Heart-Warming Murder Mysteries?

Scrolling idly through my Twitter feed, I came across a post from Random House Canada announcing another Isabel Dalhousie mystery being released on July 21. Well! Who is Isabel Dalhousie, and should I know about her mysteries? A quick Google search confirmed that YES, I should know about her. Why? Because she is an amateur detective in Edinburgh. That was all it took (along with quite a few very positive reviews online) for me to add Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club books to my To Read list. And then I realized that his Isabel Dalhousie books join Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries, The Cat Who mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun, and the Birder Murder Mysteries by Steve Burrows in my list of books that I would like to read. There’s a theme here, I thought, and decided to share these series with my readers in keeping with my quirky, unusual reading suggestions.

The first series I really embraced as an adult was Elizabeth Peters‘ Amelia Peabody mysteries.
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These books combine everything I’m interested in: Victorian England, Egyptian archaeology and murder mysteries. Who could ask for more? Even though the first book in the series was published in 1975, they are still for sale on Amazon.com and I highly recommend them for light, enjoyable reading with some ancient history as an added bonus.

I have to admit, the Birder Murders by Steve Burrows look delightful, but I have not yet read them! I just purchased A Siege of Bitterns the day before yesterday, and am wrapping up the book I’m currently reading before I start it.
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Again, the books feature an English detective, and with the addition of birding! As someone who delights in nature and loves birds, I can’t wait to read these books, as they also have great reviews.

The Cat Who mysteries do not have an English detective in them, but they do take place in a very quirky fictional town and the protagonist has two wonderful cats who help him solve each book’s mystery.
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These heart-warming books are wonderful for light reading that brings a smile and keeps you turning the pages. For more info on The Cat Who books, check out one of my prior posts: https://bookideas.net/2015/03/12/the-cat-who-warms-your-heart/

Alan Bradley’s youthful amateur detective Flavia de Luce is adorable and precocious, and basically defines the word quirky. Set in 1950s England with a cast of lovable characters, Falvia always finds the culprits with her usual panache.
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One thing I especially enjoy about this series is that Flavia and her family don’t age – or they do very slowly. In the first six books she is eleven years old, and I find that when authors let their characters grow older, they have to discard scenarios or surroundings and events that occurred in the earlier volumes. And if those were the scenarios, surroundings and events that readers enjoyed, then it’s difficult to keep up the level of appeal. All that aside, though, I truly enjoy these books and hope you will pick one up if you haven’t already!

My newest find is Alexander McCall Smith’s amateur Scottish detective, Isabel Dalhousie. However, once I started looking into Ms. Dalhousie, I also stumbled upon the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which sounds like another gem, and yet another series I need to explore!
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Although the settings are Edinburgh (certainly close enough to my fondness for English settings) and Botswana (not very English, but tea is mentioned in the teaser!), the protagonists sound endearing and lovable and I expect to enjoy these treasures over many cups of tea to come.

The Cat Who . . . warms your heart

Has anyone out there read The Cat Who . . . series by Lilian Jackson Braun? I have to admit that these books are my guilty pleasure. They first came to my attention in 2010, although the first one was written in 1966. And that is partly why I was drawn to them – they are glimpses into the past. The series’ main character, Qwilleran, is a newspaper man in the first few books, and I loved reading about the typewriters and pencils that filled the room where the journalists churned out all their stories. Such a place is so far removed from the computers and digital layouts of today, that that alone is interesting enough to keep me reading. But then came the cats, hence the guilty pleasure. Qwilleran ends up adopting two cats, one each in the first two books of the series. And that first cat has a sixth sense… Or does he?
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There is a gap of 18 years between the third book (1968) and the fourth (1986), and from then on they came out very regularly until 2007. Reading through the developments of electronic library catalogues and cell phones, cats who help solve murder mysteries, and a little town “400 miles north of everywhere,” is what makes these books such a joy to read. They warm the heart and they don’t require too much from the reader. I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a quirky read, or who needs something to calm the soul and bring a smile.
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Great Detective Fiction

As winter approaches, time spent indoors with a good book and a cup of something hot becomes more and more appealing. Something to aim for at the end of the day, even. But maybe you don’t know what to read. Perhaps you’ve read all the books from your Amazon wish list and those hours on the couch under a blanket are making you anxious because you don’t have any books waiting (unlikely for a book lover, I know).

Well, be anxious no more! I have just the thing for a chilly winter’s eve: great detective novels from the early 20th century. Do you enjoy Agatha Christie? Then you will surely like the works by these award-winning mystery writers.

John Dickson Carr – Master of the “locked room mystery” where the detective solves an impossible-seeming crime, his books are easy and delightful to read. Dr. Fell is the main detective in the books he wrote under this name, although there are a few other titles with a different detective figure. Carr is perhaps best known for The Hollow Man, published in 1935 (US title- The Three Coffins).  Carter Dickson was a pseudonym, and books under this name have Sir Henry Merrivale as the detective. Carr was prolific, and his work The Crooked Hinge (1938) is often cited as a classic of great detective fiction.

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Ngaio Marsh – More murder, mystery and detection from the 1930s make these books a fun way to spend an evening. Marsh’s first novel was published in 1934, and Death in a White Tie (1938) is one of my favorites. She wrote eight books in the 1930s, but went on writing until the early 1980s. The main detective figure in Marsh’s mysteries is British CID detective Roderick Alleyn.

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Dorothy L. Sayers – As with the others listed in this post, books by Dorothy Sayers are pure entertainment, with interesting historical aspects for the history-lover as well. Whose Body? was one of her most popular, released in 1923, although the bulk of her mysteries were written in the ’30s.  (Five Red Herrings- 1931, Have His Carcase- 1932, The Nine Tailors- 1934 and several others). Lord Peter Wimsey is her main detective figure; she and Ngaio Marsh were both “Queens of Crime” along with Agatha Christie.

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