(This post will be updated from time to time to take account of new things I find – last updated 5/11/2020)
Given that it seems that many of us will be hunkering down for a little and some of us will be working on a tight budget, I thought that it might be helpful to share some links to some free sources of entertainment for fans of crime and mystery fiction to help pass the time.
Many crime fiction fans will be used to getting some of their fix at their local library. While the buildings may be closed (and if they’re not they probably should), many offer digital resources such as ebooks and electronic audiobooks.
If that’s not a option though there are some other resources you can use to find free ebooks and audiobooks…
Project Gutenberg is a long-running effort to digitize and make available public domain books. Volunteers help digitize, proofread and format the works in their collection which continues to grow (a great way to pass some time in itself).
What’s available in the public domain? Well, basically anything written before 1925 and some works from before 1964 that were not renewed. In practice that means you have most Sherlock Holmes, some of the earliest Christies, Chesterton, R. Austin Freeman and plenty more including some much more obscure works. You can see the public domain books I have reviewed here.
One of my blog goals for the next few months will be to read and discuss more public domain work. That began with Review #301 – Anna K. Green’s The Leavenworth Case. If you want to read a copy for yourself you can find a free digital copy here.
If you are okay paying a monthly or annual fee, the Kindle Unlimited or Scribd services may be options for you. Both have some classic crime content but if you were to plump for just one I find Scribd to have the more varied collection (as well as audio content), at least here in the US. If you are a Gladys Mitchell fan however Kindle Unlimited is definitely the service for you as it seems to be all the service ever recommends to me…
Librivox is a volunteer-driven effort to record free audiobooks of works of fiction in the public domain (they also use the US dates so it is that same date of works before 1925). There are currently 395 works marked as Crime and Mystery fiction including some classic and lesser-known novels and short-stories. None of my own efforts really fall into the genre but if you want to check them out they are available here.
For those well-stocked with books but looking for other free crime-themed entertainment, I have a few other options for you to look at…
IMDB has their TV service that may be available for you through Amazon channels or Smart TV. If you don’t have either though you can still access it on their website. Check it out for free access to crime movies and shows like Midsomer Murders, Leverage and Columbo. I am posting reviews of each first season episode on Saturdays over the next few months so feel free to watch along and discuss. Whether you’re watching for the first time (like me) or a seasoned fan, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Updated 5/11/20: Fans of radio drama may enjoy the radio production of Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgeware Dies or the excellent adaptation of A Murder is Announced (the excellent cast includes Ian Lavender, Graham Crowden, Jamie Glover and Judy Cornwell) which are currently playing on BBC Sounds and available worldwide. They are also currently playing the second series of Father Brown radio plays. They also are offering readings of Gore Vidal’s Death in the Fifth Position and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four.
There are also a wealth of free crime-themed podcasts (and not just of the true crime variety). Shedunnit is a superb podcast that looks at classic detective stories. The latest episode is a discussion of the Harriet Vane and Lord Peter relationship and the show presents a good mix of authors and characters to focus on as well as some great guests including Clothes in Books’ Moira.
Updated 4/ 22/20: Other podcasts I regularly listen to include All About Agatha, Just One More Thing: A Podcast About Columbo and I have contributed to an episode of JJ’s new podcast, In GAD We Trust.
Added 3/28/2020: Poisoned Pen Press are hosting a series of free virtual author events in April on Facebook Live. Writers include Dean Koontz, Cara Black and John Sandford. Check their website for a full schedule.
There is not much better than a good puzzle to help pass the time and keep the mind active. Thankfully Kate at CrossExaminingCrime has a wonderful section of quizzes on her blog you can try your hand at, not to mention several free crime-themed puzzles.
Added 3/27/2020: Also Kate created a Golden Age mystery quiz that I competed in along with a group of other bloggers. See if you can answer the questions and beat us here.
Incidentally, if you enjoy these puzzles you may want to order a copy of one of Kate’s collections of brainteasers based on classic crime novels. The Pocket Detective and The Pocket Detective 2 each offer more than 100 puzzles, many of which can be solved even if you don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the British Library Crime Classics novels.
Definitely an entertaining way to pass an afternoon or two and while a trip to the bookstore may not be a great idea right now, your local independent bookstore may offer delivery or curbside pickup. It is worth checking with them to see – they could really use your support right now.
Hopefully there are a few ideas above that you either weren’t aware of or had forgotten about. I hope that you and your families are able to stay safe, healthy and financially secure in the weeks ahead.