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!
- The Woman in White (1860) by Wilkie Collins
- The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins
- The Adventures of Sherlock Homes (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Three Impostors (1895) by Arthur Machen
- The Amateur Cracksman (1899) by EW Hornung
- The Four Just Men (1905) by Edgar Wallace
- The Thinking Machine (1907) by Jacques Futrelle
- The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1908) by Gaston Leroux
- The Innocence of Father Brown (1911) by GK Chesterton
- Ashenden (1928) by Somerset Maugham
- The Bishop Murder Case (1928) by SS Van Dine
- The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) by Anthony Berkeley
- The Maltese Falcon (1930) by Dashiell Hammett
- Death Walks in Eastrepps (1931) by Francis Beeding
- The Glass Key (1931) by Dashiell Hammett
- *Before the Fact (1932) by Francis Iles (aka Anthony Berkeley)
- The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932) by Ellery Queen
- X v. Rex (1933) by Philip MacDonald
- #Fast One (1933) by Paul Cain
- The Nine Tailors (1934) by Dorothy L. Sayers
- The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James M. Cain
- The Hollow Man (1935) by John Dickson Carr
- The League of Frightened Men (1936) by Rex Stout
- Headed for a Hearse (1936) by Jonathan Latimer
- The ABC Murders (1936) by Agatha Christie
- Obelists Fly High (1936) by C. Daly King
- The Face on the Cutting Room Floor (1937) by Cameron McCabe
- Brighton Rock (1938) by Graham Greene
- The Beast Must Die (1938) by Nicholas Blake
- The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson (aka John Dickson Carr)
- Night and the City (1938) by Gerald Kersh
- The Mask of Dimitrios (1939) by Eric Ambler
- The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler
- *Rogue Male (1939) by Geoffrey Household
- The Girl Who Had to Die (1940) by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
- Phantom Lady (1940) by William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich)
- Laura by (1942) Vera Caspary
- Green for Danger (1945) by Christianna Brand
- The Red Right Hand (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers
- Deadly Weapon (1946) by Wade Miller
- The Horizontal Man (1946) by Helen Eustis
- The Big Clock (1947) by Kenneth Fearing
- The Moving Toyshop (1946) by Edmund Crispin
- The Scarf (1947) by Robert Bloch
- Intruder in the Dust (1948) by William Faulkner
- The Little Sister (1949) by Raymond Chandler
- Cat of Many Tails (1949) by Ellery Queen
** Through a Glass, Darkly (1950) by Helen McCloy
- The Judge and His Hangman (1950) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
- Strangers on a Train (1950) by Patricia Highsmith
- Black Widow (aka Fatal Woman) (1952) by Patrick Quentin
- The Tiger in the Smoke (1952) by Margery Allingham
- Casino Royale (1953) by Ian Fleming
- The Demolished Man (1953) by Alfred Bester
- A Kiss Before Dying (1953) by Ira Levin
- Maigret Sets A Trap (1955) by Georges Simenon
- Mystery Stories (1956) by Stanley Ellin
- Fire, Burn (1957) by John Dickson Carr
- Who? (1958) by Algis Budrys
- The Getaway (1959) by Jim Thompson
- The Screaming Mimi (1959) by Fredric Brown
- A Stranger in My Grave (1960) by Margaret Millar
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee
- Some of Your Blood (1961) by Theodore Sturgeon
- The Day of the Owl by (1961) Leonardo Sciascia
- Call for the Dead (1961) by John le Carre
- The Hunter (1962) by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)
- The Chill (1964) by Ross Macdonald
- Man Out of Nowhere (1965) by LP Davies
- Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death (1966) by Tucker Coe (aka Donald Westlake)
- A Queer Kind of Death (1966) by George Baxt
- By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968) by Agatha Christie
- The Hot Rock (1970) by Donald Westlake
- The Walter Syndrome (1970) by Richard Neely
- The Abominable Man (1971) by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
- Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (1972) by Stanley Ellin
- Sadie When She Died (1972) by Ed McBain
- The Tango Briefing (1974) by Adam Hall
- Hazell Plays Solomon (1974) by PB Yuill
- Fletch (1974) by Gregory Mcdonald
- Shake Hands Forever (1975) by Ruth Rendell
- Magic (1976) by William Goldman
- The Last Good Kiss (1978) by James Crumley
- Tales of the Unexpected (1979) by Roald Dahl
- **Looking for Rachel Wallace (1980) by Robert B. Parker
- The Name of the Rose (1980) by Umberto Eco
- Death of a Favourite Girl (1980) by Michael Gilbert
- Hoodwink (1981) by Bill Pronzini
- The False Inspector Dew (1982) by Peter Lovesey
- Berlin Game (1983) by Len Deighton
- A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986) by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell)
- A Taste for Death (1986) by PD James
- The Big Nowhere (1988) by James Ellroy
- A Closed Book (1999) by Gilbert Adair
- The Constant Gardner (2001) by John le Carre
- We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003) by Lionel Shriver
- Arthur & George (2005) by Julian Barnes
- Winter’s Bone (2006) by Daniel Woodrell
- The Sense of an Ending (2011) by Julian Barnes
* With thanks to Mike Ripley
** With thanks to J. Kingston Pierce
*** With thanks to JF Norris
# With thanks to Michael
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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.
Can’t speak for Jeff but these are new to me so shall have a look – thanks you for all the info.
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,
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,
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!
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. 😉
Hello Xavier, thanks very much for joining this ongoing dialogue and very much looking forward to reading your list.
PS How could I forget Inspector Hanaud!?
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.
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.
Hello Michael, thanks very much for the really great suggestions – the Cain is going straight in!
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.
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.
The Poet is one of my all-time faves……please try it
Thanks Peggy – will do.
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.
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!
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
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.
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 …
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.
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
Thanks Ron – Wade is another great author I need to get to know much better.
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.
Will do Jose – many thanks.
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!
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!
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
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.
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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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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.
For a novice like me, most of these books seem like a roll call.
As Frost said ” miles to go before I sleep”
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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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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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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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.
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.
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.
Nice to see someone else knows who the best crime-writing Cain was!
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
Thanks very much for the kind words Peter, much appreciated.
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?
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 …
You must include at least one Edgar Wallace
I quite agree – Four Just Men maybe or The Crimson Circle perhaps
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
Thanks for the info – shall look into these.
John Lynch with my Mystery List:
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
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.
name should read John Lynch w/ my mystery list
I’ve tidied it up a bit!
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.
Thanks Jeff – JDM remains a bit of a foreign land but do mean to correct this while Stroud I have never heard of (for shame) – will remedy this, honest!
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.
Thanks Jeff – I haven;t signed up to it but will- definitely looking to get some of those Strounds right this minute in fact
Glad to have helped. Incidentally some of the authors who are on Goodreads can be very chatty. Some just use the site to advertise, but that’s to be expected. Have fun.
Thanks very much.
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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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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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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….
Thanks David – I originally had that on the list but ultimately decided to substitute a much later Christie that I don’t think gets enough love …
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 🙂
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
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 …
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.
Hope you enjoy your trip to Oz Sergio – and Sydney is the setting for some great crime fiction. You really should pick up some early Peter Corris titles too 🙂
Definitely getting some Cliff Hardy books – any particular favourites to start with?
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
I’ve not read either of these – thanks very much for the suggestions!
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!
and the Hume is Australian … another good reason to re-read it 🙂
That’s it, I really am going to start re-reading it right awayy (actually, I thought he was from New Zealand so thanks for that)
Sergio: Here’s My List…put together back in 2012. I should probably re-vamp it….
Terrific list Bev – and definitely some authors I haven’t tried there at all, which is a real bonus!
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 🙂
Thanks for that Steve (I think … 🙂 )
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.
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 … 🙂
That’s a very interesting list with many books I’ve not come across. Looking forward to checking them out soon.
Very kind, thank you.
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Can you let me know if it isn’t too much trouble which books or authors on this list are relatively clean…no descriptive sex, no detailed play by play of violence or torture…basically the type of mystery you’d let a young person read. I’m not young, but I’m extremely sensitive and do not enjoy R rated entertainment. I’ve read everything Sherlock Holmes written by Doyle, a ton of Rex Stout, some Agatha Christie, and have just started reading Ellery Queen. I rarely read anymore unless I am confident that the author will not shock or scar my mind. If you don’t have time or energy to list them all, letting me know a few would be awesome. Thanks in advance.
Good question Karyn – the ones on my list that deal with adult themes and have sexual elements and some strong language and violence would have to include:
The Getaway (1959) by Jim Thompson
Magic (1976) by William Goldman
The Last Good Kiss (1978) by James Crumley
The Big Nowhere (1988) by James Ellroy
A Closed Book (1999) by Gilbert Adair
The Constant Gardner (2001) by John le CarreBarnes-sense-of-an-Ending
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003) by Lionel Shriver
Winter’s Bone (2006) by Daniel Woodrell
The Sense of an Ending (2011) by Julian Barnes
Thank you! 😀
Oh, my most favorite mystery is The Man With the Twisted Lip. Just a story, but it’s been my favorite since I read it some 15 years ago.
One of my favourite Holmes stories too and Doyle’s first official biographer, the great Golden Age auihor John Dickson Carr, thought so too.
Glad to see I’m not alone. It’s one of the few mysteries with a happy ending.
no michael innes,cyril hare(love him so much),elizabeth daly(apparently christie’s favorite writer;death and letters,wrong way down,the book of the lion),margery allingham(police at the funeral and more work for the undertaker are the best i’ve read so far),sarah caudwell,anthony gilbert(death knocks three times-just beautiful- and he came by night-maybe not the most intricate plot in the world,but definitely one of the most entertaining mysteries i’ve ever read),nicholas blake?i’ve just ordered ianthe jarrold’s two mysteries and thirteen guests by farjeon,hope it won’t turn out to be a bad investment.just a thought,i find the circular staircase disappointing,i can’t believe it’s on most of the top 100 mysteries lists,the album and the door are much much better novels.if i discover any other authors i like,i’ll be sure to drop by.
Hi Alma – thanks very much for the fervent feedback, it is greatly appreciated. I’m not a fan od Daly at all I’m afraid and Innes has always left me a bit cold but I love Allingham and she does make ther cut `I’m glad to say.
i’m so sorry,you do have a blake in the list after all.i also notice lovesey,but i must admit i prefer his crook series,all the books in it are amazing.leo bruce-death at hallow’s end,,a.g.mcdonald-the shakespeare murders and the silent murders,the list of adrian messenger by philip macdonald,john bingham-the paton street case,chester himes-a rage in harlem,dashiel hammett-the maltese falcon and red harvest.and i just have to say that my very favorite carr is the arabian nights murder and that i didn’t like the three hollow men at all;i felt cheated at the end,it just didn’t deliver what i expected.hope you like some of the authors i’ve suggested,in case you don’t know them already.ps-i adore the crooked hinge.so evil.
Thanks again Alma – I’m a big fan of Philip MacDonald and Dashiell Hammett too – and for Carr pre 1065 could do very little wrong 🙂
ok,you must think i’m stupid by now,i’ve just noticed you do have the maltese falcon and allingham’s tiger in the smoke.last suggestion-don’t laugh-the mystery of edwin drood?even better and all the more exciting because it’s not finished.
That’s a good point actually – I think, just maybe that Edwin Drood should be my 100th title – I’ll see about re-reading it first though – thanks!
oh my god,how could i forget glays mitchell???the devil at saxon wall is her best imho.speedy death is also very good.some rave about the hangman’s curfew,i once started to read it,but eventually forgot about it about half-way through…but i plan to start again one day,mainly because i honestly believe in gladys mitchell.
I read a few Mitchell ages ago and didnlt enjoy them much, but have just started her DEATH AT THE OPERA which is supposed to be one fo the best and am enjoying it greatly – so watch this space!
ok,last suggestion: heron carvic-witch miss seeton
OK, that is all unknown to me so – I’m not big pon modern ‘cosy writers, I shoudl say this upfront …
i forgot reginald hill’s pictures of perfection.and perhaps on beulah height and bones and silence.most people like dialogues of the dead,but i found it not as good as the above-mentioned novels;and the sequel,death’s jest book,despite the terrific title,is simply ridiculous.just my two cents.
I really like Hill and in fact plan to read/re-read several of his soon.
i also found karin fossum’s bad intentions very disturbing.definitely unlike anything else i’ve ever read.makes it virtually impossible to assign guilt.creepy.sorry for my many incoherent posts,i’ve a mind like a sieve and it took me a while to remember all i’ve ever liked mystery-wise.and no,i’m not old…
Not tried her yet (I’m very behind with my Scandi mysteries) – thanks.
and no,i haven’t managed to remember everything.i will venture to suggest emile zola’s therese raquin,although it’s not really a mystery,more like a thriller,i guess.but it kept me on the edge of my seat and i literally couldn’t put it down.the last part of the book is just macabre and even more opressive than the rest.very evil and twisted.i know it’s a bit too thick,but crime and punishment would be another good choice,wouldn’t it?naturally,it is so much more than a mystery/thriller,but it can still be read at just this level,as an amazing psychological thriller.
I read a lot of Zola in my youth (in Italian translation) but must re-read this one as I don’t remember it very well at all – thanks again for the great suggestion.
I second the recommendation of Thérèse Raquin. It’s a stark, realistic drama that gripped me the same way that Alma describes. (It triggered my reading of the Rougon-Macquart cycle lthough none of those books achieved the same sustained feeling.) Plus it’s a short work, which makes it a good introduction to Zola or a simple retest for someone considering rereading more of his works.
Thanks David. I read RAQUIN in my teens with a ton of other Zola but sadly hasn’t really stayed with me. Time to try again!
how kind of you to answer all my posts!heron carvic was born in 1913,died in 1980 and witch miss seeton was published in 1971;i’m not sure she qualifies as modern cosy…i don’t like cosies either.it’s very well written,with a delicious old-school flavour.it’s not cheap at all.i too am well behind with scandinavian fiction(to tell you the truth,i don’t get why it’s so popular,the book i mentioned is a bit of an exception.i tried arnaldur indridasson and it left me pretty cold.definitely readable,but no more.i must also mention fred vargas,a french writer.absolutely unique.books i would recommend-have mercy on us all,this night’s foul work,io sono il tenebroso(it isn’t translated in english,but i found the italian version,since you read in italian;is it your mother tongue?i’ve been trying to teach myself italian on and off,but i’m far from ready to tackle real novels in italian,i’ve ordered il giornalino di gianni burasca and pinocchio,but it’s uphill work.also tried se questo e un uomo,even more uphill…)hope you enjoy therese raquin!
Thanks Alma, I do in fact have a Vargas on my TBR pile (in Italian, on my Dad’s side). You have my sympathy as Italian is not easy unless you have some sort of other grounding in the Romance / Latin-root languages. If I find a Carvic I will give it a go with a minimum of prejudice, promise 🙂
lucky bilingual you!my biggest regret in life(sounds corny,i know)is not being bilingual…as for my grounding,i do speak french and my mother tongue is romanian;it helps me to understand both spanish and italian pretty well(simple stuff,not philosophical debates!),but acquiring flow is an entirely different matter.do give carvic a chance,but be warned that witch miss seeton is her absolute best.there are only 4 or 5 books in the series and this novel really stands out.i will admit the first one in the series is kind of weak.buona lettura!lol
Thank you Alma – or as we say back home, molte grazie 🙂
I just love to see the Woman in White at number 1. Just re-read the book because I bought a 1941 dated version, and could not keep it down. The characters are so vividly portrayed.
Thanks Diana, very kind 😆
Thanks for providing this great list, perhaps the best I’ve seen anywhere. Now my crimes-and-punishments reading plan for my new blog has a direction.
Thanks Tim, very kind of you.
I would add one book before 1860: Edgar Allen Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), simply because a list like this should recognize what is considered to be the “first modern detective story”.
Take your point but only included books in the list. One would need another list for best stories 😀
I would add Warrant For X. Great list, love the blog
Gteat choice – and thanks for the kind words 😀
Great list, still no Henry Wade tsk tsk. Get in touch with me and I will send you one for free – it distresses me to much to see him missing!
I’d also put in a good word for John Franklin Bardin’s tour de force “The Deadly Percheron” which has one of the most bizarre starts ever in detective fiction but all makes sense in the end.
Hands up, I have Wade and Bardon on the TBR but have not got round to them – thanks Scott 🙂
Excellent – they are well worth reading. Some of the Wades are fairly standard, but he always writes well. There are some excellent ones though, and he shows a surprising sympathy for the common man(and woman) rare amongst British Golden Age authors, and particularly interest as he himself was one of the elite (a Baronet, Queen’s Equerry, huntsman, decorated in the war, cricketer etc)
Thanks very much for that. I have POLICEMAN’S LOT and LONELY MAGDALEN for Wade and the Bardin trilogy set
Both good books Sergio, but neither typical of Wade (in that Lonely Magadelen is more a work of social commentary, and Policemans Lot is early short stories – a bit like judging Christie on Poirot Investigates) . My two favourites are The dying alderman, and Heir Presumptive (the latter bears direct comparison with Kind Coronets and Trial and Error), Scott
Thanks for that – I do remember Patrick Lehy being very excited about HEIR
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I always read top 💯 lists but I never see the case of the velvet claws or any other Erle Stanley Gardener books on them. Why is this? Have you read any of his books? Just curious about a great writer who’s mostly known for a TV series that’s no where near as good as the books.
Hello Andre, thanks for the feedback. I like Gardner’s work from the 1930s especially – just didn’t make my top 100 I’m afraid.
A remarkable book that Donald Westlake himself claims to have retired the private detective in literature, leaving the form nowhere else to go:
INTERFACE (1973) By Joe Gores
Also, on a personal note:
SLEEP AND HIS BROTHER Peter Dickinson
THE LIGHT OF DAY Eric Ambler