Tuesday Night Bloggers: Holiday and Travelling Mysteries Top 5s

TNB BoatThis week for the Tuesday Night Bloggers I will be sharing my favourite mystery novels which involve holidaying or travelling on various modes of transport. Some categories were definitely easier than others to decide and at the back of my mind I do have a nagging doubt that I have left some good ones out. Feel free to share your own favourites for these categories as it would be great to get some new book recommendations, especially for my final category on planes – I never realised how few I had actually read!

 

 

Top 5 Mysteries set on holidays/ trips abroad

  1. A Caribbean Mystery (1964) by Agatha Christie

A Caribbean MysteryI have a lot of fond memories of this book and Miss Marple makes an excellent sleuth for this particular case, disclosing the underlying tensions beneath the surface at the Caribbean resort she is staying at, along with dealing with the irascible and difficult Mr Rafiel and taking upon the role of Nemesis – an epitaph she comes to embody further in her later case Nemesis (1971). I liked how tension and suspense increase as further violence follows the death of Major Palgrave and it is just like Christie to plant the nucleus for a murder within one old man’s boring anecdotes.

2. Murder Begins at Home (1949) by Delano AmesMurder Begins at Home

This was an even more delightful and funny follow up to Jane and Dagobert Brown’s debut case, She Shall Have Murder (1948) and is set in New Mexico, where the Browns are on a work/holiday trip.

 

3. The Cat Screams (1934) by Todd Downing

The Cat ScreamsUS Customs Agent, Hugh Rennert ends up investigating a number of puzzling deaths which are seemingly natural, accidental or suicides, whilst on holiday in Mexico. Definitely an enjoyable read and Downing intertwines Mexican culture into the Rennert’s investigation, which makes for an interesting case.

 

4. Appointment with Death (1938) by Agatha Christie

Another Christie novel, this time set in Jerusalem and Petra. I enjoyed the solution to this Appointment with Deathone, which definitely surprised me and I think the psychology and personalities of the suspects are an important feature in Poirot’s case which he solves in 24 hours and through the tool of conversation. Since I enjoy character focused novels this was a good read for me.

 

 

5. Tour de Force (1955) by Christianna Brand

Tour de ForceIt has been a while since I have read this novel, but I enjoyed the twists and surprises Brand pulls in this case where Inspector Cockrill investigates a stabbing on a Mediterranean island whilst on holiday.

 

 

Top 5 Mysteries set on holidays/ trips within the UK

  1. Evil Under the Sun (1941) by Agatha ChristieEvil Under the Sun

This Christie novel shows that murderous holidays don’t just happen abroad and is set in Devon. I think the sheer audacity of the criminal plot in this book impressed me a lot and I liked how Christie played around with social conventions.

2. Westmorland Alone (2016) by Ian Sansom

Westmorland AloneThis is the third in Ian Sansom’s County Guides series and like the others sees the central trio on another work related trip, this time to Appleby in Cumbria. This was definitely a good read and I liked how some of the characters deepened and in some ways became darker.

 

3. The Singing Sands (1952) by Josephine Tey

Alan Grant is on sick leave from Scotland Yard and is travelling to Scotland for a well-The Singing Sandsearned holiday. But on finding a dead man on his train, who has a cryptic note, this holiday becomes the busman’s variety as Grant unravels the mystery behind the corpse. This is possibly my favourite Tey novel and doing this post has made me want to re-read it.

4. Have His Carcase (1932) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Have His CarcaseHarriet Vane, like Alan Grant is on a recuperative holiday, though she is not needing recuperation from work, but from her experience of being put on trial for murder. Yet also like Grant, it doesn’t take long for her to come across a dead man during her hiking holiday at Wilvercombe. The changing relationship between Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey was enjoyably written, yet does not interrupt the puzzle-clue aspect of the book.

5. Mystery in White (1938) by J. Jefferson Farjeon

This Christmas mystery is my favourite novel by Farjeon which I have read to date. It Mystery in Whitebegins with a train laden with passengers making trips, yet their plans are thwarted by snow and murder! I think this story showcases Farjeon’s skills as a writer best, as he is able to provide an interesting mystery to solve which is not undermined, but enhanced by his skills in writing thrillers.

 

Top 5 Mysteries set on/ involving a Boat

  1. Murder on the Leviathan (1998) by Boris Akunin

Murder on the LeviathanAkunin is one of my favourite writers and this is his excellent take on Golden Age detective fiction, set in 1878 and located on the boat the Leviathan, which is heading to places such as Bombay and Japan. Within the first class passengers is a murderer, who is prepared to kill and manipulate to hide their identity as such. The boat setting is used to great effect as the passengers get on each other’s nerves due to being so confined and this setting also provides for a dramatic ending.

2. Herring on the Nile (2011) by L. C. Tyler

This novel is the fourth Elsie and Ethelred novel which humorously writes back to Herring on the NileChristie’s novel Death on the Nile (1937). Like in its predecessor death strikes, yet unfortunately for the passengers they don’t have Hercule Poirot to solve the case but third rate author, Ethelred and his chocolate chomping literary agent. Definitely an entertaining read.

3. Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie

Death on the NileAnother great read from Agatha Christie with a cruise down the river Nile turning into everyone’s worst nightmare as the bodies begin to mount. Again the audacity of the criminal plan is spectacular, though for some this has made them question the plausibility of the scheme. I enjoyed reading it though with its wonderful array of characters.

4. The Widow’s Cruise (1959) by Nicholas BlakeThe Widow's Cruise

This is the 13th novel in Blake’s Nigel Strangeways series and Nigel along with his partner, Claire are on a cruise around the Greek Islands. There is quite an enjoyable twist at the end of the book which I enjoyed and the Nigel/Claire dynamic works well.

5. The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) by Agatha Christie

The Man in the Brown SuitAn early Christie this time and although this book is not set on a boat the whole time, there is a significant boat journey for Anne Beddingfield as she travels to Cape Town, which she is doing due to coming across a number of unusual circumstances in London. It is during her boat journey that she meets the rest of the characters involved in the central mystery and the first impressions she gets of people here (some of which are erroneous) stay with her for better or worse for quite a while.

Through the course of compiling this list I came across the fact that there have been at least 2 mystery novels set on board the boat, Lusitania – one by Conrad Allen (who seems to have written more boat based mysteries) and one by Max Allan Collins. They sounded quite interesting but I was wondering if anybody had read either of them and whether they would recommend them or not?

Top 5 Mysteries set on/ involving a Train

I know a few people will be surprised that I have not included Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on Train (1950). Whilst the initial premise of two people meeting on a train ultimately murdering for each other was interesting, I didn’t really enjoy the book as a whole.

  1. The Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie

An obvious choice I know, but it was one of the first Christie novels I read and it certainly Murder on the Orient Expresshooked me. The characters were engaging and I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere Christie creates within the confines of the train, which is trapped by snow. The unconventional execution of justice at the end also intrigued me in my early days of crime fiction reading.

2. The Wheel Spins (1936) by Ethel Lina White

The Wheel SpinsThis is another great read and I liked how the tension mounts as Iris Carr continually tries to prove, against a mounting wall of opposition, that she is not mad and that a woman on the train has vanished. The absurdity of her assertion is emphasised by the train location as many of the other passengers are baffled as to where a woman could disappear on a moving train.

3. Murder on Tour (1933) by Todd DowningMurder on Tour

Although the novel starts out in Mexico, the latter half of the story occurs on a train ride back across the border and adds an element of pressure onto US Customs Agent Rennert as he has to be able to identify the killer before the train gets to its destination. Another enjoyable read, which implies train journeys can be hazardous for your health (especially when there is a killer on board).

4. 4:50 from Paddington (1957) by Agatha Christie

450 from PaddingtonTrain journeys open this story and I liked the novelty of how Mrs. McGillicuddy witnessed the first murder. This story emphasises the anonymity trains can give would be murderers being  ‘full of strangers coming and going.’

 

5. The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) by Agatha Christie

I will admit I was struggling for a final candidate for this list but although this Christie The Mystery of the Blue Trainnovel is not one of my favourites, I still think it has a lot of recommend for itself. Death strikes again on a train and although the police think there is one obvious suspect, Poirot thinks suspicion could be cast on to several others. The final solution was satisfying and was definitely a surprise for me, re-interpreting evidence which seemingly damned others.

 Top 3 Mysteries where a plane plays an intrinsic role

  1. Wings Above Diamantina (1936) by Arthur Upfield

Wings Above DiamantinaI think my primary reason for selecting this as my first choice (combined with my overall enjoyment of the novel) was that I enjoyed the originality of using a plane to murder someone and make it look like an accident.

 

2. Death in the Clouds (1935) by Agatha Christie

Planes do not feature in many Christie novels (Destination Unknown (1954) is the only Death in the Cloudsother one I can think of at the moment), with boats and trains being preferred, but the criminal’s daring in this story is immense and this is another Christie novel where the murderer’s plan relies on human nature and assumptions.

3. Death of an Airman (1934) by Christopher St John Sprigg

DOA1Set at an aerodrome, planes certainly feature a lot in this murder mystery, with another plane crash used to murder someone in a manner which appears accidental. This was less of a surprise for me as due to the setting it was kind of expected. Although I did enjoy the finale where the amateur sleuth has to battle for their life in the air. But I suppose the reason for this novel taking only third place in my list is that there were other aspects of the novel that I didn’t enjoy, such as the negligible role of the amateur sleuth in the story.

Over To You

 

So there we have it. Hopefully you’ll have been reminded of some books you enjoyed and some you might want to try out. I’ll be interested to read any suggestions for other novels which could have been included, especially for the final category. Are there any detective novels which take place purely in an aeroplane?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
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22 Responses to Tuesday Night Bloggers: Holiday and Travelling Mysteries Top 5s

  1. JFW says:

    I’m glad that Christianna Brand’s ‘Tour De Force’ made it to the list of overseas vacation mysteries; it was the first title that came into my mind as I encountered the category. If you enjoyed Todd Downing’s novels, I would suggest checking out ‘Vultures in the Sky’. I recall feeling slightly ambivalent about the mystery, but it was certainly as tense and as atmospheric as ‘The Cat Screams’, with a handful of eccentric and furtive characters. Perhaps that could take the place of ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’? I was surprised to see ‘Death in the Tunnel’ did not make it, despite a strong rating from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the Downing recommendation. It’s been a few months since I have read anything by him, so it might be nice to give him another go. I think my main reason for not including Death in the Tunnel, is that the overall mystery and police investigation is strong, but the actual train element, although novel, was quite easy to figure out before the fictional sleuths do.

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  2. Brad says:

    Good Lord, Kate! You covered a lot! There goes my “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” post for next week!!!! 🙂

    I had a hard time getting into Vultures in the Sky – must try again someday – but I agree with JFW that it should probably displace BLUE TRAIN. You made Murder on Tour sound really interesting! So many people love Downing! And LOTS of others have praised that Farjeon title, so I need to add it to my TBR pile – oh wait, that pile has been declared an architectural hazard by my condo association! At any rate, I have this post to help me get me grow my list and get myself even deeper into reading trouble!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bet you wouldn’t believe this post only started out as two lists! But then it just kind of grew. Definitely seems like I missed out on a good post title though. I may have to hire you as my post title maker! Certainly seems like I need to read Vultures in the Sky, just wish there was a cheaper second hand copy. Glad you have found a couple of new books to try from the list. Adding to someone else’s TBR pile always makes you feel better about your own (though thankfully mine is not doing too badly atm).

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  3. JFW says:

    Forgot to mention: John Dickson Carr’s ‘Nine – and Death Makes Ten’ is meant to be set on a boat, and has received some positive reviews. It has just arrived in the post yesterday, so I’ll probably start on it sometime soon… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. dfordoom says:

    I regard Appointment with Death as being very underrated. I agree with you on the book’s psychological interest, but being Agatha Christie she gives us a fine story as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think most of my examples would be way too recent – like the only semi mystery (semi horror) story I can think of that takes place entirely on a plane is Stephen King’s novella The Langoliers.

    I’m not a huge fan of hers but one of Ngaio Marsh’s novels that I don’t mind is Singing in the Shrouds – one of the later Alleyn novels – takes place entirely on a boat called the Cape Farewell – it’s a sort of floating country house mystery from memory, quite fun.

    I know they’re the popular ones but I do adore both Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express – both of them inspired my dreams of globe trotting when I was a kid and I was very excited when I finally got to Egypt. Still saving up for an Orient Express trip of my own 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A great list – let’s try one for each category, trying not to repeat your choices

    Trip Abroad (sort of) : Bit stumped on this one (without echoing your choices). It’s more fun that great, but how about The Unicorn Mystery by Carter Dickson? It does have death by invisible unicorn in it…

    In Country Trip: How about Dead Man’s Quarry by Ianthe Jerrold? Or if you want a trip in the country that the sleuth lives in, The Siamese Twin Mystery by Ellery Queen.

    Train: Death In The Tunnel by Miles Burton. Actually a bit stretched to think of any great train mystery…

    Boats: Nine – And Ten Makes Death by Carter Dickson – a real favourite of mine. Love it to bits. A murder leaves his fingerprints at the scene of the crime. Only there are only ten people on the boat and the fingerprints don’t match anyone…

    Planes: Death Of An Airman by Christopher St John Sprigg. Loads of fun…

    Liked by 1 person

    • A mystery with an actual invisible unicorn? Now that does definitely sound like an unusual crime novel! And the Nine – And Ten Makes Death premise seems quite a sneaky one -either imagining a murderer with a severed hand in their bag or somebody clinging on to the side of the boat. I did consider Ianthe Jerrold’s novel, but it was hard limiting myself to just five UK holiday ones, as there are quite a number of good ones.

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      • Well… the victim is found with a unicorn horn sized hole in them. I forget why someone suggests it’s an invisible unicorn… it’s a lol a bit silly really (and not just the unicorn bit)

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  7. TomCat says:

    First of all, I have to update my blog-roll one of these days, because I keep forgotten certain blogs exists. Mea culpa!

    Secondly, I’m shocked, absolutely shocked I tell you, at some of the oversights on this list: Stuart Palmer wrote three holiday-themed mystery novels which involved travel by land, sea and air, but none of them made the list – such as the excellent The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree. It combines a seemingly impossible murder in an amphibious plane shuttling a group of holidayers to a sun-soaked island. Highly recommended!

    I would have also placed Gladys Mitchell’s Come Away, Death to the list of holiday mysteries abroad and a recent favorite of mine, Harriet Rutland’s Bleeding Hooks, to the column for the British isles.

    There are a number of shipboard mysteries that always seems to be overlooked: Frances and Richard Lockridge’s Voyage into Violence, Carter Dickson’s Nine-and Death Makes Ten, Q. Patrick’s S.S. Murder and W. Shepard Pleasants’ The Stingaree Murders, but the last one might prove to be unsettling reading experience to some modern readers.

    I would only add H.R.F. Keating’s Inspector Ghote Goes by Train and Herman Heijerman’s De moord in de trein (The Murder on the Train) to the list of train mysteries. There is also Points and Lines by Seicho Matsumoto, but that’s more of a time-table affair.

    Finally, the list of aircraft mysteries is very short and have only read one of the three novels mentioned on it, but rest assured, Wings Above Diamantina and Death of an Airman have been bumped my TBR-list – which I will try to get to before the end of the year. Anyway, I have two titles to add to the list of airplane mysteries: Lynton Blow’s The “Moth” Murder and C. Daly King’s Obelists Fly High.

    I hope these suggests will bloat your wish list/TBR pile!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well to be honest the reason why many of your suggestions aren’t included on my lists is because I haven’t read them and I don’t agree with including a book I haven’t read. Have actually read Come Away Death, but in terms of enjoyment and quality it didn’t make the cut. Likewise for Bleeding Hooks. I am interested in reading more Palmer novels but it is hard to come by cheap second hand copies (well it was the last time I looked). Ditto for Frances and Richard Lockridge books. Thanks for all your suggestions, hopefully I will get lucky in finding some reasonably priced copies.

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  8. I love the idea that this started out as a short list! You certainly covered the genre very well, I am busy taking notes and wondering what I will do for next week…Such a good theme.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well my initial idea was to have one list for holiday novels and one for transport themed/set novels, but it kind of grew. A positive result of the post is that I’ve been given quite a few recommendations for other books to try, not that I need any help making my TBR pile any bigger! I’m also enjoying this theme, gives more scope. I look forward to reading your next contribution.

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  9. Pingback: Tuesday Night Bloggers: The Singing Sands (1952) by Josephine Tey: Or What is Up with Inspector Grant? | crossexaminingcrime

  10. Pingback: Tuesday Night Bloggers: 11 (Quite) Interesting Ideas on Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (1934) | crossexaminingcrime

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