My personal favorites are the Lord Peter Wimsey and Philip Marlowe novels. I love Sherlock Holmes too though techically most of those are short stories rather than novels. Most contemporary mystery stuff does nothing for me I am afraid but I am open to recommendations that might change my mind. Anybody care to talk about the stuff they like best?
Well, one of my favorite novels of all time, The Brothers Karamazov, is really a murder mystery. Does that count?
You’d probably say no. So, if we stick just to novels you’d find in the Mystery section at Barnes and Noble, my favorites are…
Agatha Christie: Curtain, and The ABC Murders
Dick Francis:*** Banker***
Gregory McDonald: Fletch, Flynn’s Inn, and The Buck Passes Flynn
Ellis Peters: ***The Leper of St. Giles ***(or almost any of her Cadfael series)
I just bought the complete Sherlock Holmes novels for my nook, and I’m happily working my way through them. I also like the Nero Wolfe series, though I can’t say that I really like any of Stout’s other works. In particular, I’ve tried to slog my way through the Mountain Cat Murders at least three times, and failing each time. I really think that Stout hit upon a winning formula with Archie, Nero, and the setting, and when he tried to get away from that formula and setting, he just didn’t distinguish himself.
My personal preference is science fiction/fantasy mystery. Larry Niven has written a number of short stories and novels that are science fiction (they take place in the future, with future tech) that are essentially mysteries, and they work well. For instance, in Dream Park, there’s a theme park that allows people to use costuming and holo tech to portray various gaming classes, and one plot is about how the gamers go about winning the game, but the real story is a mystery about how a man died. Niven plays fair, he gives the appropriate clues to the readers, and you don’t have to know about a rare poison that someone from Alpha Centauri B IX would commonly carry about its person.
I’m a sucker for Nero Wolfe as well–got hooked when the series was on A&E. Very slowly working my way through the canon in publication order; my last was Over My Dead Body. (I’ve read a number of the books already, but lost track of which ones, so I’ve started over with Fer-de-Lance.)
Bonus: I used to live next door to the location of Wolfe’s brownstone, per the plaque erected by the NYC Wolfe Pack.
I also love Lord Peter Wimsey. Other current favorites include:
Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop. Lunacy set in Oxford.
The Nero Wolfe series. I read them all, in order, within a few months. Keeping them for long winter night rereads when I get old.
Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. This is Holmes as I fantasized him when I read the Conon Doyle stories.
Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion stories. She was a contemporary of Dorothy Sayers. The series started out light and frivolous, but became more accomplished as it went on.
John Dunning, The Bookman’s Wake
Kate Wilhelm, the Constance and Charlie mysteries, starting with The Hamlet Trap.
Vicki Lane, Signs in the Blood, set in the North Carolina mountains.
Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. Laugh out loud funny spoofs of the Victoria Holt type of Victorian romantic suspense. The author has a Ph.D. in Egyptology, so she knows her stuff. But her sense of humor is even better.
Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Precocious child chemist in 1950’s England solves the mysteries.
Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Club Dumas and the Flanders Panel. One about literature, one about art, both wonderful. Author Spanish, settings Europe.
Lisa Lutz. The Spellman Files series. Contemporary San Francisco setting. Very funny modern detective family, narrated by the bad girl of the family.
L.C. Tyler. The Herring Seller’s Apprentice. Modern England, a mediocre mystery writer and his obnoxious, pushy agent. Intelligently humorous.
Alfred Alcorn, Murder at the Museum of Man. Satiric and good.
Oh, I’ve liked Tony Hillerman and Aaron Elkins, Martha Grimes, and a host of others. But the ones above will survive the next move.
I listen to a lot of mysteries on my iPod.
Grew up on Lord Peter, and have listened to them all, as well as Chesterton’s Father Brown books.
Contemporary authors I love:
Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi, etc… S is for Silence is my favorite);
Dick Francis and son Felix;
Brad Meltzer (Zero Game and The Millionaires are fun “innocent-characters-caught-up-in-a-thriller” books);
Nevada Barr (*Flashback *is the perfect double-mystery).
Oh, and Lawrence Block writes books with a burglar-for-hire, Bernie Rohdenbarr, that are hilarious.
Just off the top of my head…
Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Mountains of Mourning and Diplomatic Immunity. (SF mystery)
Charlotte MacLeod’s Wrack and Rune and The Luck Runs Out. (Humorous mysteries)
Harry Kemelman’s Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry and Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red.
Gregory McDonald’s Fletch’s Fortune and Confess, Fletch.
Agatha Christie’s Mrs. McGinty’s Dead and Cat Among the Pigeons.
Susan Conant’s Bloodlines.
Dick Francis’ Nerve.
Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Ice Cold Hands.
Robert Barnard’s Death by Sheer Torture.
I also enjoy Donna Andrews’ mysteries, but can’t pick a favorite.
You and a whole bunch of other folks, including some fish.
I second Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Chandler’s Marlowe. I’d say the Big Sleep is my favorite mystery of all.
Amelia Peabody is also good. Her spouse (called by the Egyptians, “The Father of Curses”, is fighting for his life, and Amelia says, “I’m sure that Emerson was enjoying himself immensely…”
Sherlock Holmes (novels and stories)
Robert H. Van Gulik’s Judge Dee novels, set in T’ang dynasty China, and using elements taken from Chinese mystery novels written hundreds of years ago. Van Gulik plays fair, too – if a clue is a linguistic one, he gives it to you in English form (Van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat writing about Chinese history in English. And other languages, too. The man was astonishing)
Fredric Brown’s mysteries. Brown has, sadly, faded from the scene, but he was a helluva science fiction, fantasy, and mystery author, who wrote in a simple, direct, yet compelling style. He also came up with the most amazing stories and twists that show nifty insight into human psychology. One short story has the reader as the victim. Another is a Deal-with-the-devil story that is not fantasy. Great stuff. Throughout the 1950s he cranked out at least a mystery novel a year, and at least one was in print up until sometime in the 1990s. Now I don’t see his stuff on any bookstore shelves. Read his first novel, The Fabulous Clipjoint, which won him an Edgar. Or The Screaming Mimi. or The Night of the Jabberwock, which is a Lewis Carroll-themed murder mystery. Several of his works have been filmed, but greatly changed from the originals. I’d love to see the Screaming Mimi done straight.
Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco mysteries set in ancient Rome. I have to read more of these. My wife’s read them all.
Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf novels. It took me a while to get into these, but they’re worth it. I also like Robert Goldsborough’s sequels, which i’ve finally read the last of.
Just curious- is there such a thing as a good, compelling mystery that doesn’t involve someone being murdered?
I keep returning to Nero Wolfe. I’ve read most of them a hundred times in the last 20 years or so but I keep going back. I haven’t managed to get through all of them, I don’t think, because neither my hometown library nor the one in the city where I currently live HAVE them all, unfortunately. I don’t like Goldsborough’s pastiches, though…even if new Wolfe books are set in the modern day, they should never have Archie using a computer to keep the orchid records! And while part of the charm of Stout’s NW mysteries is the sense of timelessness in them (things barely change at all from the earliest to the latest books), stretching that another 40/50/60 years is a little much.
Certainly. Several of the Holmes stories (as Watson himself admits) “have no actual legal crime” in them. One of the Judge Dee stories in the volume Judge Dee at Work has no crime in it vat all. There are several mysteries that revolve around the solutions of thefts, rather than murders, although murders are often involved. I suspect this is more to give a note of urgency and seriousness in many cases – if nothing is at stake, why go to all the trouble of solving the thing/
As I’ve posted in previous threads of this type, I encourage all Holmes fans to check out The Secret Files of Sherlock Holmes and its sequels, all by June Thomson. She writes fantastic pastiches - gets the dialogue, characterization, atmosphere, etc. perfectly right. Several of her stories are as good if not better than Conan Doyle’s.
Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply is an excellent recent mystery. Darkly engrossing - highly recommended.
Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books are worth a read. A smart, wisecracking private eye and nice New England atmosphere. My favorites: Looking for Rachel Wallace, The Widening Gyre, Pale Kings and Princes, and Paper Doll.
My favorites are historical mysteries. Recently I have enjoyed Ariana Franklin’s short series, set in England during the reign of Henry II, that begins with Mistress of the Art of Death.
I love Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January mysteries, which are set in New Orleans in the 1830’s. January is a “free man of color”, a former slave who was educated in Paris but has returned to his childhood home after the death of his wife.
You might like Ruth Downie’s Medicus series, about a Roman army surgeon stationed in Britain at the beginning of Hadrian’s reign. They have a bit less historical information than the Falco books, but their tone is similarly amusing.
Any Agatha Christie - I love them all.
Eliazbeth George -Inspector Lynley and Sargeant Havers are a great team.
Caroline Graham - Midsomer Mysteries
Ellis Peters - Brother Cadfael
William Marshall - Yellow Thread Street Mysteries. I got hooked on them. Very funny. Think of Barney Miller set in Hong Kong.
Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose is a Holmes homage set in the medieval period with a monk named William of Baskerville taking on the main role. Very well done.
I recently discovered the Charlie Chan series by Earl Derr Biggers (I was already familiar with the movies, but not the books) and was surprised by how good all six books were.
And I’m a big fan of both Chandler and Hammett.
Good recommendations. One of the good things about e-books is that many of those older, hard-to-find-in-print books are becoming accessible again. The Fabulous Clipjoint is available free, and the other two you mention have cheap e-editions on Amazon.
Seconding Bujold, Ellis Peters, and of course Holmes. Another SF mystery is Asimov’s The Caves of Steel. Asimov plays fair the detective doesn’t know any more than the reader. As the detective is the POV character, you the reader know he’s guessing again for the big reveal, after several incorrect guesses. And the murderer is the last person you’d suspect.
SS-GB by Len Deighton and Fatherland by Robert Harris are both good murder mysteries set in an alternative universe in which Hitler won WWII. The first is set in Occupied London not long after the German victory and focuses on a British police detective. The second is set in Berlin in 1964, just before the first summit meeting between Hitler and President Kennedy… President Joseph Kennedy, that is. The protagonist is a very conflicted SS criminal investigator.
Both books are very different in characterization, plot and tone, but are definitely worth a read.
Something about Florida mysteries gets to me.
MacDonald’s Travis McGee and Tim Dorsey’s Serge Storm are my guilty favorites.