Who doesn’t love British murder mysteries? Picture it: a proper British inspector investigating a beguiling crime set in a brilliant green countryside.
Of course, the British murder mystery genre has been evolving for centuries, and there are lots of different books to enjoy. To help you discover new authors and books, we put together a list of our 16 favorites. They run the gamut from modern bestsellers to classics written in the 1800s. We’ve listed them below with the descriptions from their publishers.
Original Sin by P.D. James
Commander Adam Dalgliesh and his team are confronted with a puzzle of impenetrable complexity. A murder has taken place in the offices of the Peverell Press, a venerable London publishing house located in a dramatic mock-Venetian palace on the Thames. The victim is Gerard Etienne, the brilliant but ruthless new managing director, who had vowed to restore the firm’s fortunes.
Etienne was clearly a man with enemies — a discarded mistress, a rejected and humiliated author, and rebellious colleagues, one of who apparently killed herself a short time earlier. Yet Etienne’s death, which occurred under bizarre circumstances, is for Dalgliesh only the beginning of the mystery, as he desperately pursues the search for a killer prepared to strike and strike again.
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
In their six years of marriage, Elizabeth and Darcy have forged a peaceful, happy life for their family at Pemberley, Darcy’s impressive estate. Her father is a regular visitor; her sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; the marriage prospects for Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, are favorable.
And preparations for their annual autumn ball are proceeding apace.
But on the eve of the ball, chaos descends. Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister who, with her husband, has been barred from the estate, arrives in a hysterical state — shrieking that Wickham has been murdered.
Plunged into frightening mystery and a lurid murder trial, the lives of Pemberley’s owners and servants alike may never be the same.
Cover Her Face by P.D. James
The first in the series of scintillating mysteries to feature cunning Scotland Yard detective, Adam Dalgliesh from P.D. James, the bestselling author hailed by People magazine as “the greatest living mystery writer.”
Sally Jupp was a sly and sensuous young woman who used her body and her brains to make her way up the social ladder. Now she lies across her bed with dark bruises from a strangler’s fingers forever marring her lily-white throat.
Someone has decided that the wages of sin should be death… and it is up to Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh to find who that someone is.
Cover Her Face is P.D. James’s delightful debut novel, an ingeniously plotted mystery that immediately placed her among the masters of suspense.
From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell
There is nothing extraordinary about Margaret Parsons, a timid housewife in the quiet town of Kingsmarkham, a woman devoted to her garden, her kitchen, her husband. Except that Margaret Parsons is dead, brutally strangled, her body abandoned in the nearby woods.
Who would kill someone with nothing to hide?
Inspector Wexford, the formidable chief of police, feels baffled — until he discovers Margaret’s dark secret: a trove of rare books, each volume breathlessly inscribed by a passionate lover identified only as Doon.
As Wexford delves deeper into both Mrs. Parsons’s past and the wary community circling round her memory like wolves, the case builds with relentless momentum to a surprise finale as clever as it is blindsiding.
In From Doon with Death, Ruth Rendell instantly mastered the form that would become synonymous with her name. Chilling, richly characterized, and ingeniously constructed, this is psychological suspense at its very finest.
A Dark-Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell
In the Edgar Award — winning classic, a niece investigates the shocking secrets that condemned her once proud family.
Faith Severn has never understood why the willful matriarch of her high-society family, aunt Vera Hillyard, snapped and murdered her own beloved sister. But long after Vera is condemned to hang, a journalist’s startling discoveries allow Faith to perceive her family’s story in a new light.
Set in post — World War II Britain, A Dark-Adapted Eye is both a gripping mystery and a harrowing psychological portrait of a complex woman at the head of a troubled family.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There are no signs of violence, but his face is hideously distorted with terror. Years earlier, a hound-like beast with blazing eyes and dripping jaws was reported to have torn out the throat of Hugo Baskerville.
Has the spectral destroyer struck again? More important, is Sir Henry Baskerville, younger heir to the estate, now in danger?
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives.
One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts.
And one by one, they die…
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck.
It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives — presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
To this day, the low, thin wail of an infant can be heard in Keldale’s lush green valleys. Three hundred years ago, as legend goes, the frightened Yorkshire villagers smothered a crying babe in Keldale Abbey, where they’d hidden to escape the ravages of Cromwell’s raiders.
Now into Keldale’s pastoral web of old houses and older secrets comes Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton. Along with the redoubtable Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley has been sent to solve a savage murder that has stunned the peaceful countryside. For fat, unlovely Roberta Teys has been found in her best dress, an axe in her lap, seated in the old stone barn beside her father’s headless corpse. Her first and last words were “I did it. And I’m not sorry.”
Yet as Lynley and Havers wind their way through Keldale’s dark labyrinth of secret scandals and appalling crimes, they uncover a shattering series of revelations that will reverberate through this tranquil English valley — and in their own lives as well.
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Nine Tailors is Dorothy L. Sayers’s finest mystery, featuring Lord Peter Whimsey, and a classic of the genre.
The nine tellerstrokes from the belfry of an ancient country church toll out the death of an unknown man and call the famous Lord Peter Whimsey to investigate the good and evil that lurks in every person.
Steeped in the atmosphere of a quiet parish in the strange, flat fen-country of East Anglia, this is a tale of suspense, character, and mood by an author critics and readers rate as one of the great masters of the mystery novel.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains — a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne?
Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.
The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, a supreme achievement from one of mystery writing’s most gifted masters.
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac’s apparently random attack.
Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making — with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband — until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.
Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge…
Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Braddon
Lady Audley’s Secret was published in 1862 and was Mary Braddon’s most successful novel. It has been called “the most sensationally successful of all the sensation novels”.
A protest against the passive, insipid 19th-century heroine, Lady Audley was described by one critic of the time as “high-strung, full of passion, purpose, and movement.” Her crime (the secret of the title) is shown to threaten the apparently respectable middle-class world of Victorian England.
The story centres on “accidental bigamy” which was in literary fashion in the early 1860s. The plot was summarised by literary critic Elaine Showalter (1982): “Braddon’s bigamous heroine deserts her child, pushes husband number one down a well, thinks about poisoning husband number two and sets fire to a hotel in which her other male acquaintances are residing.”
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Village rumor hints that Mrs. Ferrars poisoned her husband, but no one is sure.
Then there’s another victim in a chain of death.
Unfortunately for the killer, master sleuth Hercule Poirot takes over the investigation.
Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
Urged to investigate by his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, Lord Peter quickly ascertains that the sudden disappearance of a well-known financier is in some way connected to the body in the bathroom. But discovering exactly which way they’re related leads the amateur detective on a merry chase.
Written by a master of the detective story, this atmospheric tale abounds in the cozy delights of an English murder mystery.
Dorothy Sayers ranks with Agatha Christie as a defining author of the genre. A novelist, essayist, and medieval scholar, Sayers was among the first women to receive an Oxford degree, and her translations of Dante remain in wide circulation.
This novel marks the debut of her most popular creation, Lord Peter Wimsey, whose continuing adventures unfold amid the lively world of upper-crust British society in the 1920s.
In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson
In the blistering, dry summer, the waters of Thornfield Reservior have been depleted, revealing the ruins of the small Yorkshire village that lay at its bottom, bringing with it the unidentified bones of a brutally murdered young woman.
Detective Chief Inspector Banks faces a daunting challenge: he must unmask a killer who has escaped detection for half a century.
Because the dark secret of Hobb’s End continue to haunt the dedicated policeman even though the town that bred then has died — and long after its former residents have been scattered to far places… or themselves to the grave.
From an acknowledged master writing at the peak of his storytelling powers comes a powerful, insightful, evocative, and searingly suspenseful novel of past crimes and present evil.
Which are your favorite British murder mysteries? Tell us about them in the comments!