American writers, British settings

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American writers, British settings

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Editat: oct. 28, 2006, 3:12 pm

The two best known practioners of this are Martha Grimes with her Richard Jury series and Elizabeth George with her Thomas Lynley series.

I like both of them, though each series has some flaws is sometimes uneven.

For Grimes, I think the chief problem is that her characters are not aging as gracefully as they could. It is high time that both Jury and Plant married as the getting rather long in tooth for the forlornly juvenile romances still inflicted upon them. I would propose that Plant marry Vivian Rivington, another character much in need of settling down. She could then develop an unsuspected backbone and put the annoying Aunt Agatha character firmly in place. Jury should marry Carole-Anne, buy Vivian's deserted house, and retire to be senior consultant, while his wife practices her adaptive skills by becoming the perfect village lady. I enjoy the plots, the comic touches and the many eccentric children in the series.

As for George, all of her recurring characters are endlessly and painfully self-absorbed, and spend way too much time brooding on problems mainly existing in their heads. This distracts from the otherwise interesting plots and case characters, though I found the plot of last book, set in the Channel Islands, a disappointment.

Editat: oct. 7, 2006, 8:53 pm

I've tried and tried, but the only Grimes novel I've ever really enjoyed much was the recent stand-alone, Foul Matter. I find both Grimes and George pretty heavy going (ditto for Reginald Hill). Yes, I'm the subject of much 'mild tut-tutery' (as DL Sayers would say) amongst my more literarily inclined friends, tee hee.

I am, however, absolutely charmed by the new Beatrix Potter Cottage Tales series by Susan Wittig Albert. There are now three of them: The Tale of Hill Top Farm, The Tale of Holly How, and The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. They're cozies with animals talking amongst themselves, a la Rita Mae Brown. I like them as much as Albert's other, Texas-set, China Bayles series.

I've never managed to get into the 'British Historicals' series she and her husband write as Robin Paige, though my mother does enjoy them very much... and there are a bunch of 'em.

oct. 8, 2006, 9:47 am

In this category, I wouldn't forget the often charming productions of John Dickson Carr, old as they are.

oct. 8, 2006, 11:06 am

Greg Rucka's Queen and Country books, for another, of the spy variety.

oct. 11, 2006, 2:23 am

Aquest membre ha estat suspès.

oct. 25, 2006, 11:43 pm

quartzite, I could not agree with you more in your comments about George and her characters. God, especially the butler's daughter and her crippled husband (forget her name). I just wanted to beat her with his crutches.

I propose a slightly out-of category series, the Brock and Kolla series by Barry Maitland. They are set in London, but the author lives in Australia. I don't know what his nationality is.

oct. 26, 2006, 6:50 am


Nothing wrong with old detective stories. Nothing wrong with John Dickson Carr as far as I recall.

I`ve just finished re-reading David Stuart Davies`s collection The Shadows of Sherlock Holmes. Short stories by some excellent writers roughly contemporary with Conan Doyle - E W Horning, Dick Donovan, Guy Boothby, Jacques Futrelle, even one by Chekhov.

I don`t know who I`d recommend of current British crime writers - there is a local writer David Belbin who seems to be enjoying some success. I`ve read one of his short stories - it was pretty good I think.

Editat: oct. 28, 2006, 12:43 am

Nickhoonaloon: Glad you agree; as do, seemingly, a number of fellow LibraryThing members. :) Nonetheless: age should not, but sometimes does, put people off. The Shadows of Sherlock Holmes sounds enticing - just the kind of lost context I love. (And I've enjoyed Hornung, Futrelle, and Chekov all, before.) There's one copy available from BookMooch - in Poland. Hrmph. Even if I want it enough, it'll cost me double.... Oh, the quandary!

Along the same lines, though certainly not relevant to our American angle, is Graham and Hugh Greene's collection, Victorian Villainies, a copy of which arrived for me from the UK today. I'm looking forward to diving into it, when we get a proper, chill winter's night, and the madness of November novel-writing is over.

Oakes: I do wish I knew. I take it the Douglas G. Greene biography of John Dickson Carr sheds no light on the issue?

Speaking of models - a few weeks ago, I was happy to run across a radio script reference which confirmed that the apparent secondary influence of Samuel Johnson on Gideon Fell was fully intentional. Perhaps I knew, but I was pleased, all the same. :)

oct. 28, 2006, 1:03 am

Deborah Crombie is another American mystery writer, author of the Kincaid and James series of police procedurals. I have only read the first 5 so far, but am enjoying the series.

I enjoy Martha Grimes too, but I find the older ones funnier and more interesting for plot and for the characters' relationships. Recently she does seem to be repeating her successful formula a bit too faithfully, though I feel disloyal for saying so.

I agree that the Elizabeth George series became a bit frustrating with the anguished characters and their complex love lives - although I do sympathize with Deborah St. James more than akenned5 does. However the plot development in the latest one With no one as witness causes those relationships to change and suggests the series will develop in a new direction in future. I think it is the best in the series, and would strongly recommend it.

des. 31, 2006, 2:06 pm

quartzite, you said it about both Grimes and George. I finally decided life was too short to waste any more hours wading through George's over-long output.

I have enjoyed Deborah Crombie's books and, akenned5, I'm also a big fan of Barry Maitland's Brock and Kolla series.

gen. 1, 2007, 2:26 pm

I like Sharyn McCrumb, who has written a couple of novels set in Scotland - The Windsor Knot and Paying the Piper.

Euridyce, I didn't know John Dickson Carr was an American - I'm also a fan.

gen. 1, 2007, 3:37 pm

After reading this thread I feel a bit like the Lone Ranger, but I have to say that I really enjoy Elizabeth George's Lynley novels and that I'm not put off by their length or her deep development of her characters. I look forward to her yearly addition to the series and enjoyed her latest, "What Came Before He Shot Her" even though it only touched on the "Lynley characters" at the very end of the book.

gen. 1, 2007, 8:51 pm

If you're the Lone Ranger, then I'm Tonto. I love both Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George. I love the fact that George writes long novels. The thicker the better! Bring it on!

I think Grimes is a hoot! I have had a long held belief that Aunt Agatha is Grimes' nod to Agatha Christie and her "ugly American". How ironic that Grimes' ugly American is named Agatha! It cracks me up every time she appears in one of Grimes' books.

gen. 2, 2007, 8:06 am

valz, I am another fan of Dickson Carr's!

Editat: gen. 2, 2007, 8:22 am

valz, I am another fan of Dickson Carr's!

Glad there are so many of us. :) Thanks in my case are due to oakesspalding (message 5, above). He hooked me on Carr with a recommendation of Three Coffins, in '05. That got past a bad experience with one of the Carter Dicksons, which, given my love for various permutations of his talent under John Dickson Carr, may have been just me.

Editat: nov. 15, 2007, 8:12 am

Have you tried The exploits of sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan doyle and John dickson Carr ?

I found it a bit disappointing myself, the only story I really loved was The red widow, which I already had.

Having said that, I believe they did have problems with Carr being ill for a while during the writing of the book, so in the end, some stories were collaborations, some by Doyle,some by Carr.

interesting about your Carter dickson/John dickson Carr comments. I always maintain that Erle stanley gardner wrote better as A A Fair.

As regards US writers with UK settings, Stephen frances aka Hank Jansen wrote at least two Sexton Blake titles as Richard williams - The Iron Box and Somebody Wants Me Dead. I think they work very well.

Less successfully, in my view, was a Blake story by US novelist Lee Roberts, a short story based on a novel of his, which appeared under the name Desmond reid. i can`t remember the details but it`s in my LT library.

To avoid confusing anyone, the names Richard williams and Desmond reid were shared by a number of writers, not all titles that went out under those names were by Jansen or roberts.

`Scuse my rotten punctuation, in a bit of a hurry.

nov. 15, 2007, 8:58 am

Not that I've read many, but I do find it a bit jarring when a foreign author sets a book in the UK. Somehow the small details just seem wrong, or the emphasis is wrong. Something is wrong anyway. Tom Clancy was of course the worst. No surprises there - but even an ex-native like Lee Child didn't manage to get the feel quite right.

juny 19, 2008, 4:35 pm

Long ago as this was, I'm just catching up on the last two messages. Nick: Thanks. I'd heard the non-Mason books might be interesting, so I'll give them a chance, when next I spot any. You remind me how much I enjoyed the little Sexton Blake I did read, on your suggestion. Comments on the collaborative Holmes pastiche, which I have not been sure about opting for, much appreciated.

Reading_fox, just curious - does Carr come in for the same criticism? Or the usual level of it? I ask partly because of his couple of decades or more in residence, and whether it makes, in the case of apparent affinity, a difference.

Just interested. It has to be difficult to portray a place satisfactorily to its native inhabitants when you are not, yourself, one of them.

juny 19, 2008, 5:42 pm

What is the very best John Dickson Carr? I've never read anything by him.

juny 19, 2008, 6:21 pm

Katissima, I have read several of them, and I think my two favourite ones are The Crooked Hinge and Poison in Jest.

juny 19, 2008, 6:25 pm

My own favorites were The Three Coffins, The Burning Court, and another... title not coming to mind. But I haven't read aluvalibri's favorites, so they'll be on my list, to look for.

juny 19, 2008, 6:28 pm

Oh they are really good! And, of course, I will have to look for those you suggest, which I don't have.

juny 19, 2008, 6:31 pm

Isn't life on LT wonderful? :) - All the ways friends and books fill in gaps. It's nice to finally spend a day checking in so much more, again.

juny 19, 2008, 6:51 pm

yep yep yep and more yep!!

juny 20, 2008, 8:45 pm

Hey, I'm surprised no one has posted about Laurie King and her Mary Russell series. Also, one stand alone, just out, Touchstone.

Editat: set. 17, 2010, 2:53 pm

Three favorite authors, mentioned earlier in this thread, Deborah Crombie, Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes. I would add Peter Robinson, although he's Canadian. I enjoy all four series for their ongoing characters as much as for the mystery/crime being solved.

#25 Joycepa
I also enjoy Laurie R. King and her Mary Russell series.

set. 17, 2010, 5:13 pm


Well Laurie King is one of those whose England doesn't ring true.

In the early editions of The Beekeeper's Apprentice there is this exchange.
"Just a minute, Mr. Todd, you're a shilling short here." / "Ah, terribly sorry, I must a dropped it." He laboriously counted out three pennies, a ha'penny, and six farthings. It has been corrected in later editions.

There are other more subtle problems with her depiction of English society of the time.

gen. 9, 2011, 12:42 pm

Don't forget Elizabeth Peters? I love her Amelia Peabody series. I realize this is nom de plume. I think her real name is Barbara Michaels, but anyway you slice it try Amelia and her crew and relax on the Egyptian sands with these books.

gen. 2, 2012, 9:31 pm

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team. I know the female half lives here in North Carolina. I enjoy both the Inspector Ian Rutledge and Sister Bess mysteries. I have no idea how accurate they are to the period and England during that period (WWI) but they are rich in detail. I've been enjoying them, but I do have to say that lately, I'm wishing the author could make Rutledge a little happier. :)

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