The best British mystery books

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

Who am I?

As a fine arts major alumnus of Lake Forest College and Illinois Wesleyan University, I have written a variety of works, fiction and non, throughout my professional life. My preferred literary escape became the genre of British Mystery. I learned much from reading Martha Grimes in the 1990s. Her use of interplay between a character’s internal psychic landscape and the surrounding one interested me. As a mystery writer, I employ what I think of as light brushstrokes of the cozy genre while aiming for some depth of prose. A Lark Ascending has been described as an engaging escape from today.

I wrote...

A Lark Ascending

By John B. Campbell,

Book cover of A Lark Ascending

What is my book about?

Malcolm Roberts, a young man in 1920s London, finds himself struggling with the sudden and immense changes that resulted from the Great War. With his once affluent family now in tatters, this adolescent is searching for purpose and finds life exciting and vibrant in the nearby Dickensian-still East End. But when he stumbles upon the mysterious plot of a group of vigilantes bent on attacking the Chinese vicinage of Limehouse, he and an unlikely collection of friends must shoulder the burden.

And shoulder it they must after grappling with a corrupt constabulary. Malcolm’s fledgling emotions with a first-love experience complicates matters, as does happening upon a murder. Will he and his friends succeed? Only the reader will find out.

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The books I picked & why

Some Danger Involved

By Will Thomas,

Book cover of Some Danger Involved

Why did I love 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.

By Will Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Some Danger Involved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An atmospheric debut novel set on the gritty streets of Victorian London, Some Danger Involved introduces detective Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, as they work to solve the gruesome murder of a young scholar in London's Jewish ghetto.

When the eccentric and enigmatic Cyrus Barker takes on the recent murder case of a young scholar in London's Jewish ghetto, he realizes that he must hire an assistant, and out of all who answer an ad for a position with "some danger involved," he chooses downtrodden Llewelyn, a gutsy young man with a murky past.

As they inch ever…

A Foreign Affair

By Caro Peacock,

Book cover of A Foreign Affair

Why did I love 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.

By Caro Peacock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Foreign Affair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable debut novel rich in atmosphere, color, and suspense, Caro Peacock's A Foreign Affair is an irresistible blend of history, adventure, and ingenious invention that brings an extraordinary new writer—and a truly endearing and unforgettable heroine—to the literary stage.

The year is 1837. Queen Victoria, barely eighteen, has just ascended to the throne of England, and a young woman named Liberty Lane has just had her first taste of true sorrow. Refusing to accept that her gentle, peace-loving father has been killed fighting a duel, she vows to see justice done. . . .

The trail she follows is…

Book cover of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Why did I love 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.

By Alan Bradley,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Flavia: Mystery Solver. Master Poisoner. 11 Years Old.

England 1950. At Buckshaw, the crumbling country seat of the de Luce family, very-nearly-eleven-year-old Flavia is plotting revenge on her older sisters.

Then a dead bird is left on the doorstep, which has an extraordinary effect on Flavia's eccentric father, and a body is found in the garden. As the police descend on Buckshaw, Flavia decides to do some investigating of her own.

Praise for the historical Flavia de Luce mysteries:
'The Flavia de Luce novels are now a cult favourite' Mail on Sunday

'A cross between Dodie Smith's I Capture…

Book cover of The Man with a Load of Mischief

Why did I love 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.

By Martha Grimes,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Man with a Load of Mischief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the Man with a Load of Mischief, they found the dead body stuck in a keg of beer. At the Jack and Hammer, another body was stuck out on the beam of the pub’s sign, replacing the mechanical man who kept the time. Two pubs. Two murders. One Scotland Yard inspector called in to help. Detective Chief Inspector Richard Jury arrives in Long Piddleton and finds everyone in the postcard village looking outside of town for the killer. Except for one Melrose Plant. A keen observer of human nature, he points Jury in the right direction: into the darkest…

Book cover of The Face of a Stranger

Why did I love 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.

By Anne Perry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Face of a Stranger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

He is not going to die, after all, in this Victorian pesthouse called a hospital. But the accident that felled him on a London street has left him with only half a life, because his memory and his entire past have vanished. His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective; the mirror reflects a face that women woud like, but he senses he has been more feared than loved.
Monk is given a particularly sensational case: the brutal murder of Major the Honourable Joscelin Grey, Crimean war hero and a popular man about…

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