by Marvin Lachman

H. R. F. KEATING – Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books. Carroll & Graf, US, hardcover, November 1987; trade paperback, October 1996. Xanadu, UK, hardcover, 1987.

H. R. F. KEATING Crime and Mystery

Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring 1988.

   H.R.F. Keating proves he is a man after my own heart by compiling a list of the one-hundred best mysteries in Crime and Mystery. One can quarrel with some of Keating’s selections; one always will with any list of “bests.”

   He leaves out R. Austin Freeman, Alice Tilton, and Stuart Palmer because they are not presently available, but they certainly are in the US, thanks to recent reprints. Keating does not include Dick Francis because he only writes stories of “pure suspense.” Yet, Francis includes plenty of crime and mystery in his plots and has even given us a series detective, Sid Halley.

   On the other hand, Keating does not like Nicholas Freeling (I don’t either) but includes him because he is considered “important.” There, Keating should have stuck with his personal taste.

   No one could make up a list of one-hundred books and expect total agreement. What is remarkable about Crime and Mystery is that most of Keating’s selections are remarkably sound, and his two-page essays on each are masterpieces of succinct criticism, with superb use of metaphor. This is an indispensable guide to the literature we like best.

Editorial Comment:   This is the second in a series of reviews in which Marv covered reference works published in 1987, books about the field of mystery and crime fiction. Preceding this one was Son of Gun in Cheek, by Bill Pronzini. You can find it here.