Our Favourite Classic Crime Novels
Here at Dead Good HQ we’re always partial to a bit of classic crime. Who isn’t?
From Arthur Conan Doyle to Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon to Margery Allingham, these are the true masters of the genre. With impossibly perplexing crimes, eccentric detectives, dark motives and the odd country house thrown in for good measure, we find classic crime irresistible.
If you’re looking to expand your crime fiction horizons, we’re here to help. Here are our favourite classic crime novels!
Our Favourite Classic Crime Novels
Mrs Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley is the amateur sleuth you’ve been dying to read – think a female version of Poirot with all the arrogance and eccentricities of the little Belgian detective with a mind like an iron fist. In this outing the inhabitants of Wandles Parva are all under suspicion as universally disliked Rupert Sethleigh’s body is found without its head. Who better to solve the mystery than the famed psychoanalyst who happens to be visiting, wonderfully described as ‘a hag-like pterodactyl’. If you love Christie, you’ll adore the Great Gladys.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Agatha Christie, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is surely one of the defining novels of the Golden Age. When the book was first published it caused such a stir that many argued it changed the entire concept of detective fiction. It’s got everything – stabbing, poisoning, blackmail, suicide and one massive, massive twist. Starring everyone’s favourite Belgian detective with the egg-shaped head, this is Christie at her best. Unmissable.
Take one monstrous murderer on the loose, combine with a misfit band of musically-inclined villains, throw in a soupçon of smog…and you have one of amateur sleuth Albert Campion’s trickiest and darkest cases yet. Margery Allingham’s The Tiger in the Smoke is a bone fide classic from the Golden Age of crime writing, and it’s easy to see why: Jack ‘the Tiger’ Havoc is a terrifying baddie, post-war London has never felt so dangerous, and as an exploration of evil, it’s totally timeless.
If you’re in the market for a liberal sprinkling of literary jokes, eccentric English characters (note: one brilliant, if somewhat mad, Professor of English Literature, Gervase Fen) and/or a dangerous car named ‘Lily Christine III’, this is the book for you. To be honest, even if that wasn’t quite what you were after, this is the book for you. It’s impossible to resist the wit and charm that abounds in this book, and it might just be one of the best novels to come out of the Golden Age of mystery writing.
If you need a dark gritty urban detective, deep in the underworld of 1920s New York, cloaked in cigar smoke and hints of his femme-fatale’s perfume, then you need Sam Spade. Played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 classic, this stubborn, cold and principled private eye is considered the first hard-boiled private detective, and he was a huge influence for Raymond Chandler when he invented his detective, Philip Marlowe.
Inspector Maigret has become a bit of an obsession for me over the last couple of years. There’s something about the truth and straightforwardness of his character that makes the series so compelling. He’s not mind-blowing in the same way as Sherlock Holmes but he is real in a way that detectives rarely are in fiction. The books are also incredibly well-written.
A suspicious death in an aristocratic family, a mysterious hound and Holmes and Watson romping around a Devonshire estate in the dead of night looking for clues! Need I say more about why I love this classic from one of the founding fathers of crime fiction?
As a bit of a classic crime newbie, reading J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Mystery in White last Christmas was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. It’s part of the gorgeously re-issued British Library Crime Classics, which we’ve spoken about lots on Dead Good, and opens on board a train on a snowy Christmas eve. Put this on your reading list for this Autumn and sit back and enjoy all the blood in the snow.
What’s your favourite classic crime novel? Let us know in the comments below!