(aka Blogger tries clickbait headlines)
Earlier in the week I announced that I’d completed reviewing all 106 in the CWA’s list of the 100 best crime and mystery books, and promised to let you know which books I thought genuinely deserved a place in that list.
My favourites (with their ranking in the CWA list) are:
6. Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca (1938)
7. Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely (1940)
12. Hillary Waugh: Last Seen Wearing … (1952)
16. Francis Iles: Malice Aforethought (1931)
19. Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (1939)
26. Margery Allingham: The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)
31. Dashiell Hammett: The Glass Key (1931)
38. Patricia Highsmith: Strangers on a Train (1950)
39. Ruth Rendell: A Judgement in Stone (1977)
45. Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
47. Raymond Chandler: The Lady in the Lake (1943)
48. Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent (1987)
79. Richard Condon: The Manchurian Candidate (1959)
80. Caroline Graham: The Killings at Badger’s Drift (1987)
86. John Fowles: The Collector (1963)
87. J. J. Marric: Gideon’s Day (1955)
94. Dashiell Hammett: Red Harvest (1929)
You’ll notice I didn’t pick any of the CWA’s top ten, which includes some properly over-rated titles such as (don’t shoot me) The Ipcress File (impenetrable), Gaudy Night (full of itself), and The Daughter of Time (not even a crime novel). And by the way, I do love other books by Deighton and Tey, and grudgingly like some Sayers.
Some of my faves are well known enough not to need any more explanation, but some of them are relatively forgotten, so let me give you some quick rundowns…
- Hillary Waugh’s Last Seen Wearing… is a landmark in police procedural. A hard-working team of cops solve the mystery of a missing college girl.
- Francis Iles’ Malice Aforethought: A study of a rural doctor digging himself deeper and deeper into trouble. Cherchez les femmes.
- Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key: Not one of his big-hitters, but a fascinatingly complex study of the hinterland between crime and politics.
- Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone: Sad, grim, unremitting, inevitable, tragic – and it hooks you in by telling you the end on page one.
- Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent is not my usual thing – glossy 80s lawyers – but my God is it clever.
- Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate: A little bit crimey, but actually more of a biting satire in the vein of Catch-22.
- Caroline Graham’s The Killings at Badger’s Drift: Forget Midsomer Murders, Tom Barnaby’s first outing in print has genuinely disturbing undercurrents.
- John Fowles’ The Collector: Another book which sets the tone for a subgenre, in this case stalking-obsessive-kidnaps-and-kills.
- J. J. Marric’s Gideon’s Day is a British take on police procedural by the hyper-productive pulp writer John Creasey. Gideon is paternal, pains-taking, and calmly sorts out a day’s worth of trouble in his patch.
- Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest: Hard-hitting and surprisingly violent, Red Harvest reads like the template for every action movie ever.
I also promised to reveal my worst of the worst. Although I find I’ve been surprisingly consistent in my dislike for know-it-all action men (Rogue Male, Running Blind, The Key to Rebecca, Twice Shy), I find my lowest-scoring title is an Edgar Wallace, The Four Just Men. There are much better Wallaces, believe me. I think it just made the top 100 by being his best known.