Reading Classic Mystery Novels

I’ve noticed an interesting trend recently whereby people are going back to reading classic mystery novels and searching out classic mystery writers and their works. It is strange, as with all the many novels published each year, you’d think that readers would want to devour the latest “and greatest”. Yet, here are those folks who go back to the classic for one reason or another.

A friend told me the other day that it’s because she feels that many modern writers just “don’t get it”. It’s as if they don’t know how to write real good mystery, like Agatha Christie used to do with her Hercules Poirot series, or Arthur Conan Doyle with his Sherlock Holmes series, or maybe Dorothy L. Sayers with her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

There is just something to reading a good classic murder mystery with its almost vintage flair that many modern writers can’t bring to the table.

Also the modern writing style is very different – first of all, unless you’re reading cozy mysteries, the novels are now much more explicit and full of gore. Take for example the current CSI style books, the forensic murder mysteries, the details can be really gross if one is not used to them. Long gone are the innocence and decency of the old books, which are less full of foul language and expletives. And even the old darker books (say gothic mysteries), they still had something elementally and profoundly different from the gothic books of today that have more supernatural (say vampire and werewolf) themes than the older types.

Personally I love both. I’m always looking for the latest and greatest, while I always comb the antiquarian book stores for classic murder mystery novels that I might have missed reading while growing up (I was reading books regularly since the age of 8, always with a major focus on mysteries, suspense and thriller type novels).

If you’re in search of classic murder mysteries, here are a few books that might not have crossed your path now (I won’t link to the usual classics already mentioned above because if you haven’t read the books by these authors already, you’re not a real mystery buff!.

How about the Dr. Gideon Fell books by John Dickinson Carr?

Or the books by Gladys Mitchell especially her Mrs. Bradley series?

Or the popular Roderick Alleyn mysteries by Ngaio Marsh?

A few other noteworthy mentions are Patricia Wentworth, Josephine Tey, Wilkie Collins, Georgette Heyer, Rex Stout, Margery Allingham, P.D. James, John Buchan, Mary Roberts Rinehart, G.K. Chesterton and a few others, in fact too many to mention here.

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  1. This sounds like a pretty interesting book I am getting ready to go on vacation and I love to read on the plane . I will have to give this book a look!

  2. I love to read and haven’t had the time. I hate not having the time to read! It sucks so much and i feel a little lost without it. I use to sit and read with my son all the time and I think i need to find a way to manage the time to do so!!!

  3. My favorite book is a true murder mystery but I love the classic mystery novels too. I don’t read as much as I would like to but my husband reads several books a week and most of them are mystery.

  4. I totally have to agree writers in the past were able to keep the interest and suspense with out all the gore and foul language. Perhaps that is why I don’t read as often as I use to.

  5. My favorite genre is mystery. I am not a huge fan of the classics I prefer more up to date stories. I think the amount of gore does depend on the writer. I can stomach some but then there are books that leave little to the imagination. I don’t ever read those books at night or I will dream about them…lol.

  6. My students love mystery books and, although I know this is an adult mystery book, I have always been fascinated with what attracts people to read mystery. I think they like being in suspense until they find out who committed the crime.

  7. I do love the classics. I’m also a fan of newer series too though. The problem with newer mysteries is that there are so many it is hard to find those that are well-written and worth your time. Also, like Rosey, I’m not a fan of the mysteries that include a lot of gory details which many modern mysteries include since we seem to be moving more and more towards sex, violence, and controversy for shock value.

  8. I love to read though I haven’t gotten into a good mystery book in awhile. It’s been young adult novels or my guilty pleasure, Historical Romance. I am trying to get my hand on some classics to read though. There are a lot of literature must reads I just have never had the chance to read. Given my love for modern books though, I am a little scared of not enjoying them as much. Classics do tend to be more full of meaning and have way not sex which I think clouds most books now a days.

  9. If it’s got gore, I’m out. If it’s cozy, I can do it. I’m pretty old school, like Perry Mason mystery, lol, but that’s okay….we’re all different, right? 🙂

  10. I think part of the problem with writers too is that anyone can self-publish and I received a self-published book for review that was so bad that I gladly paid to ship it back from whence it came. lol

    1. Oh wow, I don’t even have words for this, and I can very well imagine this happening especially with ‘only Kindle’ editions.

  11. I love to read and have become a fan of the classics. My mom used to ask me when I was in high school why we weren’t required to read so and so because she had too. Feeling I missed out, I have read a lot that was “not” required.

  12. I haven’t had a lot of time to read lately so we have been listening to books on tape when we travel. I so agree with you that the writers now days have no idea how to write.

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