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?
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:
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.
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.