The best classic mysteries you still haven’t read

Who am I?

I have been reading cozy mysteries since I was 8 years old. That’s over fifty years now, and I love, love, love them. Partly it’s the history: the setting and era so different from my own, and partly it’s the mystery element, I love to try to get to the answer before the sleuth, so that I can nod sagely and say, ‘I thought so.’ It’s also about people going through tough times, and seeing how those times can make or break them. I relate so much to their struggles with everyday life, and trying to fit an investigation around romance or vice versa, often during wartime.


I wrote...

Night and Day

By Caron Allan,

Book cover of Night and Day

What is my book about?

November 1933, and what could be more sinister than a deserted street late at night? Add a young woman, alone, coming back from the theatre, rain, and streetlamps that fail to light the shadows… Dottie Manderson, a socialite, has been out for the evening in London.

She stumbles upon a wounded man. She waits for help to arrive, trying to get him to tell her what happened. But the poor fellow is beyond help, and Dottie wonders who could do such a terrible thing. Even though an annoying, but admittedly good-looking policeman is investigating, she feels compelled to discover the truth. Why was he killed? Is there a clue in the words of a song? Why is everyone upset about her new cape?

The books I picked & why

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Death Comes as the End

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of Death Comes as the End

Why this book?

Death Comes as the End is an unusual Christie murder mystery. The story is set in the ancient past, so no familiar mustache-twirling detective or knitting old lady here! It's set in the time of the Pharoahs, and the era is beautifully brought to life by the author, who was knowledgeable about the ancient world. It’s deeply absorbing, and so perfectly described, you feel you are there.

There is a sense of menacing unease, and along with Renisenb, the young female protagonist, you have to ask, 'Is it you? Or you? Or you?' Give it a try and like me, you'll be biting your nails, with everything crossed that things will turn out all right for Renisenb and that she will get her happy ever after.

Death Comes as the End

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Death Comes as the End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel of anger, jealousy, betrayal and murder in 2000 BC

It is Egypt, 2000 BC, where death gives meaning to life. At the foot of a cliff lies the broken, twisted body of Nofret, concubine to a Ka-priest. Young, beautiful and venomous, most agree that she deserved to die like a snake.
Yet Renisenb, the priest's daughter, believes that the woman's death was not fate, but murder. Increasingly, she becomes convinced that the source of evil lurks within her own father's household.

As the wife of an eminent archaeologist, Agatha Christie took part in several expeditions to the Middle…


The Listening Eye

By Patricia Wentworth,

Book cover of The Listening Eye

Why this book?

The strengths of Wentworth’s books lie in the portrayal of the era, and in the characters who are forced to find their way through unfamiliar and difficult circumstances. They are not all wealthy, they are not all high-born, and we watch them as they try to adapt to wartime conditions and deprivations. 

Wentworth’s mysteries are fascinating, clever, with the protagonist Miss Silver, a spinster who is a professional ‘private enquiry agent’. The Listening Eye, I feel, contains some of the most acute observations of human nature, and this makes the characters just seem so relatable. Wentworth books are ‘clean’ mysteries with a strong thread of romance, little gore, no bad language, or sexy shenanigans.

The Listening Eye

By Patricia Wentworth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Listening Eye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No one would ever have guessed that Paulina Paine was deaf, and that her ability to lip-read was astonishing. So the two men who met one day during the showing of a new art exhibition did not realise until too late that the middle-aged tweedy figure sitting out of earshot could understand every word they said. And it had been no ordinary conversation. In fact, Paulina was so shaken by its implications that she went to see Miss Silver straight away.

As the violence escalates, Miss Silver finds herself at a very tense house party where all the guests are…


Catt Out of the Bag

By Clifford Witting,

Book cover of Catt Out of the Bag

Why this book?

This is a great one to curl up on a cold night with. A group of carolers go out to sing at Christmas. One disappears. That’s it. The stage is set in such a simple way, it’s masterful. Bring on the ‘sleuth’, John Rutherford, who manages to be the Watson to the official police investigators, along with his wife Molly. The story is witty, intriguing, and beautifully put together. 

Witting really deserves to be better known as his writing is definitely on a par with the Golden Age detective writer greats. Now being republished by Galileo Publishing.

Catt Out of the Bag

By Clifford Witting,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Catt Out of the Bag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Classic Golden Age reissue by one of this period's finest writers. A delightful Christmas setting, full of humour and a must for all fans of classic mysteries.

The Nine Tailors

By Dorothy L. Sayers,

Book cover of The Nine Tailors

Why this book?

This is a Lord Peter Wimsey novel, and it’s my favourite. Along with his faithful manservant, Bunter, Wimsey is stranded by a car accident and quickly finds himself in the midst of a dastardly deed. I have to admit, I often find the ‘What Ho’ type of upper-class gentleman of that era irritating, but this book is not quite so bad as others. What I like most about this one is the technical side of the crime, so often missing in books of that era, which makes for an absorbing read.

The Nine Tailors

By Dorothy L. Sayers,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Nine Tailors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When his sexton finds a corpse in the wrong grave, the rector of Fenchurch
St Paul asks Lord Peter Wimsey to find out who the dead man was and how
he came to be there.

The lore of bell-ringing and a brilliantly-evoked village in the remote fens of
East Anglia are the unforgettable background to a story of an old unsolved crime
and its violent unravelling twenty years later.

'I admire her novels ... she has great fertility of invention, ingenuity and a wonderful
eye for detail' Ruth Rendell

(P)2015 Hodder & Stoughton

Artists in Crime

By Ngaio Marsh,

Book cover of Artists in Crime

Why this book?

I always like to get in at the beginning of an ongoing romance/relationship and this is the one where Alleyn meets Troy, the artist and his future wife. Actually, no I take that back, it’s a spoiler, don’t pay any attention. What if she’s the killer? Then where would the rest of these books be? 

You might think Marsh’s characters seem no different than Sayers’, Christie’s, etc well-to-do detectives and their privileged suspects, but there is a difference here. There is tension between Alleyn, his traditional outlook, his job, and Troy’s more liberal leanings. But like any great couple, together they make a great, if not very romantic, combination. 

Artists in Crime

By Ngaio Marsh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Artists in Crime as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Ngaio Marsh's most famous murder mysteries, which introduces Inspector Alleyn to his future wife, the irrepressible Agatha Troy.

It started as a student exercise, the knife under the drape, the model's pose chalked in place. But before Agatha Troy, artist and instructor, returns to the class, the pose has been re-enacted in earnest: the model is dead, fixed for ever in one of the most dramatic poses Troy has ever seen.

It's a difficult case for Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn. How can he believe that the woman he loves is a murderess? And yet no one can be…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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