Monday, October 31, 2011

Murder Most British

I love a good mystery and of the myriad of mystery subgenres, British Police Procedurals are my favorite.  Although these mysteries focus on investigating and solving a crime, they also explore the personal lives of the detectives.  Books within a series may be read out of sequence and still provide an excellent mystery; however, reading in chronological order allows for character development.  A prime example is the Inspector Linley series written by Elizabeth George.  The lives of the police and their families are integral to the narration of the series.

Best known for her psychological suspense novels, Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series is a favorite.  Rendell introduced Inspector Wexford in 1964 in From Doon with Death.  In Rendell’s most recent Wexford mystery, The Vault, Wexford has retired from the police and finds himself missing the action of solving crimes.  He encounters a former coworker who later calls him to advise on an unusual murder scene; the remains of four people are found in a former coal hole of a picturesque cottage in London with three of the remains approximately 12 years old and the fourth only two years old.  Wexford eagerly accepts the challenge of this cold case but finds himself grappling with the difficulties of conducting an investigation without the benefit of his former rank and resources. 

Fans of Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren, will enjoy the Anna Travis series written by screenwriter and author Lynda La Plante.  In BlindFury, Detective Inspector Anna Travis is assigned to a murder investigation team under DCS James Langton, her former lover and boss.  The body of a young woman is discovered close to a motorway service station; despite public appeals, no one identifies her.  Similarities to two unsolved murders prompt Langton to suspect they are contending with a triple murder investigation with no suspect.  Meanwhile, Anna receives a letter from an incarcerated murderer she helped to arrest insisting he can track down the killer, but will only talk to Anna herself.  Is this boasting a ruse to bring Anna to him, or does he really have insight into the psychotic killer’s mind?

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles presents a wry view of police investigations in her Bill Slider series featuring the fallible Slider with his bon vivant partner, Atherton.   Slider has obtained the rank of Detective Inspector and intends to go no further as it would remove him from active investigations, much to the detriment of the social aspirations of his wife.  In Orchestrated Death, the nude body of a young woman is found in a derelict flat without clothing or any other means of identification.  A small callous on her neck is identified as unique to violinists which leads the police to local orchestras.  The intricate plot leads to more crimes, an extremely valuable Stradivarius, some mysterious tins of Italian olive, the mob, the victim’s orchestra partner whom Slider finds more than tempting, and a lot of very British humor. 

Deborah Crombie’s long running Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James mystery series follows the careers and romantic relationship of two Scotland Yard detectives.  Necessary as Blood finds Gemma and Duncan at a pivotal point in their relationship as they deal with personal loss while investigating an emotionally charged case.  A young mother leaves her daughter with a friend to run a few errands but never returns and cannot be found.  Shortly after, her husband, a Pakistani lawyer, disappears and is later found murdered.  In the course of the investigation a conspiracy is uncovered that will have bigger repercussions than anyone could imagine. The detectives must tread cautiously or the three-year-old child who has lost her mother and father under mysterious circumstances may be the next victim.

If you like well-developed characters, intricate plots, and plausible mysteries, try one of these British police procedurals this winter.

Other Recommended Authors:
Colin Dexter: Inspector Morse
Peter Robinson: Inspector Alan Banks
Jill McGown: Inspectors Lloyd and Hill
P.D. James: Adam Dalgliesh
Ian Rankin: Detective Inspector John Rebus, Scotland

1 comment:

  1. I also love the Mrs. Jeffries series, about murder mysteries in victorian england. Inspector Witherspoon's extraordinary record of solving the murders, is due to help from his household staff in the investigations. Even the inspector is unaware of these activities. They gently guide him to the truth, and even involve a few of his friends. A super series by Emily Brightwell.