My Favourite Mystery Books

Spurred on by Roger Sobin of Poisoned Pen Press I have been revisiting my list of Top 100 Mystery Books, which for far too long only got as far as my top 84! I am now much nearer to the century I was aiming for – indeed there is one slot left and I would love to know what would be the best book to fill it. To see the list, click on the link below or the tab on the site banner.

Sergio’s Top 100 Mystery Books


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30 Responses to My Favourite Mystery Books

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    A fine selection, Sergio! I think you’ve got some real gems there. Have you ever read any Arthur Upfield? I think his Napoleon ‘Bony’ Bonaparte series is excellent.

  2. Colin says:

    Unless I missed something, I didn’t see any mention of Clayton Rawson. Presuming I haven’t been incredibly careless, I’m going to recommend Death From a To Hat.
    Failing that, How about Hake Talbot’s wonderful Rim of the Pit?

    On a related note, I see you included a book I just finished the other day – Helen McCloy’s Through a Glass, Darkly. What a terrific book!

    • You are quite right my friend – those are the exact two books that, in my mind, are currently jockeying for position. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the reason I am hesitating is that I was a bit concerned that the list has too few women authors in it. Trouble is, I just haven’t read (or enjoyed) enough Charlotte Armstrong, Gladys Mitchell, Ngaio Marsh for instance to include them and yet feel that I should, so I will be posting reviews of their work over the summer … the way things are going right now though, could very well be Rawson or Talbot!

      • Colin says:

        I don’t know that I’ve read anything by Armstrong or Mitchell – I am familiar with the former though through the movie version of The Unsuspected. As for Marsh, while I’ve read a number of her books I have to say none of them grabbed me enough to suggest inclusion in a list like this.

        • I was toying with including Armstrong’s Mischief, filmed as Don’t Bother to Knock as I’m reviewing it soon – but I agree completely about Marsh, but I’ve read only a handful and plan to remedy that.

          • Colin says:

            Ah, didn’t know Don’t Bother to Knock was derived from an Armstrong book – another gap in my knowledge filled there!

            I need to read more Marsh myself. What I have read I’ve liked well enough – just wasn’t blown away by it.

          • Looks like we are in exactly the same place on Marsh – I have several on the shelf which I only dimly remember but will give another go over the summer. Same goes for Gladys Mitchell, where it really does seem to matter which particular book you pick up as her works is, by all accounts, incredibly uneven and I think i may have just been a bit unlucky so far 🙂

          • Colin says:

            Can’t comment on Mitchell at all – I thought about trying her books before but I have a sneaking feeling it just won’t be my thing and have kept postponing it as a result.

          • I remember quoite liking the Diana Rigg TV series, though apparently in played fast and loose with the books. There is a very good website, that includes a very handy best to worst of list so I’ve picked a couple of the titles from the top and hope to be enlightened …

          • Colin says:

            Thanks. That’s useful.

          • I am planning to read Death at the Opera and then compare it with the TV adaptation (of course …) – won’t appear until July / August though as I plan on taking June and a bit of July off (leaf out of your book in fact)

          • Colin says:

            Yes, it’s good to get a bit of a break. Takes some of the pressure off and leaves you refreshed.

          • You are right, as ever – and I am also going to be away for a good fortnight to visit the family in Oz and really didn’t feel I could do both.

          • Colin says:

            That would be a tad difficult. Besides, with your enviable posting rate I reckon you’ve more than earned the break.

  3. TracyK says:

    No suggestions (since you included a Rex Stout) but… I am very interested in suggestions that others make.

  4. Santosh Iyer says:

    There are several books in your list which will not find a place in my top 100. The following 10 books not included by you will definitely find a place in my list: 1) Then there were none by Agatha Christie 2) There was an old woman by Ellery Queen 3)The Demon of Dartmoor by Paul Halter 4)He who whispers by John Dickson Carr 5)Thou shell of death by Nicholas Blake 6)The Hound of Baskervilles by Conan Doyle 7)Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie 8)The man who was Thursday by G.K.Chesterton 9)Psycho by Robert Bloch 10) Rim of the pit by Hake Talbot

    • Thanks for the lovely feedback Santosh – with titles by Carr just keeping his inclusions down was going to be difficult and I tried, in most cases, to keep to one book per author though I couldn’t stop myself from breaking the rule in a few cases. Of the titles on your list the only one I haven’t read is the Paul Halter – all the others are very fine choices.

  5. It’s not easy to put together a list of favourite mystery books, even one’s own, but you’ve done an excellent job with yours, Sergio. I’ve read only a few of them reason being I don’t read many mysteries which have to compete with books in other genres. From your list I’m going to have to read authors I’ve never read before.

  6. Great list Sergio. I counted up and have read something over half of them. I’m interested in the handful that are totally unfamiliar to me, and will have to check those out…

  7. TomCat says:

    Your list is so different from mine that I wouldn’t know where to begin with commenting and pointing out glaring omissions. No. I take that back. I know exactly where to begin: more locked room mysteries and impossible crime stories! 😉

    But just to throw out a few: no R. Austin Freeman (e.g. The Eye of Osiris), Leo Bruce (e.g. Case for Three Detectives) or Isaac Asimov (e.g. Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. Personally, I would’ve picked Berkeley’s Jumping Jenny and Trial and Error over The Poisoned Chocolates Case. I’ve not read Michael Gilbert’s Death of a Favorite Girl, but is it really better than The Danger Within? And have I ever recommended Kelley Roos’ The Frightened Stiff before?

    • Thanks TC – yes, I believe Roos has been mentioned more than once … 🙂 I read Jenny ages ago and was disappointed though this was an Italian edition that, it turns out, had been shortened so will try again. Case for Three Detectives is definitely a contender!

  8. Jose Ignacio says:

    Sergio I was thinking on your list when I came accross the titles in the Bruguera collection available on my last blog entry: Bruguera Club de Misterio.

  9. prettysinister says:

    I chimed in the last time this list appeared. But if I were ever to attempt such a daunting task I’d be hard pressed to limit myself to a mere one hundred from “all time.” As I once said somewhere I would have to have several lists broken down by decade or perhaps subgenre because I’m too eclectic of a reader and I know there are more than a mere 100 best books. Also, in the past four years the best books I’ve read have all been from the 1950s! I could easily come up with a fascinating list of the “Best 100 Mysteires of the 1950s.”

    I looked over 84 – 99, but of the handful I’ve read I’m not a fan of many of your choices. Sorry. The Name of the Rose is grossly overrated, IMO. Two by Julian Barnes? That pushes out two spots for people who write exclusively in the genre. I liked Arthur and George, but is it really one of the best mystery novels of all time? It’s not really a mystery anyway since most detective fiction readers and Holmes/Doyle fans already know the ending. […sigh…] Tastes are so subjective and personal when it comes to picking and choosing.

    Hmm… the scale tips in favor of male writers, too. But I know that’s your preference as well.

    Among the last three decades I’d have to include one from Minette Walters who was pure genius in her first four books. At the height of her storytelling prowess she was really subverting the genre and shaking it up in a ways that only Gladys Mitchell had done prior to her. I’d be tempted to include either The Sculptress or The Scold’s Bridle. Also I would include at least one by Louise Penny, Colin Cotterill and Christopher Fowler because IMO they have been the most unique in their contributions to modern crime writing and dared to break the molds and go beyond the formulae that so many other better known writers continue to adhere to. Originality and imagination ought to count for a lot in making these types of book lists. Those are three writers who can truly be called original and imaginative.

    • Thanks very much John, as ever. I should point out that I changed several of the books in the first 84 too so the overall list is quite different. Some of the writers you mention, like Walters, Fowler and Coterill, I have yet to read (they are there on the shelf, staring balefully as I type this) so can’t comment. As for Barnes, I really tried to mostly restrict myself to one book per author but these two are so different, and I liked them so much, that I just couldn’t chose one over the other. I could sarkily point out that reading Eco in the original Italian (and Latin) may have swung it for me, which i think is partly true, but it made a big impact on me growing up. I am going to pursue more female authors because I worry that the gender imbalance might say something about me that i wouldn’t agree with and will give Marsh and Mitchell another go and will be reading a lot more Charlotte Armstrong too (Mischief almost made the cut) – thanks again for the invaluable feedback John – it’s what it’s all about. I look forward to reading your top 1,000 and making it my life’s work trying to read them all – I am certain it would be time well spent!

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