The best vintage mystery-suspense novels

Elisabeth Grace Foley Author Of Land of Hills and Valleys
By Elisabeth Grace Foley

Who am I?

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved history, devoured mystery fiction, and scribbled my own stories. Today I combine all those passions by writing books in classic mystery-suspense style, but set in the place and the period of history that fascinates me the most: the American West. I firmly believe that the Old West should be treated not merely as a myth or a set of tropes, but a historical period in its own right, and so I love to use it as the setting for character-driven stories drawing on my favorite elements of the mystery genre.


I wrote...

Land of Hills and Valleys

By Elisabeth Grace Foley,

Book cover of Land of Hills and Valleys

What is my book about?

Lena Campbell never knew her grandfather, but always dreamed of visiting Wyoming, where her mother was born and raised. When she receives word that her grandfather is dead and his Wyoming ranch belongs to her, she jumps at the chance. Only later does she learn that Garth McKay was murdered, and the murder is still unsolved. Still, Lena thrives in her new life—and unexpectedly finds love there. And then a new revelation breaks the McKay murder case wide open again, and leaves her reeling.

Caught in a battle to prove the innocence of the man she loves, Lena begins to have frightening doubts. Whatever verdict the jury returns, will she ever know the truth about Garth McKay’s death—and does she even want to?

The books I picked & why

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Nine Coaches Waiting

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of Nine Coaches Waiting

Why this book?

This is one of those special books that made me think, “Oh my…I want to write like this.” The blend of old-world atmosphere, 1950s glamor, and gorgeously descriptive, suspenseful writing is magical. Linda Martin, a young Englishwoman with a secret of her own to guard, takes the post of governess to the small heir of a French chateau—a fairytale setting, but disturbing tensions run beneath its surface, and before long Linda finds herself caught up in a desperate attempt to foil a dangerous plot.

Nine Coaches Waiting

By Mary Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A tense thrillerabout an English girl who becomes governess to a young French heir to great estates in Savoy. Having deceived her employers about her ability to speak French, she discovers that they are trying to kill her young charge.

The Piper on the Mountain

By Ellis Peters,

Book cover of The Piper on the Mountain

Why this book?

I enjoy all varieties of Ellis Peters’ mysteries, but I favor this one because it’s the most similar thing I’ve found to Mary Stewart’s signature style of engrossing suspense combined with a richly evoked foreign setting. Among a group of English students on holiday in the mountains of Czechoslovakia is one girl with a secret, ulterior motive for being there: to investigate her stepfather’s recent suspicious death in a mountain-climbing accident. Peters is so good at getting inside the heads of youthful characters and exploring their emotions and inner conflicts as they navigate the perilous process of unraveling a crime, and this book is no exception.

The Piper on the Mountain

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Piper on the Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the mountains of Czechoslovakia, a possible murder has Dominic Felse suspicious of everyone—including his friend, the dead man’s beautiful stepdaughter.

Theodosia Barber had been planning to spend her summer vacation in Europe in any case, so what could be simpler than persuading her travel companions to make a minor detour to the scene of the crime?

Bewitched by Theodosia’s beautiful brown eyes and blissfully unaware of her real motives, Dominic Felse cannot refuse her plea for a change of plan. And he’s certainly not prepared for their innocent touring holiday to become a murder investigation, with Theodosia in grave…

The Wheel Spins

By Ethel Lina White,

Book cover of The Wheel Spins

Why this book?

Traveling across Europe by train, Iris Carr re-enters her compartment to find that a friendly, talkative spinster who had befriended her has disappeared—and no one else will admit she was ever there at all. Why? The answer must be found before the train reaches its destination, and Ethel Lina White crafts a nail-biting race against time while also delving deep into the motivations of a tight cast of characters—exploring what leads some people to lie, and how an initially isolated and self-centered heroine becomes someone desperate to uncover the truth.

The Wheel Spins

By Ethel Lina White,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Oldtown is a historic place where rich people live. The sisterhood also lives there. The group, known as the ""Black Nuns"", had healing powers. But in Oldtown, the killer works, and a series of murders plunged the inhabitants into blind, reckless horror.

Postmark Murder

By Mignon G. Eberhart,

Book cover of Postmark Murder

Why this book?

Laura March is serving as temporary guardian of a little refugee girl who may be the next heir to a fortune when a man claiming to be the child’s father turns up at her door—and when shortly afterward he turns up dead, Laura is both a suspect and a target for the real killer in this atmospheric whodunit. The fun of this one lies in its wintry 1950s Chicago setting: the foggy streets, high-rise apartment buildings, corner phone booths and drugstores, and department stores decorated for Christmas.

Postmark Murder

By Mignon G. Eberhart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From one of the most prolific authors of the Golden Age of mystery: “A nice example of [Eberhart’s] powers . . . Intelligently complicated” (The New Yorker).
 When Conrad Stanley dies, Laura is the only heir not concerned with her slice of his estate. Orphaned at a young age, she was Stanley’s ward, and cannot celebrate the death of the only father she ever knew. The executors of Stanley’s will find that he had a Polish relative, Conrad Stanislowski, who is due part of the inheritance. A search for Stanislowski produces only his daughter: eight-year-old Jonny, who comes to Chicago…

The Red Carnelian

By Phyllis A. Whitney,

Book cover of The Red Carnelian

Why this book?

Whitney is one of the best-known American writers of romantic suspense, and her debut novel in the genre leans more strongly into the mystery side of the equation, kicking off with the narrator discovering her jilting ex-fiancee's body in the elaborate display window of the department store where she works. The plot may be a tad melodramatic but the vintage 1940s glamor is fun as she hunts clues and flees danger amid the lavish evening gowns and jewelry, the echoing elevators and corridors of the store.

The Red Carnelian

By Phyllis A. Whitney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Chicago department store is the scene of gruesome crime in this mystery by a New York Times–bestselling Edgar Award winner.
 
Linell Wynn, copywriter for Chicago department store Cunningham’s, knows how to put a clever spin on everything. But she’s at a loss for words when, after closing time, she finds a corpse in a window display. There he is, as cold and lifeless as a mannequin, his skull pulverized with a golf club: valued store manager Michael “Monty” Montgomery. And while red might be the color for the new spring season, Linell never expected to see quite so much…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Chicago, France, and Czechoslovakia?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Chicago, France, and Czechoslovakia.

Chicago Explore 236 books about Chicago
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Czechoslovakia Explore 22 books about Czechoslovakia

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