There are a few “Top Twenty” mystery lists floating round at the moment, but I’m not going to try for twenty. I have a habit of finding an author that I like and sticking to them like glue until I’ve finished most of their books. There seems to be an unwritten “one book per author” rule which I’m going to flagrantly ignore, but instead, have my own “one book per detective”. It seems much fairer and will help make my list a bit longer.
So, no in depth reviews here, but a small selection of my personal favourites, by which I mean the ones that I enjoyed the most. And they’re in no particular order, by the way. I’ll comment on some, but others speak for themselves.
1. The Way Through The Woods, by Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse)
The early Morse books are clever little puzzles, the later ones tend to be more emotional affairs with a mystery almost as a subplot. This is the pivot, if you like, combining the best of both worlds. An absolutely cracking read which was, if I recall correctly, absolutely butchered for the TV adaptation. Also, The Riddle of the Third Mile is a masterpiece for the puzzle-minded among you.
Just edges out The Judas Window and She Died A Lady
Yes, I know I’m supposed to say The Hollow Man here, but I’m not going to. The Black Spectacles is the other contender here for me.
Well, that one won’t make it onto anyone else’s list, but the completely satisfying and surprising revelation of the murderer in the last paragraph of the book has really stuck in my memory. There’ll be an Ellery Queen review coming very soon, by the way.
EDIT: The review for There Was An Old Woman is now up. And fickle old thing that I am, that book now bumps The French Powder Mystery off this list. It’s fantastic. Find it and read it!
7. The Devil’s Teardrop by Jeffery Deaver
OK, more of a thriller than a mystery, but there is very cleverly put together and immensely satisfying – apparently this has recently been made into a mediocre TV movie, which is a bit of a waste. If I had to pick one of the Lincoln Rhyme books, then I’d go for The Coffin Dancer. Roadside Crosses, a Kathryn Dance thriller is also a decent mystery hidden inside a thriller.
Hmmm… I’m kind of unsure as to whether to include this one. It’s an amazing mystery, completely fairly clued as well, inside a very entertaining, funny novel. But the fact that you don’t realise that you’re even reading a mystery until the reveal and the explanation is what made this book so clever for me. So by telling you, gentle reader, the name of the book, it might rob it of its magic.
Well, I’m going to think about how to tell you about number 8 and the next few books on the list. In the meantime, let me know what you think.