Our Tuesday Night group of fiction fans has chosen schools & academia as our theme for June.
Thanks to Bev, as ever, for the excellent logo. She has also kindly offered to collect the links for the various pieces.
If anyone wants to join in, just send a link to one of us or post it in the comments below.
Academic mysteries have always been a favourite of mine: nothing perks up my interest like discovering the setting is a school or college or university. I decided to have a quick look to see how many school mysteries I’d covered on the blog, and the result was overwhelming, surprising even me. (And this was just school, no further education…)
I even did a list of favourite books set in schools with my friend Chrissie Poulson – we chose almost the same books – although that included novels as well as murder stories.
So I’ve decided to devote this week just to murder stories set in schools, an tried to limit myself to comments on my favourites. Links are to blog posts where applicable.
Best Murder Stories Set in Schools
‘You did it!’ ‘No, you!’
Edmund Crispin Love Lies Bleeding – the usual fun farrago featuring Gervase Fen and a death in the lab. Boys’ and girls’ school next to each other, and a joint production of a Shakespeare play.
Key to place on list: the headmistress describes a pupil’s family as
‘worldly. The parents are of the expensive, cocktail-party-and-chromium kind.'
As I said before:Wouldn’t you love it if the headteacher of your children’s school described you that way? Worldly. I wish.
The Secret Place by Tana French Bang uptodate with this 2014 book, taking its place among those stately old GA schools. Again, boys’ school next to girls’ school. I found this book close to unputdownable, and thought French did an amazing job of taking us into the world of the girls.
Key to place on the list: The set up where the girls can put anonymous ‘notes on anything’ on a public noticeboard – this leads to a new investigation into a murder. Great for plot purposes, but a really terrible idea in a school.
Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie The school is Meadowbank and it sounds lovely, apart from all the murders. The girls have their own rooms, and play tennis, and go up to London for cultural events.
Key to place on the list: Funny, engrossing, clever and wide-ranging. One of my favourite Christies. Matron disapproves of push-up bras.
The Night of the Twelfth by Michael Gilbert A lovely safe book set in a boys’ prep school in the 1970s. Except it seems that way, then turns into something darker. It is terrifying and brilliant. It gave me nightmares.
Key to place on the list: Can’t say without spoilering, but a realization as you finish it of the audacious placing of an idea…
The Clue in the Castle by Joyce Bevins Webb – aka the book that only I have read. It is what we would now call a YA novel, but also a good honest crime story, with deaths, alibis, clues and general trouble. It is one of my favourite books of all time, and has a plot that defies description.
Key to place on the list: Too many features to mention.My blogpost on it has a list of about 16 major items of joy.
Little Lies by Liane Moriarty Fabulous modern Australian author, who does achingly funny and clever pictures of modern life, with some kind of secret and death hidden in plain sight. This one is such an accurate picture of school mothers, and the PTA, and the fund-raiser that is going to end in something terrible…
Key to place on the list: casual gems on every page about the minutiae of life. And a good crime plot too.
Through a Glass Darkly by Helen McCloy Death of a teacher at very upmarket girls’s school in New England. Even better, it happens at a teaparty for staff, parents and trustees, and the victim is wearing a bright orange housecoat. This is a very sinister and unsettling book, about doubles and doppelgangers, but with a solid detective structure too.
Key to place on the list: At the school they are performing a Greek play, in Greek, with authentic costumes. There’s the school for our daughters.
The Ingenious Mr Stone by Robert Player Another of my obscure favourites, though through crime fiction blogging I have met other readers! The first part of this multiple-viewpoint book comes takes place in a girls’ school on the south coast of England, one with a very fancy chapel and something valuable… It is a superb book, very very clever and witty, and one that keeps turning your perceptions round.
Key to place on the list: intriguing staff list, from the hopeless bursar, via the very worrying headmistress, to the brave teacher who comes to the rescue.
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson The wonderful Dandy is a very upmarket 1920s detective, and in this book she goes to investigate dubious goings-on at a girls’ school in Scotland.
Key to place on the list: Dandy is a narrator to relish, and the girls’ uniform features a lot of yellow.
There are at least another half-dozen school mysteries on the blog.
These are arranged randomly, I didn’t want to give an order of preference. But I was willing to at least try to be decisive in one area:
The school I would most want to have attended
I'm still ready to read more school mysteries – I am hoping readers might have some good ones to add in the comments…