The Traditional British Mystery

Written By: Sheila Howlett-Soltysiak

If there is a genre with exacting plot and character requirements, and faithful readers with high expectations, the Traditional British Mystery is at the top of the list.

The detective – whether amateur or professional – is preferably a survivor of a traumatic or difficult past. It’s a bonus if they are quirky or don’t quite fit society’s expectations. The atmosphere is all things British (insert classic centuries-old pub with a roaring fire). There exists very much a sense of time and place. There will not be excessive gory detail. There will be extensive character development. Historical elements must be accurate.

The plot, the setting, the murder – all must be just so. Like the perfect cuppa.

Here are three series which fit the bill perfectly.


1. “Maisie Dobbs” series by Jacqueline Winspear
The series opens in 1929 London, 10 years after Maisie survives her experience as a British nurse on the French front in WWI. Although born the child of a costermonger, a series of good fortunes allowed her the opportunity to ‘rise above her station’ and receive a college education. Now, she has hung out her shingle, offering her services as an investigator and psychologist.

First in Series: “Maisie Dobbs”

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2. “Charlotte & Thomas Pitt” series by Anne Perry
It’s 1881 and we are introduced to Thomas Pitt, a young inspector striving to find his way in Victorian era London police work. During an investigation he meets Charlotte Ellison, not considered to be of his ‘class’, but we know from the title of the series what ultimately occurs! They become a power couple of sorts, as he uses his detecting skills and she utilizes her social connections to solve all manner of murders.

First in Series: “The Cater Street Hangman”

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3. “Flavia de Luce” series by Alan Bradley
Welcome to Buckshaw – a quintessential ‘pile of bricks’ in the English countryside of 1950. Flavia is far from being a conventional 11 year old female. Instead of learning embroidery and the art of polite conversation, Flavia loves to experiment with poisons in her uncle’s chemical laboratory and insert herself in the middle of local murders.

First in Series: “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”

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Each of these series offers several titles, for many hours of enjoyable reading! Rainy day, anyone?