Mysteries for me were always the common ground I found with my mother. In a relationship not always easy they were the one subject where we could declare a truce. We'd share Ngaio Marsh books and discuss the correct pronunciation. We'd debate whether The Nine Tailors or Gaudy Night was the best book by Dorothy L. Sayers. I was definitely in the Nine Tailors camp, having developed a crush on Lord Peter and therefore hating that tramp, Harriet Vane. My mother, hearing this, declared Harriet to be her favorite.
We read Michael Innes together, and laughed, and felt quietly superior for understanding some of the literary references, and we agreed Josephine Tey was probably the best of them, though once again we disagreed on which was her masterpiece, my mother plumping for The Franchise Affair and therefore I passionately arguing that The Daughter of Time was Tey's best (while secretly agreeing with my mother that The Franchise Affair has no equal - I still think that).
My mother introduced me to Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret and the austere post-war Paris, and the brasseries where they ate endless sandwiches and drank beer. My love of Maigret has informed my own writing, and in the first draft of STILL
But no one has influenced me more than the very first mystery author my mother pressed into my hand. Agatha Christie. From that moment a life-long love affair has flowed. I am almost without critical faculties when I read a Christie, though I know in my head some are better than others. Indeed, I know some are so awful as to defy reason. But others are fabulous.
And I don't care which I read. I honestly don't. Great Christies, dreadful ones. They're all much the same because I no longer read them for the story. They serve another, more intimate, purpose. I read and re-read them today when I'm ill, or stressed, or the world has been meaner than I would have liked. Or I've been meaner.
I crawl into bed with a vat of Gummi bears, a Diet Pepsi and an Agatha Christie. And as I read my mother comes to me. Not the mother I remember arguing with - but the mother who would laugh, and debate and discuss these books. Who'd visit used bookstores with me and spend hours finding old, dusty treasures. And the mother who died just before my own first mystery was published. A traditional mystery, inspired by the books she loved, and gave to me.
What are the books and writers that you shared with your mother?