Ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed reading detective stories. This includes Enid Blyton’s adventure tales like the Famous Five and Secret Seven and, a little later, the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was in these stories that I first met the murder mystery. My absolute favourite Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles, makes excellent use of the creepy moors and a haunting hound. It is a thrilling read with a mysterious death at the heart of it. Nowadays, children’s detective stories are split into two types. There are still Enid Blyton-style adventure tales, such as Siobhan Dowd’s London Eye Mystery and M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman’s The Highland Falcon Thief. However, the murder mystery has taken on a whole new popularity among young readers.
One of the best examples of the increased popularity that murder mysteries have enjoyed is Robin Steven’s masterful series, Murder Most Unladylike. This is a series that follows two girl detectives, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, as they accidently come upon murder victims and then, with great skill, unearth the murderer. The brilliance lies in the homage they pay to one of crime fiction’s greatest writers, Agatha Christie. The first in the series, Murder Most Unladylike, has quite a few similarities to Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons, and the third novel, First Class Murder which takes place on a train, shares similarities with Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and The Mystery of the Blue Train. The vintage feel of these books creates a thrill to the murder, as this isn’t our own time, but rather that of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
The murder mystery that takes place separate from our own familiar world is one of my favourites. There is no threat to our peace of mind as we watch the detective grapple with the twists and turns that come in the investigation. Nicki Thornton’s The Last Chance Hotel is one of those mysteries set in a world where magic is real. This is a book that really challenges the reader. The main investigator, Seth Seppi, is not only completely new to this world of magic, but is also the main suspect. Hilarity ensues as he must reveal who the real murderer is and attempt to understand this new world revealed to him. For magical murder mysteries, the Seth Seppi series is the way to go.
Lastly, I’d love to talk about Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. This isn’t a book for middle grade readers, but rather those pre-teens who are looking to level up their mysteries a bit. Set just after the Second World War and narrated by the genius 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, this is a masterful book. The dark wit and twisty plots create a captivating mystery that I have personally fallen in love with over the years. With each book in the series the development of character and mystery just gets better and better. Also, if you know someone who loves chemistry, Flavia herself is a master chemist and loves describing in detail all sorts of experiments that she plots in her lab.
The Golden Age of Detective Fiction might be firmly established in those years between World War One and World War Two, however I feel confident in saying that the Golden Age of Children’s Detective Fiction is now.