Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mysteries Set in a Country House

Margot Kinberg, on her excellent blog, was talking about mysteries set in a country house the other day. I tried in vain to come up with an American one, but I couldn't think of one. It may be because the country home, where the upper classes can hunt and ride, is more a part of their social class system than ours.

I think Americans with a second house are more prone to have the house at the beach or in the mountains. Can you think of a US mystery set in a classic country house? There must be some from the days when the beach and skiing were not as prevalent.

16 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Thanks for the kind mention! You've spurred me on about this. There is Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Circular Staircase. I know there are others, too, like Jill Churchill's In the Still of the Night. But I think you're right that it's less common in U.S. crime fiction.

Scott Parker said...

This is a great question, Patti. I love the BBC stories. I have my grandfather's copy of The Circular Staircase. I wonder if (having not read the blog...which I'm about to do) the American versions of these stories necessarily have to take place in the past?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't see why they would have to be in the past necessarily. There are probably as many wealthy Americans now as ever. I think if you were going to find country homes, it would be in upstate New York or Connecticut. Perhaps Ellery Queen has solved a murder in one.
Thanks for a start, Margot.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ellery Queen's THE HOUSE OF BRASS is set in a country house.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lawrence Block, THE BURGLAR IN THE LIBRARY.

F.T. Bradley said...

For the kid department, there's WAIT TILL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn--a great spooky middle-grade mystery. It does have supernatural elements. My daughter loved it.

Cullen Gallagher said...

Jonathan Latimer's The Search For My Great Uncle's Head. It was originally published under the penname Peter Coffin. His most lighthearted book, but very funny and well written.

Graham Powell said...

THE BURNING COURT by John Dickson Carr was set in a country house outside of Philadelphia. It's one of his few novels set in America with no British sleuths in evidence, and it's probably his best.

John said...

It's very common. Especially during the 30s and 40s. Dorothy Cameron Disney, Philip Wylie, Helen McCloy, (to name only a few) have all written comparable mysteries set in the kind of "country home" that people normally associate with England. Well-to-do families, large house and grounds, servants, and a murder or two.

Even Max Allan Collins (NICE WEEKEND FOR A MURDER),
Ed McBain (GHOSTS), Bruno Fischer (HOUSE OF FLESH - though this one tends to be more country/Gothic) have dabbled in the country house theme.

I'm sure there are quite a few among newer writers, especially in the "cozy" market (those recipe/craft project in the back of the book mysteries.)

Anonymous said...

Hilda Lawrence, BLOOD UPON THE SNOW (and maybe some of her others)

Hake Talbot, RIM OF THE PIT

Jeff M.

Kieran Shea said...

Does Pelecanos' SHOEDOG count? I seem to recall an important Eastern Shore country house outside of DC.

http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=Shoedog_by_George_Pelecanos

Richard R. said...

American author Martha Grimes wrote some - Richard Jury ones - that take place in England. Does that count?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm easy. If it counts for you, it counts for me. I am wondering if Millar's IRON GATES wouldn't count as a country house.

Brian Busby said...

Am I right that the grand house in Mrs Millar's The Iron Gates overlooks a Toronto park?

That said, I think her Fire will Freeze would count - if by "American" we mean "North American". "Murder amidst the decayed elegance of a run-down Quebec chateau", claims the first edition dust jacket, but anyone who has read the book will tell you that the "chateau" is a mansion... and that it is not at all typical of rural Quebec.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ah, yes. It just seemed like a country house. I have never read that one (Fire Freeze). We USAers are a very narrow bunch to forget so often our more civilized neighbors to the north.

Richard R. said...

Also, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Patti and Phil!!!!!