suspense
Heyer, Georgette – Behold, Here’s Poison!, Why Shoot A Butler?
Hill, Reginald – Dalziel and Pascoe, the complex inter-relationships in Mid-Yorkshire CID, A Cure For All Diseases
Innes, Michael – Appleby, quotations and more quotations, a donnish policeman, Judith Appleby née Raven, the Ravens of Dream, Theodore Raven’s awful marble statues, Judith’s ” objects,” Drool, great scenes on trains, madcap adventures, hilarity, Appleby’s End, characters with curious names, learned jokes, Stop Press, The Spider, Gerald Winter, I have listened to Appleby’s End about 50 times and I still love it, and Stop Press (or Stop the Press, sometimes) is a close second favorite, seriously just go and read/listen to these, you will, I think, enjoy them, Michael Innes may be my favorite writer on this list, and he is certainly in the top three,
Knox, Ronald – The Rules of the Detective Club, Miles Bredon, The Indescribable Insurance Company
Macleod, Charlotte– Peter Shandy, Balaclava Agricultural College, Thorwald Svenson, larger than life characters, Helen, Balaclava Boomerangs, tremendous physical strength of Thorwald Svenson, rutabagas, bulls, horses, farmers, Thorwald Svenson pulling a door off of its hinges when he gets sick of knocking, the campus life of an agricultural college, Thorwald Svenson
Mitchell, Gladys – Mrs. Bradley the psycho-analyst, saurian, cackling, “child,” Tom Brown’s Body, Saltmarsh Murders, The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop, some of Mitchell’s Mrs. Bradley mysteries are spectacular; some are utterly without charm, you have been warned!,
Moyes, Patricia – Murder Fantastical, Inspector Henry Tibbett
Poe, Edgar Allan – Dupin, nameless narrator, decadence, ratiocination – the word Poe added to the language
Queen, Ellery – Inspector Queen, Ellery Queen, clumsy erudition, puzzle-like mysteries, too clever by half, irritating and tiresome but will do in a pinch, the least fun of anyone on this list, but this list has a high bar, acceptable as mystery methadone
Rinehart, Mary Roberts – The Bat, suspicion, Cornelia Van Gorder, haughty upper class ways, Window At The White Cat, adventure, suspense, indomitable old women
Sayers, Dorothy – Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane, the strawberry leaves, shell-shock, Bunter, hilarious and tragic, beautiful writing, John Donne, quotations, learned courtship, women’s education, high vs. low church, the Dowager Duchess of Denver (and her diaries), The Nine Tailors, Gaudy Night, in fact all of her books except Whose Body?, which is not nearly as good as the others, scientific strangling, Murder Must Advertise, Diane De Mumery, drugs, Bright Young Things, The Wimsey Papers, Department of Instruction and Morale, Sayers was an amazing woman, translating Dante’s Inferno and all, another M.R. James referencer, in The Nine Tailors, many references to James’ The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, Batty Thomas, bell-ringing, campanological discussions,
Smith, Helen – Emily Castles, a female protagonist with a brain; an antidote to the chick-lit mystery; Invitation To Die; Beyond Belief; at least one good scene on a train; Dr. Muriel, Professor of Philosophy, and excellent side-kick/guiding force; Helen Smith is the least prolific mystery writer on this list, but she is also almost certainly both the youngest person on this list and the person newest to the mystery field
Stout, Rex – Nero Wolfe, fat gourmand, orchid-obsessed master detective, Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s more mobile counterpart, Fritz, Theodore, the top floor with the orchids, Wolfe’s office, Wolfe’s life-philosophy, his rigidly maintained rules for his comfort
Taylor, Phoebe Atwood – Asey Mayo, Cape Cod, America in WWII, The Great Depression, high-quality lunacy, the square pudding that baffles all, old-time New England slang,
Wentworth, Patricia- Miss Silver, Frank Abbot, Lamb, knitting, “dear me,” “my dear Frank,” Tennyson, the social position of the spinster gentlewoman of a certain age,
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