anonymous asked:

Hi! I am looking for some detective fiction to read, and I was wondering if you could help. I love Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie's "Tommy and Tuppence" series (although not so much Miss Marple or Poirot). I would be so grateful for any suggestions. Thanks!

A kindred spirit! Splendid! I love discussing/recommending detective fiction. I’ll do my best to provide appropriate suggestions. I’ll try to subdivide these suggestions according to which of your given authors/series they resemble (based on my subjective characterizations of each…!)

Conan Doyle: briskly and vividly told stories, occasionally macabre adventures, endearing characters at their heart. Alas, many are the disappointing epigones of the canon. 

  • Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and her subsequent Mary Russell books, are in my opinion really enjoyable novels featuring the Master and postdating the canon. 
  • Georges Simenon’s Maigret novels. If you’ve never read Simenon, treat yourself. Maigret is a humane, humorous, sometimes grumpy sensualist, and Simenon is a dazzlingly good prose stylist.
  • Donna Leon’s novels featuring Commissario Brunetti and the city of Venice are atmospheric, literate, and clever. The eerie canals are evoked as vividly as the streets of late Victorian London.
  • Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn novels. Like Conan Doyle, Marsh wrote over the course of many decades, and her taciturn but compassionate detective has to confront a changing world. Alleyn is an urbane, Shakespeare-quoting Inspector (later Chief Inspector) at the Yard. The tabloids always comment on his good looks, much to his irritation. Accompanied by his loyal, laboriously French-learning Sergeant, he solves crimes everywhere from country houses to theatres to the hills of New Zealand.

Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence novels: breezy, lighthearted novels, occasionally melodramatic. Young Man and Young Woman meet, fall in love, solve crimes.

  • Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver novels. Miss Silver is a bit Marple-ish, but she’s less eccentric, and less prominent in many of the novels (I happen to rather dote on Miss Marple, but even if she puts you off, I don’t think you’d mind Miss Silver.) Anyway: Wentworth was enormously prolific, and could be formulaic, but her novels are generally gentle and charming. The good end happily, and the bad unhappily. The one I regularly reread is The Case of William Smith, which I find irresistibly heartwarming.
  • Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels. I’ve read only the first few of these in their entirety, but I find them great fun, and they’re deliberately playful with the tradition of detective novels.
  • Ashley Weaver’s Murder at the Brightwell is a romp set in the 1930s. Heroine Amory Ames has to juggle a wastrel husband, an old flame, and an unexpected death at a seaside hotel. Hijinks ensue! The second volume in the series was recently published, but I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet.
  • Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series. Wrongs are righted and crimes solved by… a Benedictine monk in the 12th century! Young love blossoms! The social setting is nicely evoked, and the characterizations are good. Brother Cadfael is sometimes aided by a taciturn sergeant-at-arms. It’s all quite pleasing.

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Wimsey novels. (I love Sayers SO MUCH; she’s one of the novelists for whom a shared passion can jumpstart a friendship.) For me, what distinguishes her novels are their superb literary quality and their nuanced engagement with social issues. 

  • Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley novels. I know these look like doorstops, but they’re so addictive that I’ve gotten through the series in a series of binge-reading weekends, more or less. Lynley has Wimsey in his literary lineage: he’s a golden-haired toff with a soft streak a mile wide and a guilt complex a mile deep. His professional partner is Barbara Havers, junk food addict, fashion disaster, and 100% Good Person. I adore her. They in turn are aided by Winston Nkata, East Londoner, ex-gang member, and total sweetheart. Also featured is a disabled forensic specialist who shares Lynley’s taste in whiskeys. These are dark, and I have occasional quibbles, but I find them interesting.
  • P.D. James. I’d recommend either the Adam Dalgliesh books or the Cordelia Gray books with a good conscience. James is an excellent writer, and her novels are atmospheric and subtle. You might start with Cover Her Face or The Skull Beneath the Skin.
  • Josephine Tey, like Sayers, had a limited output, but her novels are fascinatingly varied. I think Brat Farrar might be my favorite; also good is A Shilling for Candles.
  • Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels. Dexter’s novels are, I think, brilliant. They are distinguished by tight characterization, deliciously paced prose, plotting that shares Sayers’ tendency towards the absurd and the macabre, while remaining conscientiously within the terms of fair play for detective fiction. Also shared with Sayers is a delight in cruciverbalism and wordplay of all kinds. Morse is not the most likable of protagonists, but he is one of the most fascinating.

Bonus round: G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown novels. I think these are seriously underrated. Give them a miss if you’re likely to be bored by theology, but Chesterton’s prose is second to none. Worth reading for the descriptions of landscape alone, really. The plots are elaborate, sometimes delicate and sometimes melodramatic, and the dumpy little parish priest at their center is wonderful. 

I hope this is helpful! 

Fake Movie Meme: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Based on the novel by Laurie R. King

Adroit and orphaned teenager Mary Russell (Eleanor Tomlinson) becomes friends with the retired Sherlock Holmes (Daniel Day-Lewis) when she physically stumbles over him in the Sussex Downs in 1915. From that moment on the two take on an unforeseen relationship, with Russell first learning his various methods of deduction through an informal but profound apprenticeship, and then through a full partnership when they take on the case of a little girl’s abduction. But Russell’s education and Holmes’s experience are put to the test when an unknown bomber threatens their lives and everything they hold dear. Also starring Jodhi May, Oded Fehr, and Jonathan Pryce as Doctor Watson.

I became, in other words, more like Holmes than the man himself: brilliant, driven to a point of obsession, careless of myself, mindless of others, but without the passion and the deep-down, inbred love for the good in humanity that was the basis of his entire career. He loved the humanity that could not understand or fully accept him; I, in the midst of the same human race, became a thinking machine.
I had just begun to pin my hair back together when a light tap at the door startled me.
“Saint George here, slayer of dragons, at your service,” drawled a light male voice.
I opened it, and my rescuer slipped in.
“I thought I’d check to see if my services were still needed, though short of a bigamous elopement, I cannot see how I might keep those two from the dinner party.”
“Heaven forbid. No, we’re going, as soon as I’ve taken my leave of the Westburys. Do you think you could—”
“A glass of bubbly under the rose bower is the most I can manage, I’m afraid.”
“That would be perfect. Thank you, you dear man, you’ve saved me from a potentially difficult situation.”
“The salvation of fair ladies is the entire purpose of my class, in case you had not realised. When ladies stop being in need of rescue, all like me will fade away.”
“Like King Arthur, waiting to come again when England has need of him?”
“Good Lord, what a dreadful thought. Give me an honest retirement anytime. Speakin’ of which, kindly present my greetings and regards to the gentleman with the pipe.”
“I will. Come down for a weekend when this is all over, and I’ll tell you all the sordid details. There’s even an immensely early manuscript for you to admire.”
“A first edition?”
“Without a doubt.”
“Interestin’. I shall hold you to the offer. Well, it’s been loverly, ducks, but two other ladies await my escort services. Give me five minutes to remove the dragons from downstairs, and the coast, as the fogbound lighthouse keeper said to his wife, will be clear.”
“Thank you,” I said again, and impulsively leant forward and kissed his cheek. He very nearly blushed, then busied himself with cleaning his monocle with his silk handkerchief and screwing it energetically over his eye.
“Yes, well, ta and all that. Cheerio.”
—  Lord Peter Wimsey’s cameo (part 5/6) in Laurie R. King’s A Letter of Mary
It’s always a race as to who can read them first. And Russell always wins cause she’s a speed reader. So there’s usually things like this. ’*Gasp. Oh my… OH MY!’  I’m like, ‘Shut up! I’m still on page 2!’

Matthew Rhys, describing what happens when he and his co-star/girlfriend get the latest script for The Americans

Hearing Matthew refer to Keri as Russell reminded me of the Laurie R. King Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell novels.  In those books, Holmes always uses “Russell” when speaking to the woman who becomes his partner and then later becomes his wife.

This is from the podcast for the season 4 premiere.  (Warning - the podcast contains spoilers):

The cast and crew also discussed how this season doesn’t have big story lines.  Instead, the characters will be dealing with the emotional costs from the story lines of past seasons.  The Americans has often been described as the master of the slow burn.  I’m interpreting the discussion in the podcast to mean that the fire is flaring up now.

And Joel Fields had the following to say about the disclosing of secrets which I interpret as an ominous sign of what may come this season:

“Well, that’s the thing about secrets.  Just like bioweapons, once they’re out they can start to spread.”

Foreshadowing in TAB and HLV

Yes, we’ve all read the theories about Janine being related to Moriarty, but what evidence is there for that?  


Besides their hair, eyes, skin, accent, and attraction to Sherlock Holmes, Janine has ties to another character in a different story.

“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” is a novel written by Laurie R. King about a retired Sherlock Holmes living in Sussex Downs as a beekeeper.  He and his young detective apprentice solve a mystery concerning kidnapped children.  The villain of the end of the story is Patricia, the daughter of Moriarty. 

But what does an obscure Holmes spin-off have to do with TAB and HLV?

When Janine visits Sherlock in the hospital in HLV, she first shows him all the tabloids she’s been in and how she destroyed his image for profit.  She says she’s bought a cottage from all that money. “Where’s the cottage?” - “Sussex Downs” - “Nice” - “It’s gorgeous.  There are beehives, but I’m getting rid of those.”

While trying to name the case of the Abominable Bride with Watson in the last scene of TAB, Holmes suggests “The Monstrous Regiment” - the novel directly after “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” by King is called “A Monstrous Regiment of Women”.

In the end credits of TAB, Janine’s last name has changed to “Donlevy”.  Patricia, Moriarty’s daughter in King’s novel, has the last name “Donleavy”.  But they misspelled that! They’re missing an “A”!  Did you notice they misspelled the word ‘captain’ in a newspaper clipping in TAB? They spelled it ‘captin’ - missing an “A”.  

Presenting Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler’s latest anthology, The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, the largest collection of Sherlockian tales ever assembled—now in a deluxe hardcover edition, perfect for the collector and gift markets.

Arguably no other character in history has been so enduringly popular as Sherlock Holmes. From his first appearance, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novella A Study in Scarlet,readers have loved reading about him—and writers have loved writing about him. Here, Otto Penzler collects 83 wonderful stories about Holmes and Dr. John Watson, the majority of which will be new to readers. Among these pages are tales by acclaimed Sherlockians Leslie S. Klinger, Laurie R. King, Lyndsay Faye and Daniel Stashower; pastiches by literary luminaries both classic (Kenneth Millar, P. G. Wodehouse, Dorothy B. Hughes) and current (Anne Perry, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman); and parodies by Conan Doyle’s contemporaries James M. Barrie, O. Henry, and August Derleth.”

So proud to be in this!  You can preorder here. <3

And you, Russell. How was your day?”
“Highly satisfactory, thank you, from beginning to end. Despite the fact that it’s between terms in Oxford, I have sixty-seven writing samples. I also picked up the information the colonel wanted. Bought two books, one of them out of print since 1902. Had a nice chat with a few friends over a pie and a pint, and met an odd man named Tolkien, a reader in English literature at Leeds who has a passion for early Anglo-Saxon poetry and runes and such. And, oh yes, I found where Miss Ruskin was on that missing Tuesday afternoon.
—  Mary Russell meets J.R.R. Tolkien, in Laurie R. King’s A Letter of Mary