My Reading List of Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time

My Reading List of Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time

It started like this.  My husband decided he wanted to read the ‘Top 100 Books You Need To Read Before You Die’.  He even tried to encourage me to join his craziness!

I admired his determination but his list wasn’t for me — too many horrible memories of some of the classics read for English Literature in my final years of school.

Instead while searching for the ideal list of ‘Top 100 Books You Need To Read Before You Die’ for my husband I stumbled across The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time and The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time.   A genre that I love reading and more achievable personal goal than my husband’s list.

Mystery Books

For those interested in my husband’s list I’ve chosen The 100 Best novels written in English which Robert McCrum’s compiled over two years as he’s reviewed each novel with insights into each author (some of the novels from my list are reviewed in this list).

Creation of My Reading List

I gave my list a twist by combining The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time and The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time into one list and removed any duplicates of the same book since many titles can be found in both lists (my list is at the bottom of this post).

The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time was created by the British-based Crime Writers Association and published in book form in the Hatchards Crime Companion in 1990.  Inspired by the British Crime Writers’ Association, the Mystery Writers of America created their own  The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time and published it in The Crown Crime Companion in 1995.

Initially concerned the lists being from 1990 and 1995 were too outdated, I reflected that I’ve read most of the modern crime and mystery authors, and grown tired of searching for new authors I want to read. The purpose of both lists was to introduce readers to new novels and remind them about books by favorite writers they may have missed.  Exactly what I needed!

How The Novels Were Ranked

After reading many of the top 10 novels I decided I wanted to know how the two lists were compiled to help understand their ranking system so I brought second hand copies of  Hatchards Crime Companion and The Crown Crime Companion online.

Both lists were compiled using the same approach.  Their members were asked to name their five favorite books in each of ten categories.  The highest vote-getter, regardless of category, made up their Top 100 and the more votes a novel received the higher on the list it was ranked.

It was a light bulb moment!  While I’ve enjoyed every novel I’ve read so far I couldn’t understand how some of the novels ranked as high as they did.  Now makes sense.  Members are more likely to nominate the same books in the lesser read categories potentially pushing the ranking of these novels higher in the list. I had also been reading the books in order of their ranking on the list without realizing the lists were created from ten categories; and the better approach is to read the books in order within each category.

The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time categories used by the British-based Crime Writers Association were: The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time categories used by Mystery Writers of America were:
  • The Founding Fathers – The Classics
  • The Golden Age (1914 – 1939)
  • Police Procedural
  • Psychological suspense
  • The Whodunnit
  • History Suspense
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Thrillers
  • Espionage Fiction
  • Hard-boiled
  • Classics
  • Suspense
  • Hard-boiled/Private Eye
  •  Police Procedural
  • Espionage/Thriller
  • Criminal
  • Cozy/traditional
  • Historical
  • Humorous
  • Legal/courtroom

Finding the Novels

Book ExchangePart of the challenge, and fun, has been finding the novels to read.

Here’s the order of where I source the novels from:

  1. Search my local library to identify which of the novels I can borrow from the library or request from a nearby library.
  2. Check Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Australia for free ebooks.
  3. Check the local Book Exchanges. The decrease in numbers of local book exchanges has lead to great selections of harder to get books.
  4. Final resort – check online second hand book stores.

Researching the Authors, the Novels and their History

Part of my enjoyment has been introduced to novels and authors I hadn’t read.

The other part has been learning about the authors, their history and whatever else grabs my attention while reading the novels.  YouTube has been a great resource for supplementing articles (check out examples below).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes Stories 

Watched Treasures of the Sherlock Holmes Collections to see an original copy of “A Study in Scarlet” and learned more about The Strand Magazine.

Checked out this 10 minute interview by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on YouTube from 1930.

Watched this 26 minute documentary video from 1985 on YouTube.

Listened to a 43 minute audio from BBC radio documentary in 1980 while going for a walk!

Here’s a post I published about ‘Lessons from Sherlock Holmes: It’s Elementary‘.

John Le Carre 

Watched John Le Carre’s interview about the “Spy who came in from the Cold” from the Merv Griffin Show in 1965.

Raymond Chandler

Rented The Big Sleep on YouTube to see how they adapted the novel into a movie.   I’ve watched the 1946 movie version of the Big Sleep by Humphery Bogart and Lauren Bacall as well as the 1978 movie with Robert Mitchum (found in our local library).

My Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time

Below is what my list now looks like. Duplicates removed, the date published included and category, if known, added.

1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887 – 1927) Classic
1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (1951) History Mystery
2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)  Hard-boiled/Private Eye
2. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
3. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe (1845) Classic
3. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carré (1963) Espionage Fiction Espionage/Thriller
4. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (1935) The Golden Age (1914 – 1939)/ Romantic Suspense Cozy/traditional
5.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926) The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional
5.  Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (1987) Whodunnit Legal/courtroom
6.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938) Romantic Suspense/Suspense
7.  Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (1940)  Hard-boiled/Private Eye
7.  The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1968) Classic
9.  The Ipcress File by Len Deighton (1962) Espionage Fiction Espionage/Thriller
10.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939) The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional
11.  The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1948) Whodunnit Cozy/traditional
11.  Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (1958) Legal/courtroom
12.  Last Seen Wearing… by Hillary Waugh (1952) Police Procedural
13.  The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (1953) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
13.  The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980) History Mystery
14.  The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (1934) Hard-boiled Criminal
14.  Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (1939) Thriller, Espionage/Thriller
15.  The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969) Criminal
16.  The Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988) Suspense
16.  Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles (1931) Psychological suspense
17.  A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (1939) Espionage/Thriller
17.  The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971) Thriller Espionage/Thriller
18.  The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934) The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional
19.  The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories by Agatha Christie  The Golden Age (1914 – 1939)/ Cozy/traditional Legal/courtroom
20.  The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915) Founding Fathers Classic Espionage/Thriller
22.  Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers (1933)
24.  Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky  (1866) Classic
23.  The mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (1939) Thriller
23.  The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946) Whodunnit Cozy/traditional Humorous
25.  Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett (1978) Espionage/Thriller
26.  The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham (1952) The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional
26.  Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer (1978) Legal/courtroom
27.  Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (1981) Suspense
27.  The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey (1982) History Mystery
28.  The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1860) Classic
29.  Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald (1974) Humorous
29.  A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (1986) Psychological suspense
30.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré (1974) Espionage Fiction Espionage/Thriller
31.  The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett (1931) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
31.  The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (1931) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
34.  Trent’s Last Case by E. C. Bentley (1913) Founding Fathers / Classic
34.  Double Indemnity by James M. Cain (1943) Criminal
35.  Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith (1981) Police Procedural/Thriller
35.  From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming (1957) Espionage Fiction Espionage/Thriller
36.  Cop Hater by Ed McBain (1956) Police Procedural
36.  Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers (1930) Cozy/traditional
36. The Dead of Jericho by Colin Dexter (1981) Police Procedural
37.  Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman (1973) Police Procedural
38.  Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith (1950) Psychological suspense
38.  The Hot Rock by Donald E. Westlake (1970) Humorous
39.  Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (1929) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
39.  A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell (1977) Psychological suspense Suspense
40.  The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1909) Romantic Suspense Classics
40.  Three Coffins (or The Hollow Man) by John Dickson Carr (1938) – known by two different titles. The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional
41.  Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934) Cozy/traditional
41.  The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional
42.  The Firm by John Grisham (1991) Legal/courtroom
42.  A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (1977) History Mystery
42.  The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters (1981) History Mystery
44.  Laura by Vera Caspary (1942) Suspense
44.  A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (1953) Psychological suspense
45.  I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane (1947) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
45.  The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955) Psychological suspense Criminal
46.  The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjöwall (1970) Police Procedural
46.  Brighton Rock by Graham Greene () Psychological suspense Suspense
47.  Bank Shot by Donald E. Westlake (1972) Humorous
47.  The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (1943) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
48.  The Third Man by Graham Greene (1950) Espionage Fiction Espionage/Thriller
49.  The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (1952) Criminal
49.  A Demon in My View by Ruth Rendell (1976) Psychological suspense
50.  Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark (1975) Suspense
50.  The Devil in Velvet by John Dickson Carr (1951) History Mystery
50.  A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine (1987)
51.  A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton (1982) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
52.  The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders (1973) Police Procedural
52.  The Journeying Boy by Michael Innes (1987) Whodunnit
53.  A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman (1989) Police Procedural
53.  A Taste for Death by P. D. James (1986) Whodunnit
54.  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966) Criminal
54.  The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins (1975) Thriller
55.  My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart (1960) Romantic Suspense
56.  Bertie and the Tinman by Peter Lovesey (1987) History Mystery
57.  The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (1911 )  Founding Fathers Classic
56.  Penny Black by Susan Moody (1984) Whodunnit
58.  Smiley’s People by John le Carre (1979) Espionage/Thriller
58.  Game, Set & Match (Berlin Game ; Mexico Set ; London Match) by Len Deighton (1984, 1985, 1986) Espionage Fiction / Espionage/Thriller
59.  The Danger by Dick Francis (1983) Thriller
60.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) Legal/courtroom
60.  Devices and Desires by P. D. James (1989)
61.  Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (1958)
61.  Under World by Reginald Hill (1988) Police Procedural
62.  The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (1870) Classic
62.  Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart (1958) Romantic Suspense
63.  Wobble to Death by Peter Lovesey (1970) Historical
63.  A Running Duck by Paula Gosling (1978) Whodunnit
64.  Ashenden, or, The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham (1928)
64.  Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert (1950) Whodunnit
65.  The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer (1974) Historical
65.  The Rose of Tibet by Lionel Davidson (1962) Thriller
66.  The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout (1965)  Hard-boiled/Private Eye
66.  Innocent Blood by P. D. James (1980)
67.  Stick by Elmore Leonard (1983) Criminal
68.  Hamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes (1937)
70.  Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) Classic
70.  A Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms (1937) The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional Police Procedural
71.  Deadheads by Reginald Hill (1983) Police Procedural
73.  A Time to Kill by John Grisham (1989) Legal/courtroom
73.  The Labyrinth Makers by Anthony Price (1974) Espionage Fiction
74.  The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall (1965) Espionage Fiction
75.  Little Caesar by William Riley Burnett (1929)
75. Beast in View by Margaret Millar (1955) Psychological suspense / Suspense
76.  The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins (1972) Criminal
76.  The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell (1984)  Whodunnit
77.  Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers (1927) Cozy/traditional
77.  Running Blind by Desmond Bagley (1970)
78.  Twice Shy by Dick Francis (1981) Thriller
79.  The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (1959)
80.  The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham (1987) Whodunnit
81.  The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake (1938) The Golden Age (1914 – 1939) Cozy/traditional/
82.  The Case of the Abominable Snowman by Nicholas Blake
82.  Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (1975) Historical
83.  Shroud for a Nightingale by P. D. James (1971) Police Procedural
83. Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie (1945) History Mystery
84.  The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (1984)
84.  Green for Danger by Christianna Brand (1945) Cozy/traditional
85.  Chinaman’s Chance by Ross Thomas (1978)
85.  Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare (1942) Legal/courtroom
86.  The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (1907)
86.  The Collector by John Fowles (1963) Psychological suspense
87.  The Dreadful Yellow Sky by John D. MacDonald (1975) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
87.  Gideon’s Day by J. J. Marric (1955) Police Procedural
88. The Sun Chemist by Lionel Davidson (1976) Thriller
89.  The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean (1957) Thriller
90.  Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey (1947) Romantic Suspense
90.  The Color of Murder by Julian Symons (1957)
91.  The Chill by Ross Macdonald (1963) Hard-boiled/Private Eye
91.  Greenmantle by John Buchan (1916)
92.  Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (1990) Historical
92.  The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers  (1903) Espionage Fiction
93.  The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh (1975) Police Procedural
94.  God Save the Mark by Donald E. Westlake (1967) Humorous
95.  Home Sweet Homicide by Craig Rice (1944)
95.  The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett (1980) Espionage Fiction
97. Prizzi’s Honor by Richard Condon (1982) Criminal
96.  Sadie When She Died by Ed McBain (1972) Police Procedural
97.  The Murder of the Maharajah by H. R. F. Keating (1980) Police Procedural
98.  The Steam Pig by James McClure (1974) Police Procedural
98.  What Bloody Man is That? by Simon Brett (1987)
98.  Shooting Script by Gavin Lyall (1966)
99.  Time and Again by Jack Finney (1970) Historical
100.  The Four Just Men by Edgar Wallace (1906)

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