Top Five Saturday: Murder Mystery

The Top 5 series is back! Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously on the blog I have focused on witches, werewolves, thrillers, faeries, fairy tale re-tellings, high fantasy and many more. I am going to try and bring this series back for every Saturday.


Ooohh! this should be an easy one for me: I do love me a good murder mystery and police procedural – so much so that I have turned my hand to writing them with… dubious success! – and I was considering the genre as a dissertation topic… I have some beloved series to fall onto instantly! And there are some obvious classics. Oh, and cozy detectives! And what about supernatural detectives? Not such an easy list: so many, too many to choose from.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I wanted to start with a classic and it had to be a toss up between Doyle and Christie but Doyle won!

Sherlock Holmes is the model, the icon, the guide really for all that followed. The savant detective, guided by logic and precision and deduction; the everyman Watson, lagging several steps behind, like the reader.

And The Hound of the Baskervilles is the epitome of the series. Iconic. Mysterious. Gothic. And even today, genuinely chilling: the moors, the forbidding ancestral home, Grimpen Mire…

I recall one Christmas, when I was very small, sneaking down early on Boxing Day and an animated film of The Hound was on and I was transfixed…

The Dublin Murder Squad series, Tana French

A sublime series of murder mysteries, set in Dublin and deeply influenced by the same Gothic tradition as The Hound of the Baskervilles – and are not all detectives the bastions of rationality protecting us from the irrational, and is that not the core of the Gothic… it just depends on who triumphs, perhaps!

The first Dublin Murder Squad book I read was the penultimate one in the series, The Secret Place and it’s capturing of the intense, cliquey atmosphere of a girls’ boarding school was wonderful even if some of the dialogue felt a little off and it was a joy to head back into the earlier books where French follows different detectives within the Squad as point of view characters in each book so we constantly question and re-evaluate the other characters from different points of view: one book’s antagonist within the squad becomes deeply engaging in the next. Not a single reliable narrator amongst them, in a genre which is entirely focussed on creating a reliable narrative of the crimes that took place! My favourite is without a doubt Broken Harbour with a wonderful depiction of the mental breakdown of an entire family.

The Jackson Brodie Series, Kate Atkinson

Another series which is sublime – and let’s face it Atkinson could re-write the telephone directory and I’d read it!

Like French, Atkinson’s series features recurring and revolving characters, although Jackson Brodie remains the main point of view character throughout.

These novels are insanely literary with characters quoting and comparing themselves to literature throughout, reciting poems and songs to themselves and alluding to Mrs Havisham and Rebecca and Jane Eyre throughout… and yet it never detracts from the joy of the writing! Atkinson seems to love language and love books and injects insane amounts of fun and humour into her outrageous coincidences. The opening novel Case Histories did not wow me, but One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News were real pleasures! Unlike the Dublin Murder Squad, I am approaching these chronologically but am delighted to see that Reggie chase will return!

The Mitford Sisters Series, Jessica Fellowes

A deliciously fun series (with beautiful covers) that stretches your ability to suspend disbelief a little more than usual perhaps, these novels centre on a fictionalised version of the real Mitford Sisters and blend real historical events with sensationalist murder.

The main characters is Louisa Cannon who, in The Mitford Murders is a minor criminal and on the verge of being forced into prostitution to pay her step father’s debts but escapes into service of the Mitfords as nanny, somehow blurring the lines between service and friendship – and solves murders along the way. By the time we reach The Mitford Scandal, she is being whisked around Europe as a lady’s maid, and solves murders along the way. Fun, entertaining, witty – the perfect escape from the current world.

The Aaron Falk series, Jane Harper

It is a little cheeky to claim the series when, in reality, I’ve only read The Dry but I did really like it, set in an Australian town in a time of drought where the death of a family in what looks like a murder-suicide brought on by economic pressures, has summoned Falk back to his home town.

Suppressed memories will be uncovered, the truth of past and present tragedies will emerge, loyalty to friendships will be tested.

What Harper was excellent at is the hot, heady atmosphere of the town, a literal as well as metaphorical tinderbox waiting for a spark to ignite it.

Oh my goodness, there are so many many more that I could add: Simon Serrailler, Harry Dresden, Shardlake… oh so many historical and fantasy novels are in their heart detective fiction. Please feel free to nag and berate me for the thousands of wonderful books, authors and detectives that I have not mentioned – and the wonderful villainous murderers because I was toying with interpreting this as a Top Five Murderers which would have been fun as well!

The Tags

Shaz @ Jera’s Jamboree

Krystin @ Here’s the Fucking Twist

Rachel @ Rachel Read It

Susan @ Novel Lives

Emer @ A Little Haze Book Blog

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