Melissa Craig – A modern-day Miss Marple

At the end of our month of introduction to our contemporary classics, it seemed appropriate to sign off the proceedings with a modern-day rendering of one of crime fiction’s most beloved amateur detectives.

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Betty Rowlands’ hugely popular Melissa Craig series has long been a favourite in the ‘cosy’ crime subgenre. In case you’re not familiar with the term, it is, as it sounds, a more gentle form of exploration of the darker side of the human psyche; less bloody, but equally suspenseful, and Betty is a true mistress of the art of genteel murder. In The Murder Room you can find all twelve of her Melissa Craig mysteries. Of her heroine, Betty says:

‘People often ask me if Melissa is my alter ego, and I have to admit that we have quite a lot in common. Like me, when she was in her forties she moved from London into the country. Her Gloucestershire village is similar to the one I lived in for over thirty years, and like me she soon became actively involved in village life. Also, she is a crime writer, although why this should be so I shall never be able to explain.

‘My agent suggested that I try my hand at a whodunit; when I sat down to write A Little Gentle Sleuthing, Melissa just seemed to walk into my head, complete with her past history, her problems, her strengths and weaknesses, her son Simon, her eccentric neighbour Iris Ash and agent Joe Martin. DCI Ken Harris, who features in many of the titles in the series, appeared on the scene a little later.

‘Like Kipling’s elephant’s child, we both have an insatiable curiosity, although I’m thankful that I’ve never been in the kind of scary situations in which Melissa finds herself. Her nerves are much stronger than mine; just writing the description of that hair-raising crawl along a narrow ledge overlooking a deep gorge in Over the Edge gave me goose bumps!’

You can find the entire Melissa Craig series here