Recommend British Murder Mysteries

I’ve read all of A. C. Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Elizabeth George.

I guess I like the civilized mayhem inherent in Brit whodunnits. Would you please suggest some authors, or titles? Even somewhat uncivilized stories would be welcomed so long as they’re well written.

Do you read P.D. James. I love her. Very nicely written, if you ask me.

Yes, more than a couple, but I guess a trip to the library is in order for a book by her. Thank you for the reminder, pokey. She’s a wonderful author.

I also like Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill, as well as Ngaio Marsh (who was actually from New Zealand, but most of her stories are set in England).

I’ve read all of Agatha Christie too.
I felt her characters were poorly drawn, although she does give an interesting picture of English life with servants many decades ago.
The first book I read of hers was ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’, which is still the best plot I have ever seen.

Locked room mysteries are the speciality of John Dickson Carr.

I’m sure you will enjoy the whimsy of the ‘Father Brown’ stories by G.K. Chesterton.

Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) wrote the ‘Brother Cadfael’ stories. They’re not strictly Murder Mysteries, but they are set against a wonderful background of the city Shrewsbury during the clash of Stephen and Mathilda over the English succession in the 1100’s.

:eek: Apparently John Dickson Carr is American!

Still a good read, though. :slight_smile:

John Dickson Carr (who also wrote under the name of Carter Dickson, although many reprints use the Carr name) was an American who spent most of his adult life in England. He is the classic equivalent to Agatha Christie in fair-play whodunit puzzlers. He’s also the all-time world champ in locked room and impossible crimes. As Carr he wrote about Gideon Fell; as Dickson he wrote about Sir Henry Merrivale. Both have a dose of humor but the Merrivale books also have a dose of farce.

Anthony Berkeley Cox also wrote under two names. “Francis Iles” wrote classic “inverted” mysteries, in which you are shown the murder and then are lead to wonder how - or if - the murderer will be caught; deep psychological mysteries for the day. His “Anthony Berkeley” books about detective Roger Sheringham are more classic whodunits.

Leo Bruce wrote Case for Three Detectives in 1936, a parody involving Father Brown, Hercule Poirot, and Lord Peter Wimsey failing to solve a locked room mystery that his own stolid lower-class Sergeant Beef solves with ease. I’ve never gotten into the rest of his books but he wrote many.

Poet C. Day-Lewis wrote the Nigel Strangeways whodunits under the name of Nicholas Blake. Erudite, witty, and well-written, they are also a bit too steeped in British comedy of manners parody for my tastes but they are good books and someone from England would probably appreciate the fine points more.

Peter Dickinson didn’t start writing until he turned 40 and then three of his first five mysteries were among the best ever. (The Glass-Sided Ants Nest, The Old English Peep Show, and The Poison Oracle, although the UK versions have alternate titles.) Although these books had a policeman hero, they were nothing like what anybody else was writing, a complete revitalization of the field. He’s continued to write brilliantly for the last 35 years.

In the “nobody-else-in-the-world-writes-like-him” category is William Marshall’s series of Yellowthread Street police procedurals set in British Hong Kong. More farce than Dickson, more psychology than Iles, more sheer weirdness than Dickinson, he’s unique. You will either devour him or hate him.

Before the Fact by Francis Iles, a wonderful dark psychological murder mystery on which the piece-of-crap film Suspicion was loosely based.

I’d add Dorothy Sayers to the list, with her Lord Peter Wimsey novels, particularly once Harriet Vane enters the scene. She was a contemporary of Christie’s (who I also enjoy) but her novels were far more complex, not the “cozies” that Christie wrote.

If you’re interested in an urban Scotland setting, Ian Rankin is currently writing mysteries featuring DI Rebus. They appear regularly on the bestsellers’ lists. I understand that there have been television movies adapted from some of the novels, but I’ve never seen them.

Oh, and I’d second Colin Dexter with his Inspector Morse. I adore both the novels and the movie adaptations.

Ruth Rendell writes a series with a regular detective, Inspector Wexford, which are regular mysteries. She also writes a lot of “psychological thriller” novels, under her own name and as Barbara Vine, which often have a large element of mystery, but aren’t in the traditional mold.

Martha Grimes is an American, but has a series that is set in England.

Anne Perry has a couple of series set in 19th century England. I’ve read a number of them, but stopped, because her history creeps me out a bit, which is not what I want from my light, murderous entertainment.

If you haven’t read the Sherlock Holmes stories, you might give them a try.

I also like Simon Brett, who writes mysteries with a comic element, many of which feature a perpetually hungover, ne’er-do-well actor as the protagonist.

Read the three volumes of the collected Father Brown stories by C.K.Chesterton.

Inspector Alleyn mysteries by Ngaio Marsh.

There was out there in the seventies a collection of different british mysteries called something like The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. It inroduced me to other mystery writers comtemporaneous with SH.

Don’t forget Frances Fyfield or Val McDermid for darker, more “psychological”-type mysteries. I especially love Val McDermid, she’s great. Also, Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter are good.

Three volumes? Actually there were five; but they are available in a single collection.

I’ll second Ruth Rendell and Ngaio Marsh, and add Dorothy Simpson. Her mysteries are like Agatha Christie’s with more well-rounded characters.

My all-time favorite is the previously mentioned Dorothy Sayers. In fact, my favorite book (not just my favorite mystery) is her Busman’s Honeymoon. But read at least the other Harriet Vane stories first. :slight_smile:

Is Martha Grimes the one who titled all of her mysteries after the name of a pub? I liked those.

Ngaio Marsh, I will categorically state, wrote far more readable and interesting books than Agatha Christie.

Colin Watson wrote a series of mysteries known as the Flaxborough Chronicles that I found quite entertaining back in the 1980’s (the two titles I recall best were “Hopjoy Was Here” and “Six Nuns and a Shotgun.”

Christopher Robin’s daddy, A.A. Milne, turned in a creditable effort with “The Red House Mystery.”

You could try the very first British Murder Mystery: The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins (a friend of Dickens’).

I also just read a book by John Harvey, Flesh and Blood. It was pretty good. I’m a fan of Val McDermid, Colin Dexter, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, and many of the others listed here. John Harvey was along those lines, although probably not quite as well constructed as some of the others.

I’m very fond of Trent’s Last Case by E. C. Bentley. I think you can even find it online, it was published in 1912 so it should be in the public domain now.

If you like Christie et al, you might also like Josephine Tey’s series featuring Inspector Alan Grant. She has some fun stand-alone mystery novels as well.

It’s already been said but I would like to emphasize that if you are a fan of British mysteries and haven’t yet read Sayers, RUN DON’T WALK to the nearest library or bookstore.

If you like ones that have strong “legal” flavour, then those of Cyril Hare are rather good.

For police procedurals, I am still filling in my collection of Gideon books, by John Creasy as J. J. Marric. A very human George Gideon of Scotland Yard, in various setpieces. (Gideon’s Night, Gideon’s Art, Gideon’s Wrath, and so on.)

I must also (embarrasingly) admit to enjoy about every third of Dick Francis’ (and apparently the Mrs.) books.

I agree that they’re generally more readable and interesting. Certainly the depth of character development is far greater. But my biggest complaint about Ngaio Marsh’s novels is that:

In all of them she is overly fond of her “young lover” characters e.g. the squire’s son and the vicar’s daughter in Overture to Death; or Martyn and Adam in Opening Night. You just know that she’s invested too much emotion in them to have them turn out as the guilty parties at the end of the book. Agatha Christie, for all her simplified style and rudimentary characters, doesn’t have this problem