Top 100 Mystery Books

I am actually aiming, being a traditionalist, to reach a list of 100 titles. Eagle-eyed readers will therefore spot that this is still a work-in-progress. I have highlighted below authors or books already reviewed within the blog – I expect to reach 100 soon, thanks to suggestions and through additions of my 5-star reviews as they appear.

For the moment, here are a selection of the great, the good and the nostalgic among my favourites – the list will undoubtedly change and evolve and I am very much open to suggestions and comments.

And yes, several major authors remain unrepresented, either through ignorance and / or failure of memory. Thank you for your feedback, in advance … and Jamus my friend, belatedly, this one’s for you, because back in the early 1990s, you asked for it!

  1. The Woman in White (1860) by Wilkie Collins
  2. The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins
  3. The Adventures of Sherlock Homes (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The Three Impostors (1895) by Arthur Machen
  5. The Amateur Cracksman (1899) by EW Hornung
  6. The Four Just Men (1905) by Edgar Wallace
  7. The Thinking Machine (1907) by Jacques Futrelle
  8. The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1908) by Gaston Leroux
  9. The Innocence of Father Brown (1911) by GK Chesterton
  10. Ashenden (1928) by Somerset Maugham
  11. The Bishop Murder Case (1928) by SS Van Dine
  12. The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) by Anthony Berkeley
  13. The Maltese Falcon (1930) by Dashiell Hammett
  14. Death Walks in Eastrepps (1931) by Francis Beeding
  15. The Glass Key (1931) by Dashiell Hammett
  16. *Before the Fact (1932) by Francis Iles (aka Anthony Berkeley)
  17. The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932) by Ellery QueenCain-Postman-Always-Rings-Twice_pb
  18. X v. Rex (1933) by Philip MacDonald
  19. #Fast One (1933) by Paul Cain
  20. The Nine Tailors (1934) by Dorothy L. Sayers
  21. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James M. Cain
  22. The Hollow Man (1935) by John Dickson Carr
  23. The League of Frightened Men (1936) by Rex Stout
  24. Headed for a Hearse (1936) by Jonathan Latimer
  25. The ABC Murders (1936) by Agatha ChristieDickson_He_Wouldnt_Kill_Dell
  26. Obelists Fly High (1936) by C. Daly King
  27. The Face on the Cutting Room Floor (1937) by Cameron McCabe
  28. Brighton Rock (1938) by Graham Greene
  29. The Beast Must Die (1938) by Nicholas Blake
  30. The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson (aka John Dickson Carr)
  31. Night and the City (1938) by Gerald Kersh
  32. The Mask of Dimitrios (1939) by Eric Ambler
  33. The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler
  34. *Rogue Male (1939) by Geoffrey Household
  35. The Girl Who Had to Die (1940) by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
  36. Phantom Lady (1940) by William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich)
  37. Laura by (1942) Vera Caspary
  38. Green for Danger (1945) by Christianna Brand
  39. The Red Right Hand (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers
  40. Deadly Weapon (1946) by Wade Miller
  41. The Horizontal Man (1946) by Helen Eustis
  42. The Big Clock (1947) by Kenneth Fearing
  43. The Moving Toyshop (1946) by Edmund Crispin
  44. The Scarf (1947) by Robert Bloch
  45. Intruder in the Dust (1948) by William Faulkner
  46. The Little Sister (1949) by Raymond Chandler
  47. Cat of Many Tails (1949) by Ellery Queen
  48. ***Through a Glass, Darkly (1950) by Helen McCloy
  49. The Judge and His Hangman (1950) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
  50. Strangers on a Train (1950) by Patricia Highsmith
  51. Black Widow (aka Fatal Woman) (1952) by Patrick Quentin
  52. The Tiger in the Smoke (1952by Margery Allingham
  53. Casino Royale (1953) by Ian Fleming
  54. The Demolished Man (1953) by Alfred Bester
  55. A Kiss Before Dying (1953) by Ira Levin
  56. Maigret Sets A Trap (1955) by Georges SimenonBUDRYS_WHO_PENGUIN_
  57. Mystery Stories (1956) by Stanley Ellin
  58. Fire, Burn (1957) by John Dickson Carr
  59. Who? (1958) by Algis Budrys
  60. The Getaway (1959) by Jim Thompson
  61. The Screaming Mimi (1959) by Fredric Brown
  62. A Stranger in My Grave (1960) by Margaret Millar
  63. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee
  64. Some of Your Blood (1961) by Theodore Sturgeon
  65. The Day of the Owl by (1961) Leonardo Sciascia
  66. Call for the Dead (1961) by John le Carre
  67. The Hunter (1962) by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)
  68. The Chill (1964) by Ross Macdonald
  69. Man Out of Nowhere (1965) by LP Davies
  70. Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death (1966) by Tucker Coe (aka Donald Westlake)
  71. A Queer Kind of Death (1966) by George BaxtMcBain-Sadie-signet
  72. By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968) by Agatha Christie
  73. The Hot Rock (1970) by Donald Westlake
  74. The Walter Syndrome (1970) by Richard Neely
  75. The Abominable Man (1971) by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
  76. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (1972) by Stanley Ellin
  77. Sadie When She Died (1972) by Ed McBain
  78. The Tango Briefing (1974) by Adam Hall
  79. Hazell Plays Solomon (1974) by PB Yuill
  80. Fletch (1974) by Gregory Mcdonald
  81. Shake Hands Forever (1975) by Ruth Rendell
  82. Magic (1976) by William Goldman
  83. The Last Good Kiss (1978) by James Crumley
  84. Tales of the Unexpected (1979) by Roald Dahl
  85. **Looking for Rachel Wallace (1980) by Robert B. Parker
  86. The Name of the Rose (1980) by Umberto Eco
  87. Death of a Favourite Girl (1980) by Michael Gilbert
  88. Hoodwink (1981) by Bill Pronzini
  89. The False Inspector Dew (1982) by Peter Lovesey
  90. Berlin Game (1983) by Len Deighton
  91. A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986) by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell)
  92. A Taste for Death (1986) by PD James
  93. The Big Nowhere (1988) by James Ellroy
  94. A Closed Book (1999) by Gilbert Adair
  95. The Constant Gardner (2001) by John le CarreBarnes-sense-of-an-Ending
  96. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003) by Lionel Shriver
  97. Arthur & George (2005) by Julian Barnes
  98. Winter’s Bone (2006) by Daniel Woodrell
  99. The Sense of an Ending (2011) by Julian Barnes
  100. ?

* With thanks to Mike Ripley
** With thanks to J. Kingston Pierce
*** With thanks to JF Norris
# With thanks to Michael

126 Responses to Top 100 Mystery Books

  1. Pingback: Top 100 mystery books (almost) | Tipping My Fedora

  2. For readers new to crime fiction, this list provides a genuine education. And there are a number of books listed that I still haven’t read. Quibbles: I’d have chosen Stanley Ellin’s “The Eighth Circle” over “Mystery Stories,” I would substitute Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye” for “The Little Sister,” and Robert B. Parker’s “Looking for Rachel Wallace” belongs here. Really. But otherwise …

    • Thanks very much for the comments, much appreciated. I love Ellin but I felt I should try and restrict myself to no more than two books per author and I’ve always felt that MIRROR, MIRROR is really under-appreciated and is a such a personal favourite that I had to include it – but EIGHTH CIRCLE is fabulous, no question. I think maybe it goes in after all … And you’re right, Spenser should be in the list – I shall definitely remedy this! Thanks again.

    • But the list is missing Ed Cline’s novels which are like not other:http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Cline/e/B000APRFXU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

      Check out all three of his series: Cyrus Skeen, Merritt Fury, and Chess Hanrahan

      His novels are real page turners and have real heroes.

  3. vanessa lindley-blunt says:

    I thought I was fairly well read but don’t think i have read any of them although some have been made into movies i’ve seen.

    • Hello Vanessa, thanks for reading. I really envy the fact that you still have these particular books to look forward to. If you get round to reading any of them please do share some of your thoughts here.
      All the best,
      Sergio

  4. Mike Ripley says:

    So far, so good. Wouldn’t argue with any of these, though I might pick different books by the same authors, eg: IPCRESS FILE and SS-GB for Len Deighton and A PERFECT SPY for Le Carre. Only a couple of authors I haven’t read, which makes me feel rather smug to be in such fedora-tipping company. Surprised not to see Rex Stout or Geoffrey Household in there and, of course, I would always make room for John D. (as well as Philip and Ross) Macdonald and P.M. Hubbard. And can I make a case for Ruth Rendell (rather than Barbara Vine) with A DEMON IN MY VIEW and A JUDGEMENT IN STONE? Also, C.S. Forrester, before he invented Hornblower, was an excellent crime writer and his PLAIN MURDER and PAYMENT DEFERRED both pre-date Francis Iles’ MALICE AFORETHOUGHT ven though just as revolutionary. Speaking of whicwhich: where’s Francis Iles?

    • Dear Mike, not only that, but where the hell is one of your Angel book?! I’ll remedy this oversight this next week, I promise. I did include Rex Stout’s THE LEAGE OF FRIGHTENED MEN at # 19 but will have to admit to having a real blind spot about John D. Macdonald, which I promise to try and overcome – which one would you recommend for someone who has been a bit sniffy about his books in the past such as myself ..? Not sure how I forgot Iles as I did remember the Berkeley – I’ll fix that too – on the other hand, I have never read P.M. Hubbard so I’ll just got an hang my head in shame until I remedy the situation …

      Thanks very much for your feedback – it is greatly appreciated.

      All the best,
      Sergio

  5. J F Norris says:

    Sergio -
    One of the most eclectic and well read lists I’ve seen in a while. So nice to see a genre blender like THE DEMOLISHED MAN here. Also Eustis’ pivotal book deserves far more attention than just an Edgar award. (I ought to write it up for Friday’s Forgotten Books, now that I think of it. Thanks for the idea!) It should be appearing more often on lists like this. She really was the first to employ a plot motif that became a gimmicky ploy in the hands of lesser writers. Robert Bloch seems to have stole her thunder with [you know what book]. Millar’s work is also overlooked so often in “Best of” lists. Her husband gets more nods repeatedly than she ever does. Shameful I think. I would’ve included at least one of Helen McCloy’s books and I’m thinking that her first (DANCE OF DEATH) really should be getting more attention as a pioneering work for its time. And it’s so modern by today’s standards. Someone should reprint it.

    Not a list for purists, I expect, but I admire anyone who can whittle down the massive amount of books he’s read into a list of the best. I simply can’t do it. I’d have to make about 25 different lists and use subgenres: best early American detective novels; best locked room & impossible crime novels; best non-English language mystery novels and/or writers, etc. etc. But I’m just not interested in spending the time creating these types of lists. The only one I do is “Books Read in [YEAR].” So much easier to do a simple chronology of reading.

    P.S. The only books I have never heard of are The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia and The Closed Door by Gilbert Adair. So I have dutifully noted both titles and will toddle off into cyperspace to read about them somewhere (they’ll show up, I’m sure) and most likely to find a copy of each as well.

    • Dear John, thanks very much for the excellent feedback. THE DAY OF THE OWL is known to us Italians under its original title as IL GIORNO DELLA CIVETTA and it’s a classic of post-war sicilian writing – it’s a policier that looks at the corruption surrounding a murder linked to the Mafia and local politicians. It gets taught in schools in Italy (or it did until Berlusconi came to power) and for once didn’t disgrace itself when it was turned into a movie starring Claudia Cardinale, Franco Nero and Lee J. Cobb. The Adair book, A CLOSED BOOK, was also filmed but the movie version in this case wasn’t anything to get too excited about because it’s just too literary a conceit – as a book it’s a bit of a one-off and won’t be too everybody’s taste – I really hope you get to read them both.

      You are right about the missing McCloy and I shall add THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY but have every intention of reading more of her work, so that choice may be subject to change!

      Thanks again.

      Sergio

  6. Wonderful list – eclectic, open-minded and even-handed. I see that we share many favorites including some unusual suspects – always good to see the woefully underrated Wade Miller/Whit Masterson making a best-list.

    I may issue a list of mine some of these days, so stay tuned. ;-)

  7. Priscilla Royal says:

    Great list with some I haven’t yet read. Always a treat, that. As for Simenon, I am not a big fan but “Lock 14″ was enough to make me appreciate his talent at style and story-telling. Almost perfect balance of minimalist efficiency with dialogue and narrative.

    • Hello Priscilla, thanks for the comments and welcome to the discussion. It’s probably going to take me ages to come down on a particular Simenon title I suspect, but I’m really grateful for the help so thanks very much for the suggestions.

  8. michael says:

    For your consideration:
    Ross Thomas – “Briarpatch”
    Norbert Davis – “Sally In The Alley”
    Paul Cain – “Fast One”
    Maurice Leblanc – “Arsene Lupin”

    Thanks for the great list and leaving space left over for the rest of us to have some fun.

  9. karabekirus says:

    A very good list, indeed. It seems not to take into account recent authors, but seeing Woodrell and Winslow up there, I dare to suggest three more master storytellers:
    1. Michael Connelly: He beats all opponents in recent reader surveys. I think The Poet would be a good sample of his work.
    2. Deon Meyer: 13 Hours
    3. Arnaldur Indridason: The Silence of the Grave

    • Dear karabekirus, thanks very much for the excellent suggestions. I have, for the most part, tried to steer clear of authors I have only read recently to try and give posterity a little chance to catch up. But I suspect that many of the additions I will be making will be, chronologically speaking, to the bottom of the list rather than the top! I was a huge fan of the Harry Bosch series but it’s been a while since I read his stuff and in fact THE POET, which was one of his first if I remember correctly, is one I may not have got round to despite some excellent reviews so I will get right on that. And have only recently discovered Indridason (literally just this year) which I also rate very highly indeed but I want to read the whole series first before choosing just one title. Meyer I have yet to tackle but will definitely add that to my list.

      Thanks again.
      Sergio

      • puzzledoctor says:

        I agree that Connelly deserves a mention but is The Poet really his best book? I read it ages ago and all that sticks out is what appeared to be a tacked-on “I’m going to write a sequel” ending. I’d go for The Black Echo, myself, but I’ve only read a handful.

        • I went through a phase where I read a lot of his in close succession but it’s been years since I read one as I started to find the Bosch books a bit formulaic (always the conspiracy in the department holding him back etc). I haven’t read THE POET still and do have that on my list – it was the first of hii books that i remember reading about in connection with his name.

  10. Yvette says:

    Great list. Intimidating list. Mostly it’s a ‘too late for me’ list since there are simply books I’m just not going to get a chance to read, not with my TBR Mountain about to crash down about my ears. I would love to put together a list of this kind, but I haven’t read a lot of the very early classics, so I’m wondering if my list would have any merit. Might do it anyway.

    I agree about Michael Connelly’s THE POET. I’m not Connelly’s biggest fan, but this is an amazing book.
    Some titles for your consideration:

    THE BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE by Laurie R. King

    L.A. REQUIEM by Robert Crais is another to think about.

    DECIDER by Dick Francis

    CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK by Elizabeth Peters

    THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE by Mary Roberts Rinehart

    Just one Nero Wolfe book? See, that’s the problem, I could not limit myself to just one of his or Christie’s or Ngaio Marsh or…

    Well, still, a great and enlightening list, I enjoyed reading it.

  11. Hello Yvette, thanks very much for your suggestions – the Crais in particular may very well get added shortly! Do you know, I’ve never read the Rinehart and in fact it has been a very long time since I looked at any of her books so that might make for a very interesting project! It would be wonderful to read your list – you have such an abundance of material on your blog frankly I would welcome a guided way into it!
    Cheers,

    Sergio

  12. Jose Ignacio says:

    Sergio is there a time frame for your list? Or would you go all the way up to books recently published.
    Afraid I’m not much of an expert on crime fiction, have great gaps in some periods/authors. Have not check if you have “Puzzle for Players” by Patrick Quentin on your list, which I recently bought and plan to read soon.
    From Italy I’m interested in Leonardo Sciascia, but have not read many, and can’t suggest a particular book.
    Thanks for your confidence

  13. Hello Jose, great to hear from you. I have focused on older titles here mainly, partly just because it reflects my taste but also because I wasn’t very confident about including too many recent books just to give myself some distance and so hopefully improve the critical perspective – but I have left the list deliberately unfinished partly to include newer works and to inspire me to re-read some novels for potential inclusion. Sciascia is virtually required reading at schools back home but is much darker than, say, Camilleri, and consequently has not exported particularly well. I love Quentin but read most those books decades ago so find it hard to focus on just one. I would love to know of titles that you particularly rate highly and which would be available to read in English or Italian.

    Many thanks,
    Sergio

    • I think of the Quentin/ Patric/ Stagge titles i would go for Patrick : Death and the Maiden, and Quentin : the Man in the Net personally

      Of your other choices I would share about 80%. I’d have another Philip MacDonald in – Murder Gone Mad – X vs Rex was wriitten under the pseudonym of Martin Porlock.

      I would also definitely have a Henry Wade in there – difficult to say which though qas I like so many!

      And I would Have Anthony Berkeley’s Trial and error rather than the Poiisoned Choclates which I think worked better as a short story.

      I would probably have a second Sjowall Wahloo – the Laughing Policeman. I think I would have Larsson there (though at the bottom end of the list) for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but not the others which I thought became too far fetched too quickly.

      • Hello Scott, thanks very much for the feedback, greatly appreciated.

        Sadly the Wade books seem quite rare on my side of the pond and I have never ready any of his sad to admit – but if I can get my hands on a copy of HEIR PRESUMPTIVE I plan on giving it my utmost attention!

        I like MAN IN THE NET but I prefer THE MAN WITH TWO WIVES and plan on blogging on that one soon. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of the Larsson books, or at least not enough to consider any of them the 100 best anything really – Selander is a great character but, their great success and the author’s undoubted seriousness of intent, for me the books just seem too silly to me even from the first volume – I enjoyed them as pulpy entertainments with something to say but in the end it was all compromised too much by wish fulfillment fantasies and the absurdities of the plot – I know this puts me in a real minority position and I do keep being told that I am flat out wrong on this …

        • bardin1 says:

          I have quite few duplicate Wades though not Heir Presumptive which seems one fo the harder titles.. happy to try to sort out a transatlantic copy if you e mail me on scottherbertson at hotmail.com (I own my own hotmail name, which is nice!). A few of them stray into Crofts dullness but most have well drawn characterisation and good Golden Age whodunit plotting.

          For PB Yuill I would definitely go in preference for The Bornless Keeper which is a horror/ whodunit on the lines of the Wicker Man (which I might also include). I would guess Bornless Keeper is just the Gordon Williams half of the pseudonym (Gordon also wrote Straw Dogs aka The seige fo Trenchers Farm). The other half was Terry Venables, England football manager who rovided the ockney/ london criminal background for the Hazell series I believe, allegedly…

          • Thanks for the comments Scott. According to Williams, Venables was definitely a full writing partner and, for the frst book, even came up with the basic plot about the switched babies. I’m sure you’re right about Bornless Keeper being all Williams. In Solomon Williams has a great time in a scene in which Hazell goes to the cinema and watches a film he hates and which is clearly Straw Dogs, the 1971 adaptation of Trencher’s Farm.

        • Ronald Smyth says:

          Wade is always difficult to obtain, but there are at least two available on the open library website. https://openlibrary.org/books/OL24369411M/The_Duke_of_York's_Steps/borrow
          https://openlibrary.org/books/OL22918688M/No_friendly_drop/borrow

          Ron Smyth

  14. Jose Ignacio says:

    Sergio maybe you will like to check my post Vintage Mystery Challenge and some links there and compare the books there with the ones on your list.
    Also note that I’m Spanish and my knowledge of Italian books and authors is limited.
    Cheers

  15. Annie C says:

    Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time? Or is that too non-mystery to be considered?

    Thank you for this post! I’ve just added about a dozen books to my summer reading list.

    • Hello Annie, thanks very much for the suggestion – Tey is one of those authors that I want to re-read as it’s just been a bit too long since I last had a crack at one of her books. Time to giver another go I think!

  16. Neer says:

    I love lists, if only to see how little I’ve read :). Only 12 from this. Glad to see Tiger in the Smoke.

    Could I make a few suggestions:

    1. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie.
    2. Hamlet! Revenge! by Michael Inns.
    3. Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White.

    • Hello Neer, thanks very much for the great suggestions – I think the Innes really should go in but I need to re-read the White as I seem to be able to remember the classic 40s movie as THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE much too well in comparison to the extent that i can’t tell them apart in my mind!

      Cheers.

  17. CQ says:

    This is a really good selection list. One mystery writer I would add in is George Harmon Coxe with a Kent Murdock series’ novel such as (post WWII) The Jade Venus.
    A few other potential list fillers could include:
    The Longest Second by Bill S. Ballinger
    On the Spot by Edgar Wallace
    Vengenance is Mine by Mickey Spillane
    Murder by the Book by Frances and Richard Lockridge
    The Seven File by William P. McGivern
    Gideon’s Ride, or Gideon’s Vote, by J.J. Marric
    The Balloon Man by Charlotte Armstrong
    and
    The Lock and the Key by Frank Gruber

    • Hello CQ, thanks very much for that fascinating list of suggestions – I have to shamefully admit not to have read Coxe at all, ever, which is very bad so I shall try very hard to remedy that in the near future. I’m afraid that Spillaine really is not my cup of tea at all – I really hated “I, The Jury” and “Kiss Me Deadly” and may have read one of the Tiger Mann books as a teen but threw in the towel at that point. But I will look at all of the others again as these are all excellent selections – thanks again.

      Sergio

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  19. puzzledoctor says:

    I wonder how close Till Death Do Us Part and She Died A Lady came to ousting The Hollow Man and The Judas Window. Certainly I prefer the first one due to the fact it showed what Carr was capable of with a “normal” set up, without any obvious theatrics. Excellent choice on the Poirot book, though, much better than the accepted classics (Ackroyd – fine, but is a cheat, and Orient Express – found it rather dull).

    Excellent list that I’m sure I’ll revisit when I need to read something.

    • Thanks very much PuzzleDoctor, much appreciated – I must admit, the Carter Dickson was partly chosen because I had only just reviewed it and I wanted to link to my 5 star reviews where I could but I really liked the fact that the courtroom setting gave it yet another level of interest on top of being an impossible crime and a whodunit . The two you mention are just wonderful books too of course and definitely belong to any list of the top Carr titles.

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  23. Of course, I feel I must argue for something by Paul Doherty for the list… I’d recommend (of the books that I’ve read so far) the first Athelstan book, The Nightingale Gallery, as it’s got a real Golden Age feel to it – fairly clued and devious.

    • You probably know a lot more about Doherty than I do now (and it’s spreading all over the interweb – I hope you’re proud of yourself young man!) and much as I have enjoyed his books in the past there was never one that i automatically thought was a sheer classic; however I clearly need to get re-familiar with his stuff. I have not in fact read NIGHTINGALE so shall definitely give it a go when i get a copy (I doubt if my local Waterstones is as responsive as yours, but you never know …).

      • Good luck finding Nightingale – I think it’s almost certainly out of print, as is the other “great” book so far, The White Rose Murders.

        When I find a “classic” in-print one, I’ll let you know – but in the meantime, Murder’s Immortal Mask is pretty close.

  24. Suresh says:

    For a novice like me, most of these books seem like a roll call.
    As Frost said ” miles to go before I sleep”
    Cheers,
    Suresh

    • Hi Suresh, thanks for stopping by. I hope there is something here that qualifies as ‘lovely, dark and deep’. Are there particular types within the genre that you particularly like (or dislike)?

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  28. Tom Snyder says:

    FUNERAL IN BERLIN by Deighton is one of my top five favorite novels of all time, but I wouldn’t put Deighton, Le Carre, etc. on a mystery list but on a spy novel list (BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN is also very very good, as are MEXICO SET and FAITH). Also, what about MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS or THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES? Or Christie’s CURTAIN, her last Poirot book, which was great. Also like her CARDS ON THE TABLE, MURDER AT THE VICARAGE, 4:50 FROM PADDINGTON, AFTER THE FUNERAL. Having re-read Chandler recently, I’d have to give the nod to FAREWELL, MY LOVELY and THE LONG GOODBYE. I would also add another Ross McDonald like THE INSTANT ENEMY, one or two Robert Crais mysteries, and maybe one or both of the first two LINCOLN LAWYER novels by Connelly, with preference for the second.

    • Hello Tom, thanks very much for the comments. I usually consider spy novels to be parts of the mystery genre, though I absolutely take your point and will definitely post a top spy novel and spy movies list as it is perhaps my favourite genre of all. Thanks very much for the suggestions as my top 100 remains (and hopefully always will be) a work-in-progress though I tried very hard to restrict myself, if possible, to one book per author (or anyway, per pseudonym) to try and contain what is already along-looking list. I plan to post a review of a couple of Crais novels very soon so I may very well be ading his work to this list. I love Chandler, Hammett and Macdonald and could easily have filled a quarter of my top 100 just with their work! Thanks again for the suggestions, especially Crais.

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  30. rishi says:

    This list is eye opening and just makes me wonder how many books I have not read. have you read The Endless night by Christie? I thought it was pretty good and also the case of the crooked candle by erle stanley gardner.

    • Hi Rishi – thanks very much for the comments. Endless Night is probably my favourite of the late Christie titles and I do rate it pretty highly (along with the much weirder and less appreciated By the Pricking of my Thumbs). I do have that Perry Mason book and remember it vaguely, but it’s probably been 20 years since I read it so I can’t really pass comment on it – I’ll look out for it, thanks very much for the suggestion.

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  32. 2sidestory says:

    Wow what a great list, my favorite here is probably And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, that is the first story I think of when murder books are brought up, I absolutely love it! A few other mysteries I love are the Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.

    • Hello there, thanks very much for the suggestions – I have the first of the Flavia de Luce on my TBR pile so I’ll have to get back to you on that. Not read Ellen raskin either but shall kepp an eye out. Cheers.

  33. Zybahn says:

    A lot for to look into here, thanks. I’ve just read my first Berkeley novel, Trial and Error, which I thoroughly enjoyed (& reviewed for today’s FFBs), and seeing two that might be even better is exciting. I’ll seek those titles out soon.

    • Hi there, I hope you enjoy them – a couple of recent reviews online of some of the ‘Frances Iles’ books have been decidedly uncomplimentary so it will be interesting to see what you make of him – but The Poisoned Chocolate Case is wonderfully entertaining.

    • bardin1 says:

      Trial and error is in my opinion the best of the novels under the Berkeley nom de plume and very under-rated – the ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ for the written word. Mst of the Berkeleys are surprisingly dull but this is the reverse

      • Thanks Bardin, it is one of his best books I agree, though strictly speaking the Kind and Hearts and Coronots for the written word would be Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel called Israel Rank on which the film is based.

  34. Peter says:

    Nice to see someone else knows who the best crime-writing Cain was!
    =======================================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  35. Does The number 1 spot meant that Count Fosco is the world’s greatest ever super villain as well then?! Seriously in need of some Simenon though surely??? The Man who Watched The Trains Go By… Sunday… Account Unsettled… maybe some Maigret?

    Great list

    • Thanks Steven – the magnificent Fosco certainly gets there by dint of chronology! A Simenon has to get in there and I you may well be right that it would make sense to go for a non-Simenon because I suspect that is what is slowing me down a bit. Having said that, reading a great Maigret right now so I may just contradict what I just said …

  36. john says:

    You must include at least one Edgar Wallace

  37. This list is fabulous but it would really be complete if it had Ed Cline’s novels listed. He has several series but I don’t know which is my favorite yet: Cyrus Skeen, Merritt Fury, or Chess Hanrahan

    See: http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Cline/e/B000APRFXU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

    and

    http://www.perfectcrimebooks.com/ourauthors/edwardcline.html

    • Thanks for the info – shall look into these.

      • JOHN l says:

        John Lynch with my Mystery List:

        Best Mysteries

        1. Ten Days Wonder—————-Ellery Queen
        2. The Man With a Load of Mischief—-Martha Grimes
        3. Cruel and Unusual—————Patricia Cornwell
        4. He Who Whispers—————John Dickson Carr
        5. The Poet—————————Michael Connelly
        6. The Man Who Was Thursday——G. K. Chesterton
        7. The Moonstone——————-W.W. Collins
        8. The Reader is Warned ———Carter Dickson
        9. The Red Box———————-Rex Stout
        10. Mortal Stakes———————Robert B. Parker
        11. The Day of the Jackal—— Frederick Forsythe
        12. A Murder is Announced—– Agatha Christie
        13. Too Many Woman————- Rex Stout
        14. Booked to Die——————- John Dunning
        15. Strong Poison——————- Dorothy Sayers
        16. The Godwulf Manuscript—- Robert B. Parker
        17. Till Death Do Us Part——— John Dickson Carr
        18. Have His Carcase————– Dorothy Sayers
        19. Payment in Blood————– Elizabeth George
        20. The Body in the Library—– -Agatha Christie
        21. Nemesis————————— Agatha Christie
        22. And on the 8th Day————–Ellery Queen
        23. Origin of Evil———————-Ellery Queen
        24. The Sign of Four————-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
        25. Artists in Crime——————Ngaio Marsh
        26. The Red Scream—————–M. W. Walker
        27. The Matarese Circle————Robert Ludlum
        28. Falling Angel———————-William Hjortsgorg
        29. Peril at End House————–Agatha Christie
        30. The Horse You Rode in On—Martha Grimes
        31. All That Remains—————-Patricia Cornwell
        32. The Game of Thirty————-William Kotzwinkle
        33. The Peacock Feather Mystery——-Carter Dickson
        34. The Missing Bronte———————Robert Barnard
        35. Some Buried Caeser——————-Rex Stout
        36. 4:50 From Paddington—————–Agatha Christie
        37. Cat of Many Tails——————– —Ellery Queen
        38. Death of a Voodoo Doll—————-Margot Arnold
        39. Pocket Full of Rye———————–Agatha Christie
        40. Death in Five Boxes——————– Carter Dickson
        41. The Last Good Kiss———————James Crumley
        42. The Flanders Panel———————-Arturo Reverte
        43. Original Sin———————————P.D. James
        44. The Catacomb Conspiracy————Margot Arnold
        45. Unnatural Causes———————–P.D. James

        John Lynch

        • That’s a fantastic list John, thanks very much for putting it here – I have never read Margaret Arnold or SW Walker but looks like you’re a reader of taste so will definitely give them a go – thanks again.

  38. JOHN Lynch says:

    name should read John Lynch w/ my mystery list

  39. Jeff Cordell says:

    I have a fondness for the Travis McGee novels. I consider “The Dreadful Lemon Sky” to be the best of the lot. I also like a Canadian crime novelist called Carsten Stroud. “Sniper’s Moon” and “Lizard Skin” – noir meets the modern day western/medical thriller. Trust me you just have to read it – are two of his best novels.

  40. Jeff Cordell says:

    I reviewed both of those Stroud novels on goodreads. I go by Checkman there. It’s a good site to learn about novels and writers that you might not be familiar with. Of course you might already know about goodreads, but just in case.

    https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5117003-checkman

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  43. fredcasden says:

    Perhaps E.C. Bentley’s “Trent’s Last Case”

    • Historically I’d have to agree but must admit to not having been all that impressed the many moons ago that I tried it – may be due for a reconsideration int eh new year – thanks.

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  46. Roger Sobin says:

    I am researching for my Vol 2 of: The Essential Mystery Lists: For Readers, Collectors, and Librarians (Poisoned Pen Press; 2015) and would like to include your list of 100 titles; HAVE YOU COMPLETED your list of 84 some as of yet? Thanks, Roger

    • Hello Roger, very kind of you to take an interest. This was always meant to be a bit of a work-in-progress so it may in fact never quite reach 100 – I’ll take a gander and see about revising it a little but it may be that all I can offer my top 84 … :)

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  48. davidsimmons6 says:

    I, too, would have to put And Then There Were None high on my list if I had the your discipline to compile a list of 100 top mysteries….

  49. Roger Sobin says:

    Now we are talking about fun!!!!
    Thanks for your input = changes and substitution of titles (I think). Just trying to play catch-up here.
    In the past several days since my first message, you have added titles, but deleted some:
    Like: 1910 At the Willa Rose by A.E.W. Mason; and
    1939 And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie; and
    1970 The Friends of Eddy Coyle by George V. Higgins; and
    1976 Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg; and
    2005 The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow.

    You changed: The Green Murder Case for The Bishop Murder Case.

    Just wanted to make sure those you have taken out were meant to be and the switch was planned.

    Your servant, Roger Sobin
    The Essential Mystery Lists: For Readers, Collectors, and Librarians (Poisoned Pen Press, Dec 2007)

    • Thanks very much for keeping tabs Roger (well, fair enough, it’s all your fault) – yes, I think that is correct – thanks very much for providing the necessary impetus :)

  50. Col says:

    A lot here for me to consider (and check out). I never really liked Crumley’s book as much as I felt I was supposed to based on everyone else’s reactions.

    • Thanks Col – yes, it does seem to be a divisive one – but it’s one of those books that got under my skin and never left

      • Col says:

        Back at work today, so I have managed to print the list for closer scrutiny. At a glance I think I have read more of these than I originally thought. From memory, I don’t recall loving the Westlake Hot Rock or Shriver’s Kevin book. I think I much preferred Westlake when he woke up grumpy and wrote as Stark!
        Lots of ideas for filling in some gaps in my reading, so thanks.

        • My very great pleasure Col – not everyone likes Westlake’s humour, but upon rereading the first fo the Dortmunder series I just fell in love with the comedy cape rall over again. But I do have representative samples from his Stark and Coe personae to takle up the slack at least …

  51. A fascinating list indeed Sergio. Lots of books I’ve not read though at least I’ve heard of most of them so I don’t feel quite so bad. To Kill a Mockingbird as a mystery is quite inspired…I never think of it that way but I shall now.

    I wouldn’t presume to suggest an addition because you’re obviously much more widely read in the genre than I will ever hope to be…except that I can’t help noticing it’s lacking any Australian content. Perhaps Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore? Or for something a little less mainstream there’s The Last Tango of Dolores Delgado by Marele Day? or Jennifer Rowe’s Grim Pickings which is probably my favourite country house mystery of the modern(ish) era.

    • Thanks very much Bernadette for the Australian suggestions and I will pick them up as I’m heading off to Sydney at the end of next month to see my brother and his family and really want to make an effort to stark making up for what is clearly a big gap in my reading.

  52. karabekirus says:

    Sergio, here are two more books that you may consider. They passed the test of time:
    Dan J. Marlowe, The Name of the Game is Death
    Trial, Clifford Irving

  53. mikeripley says:

    I know I nagged you about this list three (?) years ago, but can I mess with your mind some more and insist that you consider THE MYSTERY OF THE HANSOM CAB by Fergus Hume – the international bestseller of 1887 far outstripping S. Holmes Esq. – and RIVER OF DARKNESS by Rennie Airth (1999), one of the most original twists on the serial killer thriller mashed up with a Golden Age country house mystery. As for the comments so far, I heartily endorse the work of Marele Day and Clifford Irving’s TRIAL. I did this exercise with the late Harry Keating for the “Top 100 of the 20th Century” for The Times in 2000. Amazingly, we remained friends! And for the record, I’ve read 64 of your list though a few other titles by some of your selected authors.

    • Cheers Mike, greatly appreciated (Cripes, has it really been so long since I first had a go at this? Scary …) – well, I am definitely going to get the Irving and Day volumes and will go out and get the Airth right now! The Hume I must re-read, and shall – thanks again chum!

  54. Bev Hankins says:

    Sergio: Here’s My List…put together back in 2012. I should probably re-vamp it….

  55. I’ve given a shout out to Paul Doherty before – a new recommendation of A Murder In Thebes, BTW – but historical mysteries are a bit lacking in the list. The Leper’s Return by Michael Jecks is an absolute cracker in a very strong series as well. A Case Of Spirits from Lovesey’s Sergeant Cribb series is another strong historical.

    • Thanks Steve – it is absolutely the case that there are too few historical mysteries here, though it is a genre that attracts me a bit less (due to my general ignorance of history) – and with Docherty his books just kept getting slotted down, probably because of the trouble of finding one particular title among the huge and growing bibliography – I also haven’t read any of his for a bit – you have certainly read far more of his than I ever had!

      • That’s the problem with any Top 5, 10, 100 lists of anything – they’re subjective to the author’s tastes. I wouldn;t include much, if any, noir in my list – haven’t read much of it and what I did, I didn’t enjoy at all.

        But this is an impressive project – now you just have to write the reviews for them all :)

  56. Patti Abbott says:

    Am stunned at how many of these I have not read. But yet i have read almost all of John Lynch’ s list. Often I have read another book by an author but not your choice as his/her best. I wonder if we take a pathway that leads us to certain books and not others.

    • I know what you mean – personally I wansn’t crazy about many of the selections in that book but in the end this is about purely personal preference after all – thanks Patti.

  57. Yvette says:

    So different from my own list of favorites, Sergio, but I’m happy to see WOMAN IN WHITE, Sherlock Holmes near the top as they are on my list. I’ve read many of the authors on your list over the years, but certainly not all of them.

    Since you ask I’d ask: Where’s DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey? Maybe that should be your 100th. Unless it’s on the list and I’ve just missed it. I also notice there’s no Ngaio Marsh or Robert Parker or Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST. Just wonderin’ is all.

    I think I’m going to fine-tune my list myself one of these days. As I read more and more vintage and shake up my memory a bit, I might have to shake things up a bit. :)

    • Thanks very much Yvette – Not a big Tey or Marsh fan, but plan to re-read some of her work soon. Robert B. Parker however is there, at number 85. As for Collins and Doyle being at the top, well, as wonderful as they are, the list is in chronological order, so … :)

  58. camden_kid says:

    That’s a very interesting list with many books I’ve not come across. Looking forward to checking them out soon.

    Thanks.

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