Jean Arthur in a publicity still for The Greene Murder Case (1929).
I love a good mystery. If it’s British and set in the past, then all the better. Which is why I devoted my summer reading this year almost entirely to the genre. There were a few other books thrown in (some biographies on Robert Capa, Sophie Dahl’s newest cookbook) but for the most part my summer was all about murder. Here is a selection of a few of the ones that I read.
The very married (three times no less) Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James are busy with their growing family when Duncan is asked to head up an investigation into the murder of a female rower with Olympic aspirations. When Gemma discovers possible connections between her case and Duncan’s, the two join together to find the killer. The latest in one of my favourite series. I love Crombie's descriptions of various areas of modern-day London and Duncan and Gemma's relationship.
Susan Elia MacNeal
It’s 1940 and British-born, American-raised math whiz Maggie Hope has put off graduate school at MIT to return to England to handle some family manners. Needing work and wanting to help with the war effort, Maggie becomes a secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. At first miffed that she wasn’t chosen to be more than a typist, Maggie soon finds herself putting her smarts and life on the line as she races to stop enemies close at home. I really enjoyed this debut and look forward to reading about Maggie’s next adventure.
Small town Swedish cop Kurt Wallender is called to the scene of the shocking murder of an elderly couple with an unusually tied noose and the word “foreigner” left as clues. Wallender must look into the dead man’s past and find who committed this awful crime before anti-immigrant feelings set off a backlash. I’m late to the whole Scandinavian mystery genre (I just read my first one last year) and am just now catching up. I saw the Kenneth Branagh Wallender series on PBS, including the version of this story, but still got into the writing and would like to read another in the series.
Norwegian police detective Harry Hole is on reassignment after an unfortunate shooting incident. Dealings with neo-Nazi thugs uncover a tale from the past that leaves his partner dead and Harry in a race to find a killer before an assassination can occur. Weaving effortlessly between World War II Europe and present day Oslo, The Redbreast is a thrilling tale that kept me reading late into the night. Nesbø is a fantastic writer and I would like to read more of his work.
Private Investigator Ray Lovell comes to in a hospital unable to move or speak. As he slowly regains his health he learns that his near-death experience is tied to his latest case—finding a young Gypsy woman who disappeared seven years earlier. Lovell, who has been hired by the missing woman's father because Lovell is himself half Gypsy, ventures into a Gypsy camp where he uncovers hidden family secrets while confronting his own past. An excellent read and inside look at the world of the Romany people in Britain.
In Victorian London Lady Julia is eager to help her husband, Nicholas Brisbane, with his private enquiry business. Brisbane, though, is not sold on the idea. But when Julia attends a séance at the Spirit Club and witnesses the murder of its celebrated medium there's no question of her being left out of the investigation, especially when it turns out one of her brothers is involved. Together the two must solve the case before scandal rocks Julia's family and their marriage. I love the Lady Julia Grey series. They are a nice blend of humour and drama, and the banter between Julia and Brisbane is always entertaining.