4 June 2024

Themes of
John Creasey’s Books

There are many recurring themes and features in John Creasey’s novels, including:

Gentleman Detectives

Some of Creasey’s best known heroes are gentleman detectives. They live in the glamourous parts of London and hobnob with upper echelons of society. However, Creasey’s upper class protagonists are just as at home amongst the working classes in the East End as they are in the gentlemen’s clubs of Mayfair. These amateur sleuths often work with the authorities but are not averse to breaking the rules from time to time, and frankly they rather enjoy it. They solve a range of mysteries from the classic Golden Age locked-room mysteries to larger international crime conspiracies.

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Police Procedural

A number of Creasey’s heroes are Scotland Yard detectives. Having often featured alongside the gentleman detectives, the author decided to promote some into their own leading role. They tend to be highly moral, respectable, and kind men equipped with quick wit and a loyal team of men working for them. Whilst their detective work tends to be situated in London, they often find themselves solving cases on a larger scale with higher-stakes and sometimes further afield.

Try reading:

  • Gideon series
  • Inspector Roger West series
  • Dr Emmanuel Cellini series
  • Patrick Dawlish series
  • Inspector Folly series


Creasey also created spy stories and a number of elite spy heroes, often working as part of an international espionage agency. These stories weave together high-stakes political and international threats with thrilling action. 

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Gothic Mysteries

Many of Creasey’s crime mysteries have a gothic feeling to them, filled with tension and suspense and set in gloomy ominous locations. Sometimes there are even allusions to the supernatural.

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Science Fiction

Many of Creasey’s novels explore science fiction elements, from futuristic technologies, to apocalyptic dystopias, and even alien invasions. Often Creasey interweaves the reality of rapidly changing times and the instability of society, with science fiction so that what is real and what is imagined becomes blurred.

Try reading:

  • Dr Palfrey series – The Flood, The Famine, The Unbegotten
  • Seven Times Seven
  • Death by Night (Department Z series)


Often there are thriller elements to Creasey’s writing, especially in his espionage and adventure writing. The stories are high tension and action packed. His thriller mystery novels tend to be more tense and suspense-filled.

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Creasey was fascinated and actively involved in politics, and this is evident in his writing. His work, spanning decades, reflects the changing state of turbulent British politics over this period. Sometimes his protagonists even get caught up in British politics.

Try reading:

  • Gideon’s Vote
  • Gideon’s Sport
  • Vote for the Toff
  • Dr Palfrey series


Many of Creasey’s novels are set in London, from the glamourous London ‘Clubland’ to the grittier East End. We visit elite homes of aristocrats, corridors of government, boisterous boozers, and grimy alleyways.

Try reading:

  • Gideon series
  • The Toff series
  • Inspector West series
  • Sabotage (Department Z)
  • The Withered Man (Murdoch)


As war raged in Europe, so too did it rage in Creasey’s novels. Many of his heroes go to war or fight the crimes and conspiracies of Nazis and Communists. Some of his protagonists venture behind enemy lines, occasionally undercover. We witness London during the Blitz and Europe torn apart by conflict.

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International Crime

Many of the villains in Creasey novels are part of international crime rings or conspiracies, sometimes led by a dangerous madman intent on taking over, or destroying, the world. This crime varies from the fantastic and absurd, to the more realistic such as American mobsters, drug gangs, blackmailers, thieves etc.

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Family Values and Domesticity

Most of Creasey’s male heroes are devoted family men, with beloved wives and families at home. Whilst women find them attractive, they are more interested in solving mysteries and defeating villains than seducing women. Often whilst out fighting crime, the heroes simultaneously have dramas going on at home, whether it be badly behaved children, wives expecting their husband to be more present and helpful, and occasionally tragedy and heartbreak.

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Strong Women

Creasey tended to focus on male protagonists but often introduced strong women into the mix. He included modern, free thinking and strong-minded women into many of his stories. Interestingly, he also wasn’t focused on the traditional ‘beautiful’ heroines who exist in the story solely to be put in jeopardy but rather women with skills, elusive qualities and charms.

Try reading:

  • Bruce Murdoch series, featuring Mary Dell
  • The Toff and the Fallen Angels, featuring Angela, the Toff’s niece
  • Inspector West series, featuring Janet West
  • Patrick Dawlish series, featuring Felicity Dawlish
  • Gideon series, featuring Kate Gideon
  • The Baron series, featuring Lorna Mannering


A number of Creasey’s crime and suspense thrillers explore the psychology and motivations of the villains. Many of the mysteries are ‘whydunnits’ as much as they are ‘whodunnits’.

Try reading:

  • Dr Cellini series
  • Look Three Ways at Murder (Inspector West series)
  • Gideon’s Fire (Gideon series )
  • I am the Withered Man
  • The Enemy Within (Department Z series)

Changing Times

Writing over a series of decades in a period of rapid social, political, cultural and technological change, this change is reflected in Creasey’s stories. We witness the uncertainty produced by war and the growing fears of Communism. We see the arrival of the Windrush generation, uncertainty about race relations and the emerging equal rights movements. We see the changing role of women in the home and attitudes towards motherhood and family planning. Finally, we see how perceptive Creasey was in his concerns about climate change and the dangers of industrial and technological changes.

Try reading:

  • The Toff series – A Doll for the Toff, The Toff and the Fallen Angels, The Toff and the Golden Boy
  • Dr Palfrey series
  • Gideon series – Gideon’s Fire
  • Department Z series

Morality and the Common Good

Throughout Creasey’s novels, the driving theme is the belief that mankind’s destiny is to work together towards a common good. The nature of what this ‘good’ is can be seen to change through the decades. Creasey’s heroes, although often flawed, are inherently moral and determined to root out evil.

Try reading:

  • Dr Palfrey series
  • Gideon series
  • Inspector West series
  • The Toff series
  • The Fane Brothers series