Rhys Bowen’s latest novel kicks off when a soldier’s parachute fails and he falls to his death in the backyard of the Westerham estate. World War II is raging, and the enemies are around every corner. To be safe, the family calls in MI5 operative Ben Cresswell to uncover if the fallen soldier is a German spy. To celebrate the release of In Farleigh Field, Bowen put together a list of her favorite British mysteries.
I like British novels (and British mysteries in particular) that give readers a strong sense of the people and scenery of the countryside. I like to feel that I am visiting my home when I read them. Here, I’ve picked books from five of my favorite British mystery authors. Though I’ve highlighted the latest novel in each of their series, I’d highly recommend anything these five have written.
Peter Robinson has been one of my favorite writers ever since I discovered him years ago. His Alan Banks series, set in his native Yorkshire, has remained strong, meaningful, and gripping over the course of 20-plus books. The cases are always tied to real life happenings, and Alan Banks himself is the most human, likeable, but flawed detective I’ve ever read. This latest book involves a major celebrity, almost a national treasure, who might have been abusing young girls. There’s also a parallel thread about a young girl found dead beside the road.
Deborah Crombie is one of my very favorite writers. Although she is American, she used to live in Britain and her feel for London life is spot on. Her novels feature two married police officers, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, and revolve around complex multi-layered plots. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this brand new book and devoured it! Gemma’s plot involves a series of murders in one of London’s private gardens while Duncan is facing ruthless corruption somewhere in Scotland Yard.
Jacqueline Winspear writes brilliantly about a period I find so fascinating: that time between the two world wars, a time of great contrasts, haves and have-nots, the rise of communism and fascism. We first encountered Winspear’s heroine Maisie Dobbs when she became a private investigator, and we learned about her rise from working class maid, her tragic time in WWI, and her education at Cambridge. Now WWII is looming and Maisie has joined the secret service. This assignment sends her into the heart of Nazi Germany to rescue a man from Dachau while posing as his daughter. The stakes have never been higher!
The mother-son team writing under the name of Charles Todd is American, but they do meticulous research in England, and their detective Inspector Ian Rutledge gives readers a fascinating look into life with PTSD. Rutledge’s WWI experiences plague him, and he’s particularly haunted by the memory of ordering the execution of one of his own men for cowardice. This book takes me to my favorite (and most familiar) part of England: the north coast of Cornwall. Four girls apparently go to rescue a boater in distress, and he ends up gravely injured. The girls are arrested for attempted murder. Their powerful families call in Scotland Yard, and Rutledge finds he has a personal connection to the case.
This list would not be complete without a British comedy. One thing I really miss about living in the U.K. is the British sense of humor—the absurd, laugh-at-ourselves type of humor that is so unique to Britain. This is why I love Hannah Dennison’s books. She brings out the ridiculous eccentricity of English country life while telling a gripping tale. This is the fourth Honeychurch Hall novel, set at a crumbling stately home in Devonshire. Antiques dealer Kat Stanford finds a partly mummified body in an abandoned wing of Honeychurch Hall. Kat’s mother now lives in the carriage house, and given her mother’s checkered past, Kat is not surprised that her mum knew the victim!
Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of two historical mysteries series: the frothy Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England, and the darker Molly Murphy Mysteries set in early 1900s New York City. Her latest novel, In Farleigh Field, follows the lives of an aristocratic family in WWII England as they are caught up in spying and unearthing a traitor in their midst.