Pick Three: First in the Series Mysteries

Three First Mysteries in Long Running Series

Since this month we’ve been delving into the origins of the genre, I thought it might be fun to look at the books that launched legendary series of murder mysteries. Most readers know about Poirot’s debut in The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Jane Marple’s first bow in The Murder at the Vicarage. How many of these other flagship volumes have you read?

The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham

If you have enjoyed any of the Midsomer Murders series on BBC or BritBox, do yourself a favor and read the original novels. They build on the humor, warmth, and cleverness of the series, while setting a picture-imperfect scene of life in an English village. And once you’ve read all six, you still have nearly 140 episodes of the small-screen adaptation left to devour.

From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell

The first of 24 novels starring Rendell’s intelligent and observant Inspector Wexford. This one shows its 1960s roots — what was thought shocking then may seem more obvious now, but they have aged beautifully. Each volume offers a window into a specific time in Britain’s post World War II evolution. A solid series with an engaging protagonist.

Cover Her Face by P. D. James

Like Doon, Cover Her Face is firmly grounded in its early 60s setting. James’ pragmatic Adam Dalgliesh, however,  stretches beyond his copper roots and dips his toe into the bourgeoning field of psychology. Many of the killers found in James’ books are prototypes for what became the signature British style of the 1990s. These readers loved vicious killers with deep psychological trauma in books by Rankin, McDermid, and others.

Love a good murder? Be sure to take a stab at Thou Shalt Not Kilt, a traditional Southern whodunnit with Scottish flavor. For my latest news and updates, follow me on Instagram and TikTok. Sign up for Fatal Fiction, my monthly mystery newsletter, and you’ll get a free download of Masters of Murder, my concise guide to the authors of mystery’s Golden Age.

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