Who doesn’t love a bargain? And who wouldn’t love to get their hands on a great crime novel absolutely FREE? The trouble is, the most of the real crackers are still in copyright. However, with a little judicious hunting you can find plenty of fantastic old crime novels to download digitally, and legitimately, to your device. Many can be found at Project Gutenberg and more still on trusty old Amazon. Here are five of the best classics I managed to uncover…
Huntingtower by John Buchan
He’s best known for that ever-popular classic The Thirty-Nine Steps, but John Buchan’s Huntingtower is well worth a look. Written in the early 1920s, it has as its hero a retired Scottish grocer with the wonderful name of Dickson McCunn. Dickson is at a loose end after giving up the grocery business, but the seemingly mild-mannered former shopkeeper shows a steely side when he comes up against a band of dastardly kidnappers who are holding a woman against her will at Huntingtower. Add into the mix a gang of spirited Glasgow youngsters called the Gorbals Diehards, who just happen to be camping nearby and are called upon to help in the rescue, and you’ve got all the makings of a great tale of derring do. McCunn and members of the Diehards returned for two further books, although neither appear on the free list, I’m afraid.
Download it from Amazon or from Feedbooks
The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
As a teenager, I was a huge fan of the Father Brown stories, and so I was delighted to discover that Chesterton’s very first collection of short stories featuring the intuitive priest is offered as a freebie. The Innocence of Father Brown is an anthology of 12 stories and was first published in 1911. For the initiated, Father Brown is described as a short and stumpy Catholic priest (so why Mark Williams was called upon to play him in the most recent TV series is a mystery). Priest or no, he certainly seems to have the inside track on human evil, and he is adept at solving a convoluted mystery – a bit like Miss Marple in a cassock. In all, he featured in 51 short stories by Chesterton, an author who has been cited as an influence by such diverse modern-day writers as Neil Gaiman and Jorge Luis Borges.
Download it here
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
I was amazed to find a book by the grand duchess of crime on the frees list. This is her first novel, and introduces the indomitable Hercule Poirot, so it is a double bubble for classic crime fans. Set in Styles Court, a country house in Essex, Christie wrote the book in the middle of the First World War and it was published in 1920. As well as Poirot, it also features Inspector Japp and Arthur Hasting. It is the latter who acts as narrator for the tale of murder in an isolated country manor, a setting which would serve Agatha Christie very well in the ensuing years. It might be her debut novel, but Christie is in top form and keeps the reader guessing right to the end.
Download it here
The Clue of the Twisted Candle by Edgar Wallace
Prolific British journalist, playwright and author Edgar Wallace published 175 novels, many of them in the crime genre. He’s had more films made of his books than any other author and in the 1920s one of Wallace’s publishers claimed that a quarter of all books read in Britain were written by him. Gulp! The Clue of the Twisted Candle was published in 1917 and is an ingenious tale featuring the deductive skills of Assistant Commissioner of Police TX Meredith, who is called upon to solve the mystery of a man murdered inside a securely locked room. There are plenty of twists and turns before the conundrum is solved.
Download it here or here
Mr Justice Raffles by EW Hornung
Back in the 1970s, I used to love the Raffles TV series featuring Anthony Valentine in the title role. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read any of the books, but now I’ve downloaded by free copy of Mr Justice Raffles I’ve no excuse. Raffles is a gentleman thief with a great love of cricket, and he featured in a series of short stories which were first printed in Cassell’s Magazine and later collected into anthologies and published in book form. There were four full length Raffles novels and the last of them was Mr Justice Raffles, published in 1909. In it, we meet a Raffles who is becoming increasingly disenchanted with the mores of high society, and he sets out to teach a lesson to an unscrupulous moneylender who is preying on young upper class men by offering them loans and subsequently charging them huge amounts of interest – wonder where Wonga got its business plan from?
Download it here
For five more free classic crime novels that are available, see our earlier article on the topic which includes one by AA Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh.