Pick Three: Public Domain Mysteries

Three Favorite Public Domain Mysteries

Looking for a summer read that won’t break the bank? Try one of these public domain mysteries below. Each exists outside of copyright and can be downloaded and read for free. On a side note, should you always seek out authorized copies when purchasing books that have fallen out of copyright. On Amazon and other book retailers, vendors will download text versions of public domain works, slap them into ebook formats, and sell them for a profit. Always doublecheck your purchases, preview the books whenever possible, and ensure you have a premium reading experience..


In the Fog by Richard Harding Davis

While not a mystery novel in the strictest of terms, In the Fog (1901) by Richard Harding Davis centers on five members of an exclusive, turn-of-the-century men’s club. A pair of homicides receives the Rashomon treatment as their story is told from each of three different perspectives. There is a secondary, underlying narrative that obfuscates the mystery, but at 22,000 words, it’s a short, fun read with a rewarding twist at the end.

The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green

Largely forgotten today, The Leavenworth Case (1878) made author Anna Katharine Green an overnight sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. The plot, while clever, remains straight-forward: merchant Horatio Leavenworth is shot in a home filled with gamy suspects. It’s place in history, however, makes this one unique. One of the first female mystery writers, Green set her plots stateside, an unusual move for the times. Her investigator, Ebenezer Gryce, became one of the first protagonists to lead a series of such books.

The Greene Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine

An invalid matriarch oversees the greedy Greene clan, a contentious lot crammed into a family manor already overstuffed with secrets. The Greene Murder Case (1928) stands out among Van Dine’s early works for one simple reason: a truly impressive body count. While the book lacks the blood and gore we modern readers have grown accustomed to, it certainly makes up for it in lethality. The biggest mystery was whether or not anyone would be left standing on the final page.

Also check out. . .

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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