Halfway there

So I’m finally over the halfway point – I’ve reviewed exactly 50% of the crime books selected by the Crime Writers Association as their 100 favourite titles.

50% isn’t 50 books in case you’re wondering. Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match (number 58) is three books, and no amount of dodgy accountancy can change that.

So, what are my thoughts so far?

Five-star reads

John Creasey (writing as J. J. Marric) - one of my favourites so far

John Creasey (writing as J. J. Marric) – one of my favourites so far

6. Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca (1938)
31. Dashiell Hammett: The Glass Key (1931)
39. Ruth Rendell: A Judgement in Stone (1977)
48. Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent (1987)
67. Dorothy L. Sayers: Strong Poison (1930)
87. J. J. Marric: Gideon’s Day (1955)

I picked a varied bunch of five-star books, from the chummy 50s London police procedural Gideon’s Day to the suspenseful melodrama of Rebecca. I’m really not sure I meant to give Strong Poison five stars, but there it is.

If nothing else, my list of five-star books proves that reading a set list of books expands your horizons, even within the narrow confines of a genre. I would never have picked up Presumed Innocent in a million years. A legal thriller? No way.

The ‘what the hell are they doing on the list?’ list

I don’t seem to rate action thrillers very highly. This is my bottom set:

Booring (sic)

Booring (sic)

14. Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male (1939)
28. Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White (1860)
52. Michael Innes: The Journeying Boy (1949)
77. Desmond Bagley: Running Blind (1970)
78. Dick Francis: Twice Shy (1981)
92. Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands (1903)
95. Ken Follett: The Key to Rebecca (1980)
100. Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men (1906)

Would I reconsider any of these? The Riddle of the Sands lost marks for the sailing detail, but is otherwise a good book.

The others really don’t belong on the top 100 list, in my opinion. The Four Just Men is my only one-star book, by the way. I just could not see the point.

Other things I’ve learnt about my reading

I have a nerdy spreadsheet which allows me to submit the top 100 to various forms of analysis. Do I like British authors more than American? Male more than female? Any particular decade? Any particular sub-genre?

I can’t tell.

I think I’m just an omnivore.

One thing occurred to me, though. I can really rate an author’s work, but still be not that into them. A case in point: Baroness Rendell of Babergh. There’s not a bad review amongst this lot, but would I make the effort to read another Ruth Rendell? Probably not.

29. Barbara Vine: A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986)
39. Ruth Rendell: A Judgement in Stone (1977)
49. Ruth Rendell: A Demon in My View (1976)
50=. Barbara Vine: A Fatal Inversion (1987)

What’s next?

The book that got me started.

The book that got me started.

I keep having to recalculate when I’m going to be finished with the list, but I think it’s going to be the year after next. I don’t only read books on the list, and I don’t just read classic crime. I also read new crime. See? Omnivore.

What’s for sure is that the next 50 books contain some that I love (Chandler, The Maltese Falcon, Bleak House, The Tiger in the Smoke) and some that I hate (Gaudy Night, Trent’s Last Case, The Name of the Rose, and oh no The Daughter of Time). I’m definitely looking forward to meeting some hitherto-unread authors such as Len Deighton and Hillary Waugh. And for some reason I’m especially looking forward to The Devil in Velvet, which sounds completely barmy.

Thanks to all my readers and especially my commenters for your support. I hope you’ll stick around for the next 50 reviews.


About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Classic mystery book review, Information Received and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Halfway there

  1. Well done Rich that is a great achievement – and on the whole I would agree with all your top marks but remain dumbfounded by the lack of love for THE WOMAN IN WHITE – you are not the only one though but you must reconsider 🙂


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Rich – Well done! I’m so glad to see The Glass Key, A Judgement in Stone and Presumed Innocent at the top of your list. Oh, and of course Strong Poison too. I have to really be ‘sold’ on an action thriller before I’ll dive into it, so I understand your point about that. I’ll be eager to see your final wrietup.


  3. I enjoyed reading this, I was most intrigued by the different facts gathered from your Big Read. You will love The Devil in Velvet just because it is the most bizarre book ever, just thinking about it makes me smile.


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