Just Mystery Theatre - The Mystery Fiction Thread

Who are your favourite detectives? What is your favourite mystery? What else can we discuss related to this.

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Well, we could probably continue our Columbo discussion that usually happens in the What Are You Watching Now thread over here. There may not be many episodes we haven’t discussed already.

I grew up reading a lot of the Ellery Queen novels, but I can’t get into them as much now. I loved the Jim Hutton TV series, though (also by the Columbo people.)

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I mean, I’m done the show. But I can’t lie, every so often I just watch a final scene on youtube.

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I wouldn’t call him a favorite of mine, but I’ve read some Harry Stephen Keeler, who might be very interesting to the kind of people who like MST3K.
His stories are strange and eccentric, and to my mind, absolutely terrible. His mystery stories focus on the mechanics of a mystery but dispense with characterization and believable plots.
He has a following - here’s one web page that discusses him:

https://site.xavier.edu/polt/keeler/story.html

An excerpt from the page:

“In the late thirties, Keeler’s style began to depart even further from normal prose. His books were dripping with outré elements (such as bordellos of freaks) and twisted into supremely convoluted webwork plots–but in many works, he removed almost all of the action from the immediate scene and presented it through dialogue. And often this dialogue consists of page after page of thick, artificial dialect.”

His work is fascinating, if not actually good.

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Mystery novels! My people!

What kind of mysteries do you want?

Ellery Queen is great (if you read the right books) The ones where Ellery is helping his dad are fun. Some of the others, not so much. The Jim Hutton series is still good.

Nero Wolfe is one of the gold standards. Using Archie Goodwin as the narrator was inspired. The Timothy Hutton series is sublime. The Lee Horsley version from the 80s … not so much.

Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee books are good. Good mysteries and you get a real flavor of the Navajo culture in the 70s and into the 80s. The Dark Winds television series does an okay job translating them. The mysteries are good, and I like the one mystery per season idea, but it changes the characters a lot from the books.

For something classic, try Margery Allingham’s Campion. The books may be hard to find these days, not sure if they are still in print. If you want a taste, Peter Davison (yes the fifth Doctor Peter Davison) had a short series in late 80s. The show did a good job translating the books.

On the flip side, The Miss Fisher television series is great fun. Set in Melbourne, Australia in the 1920s, the show is really well done. I tried reading the books, though and gave up. I wanted those same interesting characters and what I got was endless pages of clothes shopping. Maybe later books are better (if so please tell me I’m willing to try again). For now, I’ll stick to the show.

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Maybe that’s the problem I’ve had trying to re-read them recently, that I didn’t choose the right books. I’ll look for the ones with his dad.

I wish I had a list I could give you. The ones where he is helping the NYPD, so you have Dad and Vellie and a whole cast of known characters, I think work much better than the ones where Ellery is off on his own.

Sherlock Holmes.

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Sherlock Holmes. :+1:

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Due to a radio drama adaptation of one of her four novels, I discovered the comedic mysteries of Pamela Branch. Three of them are about a murder or murders solved by The Asterisk Club, a club whose members are definitely guilty murderers who were found not guilty at their trials.

I’m also a fan of the Inspector Adam Dalgliesh novels and other mystery novels by P. D. James. She’s most well-known in the U.S. for the novel Children of Men was based on, but that’s actually her least interesting novel to me. Her mysteries are far better.

My favorite 1950s pulp sci-fi author, Fredric Brown, also wrote some very good mystery novels and short stories, my favorite being the Alice in Wonderland themed Night of the Jabberwock.

And, while still on the subject of sci-fi writers, Ray Bradbury wrote a really entertaining mystery novel called A Graveyard for Lunatics, which is about a murder mystery at a Hollywood studio. All of the names are subtly changed, but it’s essentially a story about Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen solving a murder mystery while working on The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

I guess people who write good sci-fi can also write good mysteries.

I also used to read a lot of Conan Doyle (who also wrote sci-fi with his Professor Challenger stories) and just had the fun of showing my daughter Young Sherlock Holmes, which is a fine story in the spirit and fun of Holmes despite changing the way Holmes and Watson meet (for which I will forgive it).

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So… does anyone want to challenge the general consensus that the best Holmes performance was Jeremy Brett?

(And if any one of you says Robert Downey, Jr., so help me…)

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Those Downey Holmes movies are fun, bite me!

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They are fun as movies. They are terrible as Holmes movies.

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He’s got my vote, but my favorite Holmes adaptation is probably Without a Clue. Michael Caine’s Holmes and Ben Kingsley’s Watson are right up there with the best, but obviously in a slightly skewed way.

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I’m not going to tussle with Holmes nerds, I know better.

I don’t consume much mystery fiction, but nobody’s entertained me like Hammett and Chandler yet.

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Subverting Holmes in one way or other seems to be very popular with filmmakers. It’s fun, but I prefer the original stories. I think that’s why I like the purist nature of Brett’s performance the most. He studied Conan Doyle in minute detail to get the performance dead on.

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Nope, even though I’m a big fan of Basil Rathbone.

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I’ve never read the Swedish Wallander novels, but the TV series with Kenneth Branagh and David Warner was amazing, if you can handle the whole Scandinavian bleakness thing.

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Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau!

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