Let’s face it. We either love winter or we hate it. (Or we live in more reasonable latitudes and winter never even comes knocking.) Come snow season, some of us take out all of our gear, saddle up with highly water-resistant shoes and go prancing around the snowscape like overeager labradoodles.
Others, though—we hate winter with all we’ve got. We hate the wetness and the darkness and the cold, and we love nothing more than to bask in the sun like lizards (it’s going to be one of those zoo posts, I can already tell), and hide from winter in our little lairs and under our fluffy blankets.
And then, come summer… we get so bored with the beautiful weather that we have to seek escape in the best of the best—detective stories set in the middle of winter. More precisely, in snowed-in country houses. (Honestly, I’m drooling just by talking about it.)
So here are just a few snowed-in stories—of the criminal, not romantic kind—for your reading pleasure, in case you, like me, subscribe to the whole idea.
Shari Lapena was such a welcome surprise for me a while ago, after I’d already almost given up on contemporary detective/murder mysteries altogether (because I don’t have the stomach for current trends). An Unwanted Guest takes has all the elements—a snowed-in inn, a closed room case (which is what I’ve been calling the situation—where you know one of the characters from a limited cast has done it—ever since I’ve been a kid, and never bothered to google and see whether my nomenclature is an isolated case or not), a grand staircase, cut-off power… all of it. Just writing about it makes me want to have a go at reading it again, which is actually manageable because I always seem to forget who the killer was, with books like these. (And her other novels are no less wonderful!)
It comes with my warmest recommendations. Ahem.
Come on, you knew this was coming. I actually remember the first time I went through the story—and the feeling I had, which was wow. No matter how hard I try, though, I can’t recall whether it was a literary or a television version. It’s not the only snowed-in mystery from the grande dame herself, nor the only isolated one—And Then There Were None ranks pretty high (and the recent TV version written by Sarah Phelps was beautiful)—but it’s the one I think of when I think remote and murderous. A splendid read/watch. (And the longest-running West End show, but you already knew that.)
Maybe a little less known author (as of yet! ha) from the list, and quite probably the youngest (I’m not going to google Shari Lapena’s age because it’s not my business, but Agatha Christie’s been dead for a while, so at least there’s that), Gregory Ashe writes what people call “gay fiction”, and I just call “one of my favourite book series of all time.” To avoid sounding like a broken record, I’m just going to say that you’d be better off starting with book one, Pretty Pretty Boys (and not just because it has a stronger story), but Transposition is “the winter one”. And the wet one. And the very much snowed-in one. And the one with one of the hottest scenes in the whole series, so there’s that…
In this novel, the first of a pretty good series about a female priest and her sheriff friend (both of whom are actual adult people—this series was a lot of fun), it’s not a country house which has been snowed-in—it’s the whole county. I’ve read it a while ago, so I don’t remember the exact details of the crime, but I remember the feeling of being stuck in the snow, unsure who was coming for you—the saviour or the murderer. Recommended for the characters and great worldbuilding details. (I just love remote and small town locations in fiction!)
(And I do admit to singling out the novel’s title online because, well, Peaky Blinders screws you up for life.)
Another series starter, and one which recently got a sexy cover makeover. The novel surprised me in a good way with a lot of things; I had no chances of guessing the culprit (I guess I remember it to this day because it was so out there—and awesome), the details of everyday life in a place as remote from my own day-to-day as it gets—remote Alaska—and with the fact that the detective herself is an Aleut, local to the community and the area. I’m looking forward to reading on through the series when I cycle back to it, and not just because it had a pretty promising baby ship.
I read it—unsurprisingly—in the middle of effin summer.
To wrap this—short, but more than lovely—list up, why aren’t “rained-in” mysteries a thing? It would make a lot more sense for where I live…
If you’re looking for more mystery recommendations, follow me on Goodreads to see what coldhearted murder I’ve been up to!
If you love snowed-in mysteries as much as I do, you might want to check out my glittery, gay, over-the-top murder mystery novella Freddie and Ivan Go Ice Skating Together, which takes place in late, alternative 1945, at a remote winter resort surrounded by enough snow to melt your cold bitter heart.