Where is this page in my Den? → The Virtual LibraryMystery
Mysteries

"But one false statement was made by Barrymore at the inquest. He said that there were no traces upon the ground round the body. He did not observe any. But I did--some little distance off, but fresh and clear."

"Footprints?"

"Footprints."

"A man's or a woman's?"

Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered.

"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

-- from The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I like trying to figure things out. (A natural enough trait for somebody who's a computer programmer and amateur naturalist.) So, on occasion I like to read mysteries. I like mysteries where the reader gets the clues as the detective does, and so has a reasonable chance of figuring out the solution on his or her own. I don't like mysteries where the author cheats by having the detective get information the reader doesn't. Fortunately, there are enough of the first type around that I can avoid the second type. Of the mysteries I've read, most of the ones I really liked enough to keep around belong to either Dick Francis or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The most famous detective in English literature, Sherlock Holmes is also one of the least realistic detectives in literature. However, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories are still great fun to read.

  • THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED SHERLOCK HOLMES
    Author: Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Castle Books;
    ISBN: 0890090572
    The centerpiece of my small Holmes collection, this is the complete text of every Sherlock Holmes story as originally published in The Strand magazine, including the illustrations by Sidney Paget. I have no idea whether this book was assembled by simply reprinting the original pages, or whether someone recreated the magazine stories page by page, but it certainly has the look of a cheap late-1800s mass-market magazine. All 37 Holmes short stories are here plus The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of the best stories Conan Doyle ever wrote. And all in the most readable form I've seen. The old-fashioned type and hand-drawn illustrations add an atmosphere to the stories that no electronic reader or mass-market paperback can match.
  • A STUDY IN SCARLET and THE SIGN OF FOUR
    Author: Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Signet Books
    ISBN: 425-04117-4
    The first two novel-length adventures of Sherlock Holmes, together in one paperback book. A STUDY IN SCARLET was actually the first Holmes novel, and introduces the detective, his partner Watson, and his incredible skills of observation and deduction (actually induction, but we won't go there). A STUDY IN SCARLET is in two major parts: half is the mystery that Holmes has to solve and how he solves it, the other half is the backstory behind the mystery. THE SIGN OF FOUR is a more conventional story. For reasons I can't really identify, THE SIGN OF FOUR is my least favorite of the four Holmes novels.
  • EXPLOITS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE
    Author: Doyle and Carr
    Copyright:1954
    Publisher: Pocket
    ISBN: 0-671-80604-1
    A collection of 12 new mystery short stories starring Sherlock Holmes, written by Adrian Conan Doyle, son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE
    Author: Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: Signet Books
    ISBN: 978-0-451-52801-8
    Most people say that this is the best of the four long Sherlock Holmes adventures. I go further -- I think that The Hound of the Baskervilles is the best Holmes story that Conan Doyle ever wrote. The length of the story allows for a nicely complex (but not overly-complicated) plot. Dr. Watson escapes from Holmes's shadow and truly shines, doing some effective investigating of his own, collecting vital information for Holmes, and providing some necessary muscle as well. The setting is magnificently creepy, the characters are all believable (as believable as in any Conan Doyle story, at least), and the denouement is all that any fan of good mysteries could want.
  • SHERLOCK HOLMES IN ORBIT
    Author: Resnick, Greenberg (eds)
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Daw
    ISBN: 0-88677-636-8

  • VALLEY OF FEAR, THE
    Author: Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur
    Copyright:1940
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-04911-6
    Fourth and last of the novel-length Sherlock Holmes adventures. A coded message from an informant tells Holmes of a planned crime against James Douglas of Birlstone Manor... but when Holmes begins investigating, he finds that Douglas is already dead! Things get even more complicated when Holmes travels to Birlstone Manor and finds that the story of the crime is a lie. Who was killed? Who killed him? The answers lie in the past, in a story from "American coal country" based very loosely on the terrorist miners' gang called the Molly Maguires and the Pinkerton agent who broke their power.

Close section

Dick Francis

Dick Francis is a modern English author who specializes in mysteries that in some way involve horses and horse racing. He also almost always writes first-person narratives. He isn't for everyone -- most of his books include some violence, and on occasion it's rather gratuitous or described in needlessly complete detail. However, they're still good yarns. I've kept a number of Francis's novels:

  • BANKER
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1982
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-20262-3
    Young, upwardly-mobile merchant banker Tim Ekaterin arranges a loan to finance the purchase of champion racehorse Sandcastle. Then Sandcastle's first year's worth of foals start appearing with massive deformities. Is something wrong with the horse? Almost by accident, Tim is drawn into the investigation of Sandcastle's troubles - an investigation that seems to have cost one life already, and may wind up taking Tim's own.
  • BOLT
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-21239-4
    Champion jockey Kit Fielding (from Break In) returns with new problems: a nasty business associate is trying to blackmail his employer, and someone is killing the horses he's ridden to championship victories.
  • BREAK IN
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-20755-2
    A strange robbery and a series of malicious, anonymous newspaper articles spell unexpected trouble for Kit Fielding, his sister Holly, and her husband. Soon Kit finds that his sister is caught in a vicious game of cat and mouse between two ruthless business tycoons. His mission: figure out what's going on, find who is behind the attacks, and stop them in a way that will stick without hurting anyone.
  • DRIVING FORCE
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-22139-3

  • ODDS AGAINST
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1965
    Publisher: Pocket
    ISBN: 0-671-45076-X
    Sid Halley was once a champion jockey, but his racing days were ended by a fall that left him with a crippled left hand. Now he's a private investigator specializing in cases involving horses and racing, with an uncanny knack for getting in way over his head. In this case, he's been asked to investigate a series of 'accidents' at an old racecourse that's trying desperatly to recover. It appears that somebody doesn't want the racecourse to reopen, but who? And why? And what can an ex-jockey with a crippled hand do to stop them?
  • REFLEX
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1981
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-20713-7
    Philip Nore is a champion jockey and amateur photographer who is nearing the end of his racing career. He never figured that photography would bring him nearer death than racing, but that's exactly what happens when he starts getting curious about the death of a singularly unloved professional photographer. The problem isn't figuring out who might have wanted George Millace dead; the problem is figuring out which of Millace's many blackmail victims got to him first.
  • THE EDGE
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-21719-1
    The Great Transcontinental Mystery Race Train has been years in the planning: a small, select group of racehorses and their owners, traveling across Canada by rail, being entertained by a troupe of players putting on a mystery play while en route. Unknown to most of them, there's also a real mystery brewing. Julius Filmer, a crooked racehorse owner, is onboard, and plans to disrupt the train any way he can. Also onboard is Tor Kelsey, an undercover agent of the Jockey Club Security Service, whose job is to save the train and get enough evidence to take Filmer down.
  • TWICE SHY
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1982
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-20053-1
    Jonathan Derry is a high school physics teacher and expert target shooter. His younger brother William is a former jockey and current manager for a very wealthy racehorse owner. Neither of them ever thought they would be thrown into separate but equally vicious fights against a psychopathic man bent on obtaining a secret racehorse betting system that can make its owner very, very rich. This is quite an unusual and interesting format for a mystery: the characters of Jonathan and William Derry each narrate their own adventures with Angelo Gilbert, with a short interlude in-between to represent the years that Gilbert was in jail.
  • WHIP HAND
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1979
    Publisher: Fawcett Books
    ISBN: 0-449-21274-2
    Sid Halley is back. His destroyed left hand has been replaced by a metal hand, while his mind is just as sharp as ever. At the moment his schedule is overflowing with cases. First is the con man who set up his ex-wife and then disappeared. Second is a shadowy criminal boss who runs a fistful of corrupt racing syndicates. Finally, there's the several hot racehorses, all from the same stable, that all lost big races for no apparent reason. Are they somehow being poisoned or drugged? Figuring out the who on that last one turns out to be easy for Sid. Getting past the VERY effective threat that the crook makes ... that will be hard.
  • WILD HORSES
    Author: Francis, Dick
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Jove
    ISBN: 0-515-11723-4

Close section

Miscellaneous mysteries

These mysteries come from other authors.

  • CAT WHO MOVED A MOUNTAIN, THE
    Author: Braun, Lilian Jackson
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Jove Books
    ISBN: 0-515-10950-9

Close section