The best classic mysteries ever written

Dolores Gordon-Smith Author Of The Chapel in the Woods
By Dolores Gordon-Smith

Who am I?

I’ve always loved classic mystery fiction – why? Well, there’s always a “proper” story, where everyday life is plunged into chaos and then re-invented. There’s always a puzzle, of course, but in addition, there’s the characters and the settings. All the books I’ve recommended – and I could recommend so many more! – have a cracker of a story where emotion is fused with logic to give both an emotional and an intellectual treat.


I wrote...

The Chapel in the Woods

By Dolores Gordon-Smith,

Book cover of The Chapel in the Woods

What is my book about?

There’s something in the woods that shouldn’t be there…In 1620 William Cayden, privateer and pirate, brought home his wife, an Inca Princess, to Birchen Bower, Sussex. Ever since the unhappy princess is rumoured to have haunted the chapel and grounds in the form of a jaguar. In 1870 his descendant, Josiah Cayden, enthralled by the legend and in love with the Amazon, turned the estate into a jungle with monkeys, crocodiles – and jaguars.

In 1927 the ruined estate is bought by the wealthy Canadian Tom Jago – and the Jaguar Princess strikes again. But can a legend kill? That’s what Jack Haldean is determined to find out.

The books I picked & why

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Murder on the Orient Express

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of Murder on the Orient Express

Why this book?

Murder on the Orient Express is an absolute classic of mystery fiction. Filmed many times, none of the films capture the tension of the book. Based on a real-life experience of Agatha Christie’s and the shocking true crime of the Lindberg baby kidnap, this is the book to read as a perfect introduction to one of the best mystery authors of all time. You’ve probably seen Agatha Christie on film or TV but if you’ve never read one of her books – start here!


The Moonstone

By Wilkie Collins,

Book cover of The Moonstone

Why this book?

Published in 1868, The Moonstone is a terrific story of stolen Indian jewels, fraud, murder, and true love that cracks along at a pace that belies its age. Rachel Verrinder should have inherited the Moonstone from her wicked uncle for her 18th birthday but the fabulous diamond is stolen. Rachel seems to fight any attempt to recover the diamond and, in the process, spurns Franklin Blake, who she loved. But why? If you’re wary of Victorian fiction, start here – you’ll love it!


Warrant For X

By Philip MacDonald,

Book cover of Warrant For X

Why this book?

Philip MacDonald fought in WW1 before becoming one of the most popular mystery writers of the 1920s and 1930s. Sheldon Garret, the successful American playwright, goes into a London tea shop and overhears two women plotting to kidnap a child and – maybe – murder. Sheldon turns to Anthony Gethryn and with the slender clue of an abandoned shopping list to guide him, Anthony must try to prevent a ruthless crime. Kidnap, murder and blackmail form the spine of this, one of MacDonald’s best novels as Anthony Gethryn races to prevent yet more deaths.


The Thirty-Nine Steps

By John Buchan,

Book cover of The Thirty-Nine Steps

Why this book?

Written at the start of the First World War, when victory was very much in doubt, this cracker of a thriller sees Richard Hannay evade both crooks and cops in a chase across Scotland to preserve the secret of a murdered man. If he loses, the war might be lost – the stakes are that high. Hannay’s ingenuity is pushed to the utmost as the hunted fugitive. Buchan’s love of Scotland shines through, a terrific background to an unputdownable thriller. Filmed many times, the book has a tension and a pace that has never been really captured on screen.


Murder Must Advertise: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery

By Dorothy L. Sayers,

Book cover of Murder Must Advertise: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery

Why this book?

Before becoming a world-renowned author, Dorothy L Sayers worked in an advertising agency and it’s Pimm’s Publicity that’s the fascinating background for Lord Peter Wimsey to discover who’s behind death, drugs, and debauchery. Peter has to join Pimm’s Publicity but it seems incredible that the chatty, humdrum world of the office should hide a killer, let alone an illicit drug distribution network.

Dorothy L. Sayers’s writing is some of the very best of the “Golden Age” of classic mysteries and this is a story you won’t forget.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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