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Women of mystery

Believing the Lie

by Elizabeth George

Hodder Paperbacks (2012)

€11.45 ***

There is a whole world of female crime writers, and Elizabeth George's lineage can be traced quite obviously through several of the classic writers reviewed below.

Her main protagonist, Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, is an aristocrat who, despite being the eighth Earl of Asherton, is a hard-working copper for Scotland Yard -- and who, despite seeming to be untouchable, is still reeling from a tragic life event.

I won't spoil it for you. It is worth starting George's series at the beginning and working your way up through to this, number 17.

The tragic event is enormous, and only an author of great courage would have ever dared to write it.

Here, we follow Lynley through this latest case, which removes him from London to the Lake District, away from awkward but loveable sidekick Barbara Havers, and away from a questionable affair with his boss Isabelle Ardery.

There's any number of implausibilities at work here, not the least of which is the fact that he's working undercover.

Now, combining his status in the Yard, his earlishness, and the aforementioned tragic event, you've got to be extraordinarily thick to believe that he'll convincingly be 'not' himself.

What this is really about, and what often happens in the series, is that the characters become more important than the actual plot.

We yearn for Barbara to have a happy life; we're gripped by Lynley's healing process.

We're delighted to be reacquainted with recurring characters, and the setting in a family home full of intrigue is classic English countryside crime fodder. And yet, if we're reading a crime novel, well, it would help that the crime is compelling, which isn't quite the case here.

Check out these five juicy, crime-filled series similar to elizabeth george

Gaudy Night

by Dorothy L Sayers

Hodder (1935)

€10.50 *****

You may have to go through this whole series as well to get the full, utterly fantastic value out of this particular title.

Lord Peter Wimsey is extremely eccentric, and as the novels progress, his personality darkens with the times. His love interest, Harriet Vane, assiduously rejects his marriage proposals, and during a return to her alma mater, Oxford, for the night of the title, she finds herself caught up in a case that only Lord Peter can untangle. It is the perfect balance of romance and deduction.

Margaret Allingham Omnibus: Sweet Danger, The Case of the Late Pig and The Tiger in the Smoke

Vintage (2006)

€21.50 ***

In Albert Campion, we have an upper-class aristo who is incognito. We don't know who he is, only that he is a high flyer. He, like Wimsey, starts out as a bit of a twit and watching him mature is incredibly satisfying. Traitor's Purse is perhaps Allingham's best: Campion wakes up and can't remember who he is. He's been accused of attacking a copper, and the only thing he remembers is that he's on a secret mission. Allingham errs disturbingly often on the side of misogynism, however, and tarnishes an otherwise excellent body of work.

Ngaio Marsh Inspector Alleyn Series: Death in Ecstasy/ Vintage Murder/Artists in Crime

Harper (2009)

€18.75 ****

There are 32 Inspector Roderick Alleyn novels in all, and the Harper omnibus editions give them to us in 11 paving slabs of print. Alleyn is a gentleman, works in Scotland Yard, and has a star-crossed romance with painter Agatha Troy, much like his pals Wimsey and Lynley.

Do start at the beginning and work your way forward. My fave is this one, the second in the reprinted series. We meet Agatha and theatre nerds will be delighted by Marsh's excellent grasp of all things thespian.

A Morbid Taste for Bones

by Ellis Peters

Sphere (2010)

€11.50 *****

Medieval nerds will be in heaven: set in the 12th century, Brother Cadfael is a monk who solves crimes. Twenty books span the years between 1977 and 1994, and they are available in the dependable omnibus form, but the Sphere reprints are lovely as books go.

Cut your teeth on this, the first, in which the good brother finds himself involved in a battle for some saintly bones. There was a great TV series starring Derek Jacobi and if you didn't see it, you can imagine him as Cadfael, because he is perfect. You're welcome.

And Then There Were None

by Agatha Christie

Harper Masterpiece (2007) €14.50

*****

You know what? I can't stand Miss Marple, and Poirot is so smug, it makes me want to smack him. I much prefer Christie's non-series novels, which, given the way this column was going, must come as a shock.

This 1939 novel is set on an island, and 10 people who have gotten away with murder in the past are about to pay for their undetected crimes. Also awesome, and Poirot-free: A Witness for the Prosecution.

That Magic Mischief, Susan's new eBook, will be published on February 11