16 October 2006

Ten favourite mystery stories

Inspired by Sherry at Semicolon, who was in turn inspired by David Montgomery at Crime Fiction Dossier, I offer my own list of ten favourite mystery stories (in no particular order).

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes – Lawrence Block
Original Sin – Mary Monica Pulver
Cat Among the Pigeons – Dame Agatha Christie
Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None* – Dame Agatha Christie
The Doorbell Rang – Rex Stout
The Sanctuary Sparrow – Ellis Peters
Bloodroot – Susan Wittig Albert
She Walks These Hills – Sharyn McCrumb
The Laughing Policeman - Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Death at Charity’s Point – William G Tapply

(Yes, I know. The others were listing only detective stories - ie, mysteries involving specifically detectives or policemen - while I have stories involving a monk, an herbalist and a lawyer, and one which is finally explained by the killer himself. So sue me.)

Unlike David, whose books were all by male authors, and Sherry, who had five of each, I’ve picked mostly books by female authors – six to three, with one book written by a husband-and-wife team. Not that that’s really relevant to anything....

One of the Asey Mayo books by Phoebe Atwood Taylor would have been in there somewhere, if I could just figure out which one I like best. I considered including Brat Farrar and The Daughter of Time (both by Josephine Tey), but I’m not sure if they really count as mysteries. Certainly not the traditional sort, anyway. And the Luis Mendoza books by Dell Shannon are my favourite mystery series, but no single book really stands out.

Hmmm…. There’s an idea – my ten favourite fictional detectives (again, in no particular order):

Luis Mendoza (Dell Shannon – Case Pending, &c)
Bernie Rhodenbarr (Lawrence Block – Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, &c)
Matt Scudder (Lawrence Block – The Sins of the Fathers, &c)
Asey Mayo (Phoebe Atwood Taylor – The Cape Cod Mystery, &c)
Nero Wolfe (Rex Stout – Fer-de-Lance, &c)
Brother Cadfael (Ellis Peters – A Morbid Taste for Bones, &c)
Peter Brichter (Mary Monica Pulver – Murder at the War/Knight Fall*, &c)
Anna Pigeon (Nevada Barr – Track of the Cat, &c)
Brady Coyne (William G Tapply – Death at Charity’s Point, &c)
Clare Fergusson (Julia Spencer-Fleming – In the Bleak Midwinter, &c)

(Trixie Belden and Judy Bolton really ought to be in that list, too, but for the purposes of this list I’m sticking to “grown-up” murder mysteries.)

* Alternate titles for the same book. (There's a third title for Ten Little Indians, but too many people would find it offensive so I'm not going to list it.)


WillyShake said...

What!? No Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

No Wilkie Collins?

What about Dickens' _Bleak House_ ?

A little less high-brow, but thrilling nonetheless, I think, are any of Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason series.

Damn, I love books! Thanks for the list of must-reads. :)

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

WillyShake -

I've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, of course, but wouldn't put them in my top ten (though A Study in Scarlet almost made the cut).

The only Collins book I've read is The Moonstone; I read the Classics Illustrated comic-book version, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but got distracted halfway through the actual book. It's on my list to go back and finish someday, though.

As for Dickens, I've only read A Christmas Carol, and I have to admit I prefer the Muppets' version of that.

And I read a lot of the Perry Mason books (and two or three Cool & Lam stories) 30-35 years ago, but don't remember much at all about them.

WillyShake said...

I have many fond memories of curling up to a variety of mysteries--everything from those "Encylopedia Brown" stories for kids to Hercule & Miss Marple and the others I mentioned above.

It's an endlessly fascinating genre--thanks again for sharing!