Friday, May 15, 2015

Favorites: mysteries and detectives.

As I mentioned, I've been in an Agatha Christie phase lately. That got me thinking about all of the mysteries and detective stories that I love.

I was surprised to realize a couple of years ago that I really enjoy mysteries. It wasn't exactly a genre I ever expected to like! It all started with the BBC Sherlock. I guess what I like falls into the category of either detective stories or "cozy mysteries." Basically: most of them are British, they feature unusual sorts of crime-solvers, and they have a good dose of humor mixed in. I'm not at all interested in anything gory or graphic, or real life crime stories (I hate to think of such things happening to real people...I'd much rather stick with the made-up ones).

I'll start with the books, since there aren't as many of those.

Agatha Christie. I'm currently reading A Murder Is Announced, and I've read three of her other books previously: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Body in the Library. I really enjoyed all of those...Murder on the Orient Express was probably my favorite so far. (There's something really great about a murder mystery on a train, right?) She wrote so many novels that it would take you quite a while to get through them all. I know that some of her stories are more beloved than others, but honestly I don't think you can go wrong with Agatha Christie.

The Flavia de Luce series, by Alan Bradley. This series is now seven books long, and I've only read the first three. (I'm behind because I'm reading them from the library, and I haven't been to the library in forever.) But they are so good! They're about an eleven year old girl named Flavia who lives in an old English house with her family and who is obsessed with chemistry and solving murders. She's such a great narrator...she's obviously really intelligent and at times doesn't sound anything like her age (unless she's bickering with her sisters). Even though the main character is young, these books are adult, not middle grade, so don't be put off if you're not into children's books. I love the English country setting and the fact that the mysteries usually include strange, quirky aspects. I really want to catch up with this series sometime this year!

And now onto the TV shows and films...

Monk. This is definitely in my top 5 list of favorite TV shows. It's so funny, with great supporting characters, and of course there's Monk. He's brilliant, annoying, obsessive, and immature, but so likable at the same time. :) I always compare it with Psych, but I think I still like Monk better. I like that it's a bit more serious at times and that there's the overlying story arc of Mr. Monk and Trudy. I wrote a little about the show here, but I'm also planning a post about my favorite episodes once I finish rewatching the series (I'm currently on season five).

Psych. This show took a season or so to grow on me (because it just couldn't quite live up to Monk!), but I ended up loving it. Shawn and Gus have one of my favorite fictional friendships...their interactions crack me up. :) Sometimes I'm in the mood for something a bit more goofy and fun than Monk, and Psych definitely fits. I picked my favorite episodes here.

BBC's Sherlock. You guys know how much I love BBC, anyway, but Sherlock is one of the absolute best. It's even higher on my list than Monk. I can't believe I waited so long to start watching this show! There are only nine episodes so far, but each one is almost film-length. This show is incredible. It's a perfect mix of humor, drama, suspense, memorable mysteries, and interesting characters. I don't know how in the world they do it, but each season gets better and better, and they're setting impossibly high standards for any other show to live up to. :) I'm a period drama fan, so before I started watching, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the modernization, but they've done it perfectly.

80s-90s Granada Sherlock. If you want a more traditional Sherlock Holmes, this is the series for you. I haven't seen all of these. We were borrowing them from a friend and I think I've seen most of them, but I plan on finishing it out at some point.

Pushing Daisies. This show sadly only lasted two seasons before it got canceled. It's about a pie-maker named Ned who helps a detective solve crimes because he has a special gift (curse?): he can touch something dead and bring it back to life (so he can ask how they were murdered, thus solving the crime). The problem is that he only has one minute...after that, he has to touch them so they're dead again or someone else in the vicinity will die instead. (And once he touches them a second time, they're dead for good.) Sounds quirky, right? That's the perfect way to describe this show. It's strange and bizarre and over the top, full of colorful characters. The whole thing is colorful, actually: the costumes and set design are visually gorgeous. The only thing keeping it from becoming one of my absolute favorites is that it does have a bit too much language and innuendo for my taste.

Marple. I've only seen the first season of this series so far, but I'm already hooked. Apparently this series is known for taking liberties with the books (adding romances, changing motives, etc.) and adding Miss Marple into non-Marple stories. But I'm still liking it. Also, the guest stars are awesome. One thing I love about British TV is being able to pick out so many familiar faces from other shows I love, and it seems like each episode of Marple has several guest stars that I recognize.

60s Miss Marple films. These four films aren't faithful to the books at all (except for possibly one?), but they're still awesome. This Miss Marple is like a sock knitting, sword fighting, bicycle riding, murder solving superhero. :) I wrote more about the films here.

The Thin Man films. This is a series of six films made from 1934 to 1947. They star William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, one of the kookiest and most wonderful fictional couples ever. These are the perfect 1930s detective stories, and they're glamorous and hilarious. I reviewed the films here.

So those are my favorites! There are more that I want to try: I've heard good things about Foyle's War and The Bletchley Circle, so I want to watch those sometime. I also want to watch more of Poirot, but hopefully after I read the books (since I'm failing at doing that with Marple). I've only seen one or two of them before...I know I've seen Murder on the Orient Express. Also, I'm planning on starting the Sherlock Holmes stories. I have A Study in Scarlet sitting on my desk, waiting to be read!

Do you have any mystery/detective recommendations? Any authors I should try or shows I should watch?


  1. There is the book series Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters which is about a 12th century monk who solves crimes in England.

    A tv series I discovered last year that became a favourite is Columbo starring Peter Falk.

    I enjoyed Foyle's War which I checked out after reading some bloggers mention that the actor who played Roger Hamley was in it.

    1. I've heard of Columbo but I've never seen any of it. I definitely want to try Foyle's War, though...I've heard really good things about it. I knew that actor looked familiar! :) It's been a while since I watched Wives & Daughters.

  2. "The Bletchley Circle" is really good. I think the best Miss Marple series is with Joan Hickson, made from 1984-1992. She's the quintessential Miss Marple. "Midsomer Murders" is excellent, too.

    1. I've just started watching Foyle's War, but I think I'll try The Bletchley Circle next! :) And I'll probably have to check out that Miss Marple series, too, though I'm still watching through the newer one.


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