This week I’ve been sick with some kind of stomach bug/head cold hybrid.
Not SICK-sick, I hasten to add: I’m not on my last legs or anything. But you all know me: any excuse to curl up with a good book and be waited on hand and foot is just fine by me, and when the weather’s as cold and miserable as it’s been lately, I can’t really think of anything better to do, can you?
Well, I can’t help with the “being waited on hand and foot” bit, but I CAN provide you with some reading inspiration, which is even better, really. The books on this list are all mystery stories, which is one of my favourite genres: I’m a complete sucker for the “mystery from the past is solved by someone in the present” kind of plot, and there’s really nothing better to curl up with on a cold winter night, so here are nine of the best mystery books – in my opinion, at least…
9 of the best mystery books (according to me…)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I’m sure you’ve all read Rebecca, but if you haven’t, DO IT NOW. I mean, read the rest of this post, obviously, but then go and read Rebecca: it’s one of my all-time favourites, and ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,’ remains one of the best opening lines ever. If you don’t get chills down your spine just from reading that line, then we can’t be friends, and I’m not joking.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Woman in White is credited as being one of the first mystery novels, and, for me at least, it’s still one of the best. This book has it all: ghosts, mysterious letters, a strange old house filled with secrets – and that’s without even mentioning the woman in white herself, who… you’ll have to read it to find out. As well as being a great read, this book is also satisfyingly long, so you can settle down with it for a good long time, too. Seriously, is there ANYTHING sadder than when a book you’re really enjoying comes to an end? Didn’t think so.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
I’ve read all of Kate Morton’s books (with the exception of the latest release, which is on my Kindle right now, just waiting to be read. I like to save a book I know I’ll love for the Christmas season, so that when all of the socialising gets to be too much, I know I have something to escape to. For this reason, I now associate Christmas with murder, mystery, and SECRETS. Which I personally think is better than associating it with “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day“, but that’s just me… ), and found it really hard to pick a favourite, because if Kate Morton wrote a shopping list, I’d probably read it, and then give it 5 stars on Amazon. With that said, if Kate Morton DID write a shopping list, I’m willing to bet the shopping list would have a dark secret – probably one involving a mysterious old house. God, I LOVE that stuff. I wish I could uncover a secret from the past. Seriously, why has that never happened to me? Anyway, I’ve picked The Forgotten Garden purely because it was the book that introduced me to this author: if you enjoy it, though, you’re going to have to read them all, there’s just no way around it.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters is another writer who can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. The Little Stranger was something of a departure for her, but as much as I enjoyed her other books, this one, which tells the story of an eccentric family living in a crumbling (and haunted, obvs.) old mansion, was definitely my favourite. Like most of the writers on this list, Sarah Waters has a real gift for conveying atmosphere, and this is the kind of book that allows you to totally immerse yourself in the world it creates, so that when you’re forced to put it down (Like, to refill your wine glass or something…) you’re surprised to find the modern world still in existence, and even MORE surprised to discover that there are people in that world who AREN’T totally consumed by the mystery of the old house. Who ARE these people? And how do they survive, in a world without good books?
Simply Heaven by Serena Mackesy
The cover of this book shows a cheerful sandcastle on a sunlit beach, while the blurb promises an Aussie/English romance, with the down-to-earth Australian heroine finding herself the newest inhabitant of an English country manor. You can only imagine my delight, then, when the book inside was NOT, in fact, the hilarious chick-lit romp I was expecting, but actually the dark and honestly quite disturbing tale of a young woman trapped in an increasingly loveless marriage, and oh yeah, a haunted house. BINGO! That’s WAY more interesting to me than all of the “you call flip-flops thongs, but over here, thongs are g-strings!” jokes I was expecting, so it just goes to show, you really SHOULDN’T judge a book by its cover. And sometimes not even by the words on the back. This was my first Serena Mackesy novel, but since then I’ve read (and loved) them all: Hold My Hand is another favourite, and I also really recommend the books Serena writes under the pen name Alex Marwood: such a great writer!
The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine
Barbara Vine was the pen name of crime writer Ruth Rendell: I’m not a huge fan of crime stories, but one day I somehow came across The House of Stairs, and found myself pulled into the world of Cozette – a respectable, middle-aged woman, who, following the death of her husband, re-invents herself as something of a social butterfly, at the centre of bohemian life in 60s London. Naturally, there is mystery surrounding both Cosette and the characters she surrounds herself with, but the House of Stairs itself is the real star of this book, which is another one with its own distinct atmosphere to sink right into. All of the best books are like that, don’t you think?
The Legacy by Katherine Webb
Whatever happened to cousin Henry, that summer many years ago? Erica and Beth are determined to find out when they return to the old manor house they spent their childhood summers in. I’m really starting to think the lack of a dilapidated old mansion house is at the root of all of my problems, here – anyone want to let me one, so I can uncover its devastating secret? Anyone?
The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell is another favourite writer of mine, and although this book is a little more “chick lit” than most of the others on this list, it should still appeal to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. In this case, the mystery revolves around a person, rather than a place: the Melody Browne of the title has no memories of anything prior to her ninth birthday – but as the book progresses, she gradually starts to find out more about her childhood, and to piece together the puzzle of her past.
The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan
Imagine you find a faded old photograph, of a woman no one will ever talk about: a woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances, many years ago. I mean, wouldn’t that be AWESOME? Wouldn’t you just DIE? Then wouldn’t you do everything in your power to find out what happened to her, and to finally solve this decades-old mystery? Because I would. I don’t have to, though, because I’ve already read The Girl in the Photograph: now it’s your turn…
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So, I really felt like there should be nine books on this list (well, it’s just a nice, round number, isn’t it?), but I also wanted each book to be awesome, without any filler, so I’m going to stop at 9, and let you fill in the rest. If you share my love of mystery novels, please feel free to suggest some of your favourites: it’s going to be a very long winter…