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Episode 3: The Importance of Detective Fiction

In this conversation, Angelina and Cindy talk all things related to the detective novel. Why do we love detective fiction so much? What are the qualities of a good detective novel? What is the history of detective fiction, and how did World War I bring about the Golden Age of the genre? Angelina and Cindy answer all these questions and more. Be sure to scroll down for links to all the books and authors mentioned in this episode!

Listen to The Lit Life:

The Listeners

by Walter de la Mare

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,   
   Knocking on the moonlit door; 
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses   
   Of the forest’s ferny floor: 
And a bird flew up out of the turret,   
   Above the Traveller’s head: 
And he smote upon the door again a second time;   
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said. 
But no one descended to the Traveller;   
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill 
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,   
   Where he stood perplexed and still. 
But only a host of phantom listeners   
   That dwelt in the lone house then 
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight   
   To that voice from the world of men: 
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,   
   That goes down to the empty hall, 
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken   
   By the lonely Traveller’s call. 
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,   
   Their stillness answering his cry, 
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,   
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky; 
For he suddenly smote on the door, even   
   Louder, and lifted his head:— 
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,   
   That I kept my word,’ he said. 
Never the least stir made the listeners,   
   Though every word he spake 
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house   
   From the one man left awake: 
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,   
   And the sound of iron on stone, 
And how the silence surged softly backward,   
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Book List:

The World’s Last Night and Lilies That Fester by C.S. Lewis 

The Five Red Herrings,Murder Must Advertise, and Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers 

Nancy Drew #45: The Spider Sapphire Mystery by Carolyn Keene 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

The Footsteps at the Lock by Ronald Knox

Multiple novels by Agatha Christie 

Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe 

The Moonstone and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Albert Campion series by Margery Allingham

The Roderick Alleyn series by Ngaio Marsh

The Flavia de Luce series by Allen Bradley

The Inspector Appleby Mystery series by Michael Innes 

The Daughter of Time and Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey 

Murder Fantastical by Patricia Moyes

The Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Multiple novels by Alexander McCall Smith

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie King

The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters

The Adam Dalgliesh Series by P.D. James 

Connect with Us:

Find Angelina at and on Facebook at

Find Cindy at and on Facebook at

Jump into our private Facebook group, The Literary Life Discussion Group, and let’s get the book talk going!

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  • Cindy Rollins

    1. Oxford Book of English Verse, Arthur Quiller-Couch
2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
3. The Father Brown Stories, G.K. Chesterton
4. Witch Wood, John Buchan
5. The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot
6. The Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis
7. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
8. The Four Men, Hilaire Belloc
9. Penhally, Caroline Gordon
10. Collected Stories, William Faulkner
11. The Wizzard of Oz, L.Frank Baum
12. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
13. Scaramouche, Rafael Sabatini
14. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
15. Kristen Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset
16. Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy
17. The Velvet Horn, Andrew Lytle
18. The Footsteps at the Lock, Ronald Knox
19. The Weekend Wodehouse, P.G. Wodehouse
20. Falling, Colin Thubron
21. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingles Wilder
22. The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
23. Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
24. Possession, A.S. Byatt
25. At Home in Mitford, Jan Karon

  • Amy H.

    Really enjoying these episodes! In a future episode, can you say more about Commonplace books? Are they just for cool quotes you run across while reading? Do you log all your reading in them, even if you don’t quote it? Do you do any personal journaling/reflections in them? Do you index them at all, if not, how do you find a quote you copied? Very intrigued!! Thank you!

  • Katie

    I have to confess I listened to this mostly because I was intrigued as to why anyone would think that detective novels were important. I stand thoroughly corrected!

    I narrated the podcast to my husband when we were on a car journey with our children, and of course he wanted to listen too after that. My children didn’t appear to take any notice, but the next day, I spotted my 9 y.o. walking around with an Encyclopedia Brown book, and he asked me at bedtime to re-read some Father Brown stories. I’d not read any of Sayers’ work before, so this has been a good introduction for me.

  • Katie C

    Neither one of you mentioned the Father Brown Series by GK Chesterton. They were written from 1910-1936, so they fit into the time frame of post ww1 detective stories that you were talking about. Were they not mentioned by accident or are they not some of your favorites?

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