The best books about amateur sleuths – with a difference

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer of cosy crimes and unapologetic in my love for the genre! There’s nothing better, in my opinion than a well-thumbed Agatha Christie or a foxed, old copy of Dorothy L Sayers. And it’s the role of the amateur sleuth that I love the best; that happy accident that brings a person with a sharp mind and perhaps a particular skill set together with a murderous villain, and we, the lucky reader, get to ride alongside them and work out the mystery for ourselves. Pour that tea, snuggle up and settle in with these five brilliant examples of amateur sleuths with just something a little different to offer…


I wrote...

Death Among the Diamonds

By Fliss Chester,

Book cover of Death Among the Diamonds

What is my book about?

Everyone in 1920s London knows the Honourable Cressida Fawcett: fiercely independent, lover of martinis, and interior designer extraordinaire. She’s solved many crimes of fashion… so how about murder? 

Cressida Fawcett is heading to the English countryside for a weekend of cocktails and partying at her friend’s glamorous mansion. But just hours after her arrival, Cressida is woken by an almighty scream. Rushing to the landing, she looks down into the great hall to find a trembling maid standing next to the body of Harry, the friendly young chandelier cleaner. Everyone believes Harry’s death was an accident. But as Cressida examines the opulent hall and the beautiful grounds, she thinks something darker is afoot. Can Cressida’s sharp eye for detail catch the killer before another life is taken?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Quiet Life in the Country

Fliss Chester Why did I love this book?

An Edwardian lady with a mysterious past… a Welsh maidservant with attitude… plus a body in the woods and a whole host of suspects—what more could you want from a cosy crime? I love this first book in T E Kinsey’s Lady Hardcastle series as the eponymous Emily, as seen through the eyes of her devoted maid Flo, is not your average high society lady. With a murky and secret past that gives her all the skills she needs to solve murders, Lady Hardcastle is not only clever but downright hilarious, too. Definitely one for those who like a bit of cheek with their cyanide and a whole heap of humour with their hemlock!

By T E Kinsey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Quiet Life in the Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they've just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.

But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There's a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation...

As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries…


Book cover of Full Dark House

Fliss Chester Why did I love this book?

Arthur Bryant and John May might not be ‘amateur’ sleuths, but they are oddballs, assigned to the Peculiar Crimes Unit, an offshoot of the Metropolitan Police set up to deal with crimes of a sensitive and possibly inflammatory nature. In this first book, Bryant and May are young men and the Blitz of London’s West End is the setting, but in subsequent books in the series the pair are in their 80s and still using all the tricks they know to solve their cases, be it consulting mediums and white witches, perusing the most obscure of books or delving into the very bowels of the great city they call home. 

By Christopher Fowler,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Full Dark House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a bomb devastates the office of London's most unusual police unit and claims the life of its oldest detective, Arthur Bryant, his surviving partner John May searches for clues to the bomber's identity. His search takes him back to the day the detectives first met as young men in 1940.

In Blitz-ravaged London, a beautiful dancer rehearsing for a sexy, sinister production of 'Orpheus In The Underworld' is found without her feet. Bryant & May's investigation plunges them into a bizarre gothic mystery, where a faceless man stalks terrified actors and death strikes in darkness. Tracking their quarry through…


Book cover of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Fliss Chester Why did I love this book?

Unlike anything that I’d read before, this book sucked me in with its distressingly intriguing premise; that the amateur detective will inhabit the body of a different character in the book, waking up each morning to the same day in which Evelyn Hardcastle will die, unless the detective can solve the murder. Whether he’s the butler, the doctor or his Lordship himself, all the detective can do is piece together the mystery while the sinister plague doctor who lurks in the corners of his mind offers scant advice. Chilling and thrilling in equal measure with a good dose of supernatural suspense thrown in.

By Stuart Turton,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can you solve the mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle?

WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD
WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG NOVEL AWARD
A WATERSTONES THRILLER OF THE MONTH
SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPECSAVERS NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS DEBUT OF THE YEAR
LONGLISTED FOR THE THEAKSTON OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR

Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror - the most inventive story you'll read

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed ... Again

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks…


Book cover of In Strangers' Houses

Fliss Chester Why did I love this book?

Amateur sleuths tend to be drawn from the professional or upper classes—Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, even my own Hon Cressida Fawcettso it’s refreshing to solve cases with Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner who has a clear moral compass and a way of finding out exactly what’s lurking in the dirty laundryboth literal and metaphorical. Headstrong, big of heart, and desperate to solve the death of her friend, Lena can spot a smudgy fingerprint at fifty paces. This book is the first in a limited series and well worth settling down withjust put a coaster under your mug and pick up your own biscuit crumbs, else Lena might have a word…

By Elizabeth Mundy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Strangers' Houses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There are some crimes you can't sweep under the carpet...

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, knows all too well about cleaning up other people's messes. When her friend Timea disappears, she suspects one of her clients is to blame. However, the police don't share her suspicions and it is left to Lena to turn sleuth and find her friend.

Searching through their houses as she scrubs their floors, Lena desperately tries to find out what has happened. Only Cartwright, a police constable new to the job, believes that this will lead to the truth - and together…


Book cover of Sorry for the Dead

Fliss Chester Why did I love this book?

I have to admit I saw the cover of this book and was smitten… then I discovered what makes this crime novel and its amateur sleuth a little bit different. Josephine Tey revisits the scene of a death at Charleston Farmhouse in 1915, and now, twenty years later, she realises that it might have been more sinister than ‘just’ an accidentand she, who was there at the time, might be implicated in the murder herself. Josephine Tey, as well as being the book’s protagonist, was also the real-life pen name of Elizabeth MacKintosh, who wrote eight murder mysteries as Tey. That Upson has so cleverly fictionalised the real-life Tey is what makes this book, and the others in the series, so differentbrilliantly so, in my opinion.

By Nicola Upson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sorry for the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** Longlisted for the CWA Sapere Books Historial Dagger 2020 **

'Haunting . . . Superlative.' Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month

'A terrific novel.' A. N. Wilson

Summer, 1915: a young woman falls to her death at Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs. But was it an accident?

Twenty years later, Josephine Tey is faced with the accusation that it was murder, and that she was complicit in the crime. Can she clear her name and uncover the truth, exposing the darkest secrets of that apparently idyllic summer?


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Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

Book cover of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Author Snow lover Fish out of water Traveller

Sam's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house, but what was meant as a pitstop becomes life-changing when he decides to stay. Along the way, he meets a colourful cross-section of Slovene society: from dormouse hunters, moonshine makers, beekeepers, and bitcoin miners, to a man who swam the Amazon, and a hilltop matriarch who teaches him the meaning of being 'priden'.

Struggling with Slovene, a language with grammar so complex it can cause brain damage, and battling bureaucracy, he explores the culture and characters of this underappreciated ex-Yugoslav republic, its wild beauty, and its wild animals.

A love letter to Slovenia, this rare, adventurous account follows a foreigner trying to build a new life — and rebuild an old house — in a young country still finding its own place in the world.

Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

What is this book about?

'Charming, funny, insightful, and moving. The perfect book for any Slovenophile' - Noah Charney, BBC presenter

'A rollicking and very affectionate tour' - Steve Fallon, author of Lonely Planet Slovenia

'Delivers discovery and adventure...captivating!' - Bartosz Stefaniak, editor, 3 Seas Europe

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house but what was meant as…


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