by Geoff Bradley

   This is a list of books that appealed to me as I read them. I have simply gone on my fond memories of reading them, some many years ago, in a few cases when I was just a boy. I haven’t re-assessed and no doubt a stint of re-reading would lead to a change of mind for several of them.

   No doubt there are many books on the list that you can’t imagine why they are there. No doubt, also, there are some that you can’t imagine why they are not there but many are probably absent because I haven’t read them as I would make no claims to be widely read.

   I have restricted myself to one title per author, pseudonyms included.

   I haven’t counted as I compiled the list but I think there are 81 titles there. I’m sure there are other I should add if they came to mind. In the meantime this listing should be regarded as a work in progress rather than the finished thing.

Eric Ambler: Passage of Arms (1959)
   I read a lot of Ambler back in the ’60s but this was the one that gripped me more than the others.
H.C. Bailey: Call Mr Fortune (1920)
   I bought an omnibus of the first four Mr Fortune short story collections. I started reading intending to just read this first book but ended reading all four straight off.
Francis Beeding: Death Walks in Eastrepps (1931)
   I can’t remember the details but I remember enjoying it.
Nicholas Blake: The Beast Must Die (1938)
   An author sets out to find the hit-and-run driver who killed his son.
Lawrence Block: A Stab In The Dark (1981)
   The best of the earlyish Scudders.
Edward Boyd and Bill Knox: The View From Daniel Pike (1974)
   Short stories about a Glasgow private eye. Boyd wrote the tv scripts Knox turned them into stories.
Ernest Bramah: Max Carrados (1914)
   Classic short stories about a blind detective.
Howard Browne: The Taste Of Ashes (1957)
The best of Paul Pine, private detective.
Curt Cannon [1]: I’m Cannon — For Hire (1958)
   I enjoyed this story of the down-and-out detective.
Sarah Caudwell: Thus Was Adonis Murdered (1981)
   Witty badinage in the legal chambers and in Greece.
Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely (1940)
   My favourite of the Chandlers.
G. K. Chesterton: The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
   Another classic short story collection.
Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands (1903)
   Immaculate adventure/spy story
Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile (1938)
   An intricately contrived crime that ties up the loose ends.
Tucker Coe: Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death (1966)
   I enjoyed the whole Mitch Tobin sequence and this first one set the tone nicely.
John Collee: Paper Mask (1987)
   The tale of a doomed hospital porter who steps out of his station.
J. J. Connington: Nemesis at Raynham Parva (1929)
   Domestic crime set in the country, with a cunning twist. [2]
Freeman Wills Crofts: The Groote Park Murder (1925)
   A pre-French Crofts but the intricate plot works.
Len Deighton: The Ipcress File (1962)
   The spy novel becomes working class.
Carter Dickson [3]: The Judas Window (1938)
   One of Carr’s intricate impossible crimes.
Warwick Downing: The Player (1974)
   I’ve forgotten the details but I know I enjoyed it.
Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
   Probably Doyle’s best set of short stories. (I’m not chickening out by selecting The Complete SH.)
Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The Pledge (1959)
   Short tale of a detective’s mental deterioration as he seeks a child killer.
Stanley Ellin: Mystery Stories (1956)
   Excellent and varied set of short stories.
G. J. Feakes: Moonrakers and Mischief (1961)
   A little weak in the plot but hilariously funny.
Dick Francis: Enquiry (1970)
   My favourite among many excellent racing thrillers.
R. Austin Freeman: The Red Thumb Mark (1907)
   The meticulous Thorndyke at his intricate best.
Stephen Greenleaf: Beyond Blame (1986)
   My favourite of the Tanner books. The ending stood up which it often didn’t in Greenleaf’s other books, good as they were to read.
Michael Gilbert: Death in Captivity (1952)
   Whodunit and PoW escape novel all in one book.
Donald Hamilton: Death of a Citizen (1960)
   First in an excellent series.
Dashiell Hammet: Red Harvest (1928)
   My favourite of his novels, otherwise I might have gone for a short story collection.
Cyril Hare: Tragedy at Law (1942)
   Pettigrew and the murder of a judge on the circuit that the author knew so well.
Thomas Harris: Red Dragon (1981)
   Excellent story with a captivating villain.
Jeremiah Healy: So Like Sleep (1987)
   My favourite of the early Cuddy’s.
Patricia Highsmith: Deep Water (1957)
   I enjoyed this murderous tale better than her more famous works.
Edward D. Hoch: Diagnosis Impossible (1996)
   Excellent collection of ‘impossible’ crimes concerning Dr Sam Hawthorne.
E. W. Hornung: The Amateur Cracksman (1899)
   First of the tales of Raffles. gentleman-thief.
Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male (1939)
   The best thriller I have read.
Richard Hull: The Murder of My Aunt (1934)
   Excellently humorous ‘inverted’ tale.
Stanley Hyland: Who Goes Hang? (1958)
   The details have gone but I know I enjoyed this tales set in the House of Commons.
Francis Iles [4]: Malice Aforethought (1931)
   Excellent inverted novel.
Dan Kavanagh: Putting the Boot In (1985)
   The best book I have read set around football.
Harry Stephen Keeler: The Amazing Web (1929)
   Typically intricate Keeler tale that all ties together neatly at the end.
Maurice Leblanc: The Confessions of Arsène Lupin (1912)
   Amusing and intricate tales of the French rogue.
John le Carré: Call For the Dead (1961)
   Excellent detective story set in the world of espionage.
Ira Levin: A Kiss Before Dying (1953)
   Has the best single moment I can recall reading.
Dick Lochte: Sleeping Dog (1985)
   Funny and yet enthralling p.i. tale.
Peter Lovesey: A Case of Spirits (1975)
   Excellent impossible crime about the excellent Sergeant Cribb.
Arthur Lyons: All God’s Children (1975)
   A very enjoyable p.i. tale with Jacob Asch.
John D. MacDonald: A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965)
   I read, and enjoyed, the McGee’s a long while ago but this is the one I seem to remember enjoying most.
Philip MacDonald: The Nursemaid Who Disappeared (1938)
   Colonel Gethryn on a case with very little to work on.
Ross Macdonald: The Underground Man (1971)
   My favourite of the Lew Archer books.
Raymond Marshall [5]: Hit and Run (1958)
   Outstanding first person tale of a man who is enticed and becomes wanted for murder.
L.A. Morse: The Old Dick
   I enjoyed this tale of an elderly detective.
John Mortimer: Rumpole of the Bailey (1978)
   The first collection of stories about the Old Bailey hack.
Sara Paretsky: Bitter Medicine (1987)
   My favourite of the Warshawski’s.
Robert B. Parker: Paper Doll (1993)
   Spenser finds the murderer of a businessman’s wife without Hawk’s help.
David Pierce: Down in the Valley (1989)
   The first about private eye Vic Daniel.
Jeremy Pikser: Junk on the Hill (1984)
   I’ve forgotten the details of this but I remember I enjoyed it.
Joyce Porter: Dover and the Unkindest Cut of All (1967)
   Dover investigates forcible castrations.
Talmage Powell: The Girl’s Number Doesn’t Answer (1960)
   The strongest of the five books about Tampa p.i. Ed Rivers
Bill Pronzini: Shackles (1988)
   Nameless is imprisoned and left to die, while working out who his captor is.
Ellery Queen: The Glass Village (1954)
   My favourite Queen though Ellery is not in it.
Patrick Quentin: Puzzle for Fiends (1946)
   Intriguing tale of Peter Duluth institutionalised with amnesia.
Ruth Rendell: A Demon in my View (1976)
   Excellent plot and beguiling story.
Sax Rohmer: The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu (1913)
   I loved this as a youngster; Fu-Manchu dominates every page he is on.
James Sallis: The Long-Legged Fly (1992)
   I enjoyed this first in the Lew Griffin series and the second, too, though they started to pall after that.
Sapper: The Female of the Species (1928)
   Bulldog Drummond was racist and objectionable but as a boy I raced through his exploits. This was my favourite as he had to decipher a message to rescue his wife.
Gunnar Staalesen: At Night All Wolves Are Grey (1986)
   Excellent, if bleak, p.i. tale set in Norway.
Rex Stout: In the Best Families (1950) [6]
   Wolfe’s routine is disrupted in this tale.
Josephine Tey: The Franchise Affair (1948)
   A slow build up to a revealing climax as a country solicitor defends two women accused of kidnapping.
Jim Thompson: Pop. 1280 (1964)
   One of Thompson’s riveting tales of a descent into madness.
June Thomson: The Secret Files of Sherlock Holmes (1990)
   Excellent Holmes short story pastiches.
Masako Togawa: The Lady Killer (1985)
   A serial killer in Tokyo.
Peter Tremayne: The Return of Raffles (1981)
   Excellent tale following Raffles’s return from the Boer War.
S. S. Van Dine: The Bishop Murder Case (1929)
   Van Dine is out of favour nowadays but this is one I really enjoyed.
Roy Vickers: The Department of Dead Ends (1947)
   Classic tales of cold cases revived from a single clue.
Henry Wade: Mist on the Saltings (1933)
   A nicely turned out story in which things are as they seemed.
Edgar Wallace: The Fellowship of the Frog
   Another author I read extensively as a boy. This is one of my favourites that I suspect might not stand up to a second reading.
Colin Watson: Hopjoy Was Here (1962)
   A funny, yet involving detective story.
Charles Williams: Dead Calm (1963)
   A riveting tale of skulduggery on the high seas.


1. aka Evan Hunter or Ed McBain
2. This is a title that should be read after sampling several of the earlier Connington’s
3. aka John Dickson Carr
4. aka Anthony Berkeley
5. aka James Hadley Chase
6. This is a title that should be read after sampling several of the earlier Nero Wolfe tales, especially And Be a Villain and The Second Confession.

Editorial Comment:   I have one more list of favorite or “best” mysteries to go. I’ll post one from Curt Evans tomorrow. If you’ve been following his reviews on this blog, you won’t be surprised to know that his list consists solely of Golden Age British Detective Novels. Even with that restriction, his list is the longest: 120 books in all. So far.