I just returned from Malice Domestic, the gathering held each spring near Washington, D.C. for fans and writers of the traditional mystery. A recently published compendium of Malice’s twenty-five-year history is entitled, Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea. Maybe not, but traditional mysteries certainly are mine.
I’ve been reading mysteries all my life, beginning with Nancy Drew and going on to the likes of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, and Cyril Hart. When I’d read all there is to read of these classics, I began to mine gold in more modern practitioners of the craft. Now I’m writing mysteries myself, the kind I like to read, where the puzzle is the main thing and violence and sex are mainly “off stage.”
Here’s my problem: there are just too many good mysteries out there. My “to be read” pile is now twice as long as it was before Malice. I’m losing ground, but happily so because I can afford to be choosy.
Here are some of the new mysteries I’ve added to my already extensive reading queue:
All of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books by Laurie King
All of the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson (soon on BBC)
A Dangerous Talent by Aaron and Charlotte Elkins
The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Killer in Crinolines by Duffy Brown
Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
Low Country Boil by Susan M. Boyer
Fatal Winter by G. M. Malliet
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Artifact by Gigi Pandian
Whatever Charles Todd writes next
The interesting thing about mystery writers is that, while they plot ingenious methods of killing off their characters, they are some of the nicest people you’d ever meet. One of the nicest is Carolyn Hart, this year’s winner of the Amelia Award (named after Elizabeth Peters’ most famous creation, Amelia Peabody). In her acceptance speech, Ms. Hart said that the traditional mystery appeals to those who wish the world to be a place where evil good triumphs in the end.
Long live the traditional mystery! And may good triumph, not just in books but all over our world.