The most roaringly good golden age mysteries for the 2020s

Who am I?

My favorite childhood summertime memory is being allowed to choose a stack of Agatha Christies to take with me to summer camp and on vacation. As I moved on to academia and the “serious” study of literature, I quickly discovered that mysteries are every bit as serious as James Joyce—and are a lot more fun to read. Now that I have turned to writing the stories myself, I enjoy diving into a world of afternoon tea, well-read detectives, and impeccably mixed cocktails, and I love to find readers who want to join me there.

I wrote...

The Brooklyn North Murders

By Erica Obey,

Book cover of The Brooklyn North Murders

What is my book about?

The Brooklyn North Murders is a tart take on gentrification in the Hudson Valley. The small-town traditions of Morgansburg, NY are rapidly being replaced by Brooklyn hipsters, who are determined to turn this sleepy college town into the next Silicon Valley. When a tech entrepreneur dives into a lake in full view of a triathlon crowd and never emerges, it is up to computer whiz Mary Watson and Doyle, the AI bot she has programmed to write mysteries, to solve the impossible crime.  

The books I picked & why

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The Three Coffins

By John Dickson Carr,

Book cover of The Three Coffins

Why this book?

The Three Coffins is legendary among traditional mystery fans for its “locked room” lecture in Chapter Seventeen, in which the detective, Dr. Gideon Fell announces, “We're in a detective story, and we don't fool the reader by pretending we're not. Let's not invent elaborate excuses to drag in a discussion of detective stories. Let's candidly glory in the noblest pursuits possible to characters in a book." He then goes on to enumerate and classify the possible solutions to an impossible crime. What I love about this chapter is that Carr unapologetically defends escapist stories that depend upon style, wit, and an intelligent puzzle, rather than grimly realistic depictions of everyday life.

Gaudy Night

By Dorothy L. Sayers,

Book cover of Gaudy Night

Why this book?

I admit it. This is my fantasy world: Oxford, complete with sherry, academic gowns, and dinner at the High Table. An English Lord—who falls in love with a mystery writer for her mind. Not only does everyone talks in complete sentences, they actually have something to say. I’m sure I’m not the only kid who grew up dreaming that a career in academia would be just like the one in Sayers’ book. Of course, I discovered quickly enough that the reality was very different, but I still love reading and writing about my childhood fantasy world.

The Thursday Murder Club

By Richard Osman,

Book cover of The Thursday Murder Club

Why this book?

The Thursday Murder Club is among the first of a new wave of books that concentrate on the Golden Age virtues of style, humor, and a fair puzzle. It is also a story for a mature audience. The story is set in a retirement community, and the characters face such trials as dementia, bad knees, and loneliness. But the story abounds with laugh-out-loud humor, and the senior sleuths outfox both the police and the crooks with a flair that never descends into preciousness.

Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery

By Gigi Pandian,

Book cover of Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery

Why this book?

Gigi Pandian is an open fan of John Dickson Carr, misdirection, and locked room puzzles, and her quirky characters have already earned her a devoted following. In this new series, Tempest Raj, a disgraced Las Vegas magician, returns to her family’s business of building secret staircases, only to discover her body double murdered in a sealed room. What follows is a classic locked-room puzzle, with a lot of tempting vegan recipes along the way.

The Stranger Diaries

By Elly Griffiths,

Book cover of The Stranger Diaries

Why this book?

The Stranger Diaries is closer to one of my other favorite genres, gothic romance, but it, too, is a witty, literate puzzle. English teacher Clare Cassidy is an expert on the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, so when one of her colleagues is found murdered with a line from Holland’s most famous story beside their body, Clare turns to her diary to make sense of their death. Her grief rapidly turns to fear when she finds the message, “Hallo, Clare, you don’t know me,” written in her diary by someone else. The message is, of course, frightening in The Stranger Diaries, but it is also the magical moment that I always hope for as both a reader and a writer, when I begin a book and the characters step out of their world and into my own.  

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murders, private investigators, and curses?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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