When you think of Classic Crime, Agatha Christie is one of the first authors who springs to mind. Queen of Classic Crime, the Murder on the Orient Express is one of her most well-known novels featuring everyone’s favourite French detective, Hercule Poirot. Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment with his door locked from the inside, meaning that one of his fellow passengers must be the murderer. Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer strikes again.
A true classic, Murder on the Orient Express is an energetic and entertaining whodunit with an unexpected twist from the Mistress of mystery herself.
One of many books in a series about the brilliant gentleman detective Albert Campion, The Tiger in the Smoke is a fantastic thriller filled with danger and pursuit. A thick fog has descended over the streets of post-war London and a violent murderer on the rampage is lurking in the shadows. Detective Albert Campion is on the trial of a mysterious man posing as the dead husband of a war widow with a wealthy new fiancé but his expedition into the city’s criminal underworld reveals something far more sinister than blackmail.
Set in the atmospheric midst of London smog, The Tiger in the Smoke is Margery Allingham’s most sophisticated crime novel.
One of the first true works of detective fiction, Wilkie Collins established the groundwork for the genre in his novel The Moonstone. The Moonstone, a priceless yellow diamond, is looted from an Indian temple and maliciously bequeathed to Rachel Verinder. On her eighteenth birthday, her friend and suitor Franklin Blake brings the gift to her. That very night, it is stolen again. No one is above suspicion, as the idiosyncratic Sergeant Cuff and the Franklin piece together a puzzling series of events as mystifying as an opium dream and as deceptive as the nearby Shivering Sand.
A spell-binding take of romance, theft and murder with an intricate plot, modern technique and multiple narrators, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone is a true page-turner.
Set in post-war Los Angeles, a lonely place where the American Dream is coming away at the seams, there is a sinister stranger preying on young women. The suggestively named Dix Steele, a cynical vet with a chip on his shoulder about the opposite sex, is the LAPD’s top suspect. Dix knows enough to watch his step, especially since his best friend is on the force, but when he meets the luscious Laurel Gray, an intelligent femme fatale, something begins to crack.
The basis for extraordinary performances by Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in the 1950’s film version of the book, In a Lonely Place tightens the suspense with gripping, hard-boiled prose and stunningly undoes the conventional noir plot.
The Big Sleep is Raymond Chandler’s most famous novel and the first of eight in his series featuring heroic and streetwise private eye Philip Marlowe. Set in 1930’s Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood is wheelchair-bound and being blackmailed so he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood’s two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA’s seedy backstreets, Marlowe’s got his work cut out – and that’s before he stumbles over the first body.
A modern, noir like detective story from one of the greatest crime writers, The Big Sleep changed the genre from passive interactions to energetic exchanges between the private eye and criminals.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes have been reinterpreted and retold on screen and stage countless times since Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his first instalment of short stories in 1892. A collection of twelve breathtaking and perplexing mysteries, in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes we encounter some of the great detective’s most famous and devilishly difficult problems, including A Scandal in Bohemia, The Speckled Band and The Red-Headed League. Narrated by Holmes’ friend and biographer, Dr John H. Watson, Sherlock uses his prowess for logic and astute observation to solve gripping cases.
Fast-paced and bite-sized, if you’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes before then these short stories are a great place to start.
G. K. Chesterton’s brilliant and ingenious Father Brown stories inspired the 2013 BBC series. The first book, The Innocence of Father Brown, introduces us to G.K Chesterton’s fantastic fictional detective. With his round face, pipe and umbrella, the shambling, bespectacled priest Father Brown is an unlikely detective – yet his innocent air hides a razor-sharp understanding of the criminal mind. As this first volume of his adventures shows, the wise, worldly clerical sleuth has an uncanny ability to bring even the most elusive wrongdoer to justice.
A cosy and charming mystery, fans of Agatha Christie will thoroughly enjoy G. K Chesterton’s The Innocence of Father Brown and the rest of the stories in the series.
The sixth book in Dorothy L Sayers’ classic Lord Peter Wimsey series, Strong Poison, is a must-read for fans of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Margery Allingham’s Campion Mysteries. In Strong Poison Peter Wimsey first meets the love of his life, Harriet Vane, a writer of mystery novels when she is accused of murdering her former lover with arsenic, and Peter sets out to prove she didn’t commit the murder. His clock is ticking too, he only has one month to collect his evidence and find the real killer before the woman he loves is convicted and hanged.
Set in 1930’s England, Lord Wimsey is the archetypal British gentleman detective and Dorothy L Sayers’ sixth instalment in the series is an intriguing mystery with some amusing and entertaining moments.
From the master of spy thrillers, John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a gripping story of love and betrayal at the height of the Cold War. Alex Leamas has been out in the cold for years, spying in the shadow of the Berlin Wall for his British masters. He has seen too many good agents murdered for their troubles. Now Control wants to bring him in at last – but only after one final assignment. He must travel deep into the heart of Communist Germany and betray his country. But when George Smiley tries to help a young woman Leamas has befriended, Leamas’s mission may prove to be the worst thing he could ever have done.
In John le Carré’s breakthrough work of 1963, the spy story is reborn as a gritty and terrible tale of men who are caught up in politics beyond their imagining.
Edgar Allan Poe invented the genre of detective fiction with his mesmerising short story of a young French eccentric named C. Auguste Dupin, The Murder in the Rue Morgue which was first published in 1841. C. Auguste Dupin is a man in Paris who solves the mysterious brutal murder of two women. Numerous witnesses heard a suspect, though no one agrees on what language was spoken. At the murder scene, Dupin finds a hair that does not appear to be human. As the first true detective in fiction, the Dupin character established many literary devices which would be used in future fictional detectives including Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.
An utterly engrossing read, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murder in the Rue Morgue is gory, macabre and will send shivers up your spine!
The inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1951 film, Strangers on a Train, launched Patricia Highsmith on a prolific career of noir fiction, proving her a master at depicting the unsettling forces that tremble beneath the surface of everyday life. In her debut book we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith’s perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.
Strangers on a Train is a psychological thriller that stays with you and one that will make you think twice about striking up a conversation with a seemingly innocent stranger.
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to fantastic Agatha Christie titles so we couldn’t resist squeezing one more in and let’s face it, a list of classic crime books wouldn’t be complete without a Miss Marple story. A collection of short stories, in The Thirteen Problems, The Tuesday Night Club is a venue where locals challenge Miss Marple to solve recent crimes. One Tuesday evening a group gathers at Miss Marple’s house and the conversation turns to unsolved crimes, from the case of the disappearing bloodstains to the message on the death-bed of a poisoned man which read ‘heap of fish’ and the strange case of the invisible will.
With plenty of Miss Marple’s signature sleuthing and red herrings at every corner to throw you off the scent, The Thirteen Problems is jam-packed with fun mysteries that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles gripped readers when it was first serialised in 1901 and has continued to do so to this day. The fifth Sherlock Holmes book presents Holmes and Watson with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors around the Baskerville family’s home warns the descendants of that ancient clan never to venture out in those dark hours when the power of evil is exalted. Now, the most recent Baskerville, Sir Charles, is dead and the footprints of a giant hound have been found near his body.
Brimming with tension, The Hound of the Baskervilles is told through the discovery of secrets to create a compelling mystery.
A Little Local Murder might be a quaint, cosy mystery set in an English village but expect the unexpected from Robert Barnard. When Radio Broadwich decides to do a documentary on the small village of Twytching for broadcast in America, the townspeople divide between those who seek the patronage of Mrs. Deborah Withins, arbiter of taste and morals, and those determined to displace her in the cutthroat contest for media recognition. When a rash of poison-pen letters and a murder coincide, quiet inspector George Parrish begins to uncover secrets the citizens of Twytching had thought, and fervently hoped, were buried forever.
Amusingly drawn with a quirky cast of village characters, fans of Agatha Christie will thoroughly enjoy A Little Local Murder.