bookish posts

Favorite genre: mysteries

Last week I had a lot of fun talking about some of my favorite genres for Armchair BEA. But then I realized that I had completely forgotten to talk about one of my very favorites–mysteries! Rather than go back and try to add it to my original post, I thought I would just write a separate one.

My main requirement for mysteries is that they be mostly about solving the crime. I don’t really like gritty mysteries, which leaves out a lot of modern books. I love mysteries from the Golden Age of British writers. A lot of people know Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, and they are great! But there are several others I really enjoy, either from that era or from a little later.

What are some favorite authors?

Agatha Christie is the Queen of mysteries for a reason. I love Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot about equally, and Tommy and Tuppence are also great. I don’t care for the Harley Quinn mysteries as much, although I’m not sure why–they seem too fantastical, maybe? She’s the first mystery writer I ever read and, even though I don’t read her books as much as I used to, she has a special spot in my heart.

If you asked, I would probably say that Dorothy Sayers is my current favorite mystery writer. How can you beat Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane? Answer: it is NOT POSSIBLE. I don’t love all of her books equally, and I still think that Five Red Herrings is tosh, but from the moment Harriet enters in Strong Poison, the series as a whole becomes much better. And Gaudy Night is one of those perfect books that I will never not love.

Josephine Tey is the pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh, and the author of Brat Farrer, Miss Pym Disposes, and The Daughter of Time, among others. Her books are all very cerebral and often have some sort of historical component to them. The Daughter of Time sets out to convince the reader that Richard III is innocent of his nephews’ murders, and I have to say, it convinced me. Brat Farrer is probably my next favorite, but I really like all of her mysteries.

Ngaio Marsh has a gentleman detective, a bit in the tradition of Lord Peter. But this time he is a policeman, and therefore not as free to, for instance, fly across the Atlantic in search of evidence. While I think the series went on too long, I do enjoy Rory Alleyn & co. The first few books are quite formulaic, but if you persevere, the middle ones are delightful.

Ellis Peters may be most famous for her Brother Cadfael mysteries. Actually, I really dislike Cadfael. On the other hand, I love the Felse mysteries and only wish that she had written more of them. Featuring George Felse, a police detective, his wife Bunty, and their son Dominic, the series is gentle and lovely. Most of the books take place in Shropshire and Peters writes beautiful descriptions of the countryside.

Y.S. Lee writes a wonderful series of historical mysteries. Mary, her main character, is smart and resourceful, and the mystery aspect is fun. I will also admit to liking the romance a lot–it’s one of those quiet ones where everybody has more to do than standing around declaring undying love for each other. And the US covers are some of the best I’ve ever seen for a historical series. YAY.

There are a few series that I’ve tried at various times–I really wanted to like P.D. James’ Dalgliesh mysteries, but I felt depressed every time I finished one. But I’m always hoping that I’ll find a new series to enjoy. Are there any that you would recommend? Or warn me away from?

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

5 replies on “Favorite genre: mysteries”

My impression of them–it’s been several years since I tried reading one–is that the general tone seemed very cynical, especially the way faith was treated. I really like Pat MacIntosh’s Gil Cunningham series, though, which is set in late Medieval Scotland.

True–at least, I do remember the jarringly anachronistic “follow your heart”/”do what feels right for you” morals at the end of several stories. So her attitude towards faith is rather trite, at the least.

I’ll have to check out Pat MacIntosh. I’ve been on a little bit of a historical-mystery spree so far this year–lately I’ve been reading Lindsey Davis and Ruth Downie and enjoying both. 🙂

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