First steps into Crime
Contrary to what these two would have you believe, it’s not all about Marple & Poirot!
(Of course I had to start with the cats – otherwise how would you know it was really me?)
If you’re thinking of venturing into the wonderful world of crime fiction (which you definitely should) then you can’t go wrong with the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. However, there are 12 dedicated Miss Marple novels and 33 for Hercule Poirot, which can seem little overwhelming when you just want to dip your toe in the water and see if murder really is for you.
Never fear! Mrs Christie wrote plenty of standalone novels too and they’re the perfect place for a budding sleuth to begin.
My first murder mystery was And Then There Were None and I was hooked from the off, I stayed up half the night to finish it. To be fair, it was literally a dark and stormy night and when you’re reading something where characters are killed off with staggering speed it’s pretty hard to sleep until you’ve reached the safety of the conclusion. Be warned, if you’re just beginning maybe stick to reading in daylight!
Often (wrongly) overshadowed by the Poirot novel Murder on the Orient Express*, And Then There Were None is in my opinion FAR superior. The story follows 10 people brought together on a remote island off the cost of Devon by the mysterious U.N. Owen. Shortly after their arrival, a record is played which accuses each of the characters of committing murder and then they begin dying, their deaths mirroring the children’s poem framed in each of their rooms. As their numbers quickly dwindle they try to trace the killer before it’s their turn.
Trust me, it’s a page-turner!
*don’t come for me, this is a hill I will die on.
The other two I’ve chosen to feature are among my favourites from the dozens of Christie novels I’ve read so far.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? follows Bobby Jones and Lady Frances Derwent (who prefers Frankie) as they try to solve the riddle of a dying man’s last words. Bobby is playing golf with his friend Dr Thomas when he loses his ball close to the cliff edge, in his search he finds a man on the brink of death. As Dr Thomas goes for aid, the man briefly regains consciousness long enough to ask Bobby “Why didn’t they ask Evans?”. Following the inquest Bobby is drawn further into the mystery and the intrepid Frankie convinces him that they should investigate.
Murder is Easy focuses on a series of deaths in the small village of Wychwood under Ashe. On the train to London, retired police officer Luke Fitzwilliam shares a compartment with Lavinia Pinkerton who talks on and on about various issues which he mostly ignores, especially when she references her reason for travelling to London: to visit Scotland Yard and report a suspected serial killer in her village and the person she believes will be targeted next. The claim seems so absurd that Luke thinks no more of it. The next day he reads of her death in the newspaper, and shortly afterwards he also reads of the death of Doctor Humbleby who lived in her village. Luke travels to Wychwood under Ashe to investigate.
This one is definitely in my top 5 Christie novels. Without giving away spoilers, the murderer and their motivation is pure genius and completely believable.
If you want a slightly easier start, or fancy something more up-to-date with less casual racism/sexism (Agatha was wonderful but definitely of her time when it comes to these things) then I cannot recommend this series enough.
Murder Most Unladylike is the first in a series of 9 novels and two short story collections about the Wells & Wong Detective Society. If you read and enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers or St Clare’s series then these are for you.
Hazel Wong is a girl from Hong Kong who has just started at the English boarding school, Deepdean. She quickly makes friends with the Honourable Daisy Wells, everything an English young lady should be – or so she appears. Daisy & Hazel form the Detective Society as a way to keep themselves entertained outside of classes but the mystery of Lavinia’s missing tie isn’t quite the level they were hoping for. That is until Hazel discovers the body of their Science Mistress, Miss Bell, in the gym. She runs off to alert Daisy (and a passing prefect) but by the time they return the body has disappeared. Daisy and Hazel now have to not only find the killer but prove that a murder took place to begin with. Not an easy feat when you are dismissed as being silly schoolgirls.
If you want the cosy feel of 1930s England but with much more representation than found in the books written at the time then you should love these. Robin Stevens’s books are marketed in the 8-12 age range but thoroughly enjoyable for all age groups – I devour them as soon as the next one is out and then pass them on to my Mum for her to enjoy too. Still valid for this 18+ group, promise!
(Just keep your hands off Inspector Priestly – he’s MY fictional husband.)
Crime isn’t for everyone but if, like me, you prefer your murder fictional but aren’t sure where to start then I hope this has been helpful!