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The Vine: February 24, 2016

Submitted by on February 24, 2016 – 11:45 AM61 Comments

Would love suggestions on new reading material. I love British mysteries, especially if they are a series.

Think Agatha Christie, PD James, Elizabeth George, Ann Cleeves, Peter Robinson, Val McDermid, etc. etc.

I feel like I have read every decent author out there and am not impressed with the suggestions I get from Amazon. Reading is my favorite pastime and I don’t want to run out of material! And if there is another genre you like, please feel free to suggest it and let me know why you like it. Guess I should broaden my horizons.

Thanks in advance,
Book lover

Dear Lover,

I guess the obvious suggestions are Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey books, and Tana French on the more contemporary side, but if you can let us know in the comments which suggestions specifically you’re not about and why, or mysteries you’ve tried and disliked, that’ll let us be more helpful.

I’d also recommend joining Goodreads, if you haven’t already; its algorithm isn’t always more helpful than Amazon’s, but it’s often more thought-provoking.





  • Claire says:

    Obviously seconding Dorothy Sayers – her books are like Agatha Christie but with some social commentary thrown in, albeit not to a distracting degree (the exception maybe being Gaudy Night, which we actually read in my Women and Modernism class because it has a lot to say about women in higher ed).

    I also like the Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson; they’re well-written with the bonus that at least one of them was adapted for TV starring Handsome Jason Isaacs.

  • Jen says:

    I’ve been enjoying this series a great deal, even if it’s not the most who-dunnit-y books I’ve ever read.

    I also found out about this imprint last year of old Golden Era stories and I’ve read a couple now. They’re fun:

  • Kari says:

    Ellis Peters and Margaret Frazier? Those are some you probably have already read.

    What about Laurie R. King, her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series is wonderful.

  • Jean says:

    If you like Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie, there are Margery Allingham’s Campion mysteries. There is also Georgette Heyer, who is more famous for her Regency romances, but she also wrote a dozen or so Golden Age murder mysteries, with detectives like Hannasyde and Hemingway. For more modern, but “cozy” style, there is Marion Babson, especially for cat lovers. One of her best cat books, Murder at the Cat Show, sadly isn’t available as an e-book, just in paperback.

  • p jane says:

    I haven’t read many, and it’s been years ago, but you might try Ngaio Marsh. Though she was from New Zealand, most of her 30+ books were set in London.

    In a completely different genre I’d recommend Diana Gabaldon. A co-worker suggested her Outlander series but I heard “historical fiction” and begged off. A year or so later I was desperate for a decently written THICK book (I read fast), gave it a shot, and was sucked in. Her Lord John series would fall under British mystery in an 18th century espionage fashion, so that might work for you, too.

    I hope you find something good :)

  • heatherkay says:

    I’ve been running through the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books by Laurie King. Lots of awesome 1920s settings, and much more about Russell than Holmes.

    Before I started on these, I was working my way through Donna Leon’s Venice mysteries. They are more police procedurals than whodunits, and they are almost more travel books or restaurant recommendations than mysteries sometimes. But lots of fun.

  • Caitlin M says:

    I really love Adrian McKiinty’s Sean Duffy series, set in Belfast in the early ’80s, at the height of the Troubles. The setting and historical details are interesting, the writing is excellent. It started out as a trilogy, but then he went on, with number five about to come out.

  • Megan in Seattle says:

    I like the Kate Fansler series by Carolyn Heilbrun, if you like a New York, feminist, academic feel.

    For British academics and attorneys, the Hilary Tamar series by Sarah Caudwell. It’s only four books, but I really love them.

  • Lanie says:

    I quite like the books by Susan Hill featuring detective Simon Serrailler. 7 books in the series, beginning with ‘The Various Haunts of Men’ (2004).

    Agreed, Claire! Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books are very good.

    And finally, the new series by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is highly enjoyable (featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his absolutely wonderful assistant Robin Ellacott.) Only 3 books exist in the series so far, starting with ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, but I suspect many more will follow…

  • Sue says:

    For contemporary writing, Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May series is fantastic – 13+ books to date. If you can include some adjacent writing (read: more scifi), Charles Stross’ Laundry series (6+) or Paul Cornell are good options.

    My preferred Golden Age writer is Margery Allingham’s Campion series (can be found as reissues or used). Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher series is set in 1920s Australia and is amazing. 20 books and counting for that one, so there’s some breadth.

  • Jesse says:

    Have you read Ian Rankin’s Detective Rebus series? There’s a bunch of them and they are great. (I’m excited to see some female authors on here I haven’t read, because I tend to read a lot of men, and I want to diversify.)

    On the non-mystery front, I adore Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, and I’m not generally into science fiction. The books are each quite different — some are military adventures, one’s a drawing-room comedy type, etc.

  • Gigi says:

    If you like Elizabeth George then I think you’d enjoy Ruth Rendell. Her Inspector Wexford stories are fantastic – very character-driven. She was prolific so if you do like her work you’ll be set for awhile.

    In a totally different vein, I have recently discovered Alexander McCall Smith and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. He has several other series and novels, but this one is set in Botswana and the lady detective in question solves matters using mostly common sense or provoking a reaction that tells her when she’s hit home. Great expansive writing with a very different feel from other British mystery writers.

  • Judy says:

    I’m glad somebody mentioned Ruth Rendell. She’s one of my all time favourite British authors. She doesn’t only write murder mysteries, she also writes psychological thrillers both under her own name and under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.

  • Alex says:

    I’ve got to go with Josephine Tey, particularly the Alan Grant series.

    I read the Daughter of Time when I was in High School and promptly bought it for every history and theater nerd I knew. So good! She was in the same era as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, but is somehow less well-known here in the states.

  • yasmara says:

    Yes to all those suggestions above and I also liked the Ruth Galloway Mysteries (series) by Elly Griffiths.

  • Pam says:

    Martha Grimes has a very readable series about Inspector Richard Jury with Scotland Yard. She also branches out a little bit with other series and characters, but the Jury books are easy reads with some twisty endings.

  • Book Lover says:

    Thanks for all the great suggestions! I have actually read all of the Ruth Rendall Wexford Books, along with most of the Susan Hill books. Still need to catch up on the last few Alexander McCall Lady Detective books.
    Will definitely take a look at the suggestions – thanks again!
    I like a wide variety of books, anything from Victorian Era to modern day, from “cozy” mysteries to police procedurals. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Totally agree on Kate Atkinson! But read all her stuff–Human Croquet stands as one of my all time favorites.

    It’s not a series, but Mary Stewart’s mystery/suspense novels are fabulous midcentury blitzreads at their finest. And they have terrific titles like Madam, Will You Talk? and Touch Not The Cat. (But be warned, some of the material has dated in a Not Good way.)

  • Molly G says:

    Seconding Josephine Tey — she’s awesome!

    And he’s British and one of my favorite authors, but his books are hard to find in America and quite lengthy as well: Phil Rickman. His stuff kind of straddles the line between horror and mystery, but his Merrily Watkins series is probably my favorite series of books behind the Discworld novels. She’s a vicar and ends up becoming an exorcist as well — it’s very modern and believable, and the world he constructs is fascinating.

  • Maru says:

    Anne Perry writes two detective series set in Victorian London. The Thomas Pitt series takes place during the 1880’s and the William Monk series takes place during the 1850’s. Both are very good, but the Thomas Pitt series is my favorite, probably because women in the 1850’s had NO rights and some of the story lines in the Monk series raise my hackles. Both series also have a female protagonist.

    And I second Josephine Tey and Alexander McCall Smith.

  • PollyQ says:

    Martha Grimes should be right up your alley. Also reccing Sarah Caudwell, even though she only wrote 4 books, but they’re so great and so funny.

  • Heather C. says:

    I have enjoyed the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries by Lindsey Davis. Crime detecting in ancient Rome! There are light-hearted and funny at times, and I found them to be well-paced. Read the first eight or so, so I don’t know about the later books, but the first one is The Silver Pigs.

  • Kathleen says:

    May I recommend the Amelia Peabody series of the late, great Elizabeth Peters? ( Crocodile on the Sandbank, etc) It takes a book or two for her to really hit her stride but she wrote a huge fabulous series about Victorian archeologists in Egypt. They are really fun! The characters are well developed, the plots are well written and there are 19 of them. I have both read and listened to them, the audio books are quite good.

    Jacqueline Winspear’s Maize Dodds books, may or may not be your thing. They are post WWI England and have a very mild… intuitive/ supernatural thing going on. Vivid descriptions.

    I also enjoy the Laurie King Sherlock Homles/ Mary Russell books. ( the Beekeepers Apprentice)

    Happy Reading !

  • Keith says:

    I will second the Richard Galbraith books. I’m not usually a mystery reader, but these are so well written.

  • Amy says:

    I stumbled across these in the vast wasteland that’s most of Kindle Unlimited: The Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by TE Kinsley. It’s two books of short mysteries (“A Quiet Life in the Country” and “The Spirit is Willing”) that all work together to read as whole books. It’s a kind of Downton Abbey setting, a Lady who’s retired to the country with her lady’s maid/bestie for the quiet life – but of course goes all Jessica Fletcher, but oh there is more to their story than that. I read them all straight through and am SO SAD there are no more. Super fun, highly recommend.

    As I skimmed down to the comment button, I noticed someone else mentioned Ruth Rendell — one of my favorites. If you want something darker and twisty-er than Inspector Wexford, check out her writing as Barbara Vine. She’s straight brilliant.

  • silence says:

    Have you tried Kerry Greenwoods Miss Fisher series. It’s not British but the heroine was raised in England. Set in 1920s Melbourne.

  • Meri says:

    I haven’t read them myself, but I’ve heard good things about the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn.

  • Nanc says:

    I love M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth and Agatha Raisin books. They’re modern and kind of like comfort food. You know what you’re getting but it always tastes good and fills you up!

    As a fellow lover of British mysteries I was skeptical about the Longmire mysteries by Craig Johnson, but darned if they aren’t great! I quite like the audio versions as well.

    Not strictly mystery, but Connie Willis’s Blackout and All Clear read somewhat like mystery fiction (to me, anyway) and if you like WWII, you’ll get a kick out of them.

  • Karen says:

    I am bookmarking this page! British Capers! Someone else who’s read Dorothy Sayers! New Suggestions!!

    I love all these suggestions, and want to add a few.

    Denise Mina- She has a series with a female detective as protagonist and another series with a female..criminal..sort of, as protagonist. These are Scottish and gritty.

    Old school: E. Phillips Oppenheim. I found a collection of his books in the Boston Athenaeum and have been working my way steadily through, but they are mostly public domain, so downloadable for free.

    If you want to go a little north of the UK, there’s Arnaldur Indridason’s Icelandic mysteries and/or Henning Mankell’s “Walander” series set in Sweden.

  • Karen says:

    Oh, and I’ve only read a few of these, but in the 1920’s and 30’s there was a thing called the “Harper Sealed Mystery Series”.

    You could buy this book, and the end was sealed. If you figured out the ending, or you didn’t like the book, you could it take it back and get a refund. However, if you had to know whodunit, you had to open the seal, which made it non returnable.

    These are entertaining more for the novelty (heh. pun!) than for the actual story, but if you can track some down at your local used bookstore, I’d give them a read.

  • Lis says:

    I really like Carol Goodman’s novels too. Light mystery and somewhat more “literary” than the usual pulp I tend towards (which is why I don’t have any more suggestions.)

  • ferretrick says:

    If you would go with historical murder mystery’s C. J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series is fantastic. He’s a hunchback detective in the time of Henry VIII. The historical part is meticulously researched and the plotting and characterization are top notch. The books are long, but read like lightning. There are currently six in the series. First up is Dissolution:

  • LisaD says:

    Seconding Outlander! OMG-cannot get enough. It’s a bit of a slow start on the first book-push thru to page 35 and then it really takes off!

    Not really traditional mystery, but Lianne Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” and “What Alice Forgot” are both page turners with big reveals towards the end. Fast, fun reads for sure and set in modern-day Australia.

  • Rachel says:

    Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series are lots of fun – cozy murder mysteries set in the 1950s, with an ace 11-year-old detective and chemistry fiend as the heroine.

  • Mingles' Mommy says:

    I cannot agree with the Ruth Rendell fans enough. (Plus you can find a lot of hers secondhand if you like to save … :).

    I also can’t recommend Caroline Graham enough. The “Midsomer Murders” series is based on her books. While the series has run far past the books she actually wrote (and can be silly at times, like many long-running mystery series, although enjoyable), I found her mystery novels remarkably intelligent, with multiple plot lines that resolved beautifully and character development you don’t always find in mystery novels.

    I’m seconding the suggestions of anything by Liane Moriarty; if you like gritty, Dennis Lehane is pretty strong (“Gone, Baby, Gone,” and “Shelter Island”).

    And I couldn’t put “The Girl on the Train” down. Also “The Furies,” which I think is by a new author; it’s set partly in Scotland, partly in London (modern-day).


  • Buni says:

    Massively upvoting the Kate Atkinson suggestion above; the Jackson Brodie set is awesome (also: Jason Isaacs!) and once you’ve read them then every other thing she’s ever written should go on your list too.

  • scurry says:

    In the historical and cozy vein, Patricia Wentworth and (seconding) Georgette Heyer. Josephine Tey also has some interesting reads.

  • Jane says:

    Ruth Downie has a really enjoyable series set in Roman Britain starting with “Medicus”. I think there are five or six in the series now. Her detective is a Roman army physician who gets mixed up in various local crimes.

    Seconding the recommendation for Elly Griffiths. Besides her archeological mysteries, which are very good, she has a new series set soon after WWII starting with “The Zig Zag Girl”. The protagonists are stage performers who were in a special operations group during the war.

    Can I recommend for all mystery lovers the site ? It categorizes a huge database of mystery series by location, time period, genre, diversity etc. It’s amazing and we used it all the time when I worked at the public library. The index for England is here: England

  • heatherkay says:

    Heather C – If you like Marcus Didius Falco, you’d probably also dig Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series, with Gordianus the Finder. Takes place during the rise of Julius Caesar. Saylor’s books are a little more historically accurate, for what that’s worth, and a more serious tone. But still a lot of fun.

  • Wehaf says:

    Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart mysteries (starting with “The Ruby in the Smoke”) are lots of fun. They’re set in 1870s London and at times have a slight YA-feel to them, but not so much that adults will be put off.

  • Sheryl says:

    One series I’ve enjoyed is the “Lady Georgiana” mysteries by Rhys Bowen. Main character is a distant heir to the throne of England in the 1930s who often gets asked to do favors by the queen.

  • KD says:

    Adding votes for Bradley’s Flavia de Luce, King’s Mary Russel/Sherlock Holmes, and Ngaio Marsh’s series.

    And, for a different take on mystery, Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend.

  • Merely Me says:

    My parents both liked the Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Apparently she specializes in long buildups to really terrible puns.

  • Amanduh says:

    If you like a little fantasy and humor in your mysteries, you might check out the Lord Darcy series by Randall Garrett. They’re set in Britain in the 1960s, but it’s an alternate reality Britain, where researchers uncovered the laws of magic instead of the laws of physics and society still has a Victorian feel to it. Lord Darcy works with his Chief Forensic Sorcerer, Master Sean O’Lochlainn, to uncover the clues he needs to solve killings.

    It is a short series. Garrett only wrote one novel and about 10 short stories, and they’ve all been collected into an omnibus that’s just titled “Lord Darcy”. They’re not edge-of-the-seat thrillers, but they’re fun little reads and I enjoy the characters’ personalities as much as trying to puzzle out the solution.

  • Laura says:

    While another Alexander McCall Smith series was mentioned earlier in the comment thread, I’d like to mention his Sunday Philosopher’s Club series — they’re what I call “cup of tea” mysteries — not very violent — and sometimes the lives of the characters and their relationships are just as much the point of the books. Also, if you haven’t read them, the Brother Cadfael mystery series by Ellis Peters.

  • Leigh in CO says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen mention of Ngaio Marsh, and the Roderick Alleyn books. I loved reading them many years ago; I expect that would still be true. I think I need to go find some for my collection to be sure.

    I, too, love Ruth Rendell (Inspector Wexford is in my heart, and her psychological thrillers thrill me), so yay for this comment thread!

    And definitely agree that Elizabeth Peters’ Peabody series is delightful. Josehpine Tey’s Brat Farrar is probably one of my favorite books ever.

  • Frannie says:

    Please try the Logan McRae series by Stuart MacBride – both gritty and funny.

    I’ve just started the Ella Marconi series by Katherine Howell. They’re set in Australia.

    Second the recommendation of the site.

  • Ginger says:

    I’m late to the party so I’m only here to second (or third or fourth) some of the suggestions that I thought were especially enjoyable and right up the OP’s alley.

    Martha Grimes, Anne Perry and Elizabeth Peters for the traditional and I also could NOT put down The Girl on the Train (for a non-series, modern option). These are all amazing.

  • frogprof says:

    David Mark’s books are set in Hull [Yorkshire] and are pretty dark but well-written. Mo Hayder is more thriller than mystery, and DAMN are her books creepy, but I can’t ever put them down until I’ve finished them. I second [third?] the Martha Grimes and Mary Stewart recommendations. Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time is amazing.
    So glad I’m not the only TNer who knows about Stop You’re Killing Me! (and that Dorothy Sayers is as well-loved here as she should be, of course)

  • Karen says:

    Second the Donna Leon Inspector Brunetti series. There are A LOT of them, and she talks about contemporary Venice behind the police procedures. And the food is good.

    I also cannot recommend enough Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles (six books) and the House of Niccolo (8 books) series. They’re both character-driven historical fiction, but with less bodice ripping than Outlander.

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