The best British mystery books

John B. Campbell Author Of A Lark Ascending
By John B. Campbell

The Books I Picked & Why

Some Danger Involved

By Will Thomas

Book cover of Some Danger Involved

Why this book?

For those who prefer their mysteries to be driven by British proprieties and comforts set against compelling social issues, Will Thomas is a must-read author. 

The reader is taken downstairs and up, through gritty back alleys and up Pall Mall. You learn the city of London and its history via vivid conversation, prose, and action. I have read them all with pleasure. Listening to the audiobooks becomes necessary when you wish to immerse yourself in the varied accents, narrated by the wonderful Antony Ferguson. The mysteries are each of them excellent, but Barker and Llewellyn, enquiry agents extraordinaire, along with the supportive characters, become like dear friends with whom you wish to revisit regularly.


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A Foreign Affair

By Caro Peacock

Book cover of A Foreign Affair

Why this book?

The year is 1837 and Liberty is a fiercely independent young woman. The story begins with her crossing the Channel to find her father, only to discover that he had recently been killed in a duel. In the course of investigating what had happened, she comes upon a plot that involves treason, with the potential to spark another civil war.

What I love about Peacock’s work is her use of imagery in echoing a character’s psyche or situation. Horse lovers will enjoy Liberty’s relationship with her horse and her growing friendship with her good-hearted stable hand. I have not yet put my finger on it, but for some reason, I feel a hint of Edgar Allen Poe when I read her books.


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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

By Alan Bradley

Book cover of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

Why this book?

Flavia is part Tomboy and part genius chemist; an endearing teenage girl who often says things that had me laughing out loud, but who also becomes a clever sleuth racing to reach the conclusion of a case ahead of the Chief Detective. This series is full of charm and humor while never losing focus of the story.


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The Man with a Load of Mischief (A Richard Jury Mystery)

By Martha Grimes

Book cover of The Man with a Load of Mischief (A Richard Jury Mystery)

Why this book?

I had mentioned Martha’s wonderful prose in my introduction. My friends and I often enjoyed sharing our favorite bits from her books. Her work is worthy of such book club scrutiny and appreciation. Her sturdy plots are enhanced by moments of absurd humor, which, like a Greek chorus, help the story along. The dabblings of absurdity almost always involve Jury’s pub friends. My favorite of all the merry asides is the case of Aunt Agatha’s foot’s encounter with a chamber pot outside of another character’s antique shop. The resolution played out over time splendidly. Richard Jury is a Scotland Yard man who is easy to like for many reasons. Martha’s books offer good entertainment and even better writing.


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The Face of a Stranger

By Anne Perry

Book cover of The Face of a Stranger

Why this book?

A prolific writer, Anne Perry has a different series for a number of eras, from the Crimean to the Great War, each with fascinating protagonists. My favorite is The Face of a Stranger. This is the William Monk series set in the Nineteenth Century following the Crimean War. 

William Monk is a police detective who has to carry on with his work after sustaining a case of amnesia due to an accident. Without memory of who are his enemies, be they on the police force or in dens of iniquity, each case he undertakes is full of tension.

Anne Perry’s use of different human senses is similar to the composition of a Tchaikovsky work. Whether the reader can smell the fragrance of a pot of tea or they hear the lone coo of a morning dove, everything is there with purpose, enhancing the character development and the reader’s attachment to the story.

Each of her main characters are driven by hearts that are primarily noble, though flawed, of course. They experience growth over time. All are decidedly likeable. We learn how to improve our motives from reading her work, and this happens without any sense or presence of a soapbox.


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