The best traditional mysteries that evoke the golden age of detective fiction

Who am I?

My love of British crime fiction began when, as a young teen, I discovered Agatha Christie on the shelves of my local library. With Scottish grandparents, I was already well indoctrinated in the “everything British is best” theory, but it was as a student at St. Clare’s College, Oxford, that I fell totally under the spell of the British Isles. No surprise, then, that my Kate Hamilton Mystery series is set in the UK and features an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. I love to read the classic mysteries of the Golden Age as well as authors today who follow that tradition.

I wrote...

The Shadow of Memory

By Connie Berry,

Book cover of The Shadow of Memory

What is my book about?

American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton and her colleague, Ivor Tweedy, visit Netherfield, a former insane asylum on the Suffolk coast. They’ve been asked to auction off a fine collection of antiques, including a 15th-century painting by Jan Van Eyck. But when retired policeman Will Parker is found dead, Kate suspects the halls of Netherfield housed more than priceless art. Will Parker was her friend Vivian’s first boyfriend. They met in 1963 when, along with three other teens, they explored an abandoned house near the asylum where a doctor and his wife had died under bizarre circumstances. When a second member of the childhood gang dies unexpectedly—and then a third—it becomes clear the teens unwittingly discovered a deadly secret, one that now threatens Vivian.

The books I picked & why

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A Bitter Feast

By Deborah Crombie,

Book cover of A Bitter Feast

Why this book?

When I think of the classic mysteries of the Golden Age, I automatically picture an English country house. In Deborah Crombie’s A Bitter Feast, Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, are invited for a fall getaway at Beck House a country estate in the Cotswolds. When a posh charity luncheon catered by brilliant young chef Viv Holland turns deadly, Duncan and Gemma are pulled into the investigation. While I enjoyed the masterful unfolding of the investigation and the fascinating behind-the-scenes look into a high-end restaurant kitchen, it was the iconic setting that hooked me. Worthy of Miss Marple herself.

Execution in E

By Alexia Gordon,

Book cover of Execution in E

Why this book?

“‘Well, my dear,’ said Miss Marple, ‘human nature is much the same everywhere, and, of course, one has opportunities of observing it at closer quarters in a village.'” (The Thumb Mark of St. Peter) An Irish village is the setting for Gordon’s fourth Gethsemene Brown mystery. When African-American violinist Gethsemane Brown takes a job leading the orchestra at a boys’ school in the village of Dunmullach, she has no idea her cliffside cottage comes complete with a resident ghost, Eamon McCarthy. Nor does she imagine she’ll become the village’s amateur sleuth—with a little help from Eamon, of course. When a wedding party descends on the village, Gethsemane learns the groom-to-be once jilted her friend Frankie’s new girlfriend, Verna. When the groom turns up dead, Verna is the logical suspect. 

A Line to Kill

By Anthony Horowitz,

Book cover of A Line to Kill

Why this book?

A Line to Kill is the third in the Detective Hawthorne series by Anthony Horowitz, creator of the TV series Foyle’s War and a screenwriter for the popular Midsomer Murders. Ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne and his slow-witted, Captain-Hastings-like chronicler, Anthony Horowitz (yes, the author writes himself into the story) are invited to a literary festival on the tiny Channel island of Alderney. With a bizarre murder to solve, an island cut off from the mainland, a limited number of suspects, and a classic locked-room puzzle plot, Horowitz evokes the finest traditions of the Golden Age—with his own modern take and characteristic wit.

A Gentleman's Murder

By Christopher Huang,

Book cover of A Gentleman's Murder

Why this book?

Since the publication of Dorothy L. Sayer’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club in 1928, London’s gentlemen’s clubs, bastions of upper-class male privilege, have been fertile ground for murder and mayhem. Huang’s debut novel is set in 1924. With the memory of the Great War still fresh in everyone’s minds, the prestigious soldiers-only Britannia Club is rocked by the stabbing of a member within the club vaults. The killer must be a fellow club member, but when Eric Peterkin, descendant of one of the club’s founders, witnesses the Scotland Yard detective tampering with evidence, he is forced to launch an investigation of his own.

Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery

By Michael Gilbert,

Book cover of Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery

Why this book?

For my last pick, I’ve chosen a novel published near the end of the Golden Age (roughly the 1920s through the 1950s). Author and solicitor Michael Gilbert set his novel in the chambers of Horniman, Birley, and Craine. After the death of the firm’s senior partner, a hermetically sealed deed box is opened, revealing the corpse of Marcus Smallbone, a co-trustee with the late Mr. Horniman of the valuable Ichbod Trust. With the help of newly qualified solicitor Henry Bohun, Chief Inspector Hazelrigg sorts through a maze of lies and misdirection to uncover the surprising perpetrator and motive. Martin Edwards, in the foreword to the Poisoned Pen Press edition, said, “The book blends in masterly fashion, an authentic setting, pleasingly differentiated characters, smoothly readable prose, and a clever puzzle.” 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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