I like books that make me want to hide a knife in my garter.
September 28, 2012 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I love all historical mysteries, but lately, I'm especially obsessed with jazzy, stylish ones set in the 1910s-30s. I spent the summer tearing through all of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher Murder Mysteries. What should I read next?

In addition to Phryne, I'm also a big fan of Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness mysteries and Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody series.

I'm cool with earlier and later time periods as well (1800-1950 maybe), but am particularly interested in rollicking, light, fun books at the moment. While I've enjoyed Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey books and Charles Finch's Charles Lenox Mysteries (for example) in the past, lately I'm grumpy, so they're a little heavy for my mood. I like series better than one-offs, and adore well-researched historical detail, but all suggestions are welcome.
posted by mostlymartha to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Dorothy L. Sayers Peter Whimsey books. The time period is bang on and the books are delightful.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:57 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

DarlingBri:Ah, yes! Dearest Dorothy is what got me addicted to the genre.
posted by mostlymartha at 4:01 PM on September 28, 2012

How about Anna Katharine Green's Violet Strange mysteries?
"Violet Strange is no ordinary well-to-do young New York City debutante. Unbeknownst to her family and society friends, she leads a secret life as a professional sleuth for a private detective agency. On a mission to raise money for an undisclosed project, the determined and gutsy young debutante diligently snoops around sleepwalking widows, violent and sinister characters, whispering clocks, and concealed tombs, connecting clues to solve tales of murder, mystery, and intrigue."
They're a bit earlier than your main time frame; more Beaux Arts than flapper. You can get them for free online as they're no longer under copyright.

You've probably already read them, but if not...why not burn through Agatha Christie's Tommy & Tuppence stories?

(And on a side note, some of my favorite light mysteries are Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar series—the 4 books take place in the 1980s so the time period is utterly wrong, but the majority of the action is relayed via endless, improbable letters (or faxes/telexes*) and the characters are all terribly witty and almost always quite tipsy, which lends a kind of Thin Man quality. Plus, Edward Gorey cover art.)
posted by bcwinters at 4:22 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're open to YA, perhaps The Diviners by Libba Bray? It's set in 1920s New York and is a supernatural mystery. Some parts were a little too creepy for my tastes, but I enjoyed the 1920s setting. It's the first in what will be a series, but it just came out, so it will be a while for the rest.
posted by wsquared at 4:22 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you read S. S. Van Dine's Philo Vance books?
posted by winna at 4:42 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Simon Brett has done some lovely Wodehouse-cum-early cozy pastiches with the title pattern "Blotto and Twinks and..."

Miles Franklin wrote a charmingly goofy (except for some unfortunate casual racism and anti-Semitism, so be warned) mystery called Bring the Monkey which is set in the 20s and was published then so is now in the public domain.

August Derleth's Solar Pons pastiches of Sherlock Holmes might amuse you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:58 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Albert Campion book series by Margery Allingham starts out as a kind of mean spirited satire of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. Then, surprisingly, the books drop the nasty tone and just get better and better, peaking at about the 11th or 12th books, which are super excellent. The series loses steam as Allingham and her detective age, but are still fun and have that light tone you mention.
posted by Malla at 5:06 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, Michael Innes.
posted by Malla at 5:07 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe the Maisie Dobbs books?
posted by pymsical at 5:44 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The early Ngaio Marsh books with Roderick Alleyn take place in the 1930s.
posted by clerestory at 7:09 PM on September 28, 2012

Seconding Maisie Dobbs, but depending on how light you're looking for, there's a fair amount of darkness related to WWII in the two books I've read so far.
posted by bibbit at 7:37 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Laurie Kings Mary Russell books... Very well researched, very smart and fun. LOVE them, great atmosphere. Start with The Beekeepers Apprentice. So far series spans 1914 to mid-20s, often England but several books set overseas.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:01 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooh, I like all of the same stuff you like, so I HIGHLY recommend Ngaio Marsh like clerestory says above. Try Death of a Peer. It has eccentric British people. Eccentric British people!!! What more could anybody need from fiction?
posted by selfmedicating at 9:33 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alaya Dawn Johnson's Moonshine features a flapper vampire of color. :D
posted by spunweb at 9:46 PM on September 28, 2012

The latest Phryne (Unnatural Habits) comes out this Monday in Australia, so the next thing to read might just be that. Mind you, it won't be printed stateside until January, I believe, so it could be tricky to get your hands on it.
posted by mumkin at 10:03 PM on September 28, 2012

Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple mysteries are this period and pretty light.

James Anderson's series starting with The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy.

Re Maisie Dobbs, I think the darkness is related to the First World War, not the second, which hasn't yet happened in the books.
posted by paduasoy at 2:00 AM on September 29, 2012

You might enjoy Craig Nova's The Informer... it's sort of a literary thriller set in the Weimar milieu.
posted by mr. digits at 7:38 AM on September 29, 2012

I favor turn of the (last) century mysteries, which would fit in your broader time range:
City of Light by Lauren Belfer (she also has a 1940s mystery out, which is good but I don't love it quite as much as City of Light)
The Alienist and Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr
Victoria Thompson's "Murder on... " series

Also, if you're willing to mix a little science fiction with your mystery, Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog is very good.
posted by Kriesa at 7:44 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I've recently started re-reading Agatha Christie, and rediscovering that she deserves her reputation. Her earlier books are in the '20s and 30s.
posted by Kriesa at 7:46 AM on September 29, 2012

"Rollicking, light and fun" fits Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series perfectly. Soulless is the first one and I'll guarantee you'll like it. Amazon says it's "a blend of Victorian romance, screwball comedy and alternate history." Hope you try it.
posted by aryma at 10:53 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agatha Christie is very much of her time and place; if you have Netflix, I cannot recommend the Miss Marple series starring Joan Hickson highly enough. The production values are tremendous; if you want 1920s lawn parties, these are very authentic 1920s lawn parties.

Having said that, Miss Marple is not a gay young thing; she was 60-something at birth. Josephine Tey writes in a similar vein with younger characters. I am currently reading Brat Farrar and it's wonderful. It's set in 1946, so a bit late for you, but her earlier novels might suit.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:29 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came across this today and it might fit your criteria: Ghastly Business by Louise Levene. I haven't read it but it's set in 1929 and is described as funny.

Also, as you're prepared to go up to 1950, consider the Flavia de Luce series. Haven't read these either but I have given them to people who have enjoyed them.
posted by paduasoy at 2:36 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I work with Kerry Greenwood, and passed mostlymartha's question along. In addition to Sayers, Allingham and Christie as others have recommend, Kerry suggests John Dickson Carr. Unfortunately, most of Carr's novels are out of print, none are in the public domain, and few seem to be offered as ebooks. On the other hand, that's one more good excuse to poke around in used bookstores.
posted by mumkin at 10:13 AM on October 7, 2012

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