In my previous life as a bookseller, I remember discussing with my colleagues the possibility of offering reading 'prescriptions' for all kinds of life scenarios. We'd listen to our clients, hear about what was ailing them, and offer a salve in the form of books.
This year I've felt the need of a reading prescription more than usual myself. It's been a challenging year for everyone with rising inflation, utilities costs and political turmoil, and I've found sticking to my usual reading habits harder than usual.
Therefore, with winter closing in and nights dark and cold, I offer you a seasonal prescription of classic crime reading.
Allow yourself to gently immerse yourself in times past and place yourself in the hands of competent detectives who will bring you home to a compelling, well plotted conclusion.
Reading and re-reading classic crime is a particularly comforting pleasure, allowing us to contemplate human nature from a remove, and be borne along by a clever twist.
Here are some of The Willoughby Book Club's favourites, what are yours?
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
You can’t beat an Agatha Christie…the perfect classic crime novel for a dark chilly night, to be read under a blanket with a hot chocolate.
The story begins with the luxurious Orient Express stuck in a snowdrift just after midnight. It is a full train considering the time of year. However, by the morning one passenger lies stabbed to death in his compartment…the door locked from the inside! Detective Hercule Poirot, also aboard the train, uses his investigative skills to search for clues and interview all other passengers to find out who killed Mr Ratchett. I liked how each chapter was dedicated to the interview and evidence of each passenger.
I really enjoyed the links & tales between the passengers. I loved the description of the characters and their personalities, I could really picture them stuck on the train with a murderer in their midst. My particular favourite was Mrs Hubbard with her busy-body attitude, gossip and nosiness.
I enjoyed the ending with Poirot gathering all the passengers together to sum up his findings and conclude the case.
I think this book is the perfect cosy read for a lazy evening…slow paced, and no graphic descriptions or bad language.
The Father Brown stories by GK Chesterton
These mysteries give a cosy impression due to the stumpy and underrated Father Brown, but these are perfectly formed mysteries playing on class sensibilities, religious undercurrents and Father Brown’s own humane approach to foibles and assumptions.
Short enough to dip into on a commute, these are perfectly plotted, engaging and ingenious mysteries.
Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri
The late Andrea Camilleri created an iconic series of twenty-eight detective stories, revolving around the whip-smart and witty Italian Inspector Salvo Montalbano, who is tasked with solving the often mind-boggling crimes committed in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata. Camilleri is fantastic at balancing playful humour with mystery and a sharp political critique, particularly around police corruption and the palpable Mafia stronghold on Sicily. Expect mouth-watering details of Italy’s culinary offerings, satisfying police procedural storylines, and wry dialogue. This is a perfect series to start in the autumn, as the nights start drawing in. You’ll keep the Sicilian sunshine with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
Inspector Maigret series by George Simenon
I was introduced to the Maigret novels when the whole series was reissued by Penguin with new covers and new translations. These are slender novels, but you'll be hooked- luckily there are 75 to read as George Simenon was an astonishingly prolific author.
Jules Maigret is a French police detective whose contemplation of the crimes he solves is aided by a beer or three at his local bistro or delicious meals cooked for him my Madame Maigret. The solutions to these crimes are not showy or complex, yet demonstrate a deep understanding of human nature, and why people are driven to the actions they commit.
If you'd like to start at the beginning, go for Piet the Latvian, but these don't need to be read in order.
Death Come to Pemberley by P.D James
Set 6 years after events of Pride and Prejudice, we find the characters we all know and love in the middle of a murder investigation as a body is found on the Pemberley Estate. As things have finally settled into a peaceful life for the Darcy’s, their lives are thrown into emotional mayhem as Mr Wickham becomes the main culprit in the suspected murder case.
Crime is not normally something I read, but I flew through this book! Only made easier by already knowing the characters. I really enjoyed seeing where these characters were through the imagination of P.D. James. This is a perfect murder mystery to read under a blanket on a wet and rainy day.