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I am a teacher of middle school Language Arts. Every year I do a detective fiction unit for which each student chooses his/her own book to read. My #1 recommendation is always Agatha Christie, as I have read them all and most of them follow the very predictable pattern that is necessary to complete all the of the assignments in the unit of study. I've had problems with others: Nancy Drew/ Hardy Boys don't reliably follow the pattern; Dorothy Sayers's use of dialect is tricky for my students; some of Doyle's work, others don't. Can anyone recommend other authors and/or books that might also be suitable for this project? The books must be appropriate for 12-year-olds and need to be quite formulaic - sleuth, two or three crimes, at least a couple suspects, legitimate clues as well as red herrings, a big reveal at the end, etc. I would really appreciate any recommendations!

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Skulduggery Pleasant perhaps, the dead detective. I haven't actually read any of the series but someone I follow on YouTube raves about them.

The autistic boy in The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time has to do a bit of detective work. That's a good book and not particularly difficult to read.

Father Brown is like a religious Sherlock Holmes. It's about as far away from real crime as it is possible to get.

Edited by KEV67
Apparantly full of wizards, vampires, little girl side kicks and so on.

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I think what you are looking for is a structure that became most prevalent during the "Golden Age" of detective fiction. I would suspect that more recent detective writers have left this formula behind *.  I'd therefore agree with Little Pixie about Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham.  I've recently tried the latter (The Crime at Black Dudley, the first Albert Campion book) and actually criticised it for being so formulaic!!  I'd also suggest looking at the British Library Crime Classics series - I've tried a couple and they are all very much of a time and, I suspect, type.  Most recently, Murder in White (J Jefferson Farjeon) might, I think, fit the bill (TBH, I'm not enamoured with the genre, but I think they might fit the need).  There's also a number of short story collections, which might help accessibility?

Aside from these, a couple of other names that might be worth looking at: John Dickson Carr, who is best known for his 'locked room' mysteries, and Ellery Queen (actually a pseudonym for the combined efforts of two cousins), perhaps the best known American equivalent of the Golden Age writers.


Overall though, I don't think you can do much better than Agatha Christie. She's always been massively popular and has remained so for a very good reason!  I do know that my son absolutely loved these books as an 11-14 year old, and built up an almost complete collection.


* Later edit:  Actually, the recent spate of 'Cozy Crime' stories, such as MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin series might meet the bill.  I dislike them intensely, so am probably not the best person to comment, but from the ones I've tried, I think they might fit the formula you are looking for.  They are also from what I remember likely to be very approachable for your age group.

Edited by willoyd

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