The best mystery books with a closed circle mystery

Who am I?

I write mysteries set in England and Scotland. That might not seem unusual, but I’m an American, born in and living in Missouri. I’ve loved Britain since my childhood, though I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until a decade ago that I discovered I have many centuries of Scottish, English, Welsh, and Irish in my ancestry. Perhaps that contributed to my choices of reading material (history and mystery novels) as well as the series I write that is based in Derbyshire, England⎯The McLaren Mysteries. Despite my passion for writing, I need police procedural help. I get that from police detective friends in Derbyshire.


I wrote...

Black Moon

By Jo A Hiestand,

Book cover of Black Moon

What is my book about?

I’ve belonged to writers’ groups, the types that meet monthly to discuss works-in-progress or get members’ help with a tricky scene. I wasn’t a good fit. Unfortunately, once in a while you join one that has an undercurrent of competition and feigned friendliness. I can’t stand that sort of thing, but what a great basis for a book! A closed group of people in a secluded place, with animosity running rampant. In Black Moon, during a mystery writers’ retreat on England’s Stanton Moor, one of the group is killed. The Moor is an isolated spot: moody and mysterious and limiting the number of suspects. Perfect for murder. Everyone hates the group leader, so anyone could be the killer. Hey, it could happen!

The books I picked & why

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Death and the Dancing Footman

By Ngaio Marsh,

Book cover of Death and the Dancing Footman

Why this book?

It is World War Two in England. In Ngaio Marsh’s Death and the Dancing Footman a small group of people has been invited to a country house. One of them is killed. The remoteness of the house contributes to the limited group of people as possible killers, making it a classic closed-group story. It’s a good mystery. It also offers a thought-provoking contrast to the real-world event raging at the time, for in the book an English woman is saved by the German doctor. Marsh is not pro-Axis. She’s merely showing our universal dependency on each other to get through a terrifying situation. I loved this idea and thought it quite brilliant of Marsh. And something I think is rather unique in mystery novels.

Death and the Dancing Footman

By Ngaio Marsh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death and the Dancing Footman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A winter weekend ends in snowbound disaster in a novel which remains a favourite among Marsh readers.

It began as an entertainment: eight people, many of them enemies, gathered for a winter weekend by a host with a love for theatre. They would be the characters in a drama that he would devise.

It ended in snowbound disaster. Everyone had an alibi - and most a motive as well. But Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn, when he finally arrived, knew it all hung on Thomas, the dancing footman...


House of Storm

By Mignon G. Eberhart,

Book cover of House of Storm

Why this book?

House of Storm features a group of sequestered people who live on a Caribbean island. A murder occurs, pointing to one of the residents as the killer. To increase the story’s feeling of danger and urgency, a storm is headed for them. The house must be secured, shutters put up. Will clues be destroyed in the rain? Is the killer lurking outside or has he sneaked inside, as the unlocked door suggests? I liked the tension created by the heroine’s approaching marriage to a man she doesn’t love, the murder investigation centering around the man she does love, and the storm. I also liked the contrast with Society’s current label of “Paradise”—a leisurely life on a sunny, tropical island.

House of Storm

By Mignon G. Eberhart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked House of Storm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a storm-ravaged Caribbean isle, a woman confronts love and murderAfter her father’s death, there is nothing for Nonie to do but come to Beadon Island. Royal Beadon, plantation owner and descendent of the man who first settled this windswept spit of tropical land, was her father’s closest friend, and he asks Nonie for her hand. As she prepares for her wedding, though, Nonie feels uneasy. The marriage is rational, but there is nothing rational about her sudden feelings for Jim Shaw. The heir to one of the neighboring plantations, Jim is the only person who makes Nonie feel at…


Wildfire at Midnight

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of Wildfire at Midnight

Why this book?

This book concerns vacationers at a small hotel in the Scottish Hebrides. A murder is committed. Due to the island and the hotel’s remoteness, the location creates a closed community. Everyone has reasons to be annoyed with others, adding tension and motives for murder. I particularly like the enveloping mood of the wild mountains and fog. Radio broadcasts of real-life events (Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation preparations and Sir Edmund Hillary’s climb of Mount Everest) add a strange link to the outside world for this group of isolated hotel guests. I felt it also underscored the contrast between their forced solitude and stay at the hotel as opposed to Elizabeth and Hillary’s freedom to do what they wished.

Wildfire at Midnight

By Mary Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wildfire at Midnight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The tense, twisty murder mystery which will have you on the edge of your seat, from the author of Madam, Will You Talk?/font size>

'Mary Stewart is magic' New York Times

Following a heart-breaking divorce, Gianetta retreats to the Isle of Skye hoping to find tranquillity in the island's savage beauty.

But shortly before her arrival a girl's body is found on the craggy slopes of the looming Blue Mountain, and with the murderer still on the loose, there's nothing to stop him from setting his sights on Gianetta next . . .

Praise for Mary Stewart:

'There are few…


Green for Danger

By Christianna Brand,

Book cover of Green for Danger

Why this book?

Brand’s Green for Danger is another closed group mystery, this time the suspects are the medical staff at a small, rural military hospital. Medical and hospital staff live there, so outsiders are very few.  It’s World War Two in England, during the blitz. Bombs are dropping, lights are going off and on, and it’s during an operation that a person is murdered. Later in the story, a nurse is killed. I liked being plunged into the hospital community, getting to know them, and seeing what their lives are like during the war. I liked the feeling of remoteness to this closed group, as well as the overall tension and urgency that the war and the blitz add: solve the murders before a third one might happen!

Green for Danger

By Christianna Brand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This Golden Age masterclass of red herrings and tricky twists, first published in 1944, features a tense and claustrophobic investigation with a close-knit cast of suspects.

"You have to reach for the greatest of the Great Names (Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen) to find Christianna Brand's rivals in the subtleties of the trade."

—Anthony Boucher in The New York Times

It is 1942, and struggling up the hill to the new Kent military hospital Heron's Park, postman Joseph Higgins is soon to deliver seven letters of acceptance for roles at the infirmary. He has no idea that the…


Gaudy Night

By Dorothy L. Sayers,

Book cover of Gaudy Night

Why this book?

Gaudy Night centers around a college reunion at Oxford University, the women knowing each other and having a shared history. There is no murder, but the harassment and murderous threats are nearly as scary. Who is behind these terrifying events? Although people may come and go, thereby not technically a secluded group, they stay together due to the reunion. No outsiders are considered a suspect; therefore, the focus is narrowed to one in this group as the perpetrator. I liked this book despite there being no murder. The intensifying fright I felt as each strange event occurs makes it mysterious enough.

Gaudy Night

By Dorothy L. Sayers,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Gaudy Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The twelfth book in Dorothy L Sayers' classic Lord Peter Wimsey series, introduced by actress Dame Harriet Mary Walter, DBE - a must-read for fans of Agatha Christie's Poirot and Margery Allingham's Campion Mysteries.

'D. L. Sayers is one of the best detective story writers' Daily Telegraph

Harriet Vane has never dared to return to her old Oxford college. Now, despite her scandalous life, she has been summoned back . . .

At first she thinks her worst fears have been fulfilled, as she encounters obscene graffiti, poison pen letters and a disgusting effigy when she arrives at sedate Shrewsbury…


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