A Mystery for Amalia

Amalia, in comments to the previous post, said, I love SF, and I don't think I've ever in my life read a mystery.

The challenge is on to suggest some mysteries Amalia, a devotee of SF, might like.

suggested: ...perhaps she'd like Sayers' The Nine Tailors, Allingham's The Fear Sign (aka Sweet Danger?) or Stout's The Doorbell Rang? Or perhaps Ellis Peter's Cadfael novels.

Here's my attempt:

The traditional SF problem story and the traditional mystery have a lot in common. So I'm suggesting stories in which the solution logic is tight and the reader has a fair chance to solve the crime.

I therefore recommend the mysteries of Ngaio Marsh, a New Zealand writer, who in my view is the most logically rigorous mystery writer ever. Which is rather odd since she was an actress and stage director, but there you are. Skip the first in the series and read the others in almost any order. I think among her best are A Surfeit of Lampreys and Off With His Head. (US titles may vary.) Marsh wrote from the 1930s to the 1980s and her detective reflects the period.

I've just finished reading A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell, set in early Nazi Berlin, and it is brilliant and logically tight. I'm sure it would be SF-reader friendly.

I second Loretta in thinking the Cadfael stories of Ellis Peters might go down well.

I'm assuming everyone's read the Sherlock Holmes stories, but if not, they're mandatory.

Isaac Asimov wrote a series of mysteries: Tales of the Black Widowers. Coming from an SF background they might be an easy introduction.

Does anyone else have suggestions?


Amalia T. said...

hahaha! Thanks, Gary. I'll put them on my shopping list. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read Sherlock Holmes, but I do have all of them sitting on my bookshelf. I'll start there and move on to Asimov, I think.

I'll be taking notes from the comments, too :)

Just Another Sarah said...

I don't think that it would be amiss to start off with some of Neil Gaiman's short stories...he's written a few that are...interesting, some that are mysterious, some that are horrifying, and some that are just funny. They've got a bit of everything in them, actually. I believe his book Fragile Things had a mock Sherlock Holmes story, but don't quote me on that. And then, SF or no, Amalia, I think you'd like Agatha Christie. I'm quite stuck on her, myself. Shame shame! I know I can think of a few more...

Loretta Ross said...

Funny you should mention Gaiman. I just picked up his Anansi Boys (sp?) at a flea market yesterday. I haven't started it yet. So far, the only Gaiman I've read is with him as co-author to Pratchett in Good Omens.

I read Good Omens thinking, "good grief! This is like William the Anti-Christ!" Then, at the end, I saw in the notes that it started out as "William the Anti-Christ". *G* (Are you familiar with the William books?)

C. N. Nevets said...

Since Amalia identified herself as CI-dominant, I would downplay most of the Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christies which seem to me to be more in a squishy E/I place. They also both cheat like the dickens. Not that Dickens cheated.

As someone who gets easily bogged down in Melieu, I would say that that the Cadfael books might be a good pick because while they do convey atmosphere and period, they do so at pace.

The Asimovs are right where I was going to go. They're well-paced and they have a nice way of conveying character without dwelling on it.

In terms of just bridging the genre gap, *Whatdunnits*, edited by Mike Resnick is an entertaining (if unevenly written) collection of mysteries with an alien twist.

Just Another Sarah said...


No, I'm not! They sound interesting, though. I'll have to seek them out.

I am familiar with Good Omens, though...as well as Anansi Boys. That is one of my favorites of Gaiman's books! I'm so excited for you to be reading it! You should read American Gods, though--this one is sort of a sequel (in a way) to that one.

C.N. Nevets,

You're right about the squishy place, but I think there are a select few books by Agatha Christie that could appeal to her, regardless...though there are some to be cautious of (for reasons of milieu, in fact). The short story collection "The Mysterious Mr. Quin" is really good, as I recall. But then, I may be stubborn about this point because I love her books so much. I have to admit to not really caring much for Sherlock Holmes.

Whatdunnits sounds good, and I think I'll be looking into that one, too!

Matthew Delman said...

C.N. --

Of course Sherlock Holmes cheats worse than a card sharp at the big money table. That's what makes them a good read (at least that's why I read them).

You can also find "Sherlock Holmes in Space" as a way to bridge the "genre gap" -- it's modern writers taking a crack at Sir Conan Doyle's character. Some have Mr. Holmes as a time-traveling detective tapped by all corners of the space-time continuum. tre cool.

C. N. Nevets said...

Sherlock Holmes himself is welcome to cheat all he wants. He must remain the Bat Masterson of mystery. Arthur Conan Doyle, on the other hand, should have been ashamed of himself.


Loretta Ross said...

Just Another Sarah,

The William books (The Just William series or The William Brown series) were a series of British children's books written by a woman named Richmal Crompton from the 1920s until the author's death around 1970. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_William_series

My favorite of the ones I've read (I occasionally find them at a used book store) is William the Pirate and my favorite stories are William Holds the Stage, William and the Eastern Curse and William and the New Neighbor. ;)

Regarding Christie, one drawback with reading her work is that she's been ripped off so many times that some of her cleverest ideas are now cliches. I'm thinking of And Then There Were None and Murder On The Orient Express particularly. How many TV series, for examples, have done riffs on those? (And they do the same thing to Connell's The Most Dangerous Game, too.)

Gary Corby said...

I have Sherlock Holmes In Orbit too, which Matt suggests, and it is indeed very good.

Good Omens is great. I love the way Pratchett's had several goes with the Four Horsemen. In Good Omens they become the Four Bikepersons of the Apocolypse, and his description of War is just too cool.

I'm going to toss in too another I mentioned before: The Flanders Panel by Perez-Reverte.

I'd never heard of the Williams books. Thanks for mentioning.

Amalia T. said...

I LOVED Good Omens, and American Gods. I'll definitely take a look at the Neil Gaiman short stories.

Looks like a pretty good list!

Gary Corby said...

Thanks for the interesting challenge Amalia. Do let us know what you think!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

They're Young Adult level books, but i loved them anyway. Fantasy and Mystery abound in the Charlie Bone and Aretmis Fowel books. Both series are fun, and the writing is great.

Never overlook the YA authors.

I dunno ... I suppose there is a bit of mystery in Pixie Warrior by that really cute writer with the talented and beautiful children ... at lest a bit. Maybe. Not exactly like a detective novel though.

Audio is out available on audible.com . Just to be nice to Pixies you might wanna maybe listen to the sample? maybe ...