Mystery novels — my favorite! My selections for this Spring’s reading challenge are by far the most random, but I think they will compliment each other well. I put together a healthy mix of classic and contemporary detective and mystery novels from writers I love and writers I’ve never read. There are six core novels and then three bonus novels on this list. But since these are fast-paced, exciting, and usually short books, I hope I’ll be able to get through at least the majority of them in the March-June timeline. I don’t have the greatest track record, however.
As usual, there are some books on this list that are embarrassing for me to admit that I haven’t read them yet, but that is the entire reason for the Shameful Book Club. If you have read any of these already, let me know what you think of them. And if you have a good mystery series that you think I should pick up, let me know! If mysteries aren’t really your thing, take this as an opportunity to give them a try. Otherwise, I’ll be doing science fiction novels in the summer. I hope you guys participate with me this season. It’s going to be a thrilling thaw.
• Murder on the Orient Express (1934, Agatha Christie): I’ve had this classic on my bookshelf for some time now. I had it in my head that I should read her entire Hercule Poirot series in order, and since this is technically book number ten in that series, I wasn’t able to just jump right to it. But honestly that’s really stupid, because her Poirot series can be read completely out of order. It bothers my OCD tendencies for order and lists and what not, but I’d rather read the one everyone knows than the one people don’t really recognize. Plus I already own it.
• Whose Body? (1923, Dorothy Sayers): Sayers is one of the most famous detective novelists of all time, and her hero, Lord Peter Wimsey, is one of the most beloved crime-crackers (like that? I just made it up) ever. My Mom bought me this start to the famous series a few years ago for my birthday, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Lord Wimsey, a Richard Castle-type character, assists the police in solving a mysterious case involving a freshly shaven corpse in a bathtub. I’m hoping for an enormous amount of wit.
• In the Woods (2007, Tana French): I picked up French’s first installment of her Dublin Murder Squad series years ago, so excited to start what sounded like a thrilling and messed up mystery. Three children go missing in the woods outside of a Dublin suburb in the ’80s. Only one is recovered, and years later, as a detective with the Murder Squad, he finds himself facing a similar case, one that might give him clues to his own past. Sounds awesome, right?? Well, I started it, then life happened and I had to put it down unfinished. I bought the book for my Mom and best friend as gifts and they both loved it, but I have yet to finish the book I so excitedly promoted. This happens to me more often then you would think, so I’m putting an end to it now.
• The Circular Staircase (1908, Mary Roberts Rinehart): Rinehart was referred to as the American Agatha Christie, which is a shame because she was actually around over a decade before Christie and is responsible for popularizing the Scooby-Doo style murder mysteries, as well as inspiring the phrase, “The butler did it!” She didn’t actually write that, but…it’s a long story. The Circular Staircase is a classic in the mystery genre. It follows a middle-aged spinster who basically goes off her rocker and moves to the country for some rest, but instead finds herself in the middle of a gothic-like mystery. Sounds like me in about 40 years.
• The Big Sleep (1939, Raymond Chandler): Another classic that I am ashamed I haven’t read yet. I picked up a really old Chandler anthology from our local used and antique book store, so I’ll be cracking that open to get to this first book in Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series. Marlowe is hired by a dying millionaire to take care of a blackmailer who has been harassing one of his daughters. Needless to say, Marlowe uncovers shady dealings and underhanded happenings.
• The Thin Man (1934, Dashiell Hammett): This is a juggernaut of a classic. A husband and wife team solving mysteries half-drunk and being snarky as all hell? Yes please! In another life, my boyfriend and I are exactly like Nick and Nora Charles. We’re fairly close as it is: half-drunk? Check. Snarky? Check. Solving mysteries because we have so much money we don’t have to work full-time? Not quite there yet. But just wait until we are!
Since it has become very clear that I can’t keep up with my own schedule, I have decided to make these books a bonus. If I get to them, I get to them.
• The Ice Princess (2002, Camilla Läckberg): I love any kind of mystery thriller written by a Swede, and that’s exactly what we have here. A writer returns to her home town shortly after the death of her parents only to find the community a mess. Her childhood friend was found dead with her wrists slashed in a tub of ice water. All signs point to suicide, but if that were the case there would be no story…
• The Private Patient (2008, P.D. James): This last (or just most recent?) installment of James’ Adam Dalgliesh series was also gifted to me by Mom. I haven’t read any of the previous Dalgliesh novels, nor have I read any of James’ work past Death Comes to Pemberley. I’ve always been a bit embarrassed that I haven’t read more of her work, and any story that has to do with murder at a plastic surgeon’s clinic is sure to delight. I’m not sure how familiar with Commander Dalgliesh’s past adventures I should be before reading this particular installment, but I guess we’ll see.
• The Girl on the Train (2015, Paula Hawkins): I sent my poor Mom out to get multiple copies of this book the day it hit the shelves in January because my Boyfriend told me I’d love it. I’ve been missing my Gillian Flynn style effed up mysteries, and I think this might help fill the void. If you’re a book lover, you’ve probably seen and heard this book being talked about. A woman struggling with a recent divorce is laid off from her job. As a way to cope, she continues to take the train into the city every morning, passing her old house where her ex now lives with another woman. While on these pilgrimages she becomes attached to another couple she sees every morning, and when the wife goes missing, our heroine decides to do something about it.
I am beyond excited to get into these excellent mystery novels. Please join me as we try to wait out this incredibly frustrating winter (we’re so close). I know you don’t want to leave the house anymore. I know you’re sick of shoveling and running errands in negative degree temperature. Make some tea and get into some mysteries instead!