Top Ten Underrated Mystery Authors

September 9, 2014 Top Ten Tuesday 17


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is Top Ten Underrated Authors or Books in X genre — I chose mystery.  And by “underrated”, I mean “less well-known or widely-read than they ought to be.” In a few cases, that’s because their books are no longer in print, or hard to get in the U.S.

In alphabetical order:

  • Cathy Ace. Contemporary mysteries that remind me of British Golden Age writers like Christie and Tey. There are four in her series featuring a forensic criminologist with an eidetic memory.
  • Catherine Aird. Her British police-procedural cozies convinced me there was such a subgenre, and her dry, understated humor is delightful. Read the early ones first; some of the newer ones aren’t quite as good for some reason. Particularly recommended for fans of Christie and Marsh.
  • Rhys Bowen. She’s written three series: the light, frothy Royal Spyness historicals, the more serious Constable Evans series set in contemporary Wales, and the Victorian-era Molly Malone series. I’ve yet to read the Molly Malones, but both other series are good at what they do.
  • Deborah Crombie. Sensitively written police procedurals that remind me, somehow, of delicate, intricate pencil drawings. Contemporary British mysteries by an American who lived there for over a decade. Her detectives, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, are convincingly complex and imperfect but easy to get attached to.
  • Hannah Dennison. A newcomer, but one to watch. (See my review of Murder at Honeychurch Hall.)
  • Carola Dunn. She’s best known for the Daisy Dalrymple historical series set in Britain between the wars, but her 1960s-era Cornish Mysteries are quite good and relatively unknown. Too bad there are only three so far.
  • Charles Finch. Victorian-era British murder mysteries with a private detective (Charles Lenox.) Well-written, with a Victorian flavor to the prose that’s never overdone.
  • G. M. Malliet. Particularly her Max Tudor series. It’s just getting started, but I thought the first two were pretty good. Contemporary British cozies, sort of.
  • Patricia Moyes. Somewhat eccentric but well-plotted British mysteries featuring British inspector Henry Tibbett.
  • Ellis Peters. Not for her justly-acclaimed and widely-known Cadfael novels featuring  a 12th-century monk, but for her contemporary novels. (Well, contemporary when she wrote them, in the 1950s through ’70s.) Especially the George and Dominic Felse mysteries. 

17 Responses to “Top Ten Underrated Mystery Authors”

  1. Bea

    You sure have a lot of Brits on that list! 😀 I’ve heard of a few of them, such as Dennison, Crombie, Peters (I loved the Cadfael books) and Bowen (who has been around for years) but many are new to me. I might have to look up Aird and Dunn. Good post!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      My mystery reading does lean heavily toward the British stuff! The funny thing is that a few of these write British mysteries, but they aren’t British. Deborah Crombie and Charles Finch are both Americans, though you’d never know it from their writing.

      Aird is wonderful, but start with her early stuff.

  2. abibliophilesstyle

    I know Bowen and Dunn but the others are new to me. Bookmarking!
    I was actually trying to remember Bowen’s name and the names of her series recently. I read some of the Her Royal Spyness books and the first Molly Murphy book years ago, before Goodreads, and I could NOT remember the author or titles. Thank you!
    Have you read Jill Churchill’s Grace and Favor series? They’re set in upstate NY during the Great Depression.

  3. Kayla de Leon

    Rhys Bowen’s works seem like books that I would enjoy so I’m definitely going to check those out. Thanks for the recommendations and great list!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Bowen is good and versatile. The Royal Spyness novels are a hoot. The Constable Evans novels have some humor but are more serious overall, and give a wonderful portrayal of contemporary rural/small-town Wales. (Well, contemporary as of the 1990s, when she was writing them.) And one of these days, I really need to read her other series.

  4. Stephanie Shepherd

    I have only heard of 3 of the authors on the list which is pretty exciting cause I would like to find some new series. I also lean heavily towards British mysteries so all of these look right up my alley. I’m also interested to see a plug for Ellis Peter’s Contemporary mysteries – I didn’t know she wrote contemporaries!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I love British mystery! I probably should have titled this “Underrated British mysteriy authors” but then I couldn’t have included Cathy Ace, and she’ quite good but not well-known. As for Ellis Peters, they were contemporary when she wrote them; they read as more retro now, but I love them. Try “The Knocker on Death’s Door”, “Rainbow’s End”, “The Piper on the Mountain”, and “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Heart”. Oh, and for an absolutely delightful, lighthearted standalone, read “Never Pick Up Hitchhikers” (which I really ought to review one of these days.)

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I discovered Deborah Crombie in the library, and fell in love with her books. She combines realism with a keen understanding of and compassion for her characters’ feelings and motivations. And Ellis Peters has been a favorite of mine since late high school, when my parents began bringing home her books from their trips to England.

  5. Katherine P

    Yes and then some to Catherine Aird! I haven’t read much of her yet but what I’ve read I’ve LOVED! I love Patricia Moyes as well though I forgot about her. I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything she’s ever wrritten. Love Henry Tibbitt! I completely agree with everything on this list with the exception of Ace and Malliet but that’s only because I haven’t read them yet. I’ll have to go look for them.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Katherine, you and I have to get together sometime and just talk books for hours! I hardly ever come across anyone who has even heard of Catherine Aird! Ditto Patricia Moyes. But it’s funny – I really liked Moyes when I first discovered her, and since I worked in a bookstore back then, I ordered and bought literally all her books. I re-read about half of them once, and then they sat on my shelves for decades, unread. But I re-read Aird at least every few years; I’ve read most of her books at least three or four times, except the more recent ones.

      Do check out Ace and Malliet. I think you’ll enjoy them.

  6. Jennifer

    I’m just getting into mysteries so I will write these authors down. I’ve heard great things about the Royal Spyness and the Catherine Aird books so I’ll start with them. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Jan @ Notes from a Readerholic

    I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t read too many mysteries these days, but that’s all I used to read. I’ve forgotten some of the authors, but I read Christie, Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and P.D. James–all well-known. But I also read Aird and Bowen (some of the Royal Spyness and Molly Murphy mysteries). I just bought the first Crombie on Audible. I have some of the others, too–I need to read more mysteries again! Thanks for a great list, Lark.