Books belonging to the mystery genre span far and wide. You’ve got all sorts of sub-genres: capers, cozy, noir, detective, procedural, suspense and true crime, to name a few. When I find myself returning time and time again to the same author, I know that I’ve landed on writing that procures the perfect twist, gets to the heart and mind of people through psychological insights, and creates satisfying conclusions that wrap the stories up nicely in either a bow or a body bag.
Here are my top five mystery writers, with a curated shop of my suggested books.
The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.
— Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
So you might be surprised to see old mate Ben Elton on a top list of mystery writers, but here’s the thing — I just love love love reading his books.
Most of them have an element of mystery, although not all are necessarily crime-based. Of his crime capers, Elton has written well-plotted and researched stories. They’re entertaining, invite you to play along with the whodunnit trope of the mystery novel and are imbued with pop culture references. There’s a gory detail or two, but always dealt with a deft hand and a good dose of humour.
His books have all the trademarks of his fabulous writing for television. Of course, I’m speaking of two of my favourite shows Blackadder and Upstart Crow as well as other notable series such as Thin Blue Line and The Young Ones. Elton’s writing is heavy in satire, leaning left politically and sharp as a tack.
There couldn’t be a crime writer list without Twistie Christie. I just adore her classic books and love hunting them down in secondhand bookshops. What a treat it is to imagine Poirot’s curly Belgian accent as he waltzes through crime scenes or Miss Marple’s shrewd and genteel mannerisms in a quaint English hamlet.
The fact that Christie had her own ‘real life’ mystery — namely her disappearance and reappearance, albeit with a lapse in memory — makes her a deliciously tantalising writer and one that deserves to be up there with the best of them.
Christie is a classic; and by that token, her books are fine for the squeamish amongst us, far from the true-to-life gore that some contemporary writers use to .
No one manages to quite capture the dramatic side of the Australian landscape than Jane Harper. Her descriptions of our wild land, whether the dry, desolate outback of remote Queensland through to the misty and mysterious mountains of the Giralang Ranges make for interesting reading and splendid backdrops for crime.
Her books are gritty and raw, and I’m talking equally about the plots, the characters and their settings.
A former business reporter, Harper wrote her first manuscript an hour before and an hour after work each day. After submitting it into the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, she won and landed herself a six-figure publishing deal and debuted The Dry, which is being transported to our silver screens in 2021.
Harper’s third book The Survivors will be released on September 22, 2020.
Here’s another ex-journo (and Aussie) turned mystery writer. Robotham’s investigative reporting into serial killers, like Fred and Rosemary West, and spending time with forensic psychologists and police helped inspire and authenticate his range of books.
Robotham has become internationally celebrated and has spawned a television series based on the book The Secrets She Keeps. What I love about his writing is it’s energetic and action-packed, while still offering up the psychological spin that always makes me think about people.
His books are detailed and very real, so if you’re less inclined to read realistic crime, perhaps head to the next writer on my list.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
To end my list of top mystery writers, I come to the one of the masters of word-wizardry. Called the most-read Spanish author since Cervantes, Zafón left us with inspired writing as his legacy. Before becoming an author, Zafón worked in advertising (there’s hope for me yet!)
If you’re yet to read The Shadow of the Wind, I beg you to stop reading anything you’re into right now and pick this one up. It’s a page-turner. A masterful mystery. An atmospheric, delicious mix of literary prose that almost errs on the side of poetry.
Zafón continued this delightful storytelling with an entire series called Cemetery of Forgotten Books, so there’s plenty to keep you entertained, amongst his other standalone books. These aren’t so much crime-laden books as they are suspenseful stories with almost supernatural undertones layered within.
Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.