A list of my favorite books would be incomplete without a warm hug for my other first love: mysteries!
Winston Churchill said it best in a speech about Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.” I’ve always been good at puzzles. At figuring out the clues. At finding that key that unlocks everything. I’m the annoying person at the movies who, two scenes into the flick gets a wide smile on her face and says, “Aha!” Luckily, I’ve learned to stop there. No spoilers. Honest. It doesn’t ruin the movie for me, so I’m not going to ruin it for anyone else.
British mysteries? Love them. Private Eye books? Yes, please. Classic characters like Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes and even cats who somehow solve crimes? Yep, I’ve read that. I’ve read cozies, thrillers, supernatural weirdness, and romances. Yes. Romances. Me. Well-written mysteries with a hint of romance can be great, can’t they?
My mother read mysteries and she introduced me to one of the very best ever written, which just so happened to also be a romance. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. Mystery, murder, drama – and there was UST out the wazoo, which almost definitely first ignited by love of the unrequited love genre. The overlooked heroine/hero who is more than worthy of the main character’s love but can never seem to catch a break. The MC who is too self-involved to know that his/her perfect match is right there under his/her nose. Ah, the classics. My mom started me out right, didn’t she?
So, without further ado, here is my list of ten read-again mystery novels. This time, with helpful links just in case you want in on the fun too.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Romance/mystery along classic lines. What is he hiding? Why does the housekeeper hate her so much? The pacing, the revelation of clues, the angst of the heroine – everything about this one is perfect. Rebecca
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. Hercule Poirot uses his little grey cells to figure it out. I always preferred HP to Miss Marple – yes, he’s a bit full of himself and egotistical, but he rocks the clues without becoming a village busybody. This one I can’t say much about without giving it away. *Zips lips* Go read it! Roger Ackroyd
Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers. Lord Peter Wimsey is forced to dig beneath his brother’s stiff-upper-lip silence in order to save him from prison. Great characters, lovely British feel, and boy, does Sayers know her stuff. Clouds
The Alienist by Caleb Carr. This one is serial killers and late 19th C crime solving. It’s the very beginning of both forensics and profiling. Of fingerprints and psychoanalysis. You may not have heard of this one, but I guarantee that if you read it, you will never forget it. Warnings: graphic violence and descriptions of attacks. Alienist
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Check this out from a review on Goodreads: “Perhaps the oddest and best mystery ever written. Police Inspector Grant, flat on his back in hospital, solves the historical mystery of Richard III and the Little Princes in the Tower.” It’s fascinating how a great detective can dig through the politics and history and propaganda to come up with a solution to this STILL unsolved crime. Daughter
The Man With a Load of Mischief by Martha Grimes. Scotland Yard Inspector Richard Jury meets titled dilettante Melrose Plant over a dead body in his Northants village and the rest is history! What a cast of characters! This is just the beginning of the Jury and Plant team-up and I’ve read all of them multiple times. You really get to love these people. Thank heavens Grimes is still writing! Mischief
All Seeing Eye by Rob Thurman. This is a thriller in every sense – even the extra ones. Jackson Lee can read objects, he can see what’s happened to the person who owns it with just a touch. And it all started when he touched his little sister’s pink sneaker. He’s the real thing – and his government needs him. Thurman is a master (mistress?) of characterization and suspense. Eye
And speaking of eyes …
A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine. Why did Vera Hillyard kill her sister? Barbara Vine aka Ruth Rendell is one of the best psychological mystery writers. These are not cozies. No one feels comfortable here. These stories dig right down to the marrow. They’re meaty. And the reader is the best kind of exhausted after reading. Adapted Eye
The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow. Steampunk magic and mystery – what a combo! The main character is a forensic sorceress in Victorian England! I know!! Fantastic! I wish there were more of these books! Wyrm
She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb. McCrumb’s ‘Ballad Novels’ are poetry. They celebrate the culture and mysticism of the Appalachian mountain community. Are there ghosts? Maybe. And maybe there are good reasons for some of the old superstitions. While we try to discover the true story of Katie Elder, kidnapped by Shawnee in 1779, the world of modern North Carolina/Tennessee also comes to life. Beautiful. Hills
I can’t believe I’m at ten already! Again! My shelves are full of many more, other fantastic writers who can weave a mystery that clamps onto your wrist and makes you follow it off into the darkness. Happy reading! And please share your favorite mysteries with me.