This is Mys­tery Series Week, and if you have ever been in our book aisle, then you know we have an affin­i­ty for mys­ter­ies. We know it can be daunt­ing to pick up a new series, but the reward is huge. Is there any­thing more fun than sit­ting down with a cup of tea and get­ting ful­ly absorbed in a great mys­tery? The answer is no. The best thing about a great series is that you get to know the char­ac­ters, par­tic­u­lar­ly the detec­tives, get­ting famil­iar with their lit­tle quirks, styles of sleuthing and, of course, their strange friends. Use this week as an excuse to start a new obses­sion, and here are some handy lists to get you start­ed, fea­tur­ing three of our favorite mys­tery authors: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Say­ers, and Alexan­der McCall Smith. The best thing to do is pick one and jump right in!

Agatha Christie:

This is the cor­ner­stone in the world of mys­tery series. Dame Agatha Christie is the world’s best-sell­ing author, accord­ing to Guin­ness Book of World Records. She is most famous for her detec­tive Her­cule Poirot and Miss Marple. We car­ry most of her books, and there are tons of them, which can make it dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out where to start. Most peo­ple are famil­iar with Agatha Christie through her film and TV adap­ta­tions. This is actu­al­ly a pret­ty good guide, because her best books trans­lat­ed into the most pop­u­lar adap­ta­tions. You don’t have to read her books in any par­tic­u­lar order, so where to start is com­plete­ly up to you, but there are some books that will get you hooked faster than oth­er ones.This list should help you get start­ed with the Her­cule Poirot and Miss Marple mys­ter­ies, both of which are high­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

Her­cule Poirot:
Prob­a­bly Agatha Christie’s most well-known detec­tive, and sec­ond only to Sher­lock Holmes as the most famous fici­ton­al detec­tive of all time. Her­cule Poirot is known for his “lit­tle grey cells” and using “order and method” to solve mys­ter­ies, as well as gath­er­ing all his sus­pects togeth­er at the end of the book to reveal who the mur­der­er is. Poirot’s mys­ter­ies are the most pop­u­lar adap­ta­tions, so they make a good jump­ing-off point for Agatha Christie novices.

There is a bit of a debate here whether to start with Death on the Nile or Mur­der on the Ori­ent Express, but either one is sure to get you hooked. By the time you fin­ish those you are sure to be thirst­ing for more Poirot, and I would con­tin­ue with The Mys­te­ri­ous Affair at Styles, Mur­der in Mesopotamia, An Appoint­ment with Death, and Per­il at End House. By the time you fin­ish the­se you will be a Poirot expert and can then branch out to any of his numer­ous nov­els, and there are 33 in all so you should have plen­ty to choose from.

Miss Marple:
Based on Agatha Christie’s grand­moth­er and her cronies, Miss Marple is an elder­ly ama­teur detec­tive in the vil­lage of St. Mary Mead. She solves crimes with shrewd intel­li­gence, keen insight, and a ten­den­cy to be under­es­ti­mat­ed. Miss Marple is a real treat to read. I also find that you can solve the mys­ter­ies if you pay atten­tion. Every­thing falls right into place, and you feel like a bit of a detec­tive your­self, sleuthing out the mur­der­er using the evi­dence pre­sent­ed in the course of the book.

Although Mur­der at the Vic­arage is the first Miss Marple nov­el, her char­ac­ter wasn’t ful­ly devel­oped, and she isn’t the sweet, clev­er old lady that she is for most of her books. I would start with A Mur­der is Announced, and fol­low up with The Body in the Library. From there you should read The Mov­ing Fin­ger, A Pock­et Full of Rye, A Caribbean Mys­tery, and 4:50 from Padding­ton. Miss Marple appears in 12 nov­els in all, but they are all among Agatha Christie’s best-loved books, and if you like Miss Marple then you should read them all.

Dorothy Sayers:

Dorothy Say­ers is most famous for her aris­to­crat­ic ama­teur sleuth Lord Peter Wim­sey, and he is a bit of an obses­sion for us here at KU. He is every­thing we strive to be. He col­lects first edi­tions, (me too, and because of him) has an exten­sive knowl­edge of fine wines, (I’m work­ing on it, main­ly by drink­ing lots) and oth­er culi­nary mat­ters, played world class crick­et for Oxford, (why I watch crick­et) and he has a superla­tive manser­vant, Bun­ter (still look­ing for my manser­vant, so if any­one out there lives to serve, call me). And Lord P. isn’t a Nan­cy Boy, in fact he is kind of a bad-ass, albeit a smar­ty-pants one. Best of all, he has the most attrac­tive (to me) of traits, a wry and self-dep­re­cat­ing sense of humor.

I would rec­om­mend read­ing Dorothy Say­ers’ books in order. You don’t have to, but there some char­ac­ter pro­gres­sion that is a bit more enjoy­able when read chrono­log­i­cal­ly. How­ev­er, there are some nov­els that I rec­om­mend more than oth­ers, so if you feel like jump­ing around then I would encour­age that. The first book is Whose Body?, which I would start with, even if you aren’t read­ing them all in order. The two best books are Mur­der Must Adver­tise, and Strong Poi­son (which intro­duces Lord Peter’s detec­tive foil and love inter­est, Har­ri­et Vane), which are among the most beloved mys­ter­ies sto­ries of all time. Then I would move on to Gaudy Night, Have His Car­case, and Busman’s Hon­ey­moon. There are 16 Lord Peter Wim­sey books in all, so if he and Har­ri­et Vane pique your inter­est, then you have plen­ty of read­ing to do.

Alexander McCall Smith:

Alexan­der McCall Smith has sev­er­al mys­tery series, but he is best known for his series con­cern­ing Mma Pre­cious Ramotswe and the rest of the crew at The No. 1 Ladies Detec­tive Agen­cy in Botswana. This a charm­ing series, with a large cast of char­ac­ters whom you get to know fair­ly well over the course of the series. His sec­ond most pop­u­lar series is the 44 Scot­land Street series, about a board­ing house in Edin­burgh and the per­son­al dra­ma of its res­i­dents. Both come high­ly rec­om­mend­ed by us here at KU.

The No. 1 Ladies Detec­tive Agen­cy:
You may be famil­iar with the­se books through HBO’s tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tions, but I high­ly rec­om­mend read­ing them if you are a fan. The­se books are episod­ic, and can be read chrono­log­i­cal­ly or here and there. Either way you choose to read them, I would start with the first book, The  No. 1 Ladies Detec­tive Agen­cy, just so you get a sense of back­ground. Then you can work your way through the 13 oth­er books in the series. My favorite is the first book, but I loved all of them, espe­cial­ly In the Com­pa­ny of Cheer­ful Ladies, which is the six­th book.

 44 Scot­land Street:
44 Scot­land Street is a board­ing house in a part of Edin­burgh where the bour­geoisie and the bohemi­an mix. As you can imag­ine, this is a per­fect set­ting for all kinds of humor and trou­ble, which is pre­cise­ly where Alexan­der McCall Smith is at his best. Again, the­se books are episod­ic and can be read in any order you like, but I would rec­om­mend start­ing with the first book, 44 Scot­land Street, and con­tin­u­ing from there. There are 8 books in all, and they are all delight­ful.

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