Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The Best of the Best: My Top 100 Mysteries
Yvette from In So Many Words dangled this idea in front of me and my list-making, book-obsessed self just couldn't resist. So...what's the idea? To sit down and list the Top 100 Mysteries....or at least My Top 100 Mysteries for right now. 'Cause you know the list is always changing. And if I thought about the list tomorrow, well, I'm sure I'd add a few and replace a few. Always got to make room for the new favorites. And to allow a few to move into the background. So, here goes. Bev's Top 100 Mysteries (right now).
1. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I've got to agree with Yvette on this one and it's place at the top. Holmes was my first "real" mystery love. Nancy Drew was first--but those aren't exactly real intellectual puzzlers. And Doyle's tale of the gigantic hound is just as good today as when I first picked it up 30-some years ago. I know--because I just reread it this year. [And since 100 really is a tiny number given the masses of mysteries I've read over a lifetime, we're going to let The Hound represent all my favorite Holmes novels & stories--from The Study in Scarlet to "The Red-Headed League" and "The Blue Carbuncle" to The Sign of Four.]
2. Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. The turning point for Wimsey. He falls in love and the remaining novels in the series see a great deal of character development in Lord Peter. I love all the novels--but if I have to pick a favorite, this is it.
3. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Here's one where I differ from Yvette. I much prefer this tale of the missing moonstone to The Woman in White.
4. A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George. Elizabeth George had my full attention in the 1980s and 90s with her Inspector Lynley novels. They're a little more up-to-date and real-life than my usual, but the characters are so strongly developed that I didn't mind. This novel is the fourth written, but is a prequel--giving us the backstory to so many of the characters. George lost me completely in 2005--I can't forgive her for With No One as Witness. But the early books--well worth it.
5. Death in a Tenured Position by Amanda Cross. The first of her Professor Kate Fansler mysteries. An English professor after my own heart.
6. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. The first Christie I ever read. And I fell in love. Consider the Express to be standing if for all my favorite classic Christie stories--from And Then There Were None to Hallowe'en Party and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to Cat Among the Pigeons.
7. Bodies in a Bookshop by R. T. Campbell. Mixing bookshops with murder. What more could a mystery lover want?
8. The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. See above. Add tons of marvelous book-lover quotations gleaned from its pages.
9. The Moving Toyshop and/or Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin. Academic mysteries with the wonderfully quirky Gervase Fen.
10. What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen. A literary mystery with a twist on the Jack the Ripper murders.
11. Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac. A murderous attack in a foggy train station in London.
12. The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov. The master of science fiction mixes his speculative fiction with murder....and does just as well with mystery as he does with SF.
13. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. The first novel I ever read by Tey. And it hooked me. Love Inspector Grant's "investigation" into the murder of the Princes in the Tower.
14. The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird. Another more modern series. Nicely done police procedurals with Inspector C. D. Sloan.
15. The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen. Murder at the theater in the first Ellery Queen novel.
16. Our First Murder by Torrey Chanslor. The case of the headless corpse in a theatrical boarding house--solved by spinster sisters Amanda and Lutie Beagle.
17. The Cask by Freeman Wills Crofts. A puzzle plot involving alibis. Nice classic.
18. The List of Adrian Messenger by Philip MacDonald. Ten people on a list. Being murdered one by one. By whom and why? What links them together?
19. Clubbed to Death by Ruth Dudley Edwards. Again standing in for the series. I love these mysteries starring the irreverent, irrepressible Baroness "Jack" Troutbeck and her able assistant Robert Amiss. This one takes place in that most British of establishments, a gentlemen's club.
20. Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert. Inspector Hazelrigg is called in when two murders take place on the premises of a London solicitor.
21. Champagne for One by Rex Stout. And all the other Wolfe and Goodwin stories. This is my most recent read. So it makes the list.
22. Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli. Supposedly a cult classic in the UK since its first publication in the 1970s, this is a hilarious and dark-humored crime thriller featuring the Honorable Charlie Mortdecai: degenerate aristocrat, amoral art dealer, seasoned epicurean, unwilling assassin, and general knave-about-Piccadilly.
23. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. A Literary Detective. Literally. Investigating in the world of books. Jane Eyre to be specific--at least in this one.
24. The September Society by Charles Finch. Historical (Victorian) mystery series starring Charles Lenox. This one is set at Oxford. I do love me a good academic-related mystery.
25. Death and the Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt. When Jake Seaborne's car breaks down on a lonely, rainy road, he goes to the nearby manor house where he is greeted with all the enthusiasm normally reserved for a traveling salesman, stopping over at a farmhouse belonging to a suspicious farmer and a host of beautiful daughters.
26. Laura by Vera Caspary. Detective Mark MacPherson investigates the apparent murder of Laura Hunt, a beautiful New York advertiser.
27. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..."
28. Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood (and all the Phryne Fisher novels). Academic mystery with Phryne Fisher--the grown-up's Nancy Drew.
29. I Am the Only Running Footman by Martha Grimes. Police procedural with Richard Jury. Two young women strangled with their own scarves. What connects them?
30. Was It Murder? by James Hilton. Crime at a British boys boarding school.
31. Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James. Excellent modern crime fiction starring Adam Dagliesh.
32. Beast in View by Margaret Millar. Psychological suspense at its best.
33. The Beekeeper's Apprentice AND The Moor by Laurie R. King. I love the new take on Holmes.
34. Death in a White Tie AND Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh. Two of the best Roderick Alleyn books.
35. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. WAY out of my usual thing. Not generally into such gruesome thrillers. But it hooked me with its historical appeal even while it seriously creeped me out.
36. Murder Being Once Done by Ruth Rendell. Inspector Wexford series. A corpse found in the last place you'd expect.
37. The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L. C. Tyler. A send-up of classic mysteries. Funny and well-done. Enjoyable series too.
38. The Hanging Captain by Henry Wade. Did the captain commit suicide or did someone hang him? The chief constable wants to hush it up, but our detective has too many questions to answer.
39. Too Many Cousins by Douglas Browne. Another killer with a list. This time its a list of cousins who need to be bumped off.
40. Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross. Regency-era historical mysteries starring Julian Kestrel.
41. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. Murders based on Dante's Inferno. A very nice weaving of the literary clues and the murders. Pearl's best work.
42. Murder on the Blackboard by Stuart Palmer. I love his Hildegarde Withers mysteries.
43. Killed by Scandal by Simon Nash (Raymond Chapman). More academic murder & mayhem!
44. Murder at Plum's by Amy Myers. More murders at a gentlemen's club...a most dangerous place to be, it would seem. This time it's Master Chef Auguste Didier who is playing detective.
45. The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne. A mystery in the classic tradition by the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh.
46. Accent on Murder by Frances & Richard Lockridge. One of the few Lockridge books to have an academic twist. This one is an Inspector Heimrich novel.
47. Seven Suspects (Death at the President's Lodgings) OR Weight of the Evidence by Michael Innes. Two of his academic-related mysteries. They both have that particular brand of Innes wackiness...You either love it or hate it. I love it.
48. Why Kill Arthur Potter? by Ray Harrison. Debut novel in a Victorian police procedural series. When a shipping clerk is bludgeoned to death for no apparent reason, Constable James Morgan sees his chance to prove his abilities by tracking the murderer.
49. An English Murder by Cyril Hare. Warbeck Hall is an old-fashioned English country house and the scene of equally English murders.
50. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. It is the year 1327. Franciscans in an Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, but Brother William of Baskerville’s investigation is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths. With one of the most awesome libraries in fiction.
51. The Mystery of Hunting's End by Mignon G. Eberhart. My first Eberhart book and one of the first locked room mysteries I ever read. Very atmospheric.
52. Death in the Quadrangle by Eilis Dillon. You guessed it--another academic mystery.
53. The Wench Is Dead by Colin Dexter. Inspector Morse (like Tey's Inspector Grant before him) finds himself in hospital and needing something to occupy his mind. He decides to "investigate" the notorious 1859 murder of Joanna Franks aboard the canal boat Barbara Bray. Has history gotten the verdict wrong?
54. Arrow Pointing Nowhere by Elizabeth Daly (and all the rest). Gamadge has been receiving missives suggesting that all is not right at the elegant Fenway mansion. He will ultimately, of course, unravel the mystery, but even more delightful than the solution is the peek at what the New York Times called New York at its most charming.
55. Death's Bright Dart by V. C. Clinton-Baddeley. It was just another conference in a Cambridge College during the vacation – or so it seemed. But there were some disturbing features about it. For one thing rather too many people there knew rather too much about some very nasty poisons. Then someone stole a lethal blow-pipe from a local exhibition. So elderly but spry Dr Davie turned detective.
56. The Man Who Could Not Shudder by John Dickson Carr (and many other Dr. Gideon Fell books): What happens when six rational people are invited to Longwood House and one of them is murdered by a gun that comes off the wall by itself and hangs in mid air! Only Dr. Fell can solve the perplexing problem of who shot the man who could not shudder, and what he finds makes him destroy the evidence!
57. Case for Three Detectives by Leo Bruce (Sgt. Beef Mystery) A murder is committed behind closed doors, in bizarre circumstances. Three detectives take the case. Each arrives at his own solution, startling in its originality, ironclad in its logic. Meanwhile Sergeant Beef sits contemptuously in the background.
58. Dead Man's Shoes by Leo Bruce (Carolus Deene Mystery) Everyone knew there'd been a murder, everyone knew who the murderer was, and when this murderer committed suicide by jumping overboard from the cargo boat Saragossa, they thought "Good riddance." Everyone, that is, except Carolus Deene.
59. Green for Danger by Christianna Brand. Set in a military hospital during the blitz, this novel is one of Brand's most intricately plotted detection puzzles, executed with her characteristic cleverness and gusto. When a patient dies under the anesthetic and later the presiding nurse is murdered, Inspector Cockrill finds himself with six suspects--three doctors and three nurses--and not a discernible motive among them.
60. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Great Victorian mystery classic, beautifully plotted, suspenseful; praised by Thackeray, Boucher, Starrett, others. What happened to beautiful, vicious Lady Audley’s husband?
61. The Sad Variety by Nicholas Blake. Nigel Strangeways is asked by the Security department to guard Professor Wragby and his daughter. Wragby has a secret the Russians are out to get. But by the time Nigel arrives, the Russians have already kidnapped the Professor’s daughter. The Professor will do anything to get her back … and Strangeways is thrown into a bizarre game of hide-and-seek where the prizes are a terrified girl, a deadly secret and a slab in the morgue.
62. The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley. A great puzzle mystery classic of England's Golden Age of crime fiction; plot involves a group of upper-crust amateur sleuths who set out to solve a murder that has baffled Scotland Yard; catnip for fans of Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham.
63. Death at Half-Term (aka Curtain Call for a Corpse) by Josephine Bell. Murder at a British public school during the production of Shakepeare's Twelfth Night.
64. Death of an Old Goat by Robert Barnard. Professor Belville-Smith had bored university audiences in England with the same lecture for fifty years. Now he was crossing the Australian continent, doing precisely the same. Never before had the reaction been so extreme, however, for shortly after an undistinguished appearance at Drummondale University, the doddering old professor is found brutally murdered.
65. The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. The chilling third novel in the Martin Beck mystery series by the internationally renowned crime writing duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, finds Martin Beck investigating a string of child murders.In the once peaceful parks of Stockholm, a killer is stalking young girls and disposing their bodies
66. An Author Bites the Dust by Arthur W. Upfield. The story takes super-sleuth Napoleon Bonaparte to the house party of Mervyn Black, famous author and critic, where the host is found murdered among his literary friends.
67. The So Blue Marble by Dorothy Hughes. Once the dashing, top-hatted twins had the marble, they would do to Griselda what they had done to others. her estranged husband, Con, a thousand miles away, could no longer save her. A bloody trail wound about the so blue marble, years of theft, torture, violence, whispers of secret riches, gold, diamonds, rubies as big as the moon.
68. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. Sort of gothic, but there is definitely the mystery of who the woman in black is/was and what exactly is going on in that old house.
69. The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green. Horatio Leavenworth is a New York merchant whose material wealth is matched by his eminence in the community and reputation for good works. He is also the guardian of two striking nieces who share his Fifth Avenue mansion. Mary, her uncle's favorite, Is to inherit his fortune at his death. As this mystery opens, that lamentable event has just occurred. Leavenworth has been shot to death and circumstances point to one of his young wards.
70. An Embarrassment of Corpses by Alan Beechey. When children's book author Oliver Swithin finds his friend's body floating in a Trafalgar Square fountain, he can't convince the police to treat the death as a murder. But when more corpses turn up daily, each victim killed in a bizarre manner, it seems that a serial killer is at play, using the city's landscape as his game board.
71. Dancers in Mourning OR The Tiger in Smoke by Margery Allingham. Classic British mysteries starring Albert Campion.
72. Death Lights a Candle by Phoebe Atwood Taylor. There's been no shortage of trouble on Cape Cod that March. A house party of men and women has been snowed in--and cut off from the world outside. The host is murdered. Poisoning, the doctor says; probably arsenic. But almost everyone is found to have arsenic among his or her possessions.
73. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. After the World War I, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.
74. Thou Shell of Death by Nicholas Blake. The poet and amateur detective, Nigel Strangeways, is asked to spend the Christmas holidays at the home of Fergus O'Brien, a legendary World War I flying ace. O'Brien has received four threatening notes promising that he will die on the day after Christmas. Despite Strangeways' presence, O'Brien dies.
75. Wilder's Walk Away by Herbert Brean. A classic suspense novel in which each member of the Wilder family seems marked for death until Reynold Frame, a young writer, happens on the scene.
76. The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell. It seemed the perfect way to avoid three million in taxes on a five-million-pound estate: change the trust arrangement. Everyone in the family agreed to support the heiress, ravishing raven-haired Camilla Galloway, in her court petition--except dreary Cousin Deirdre, who suddenly demanded a small fortune for her signature. Then Deirdre had a terrible accident. That was when the young London barristers handling the trust--Cantrip, Selena, Timothy, Ragwort, and Juli-- summoned their Oxford friend Professor Hilary Tamar to Lincoln's Inn. Julia thinks it's murder.
77. Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer. A twist on the old plot. This time the butler didn't do it....he got done in.
78. Abracadaver by Peter Lovesy. A sadistic practical joker is haunting the popular music halls of London, interfering with the actors and interrupting their acts by orchestrating humiliating disasters that take place in view of the audience. Then the mischief escalates to murder. Or was murder intended all along?
79. The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry (1st Charlotte & Thomas Pitt novel). While the Ellison girls were out paying calls and drinking tea like proper Victorian ladies, a maid in their household was strangled to death. The quiet and young Inspector Pitt investigates the scene and finds no one above suspicion. As his intense questioning causes many a composed facade to crumble, Pitt finds himself couriously drawn to pretty Charlotte Ellison.
80. Death Under Sail by C. P. Snow. Roger Mills, a Harley Street specialist, is taking a sailing holiday on the Norfolk Broads. When his six guests find him at the tiller of his yacht with a smile on his face and a gunshot through his heart, all six fall under suspicion in this, C P Snow's first novel.
81. One Step Behind by Henning Mankell. On Midsummer’s Eve, three role-playing teens dressed in eighteenth-century garb are shot in a secluded Swedish meadow. When one of Inspector Kurt Wallander’s most trusted colleagues–someone whose help he hoped to rely on to solve the crime–also turns up dead, Wallander knows the murders are related. But with his only clue a picture of a woman no one in Sweden seems to know, he can’t begin to imagine how.
82. Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside. In 1925, Diana Pollexfen was found innocent of killing her husband, but the accusation shadowed the rest of her life. Sixty years later, Diana's grandniece resolves to determine just who did kill George Pollexfen in that sunlit garden between the wars.
83. The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippmann. Lippman's Tess Monaghan novella turns the intrepid Baltimore PI's at-risk late-pregnancy bed rest into a compellingly edgy riff on Hitchcock's Rear Window.
84. Death in Willow Pattern by W. J. Burley. A terrific story in which Dr. Henry Pym and his secretary, susan, are invited to a manor house in the country to look over some old manuscripts. But the real reason for the invite is that the current baronet is receiving threatening letters accusing him of involvement in the disappearance of two young women, because an ancestor of his had been involved in a similar crime two centuries earlier.
85. Good Night, Mr. Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas. The tale of the woman, Irene Adler. This is her side of the story.
86. A Murder Too Many by E. X. Ferrars. Retired botany professor Andrew Basnett returns to Knotlington, where he finds the controversy over the murder of artist Carl Judd still rages, and takes on a challenge to finally expose the truth.
87. Death's Head by Jonathan Ross. A decent British police procedural. I like the character of Inspector Rogers. Just human enough to seem believable.
88. The Ninth Guest (aka The Invisible Host) by Gwen Bristow & Bruce Manning. Eight people received the invitation. All arrived at the fabulous penthouse suite prepared for a memorable evening.The evening was memorable indeed. Soon they discovered that they were prisoners in this place, and that their mysterious host would kill them one by one unless they could solve his riddles. All eight guests suddenly realized that they had a companion. The ninth guest was death.
89. Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie. Set in Cambridge, the story involves several mysterious deaths, present and past, including the presumed suicide of poet Lydia Brooke. As a student in the '60s, Lydia claimed literal and spiritual kinship with legendary Edwardian poet Rupert Brooke.
90. The Dark Place by Aaron Elkins. This finds forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver on a trail that stretches from prehistoric times—to present danger.
91. An Old Fashioned Mystery by Runa Fairleigh. Readers will either love or hate this puzzler, built around the "Ten Little Indians" idea. A group of guests are invited to spend the weekend on an island off the coast of Canada; one by one they are murdered. Be sure to read the introduction.
92. The Murder League by Robert L. Fish. For the small sum of one thousand pounds the group would perform the killing for whatever the reason, love, hate, money, fun. All the client had to do was drop a line in their post box and the deal was done. The murder league, three ex-mystery writers, perform their dispatches with a cool demeanor and the utmost dignity, with only their goal of ten heads on their minds. Soon the spice has returned to their lives, but that's until everything begins to go wrong.
93. A Crime of One's Own by Edward Grierson. Too much imagination gets Donald Maitland, bookstore owner, into trouble when he begins to suspect his customers are involved in a spy ring. He follows one home, later finding she has been murdered, and he is the chief suspect.
94. Murder by the Clock by Rufus King. Lieutenant Valcour in his best-known case must solve the murder of a man who was murdered twice. At 8:34 P.M. the body is discovered by police. By midnight the corpse had been revived by the injection of adrenalin into the heart. By one o'clock he had been murdered again.
95. The Footsteps at the Lock by Father Ronald A. Knox. Urbane mystery, set in the pastoral reaches of the upper Thames, concerns the disappearance of young heir to a fortune. Insurance company investigator Miles Bredon takes on the case. Delightfully tongue-in-cheek tone, baffling clues, challenging mystery counterpointed by poetic evocation of the river and countryside. Fine novel by author of 10 celebrated "commandments" for writing detective fiction.
96. An Oxford Tragedy by J. C. Masterman. The dons of the college are enjoying some moments of fellowship in the Common Room--indulging in port and cigars and listening to Ernst Brendel, a visitor to the college, discuss law (his profession) and crime and detection (his personal interests). It isn't long before Brendel has a chance to put his amateur skills into practice. An unpopular tutor is found shot to death in the Dean's lodgings and the police are baffled.
97. Cue for Murder by Helen McCloy. Unlike most theatrical mysteries, which usually involve productions of either Hamlet or Macbeth, this one is set during a wartime production of Victorian Sardou's melodrama Fedora, which offers a unique opportunity for a stage killing.
98. Watson's Choice by Gladys Mitchell. Mrs Bradley investigates the murder of a young woman following a Sherlock Holmes themed party.
99. A Six-Letter Word for Death by Patricia Moyes. A crossword puzzle compiled by a mischievous group of mystery writers leads Chief Superintendent Henry Tibbett and his wife into a murder case involving a horrifying twenty-year-old secret.
100. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart. As a child, Carol Spencer had always thought of Crestview as a place of light and laughter. But Carol was a young woman now, a lovely young woman, and a badly frightened one. The old mansion on the hill was no longer a refuge from the world. It was a prison from which even the man she loved could not rescue her...a nightmare from which she could not awaken...where every heart beat brought her closer to the strange menace of--The Yellow Room.