Monday, August 1, 2011

Time to start using the little gray cells...ala M. Poirot

There must be something in that fog and mist across the pond because England is chock full of fantastic mystery writers. From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Dame Agatha Christie to Colin Dexter to P.D. James, these novelists keep us readers on our toes as we try to figure out "who done it". Then, of course, there is the tradition of the great English detectives, both within the police force and private detectives. To name just a few: Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Adam Dalgliesh, Inspector Pitt, Lord Peter Wimsey, Cordelia Gray, Inspector Morse, and Thursday Next. Even non-English writers like Elizabeth George have added characters (Inspector Lynley) to the English detective fiction genre.

I love a good murder mystery novel, provided it isn't too bloody and I can't figure out who the killer is in the first five chapters. If you a fan of a good murder mysteries (of the Agatha Christie variety), then I have three sets of murder mysteries that may be right up your alley!

The first set I am recommending are the three mysteries in the Her Majesty Investigates series by C.C. Benison. Now these books do involve a little bit of suspension of disbelief because our detective in these books is none other than Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, assisted by Jane Bee, a twenty-something maid in the royal household (and the daughter of a police officer from Prince Edward Island.) The three installments are: Death at Buckingham Palace, Death at Sandringham House, and Death at Windsor Castle. These books are fun reads, especially if you are interested in knowing about the royal family and/or the royal palaces. The Queen is written as likeable, but not overly chummy, and I find Jane Bee to be clever and relatable. These books also give you a bit of the goings on behind the scenes at these royal residences, as if "Downton Abbey" met "Murder She Wrote". Each mystery includes a nice balance of mystery, humor (usually involving Jane and a cadre of corgies), and a little bit of a history lesson. (I really learned a lot in about Windsor Castle and the Order of the Garter, which has added greatly to my royal watching, not to mention enhanced my own visit to Windsor.)

Not only am I a fan of detective novels, but I am also a fan of historical fiction. The next set I am recommending combines both of these loves. They are the Robin Paige Victorian-Edwardian mysteries, written by husband and wife team Bill and Susan Albert. These twelve mystery novels, set at the turn of the 20th century, feature amateur sleuths Kate Ardleigh Sheridan, an Irish-American "lady novelist", and her husband, Sir Charles Sheridan, an amateur pioneer in forensic science. The stories are set all over England, so you get a feel for the landscape of the country, and feature a great number of historical figures as characters. I feel that they do a great job tying together people, locations, and mystery to make the stories believable. You can tell that the Alberts have done their research (they always include a little of the real history at the end of the book along with a bibilography). Some of the people the Sheridens "meet" as they move among society include: Beatrix Potter, Jennie and Winston Churchill, Lilly Langtry, Guglielmo Marconi, and Bertie, the Prince of Wales. These books are really fun and fast reads, perfect to bring with you on your next vacation.

The final series that I wanted to recommend is by no means the least and is another set of historical fiction mysteries. Stephanie Barron has been requested to "transcribe and edit" a "recently uncovered" treasure trove of Jane Austen's "lost diaries". These diaries help fill in some of the missing pieces in our general knowledge of Jane Austen. From them we learn that not only was the good Miss Austen a skilled writer, but she also solved a great number of murders and helped save her country from the nefarious intentions of foreign (French) spies! Who knew!?! With her quick wit and clever mind, as well as the assistance of the dashing Lord Harold Trowbridge (the Gentleman Rogue) and members of her own family, "Jane Austen" solves crimes and saves innocent lives from the hangman's noose while bringing the real villains to (the king's) justice. (I defy any lady not to fall prey to the charm of the Gentleman Rogue!) Barron weaves the Jane Austen mysteries by drawing from documented incidents (and locales) from Austen's life as well as tying in elements from her published novels and letters. She accurately retraces Austen's steps and then envisions an adventure in among the established events. I anxiously await the publication of the eleventh (and sadly, the final) installment of this series!!

So these are my summer fun reading recommendations in the Anglophilia murder mystery vein. If you have read/end up reading these books, I'd love to hear what you think of them.

1 comment:

  1. There's another Jane mystery coming???? I thought we were done. Yahoo!

    Also, have you tried Maisie Dobbs?



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