It’s a good time to be a fan of classic literature. We’re seeing many of our favorite classics, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to Jane Austen, turn into television shows, movies, and even podcasts. What’s even better is that when these classics are no longer covered by copyright, authors take these beloved worlds and characters and create new stories with them.
And for folks who love murder mysteries, some authors have taken the works of classic writers like Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and Mary Shelley and turned them into murder mysteries.
Focusing on classics of Western literature, which will be defined as books published before 1928, here are seven reimagined classics with a touch of murder. Note that while some authors have created mysteries with several classics, we will only share one book per author for the scope of this piece.
If you fell in love with Feste the clown from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, here’s the start of a fun eight-book series called The Fool’s Guild.
Feste may play the fool, but that’s part of what makes him so effective as an agent of the Fool’s Guild, a secret organization that works to influence geopolitics in Europe, including preventing wars. But the past comes back for Feste with the murder of Duke Orsino. Did his old enemy, Malvolio, an agent of Saladin, come back for revenge? Feste must investigate while also finding himself falling for the newly widowed Viola. Can he stop the plot before falling victim to the conspiracy?
The Killing Way
Here’s another mystery based in the Middle Ages with Arthurian drama. This is just before Arthur becomes King. When Merlin is accused of killing and mutilating a woman, Arthur must protect him from certain death. The accusation also puts Arthur’s ascension to the throne at risk. Arthur turns to Malgwyn, a man whom Arthur saved from the battlefield but he detests Arthur. He lost everything thanks to the Saxons, including his wife. But Malgwyn is determined to find out what happened to the woman, who happens to be his sister-in-law. It’s the first of three books and one novella in the Arthurian Mystery series.
An Ancient Evil
Yes, it’s Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales…with murder and ghosts! Pilgrims have gathered at an inn and have decided to tell spooky stories. The Knight’s Tale is about an evil cult that is taken out…so they thought. But when grisly murders are happening in Oxford, Sir Godfrey Evesden and his clerk, Alexander, team up with Dame Edith, a blind religious woman, to get to the bottom of these dastardly deeds. Plus, there’s something otherworldly going on.
There are seven books in Stories Told on Pilgrimages from London to Canterbury Series.
Pride and Premeditation
While there are a lot of books set in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (and incidentally a zombie book), this one has a fun twist to it. Lizzie Bennet is 16 years old and wants to be a solicitor. But she has to convince her father that she should be able to join the firm. When she learns that Mr. Bingley is accused of murder, she sets out on the case. However, that means butting heads with his lawyer, Mr. Darcy. Can she prove Mr. Bingley’s innocence and convince her father that the law is her future? It’s the first in the three-book Jane Austen Murder Mystery Series.
A Study in Scarlet Women
Like Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes is another series that authors like to play with. Plus it helps that there are mysteries already worked into it. In the first of the eight book and one novella Lady Sherlock series, Charlotte was not content with the roles that society had open to her. She decided to pull a stunt to reduce her marriage prospects, but it worked too well. Now she’s found herself bereft of her family and friends. But when her family is accused of murder, she decides she must investigate, embarking on her career as a consulting detective.
The Frankenstein Murders
It’s Frankenstein plus detective story and thriller! Detective Edward Freame is on a quest to catch a child killer and strangler. But all he has is the writings of a scientist named Victor Frankenstein to help him guide the way. Frame decides that the only strategy is to follow Frankenstein’s steps through Europe, hoping to find the monster behind these deaths. Can he find it and bring the killer to justice?
Death of a Schoolgirl
Reader, she married him and had a son…Yes, it’s Jane Eyre with more mystery! She’s got an infant son with Rochester and enjoying her new life. But when she gets a letter from her ward and pupil, Jane feels compelled to journey to the boarding school where her pupil lives. But through a series of unfortunate events, Jane shows up, worse for wear, and no one believes she could be Rochester’s wife. The headmistress thinks she’s a new teacher and presses her into service. She arrives just as her ward’s roommate’s body is carried away and the authorities think that her ward may be responsible. Now Jane has to investigate and find out what is going on at this boarding school. It’s the first in three books of The Jane Eyre Chronicles Series.