The best books to get your Sherlock Holmes fix

The Books I Picked & Why

Jackaby

By William Ritter

Book cover of Jackaby

Why this book?

This book has all my favorite detective fiction elements: a beautiful cover, an independent heroine, Abigail Rook, crime-solving alongside an elusive detective, R.F. Jackaby, and a solid plot that kept me guessing until the end. Set in late nineteenth-century New England, Rook teams up with Jackaby in a parallel to a Watson-Holmes relationship except this detective novel features the supernatural. Rook learns quickly that Jackaby stands out among detectives as he can see supernatural creatures. I love so much about this book, particularly the chemistry between Rook and Jackaby as co-investigators. This is a must-read not only for detective fiction fans, but for Dr. Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans as well.  


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The Name of the Rose

By Umberto Eco

Book cover of The Name of the Rose

Why this book?

The Name of the Rose is one of the cleverest detective novels I’ve read. Set in the Middle Ages, this story follows Brother William and his Benedictine novice, Adso, as they follow up on heresy allegations at an Italian Abbey. Soon a series of murders ensues, raising the stakes for the two investigators as Brother William and Adso race to find the serial killer. Adso is Watson to Brother William’s Sherlock. Set in an era long before forensic science, Brother William relies on logic and the philosophies of Aquinas and Aristotle for insight into the bizarre and ghastly murders. This detective novel unfolds like an intricate and deeply satisfying puzzle.


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Mexican Gothic

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Book cover of Mexican Gothic

Why this book?

Probably due to my PhD in British literature, I loved the Jane Eyre-ish elements of this mystery novel. Heavy with gothic nods to the Brontë sisters and Daphne du Murier, this detective novel features socialite, Noemí Taboada, heading to an estate in rural Mexico after receiving a disturbing letter from her cousin, Catalina. Once at the estate, Taboada teams up with the family’s son, Francis, as she unearths shocking family secrets. I love Taboada’s strength and resourcefulness as she braves everything to rescue Catalina. With haunting and beautifully written prose, this book unfolds a disturbing tale of greed and madness, and I cheered Taboada on at every page.


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The Diviners

By Libba Bray

Book cover of The Diviners

Why this book?

Evie O’Neill has been sent to live with her Uncle Will when she can’t obey the conventional rules of her hometown. The good news is that he lives in glitzy New York City during the 1920s, but Will runs a very different scene, operating the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. After a girl’s body is discovered with clues indicating that the murder was motivated by the occult, Evie, her uncle, and a few new friends find themselves involved in the investigation. A Young Adult book, what I particularly love about this novel, is the way Evie evolves from a thoughtless party-girl to a young detective who embraces the psychic gift she has long kept at bay. In the process, she becomes wiser about the larger, complicated world around her.  


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Lady Audley's Secret

By Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Book cover of Lady Audley's Secret

Why this book?

Often overlooked on detective fiction lists, Lady Audley’s Secret is a hidden gem. My favorite Victorian detective novel, I didn’t discover the book until grad school, and since have taught it in numerous British lit courses. When Robert Audley becomes curious about the beautiful, young bride of his uncle, Michael Audley, he starts investigating her past. He finds surprising ties to his friend George Talbot, who, years earlier, abandoned his young wife and son to seek his fortune in Australia. What I love about this book is how Braddon plays with Victorian anxieties—particularly preoccupations with the unconventional means a woman might go through to escape unhappiness. 


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