Cyril Hare was also one of my favorites and I still have copies of all his books. In the last two weeks, I have re-read two of Cyril Hare's mysteries: An English Murder and With a Bare Bodkin.
Brief biography of Cyril Hare at Fantastic Fiction:
Cyril Hare was the pseudonym of Judge Gordon Clark. Born at Mickleham near Dorking in 1900, he was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. At the bar his practice was largely in the criminal courts. During the Second World War he was on the staff of the Director of Public Prosecutions; but later, as a County Court judge, his work concerned civil disputes only - and his sole connection with crime was through his fiction. He turned to writing detective stories at the age of thirty-six and some of his first short stories were published in Punch. Hare went on to write a series of detective novels. He died in 1958.Several of Hare's books (there were only nine mystery novels and some collections of short stories), center around interests or areas where Hare had experience: the law, his work for the government during World War II, music, history. For example, When the Wind Blows (or as The Wind Blows Death in the UK) is about the murder of a member of the Markhampton Orchestral Society.
An English Murder is the only mystery novel by Hare which did not feature either Inspector Mallet or Francis Pettigrew. The setting is a country house, Warbeck Hall, and the mystery features the elements of country house mysteries that I enjoy. Class differences are explored. The servants are important characters (in this case there is only one servant and the Hall is in ill-repair due to lack of funds).
I liked this summary at Olman's Fifty:
An excellent, tight little mystery. I enjoyed it on many levels. The pacing and writing are excellent. The dialogue of the butler is particularly enjoyable. The mystery itself is actually solvable by the reader, not easily but in the sense that the author doesn't try to trick or misdirect you. I like to be part of the process when I read a classic murder mystery and I certainly felt that way. I didn't entirely figure it out, though, so the mystery was interesting right up until the end. Finally, it is all wrapped around history and the fading of the British aristocracy in a way that gives it depth. Highly recommended.
The Cozy Mystery List blog has a nice review here, which actually pointed me to this book as one I would like to re-read.
I don't know that my sampling represents the best of Cyril Hare's mysteries. Some fans prefer others. The first three novels star only Inspector Mallet. Suicide Excepted gets high praise, but many critics felt the mysteries improved with the addition of Pettigrew. As William L. DeAndrea puts it in Encyclopedia Mysteriosa:
With the start of the Pettigrew series, Hare's work reflected more of his legal background and contained greater depth of characterization.Here is a list by date published, indicating the series characters involved:
Tenant for Death (1937) [Inspector Mallet]
Death Is No Sportsman (1938) [Inspector Mallet]
Suicide Excepted (1939) [Inspector Mallet]
Tragedy at Law (1942) [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]
With a Bare Bodkin (1946) [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]
The Wind Blows Death
(aka When the Wind Blows, 1949) [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]
An English Murder (aka The Christmas Murder, 1951)
Death Walks the Woods (aka That Yew Tree’s Shade, 1954) [Francis Pettigrew]
(aka He Should Have Died Hereafter, 1958) [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]