Last year I set a goal of reading Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time as a way of introducing myself to new authors in a genre I enjoy reading after growing tired of searching for new modern authors I want to read.
Part of my enjoyment has been introduced to novels and authors I hadn’t read. The other part has been learning about the author’s life, the history of the time the novels were written, the categories the novel is from and whatever else grabs my attention while reading the novels. I’ve read author’s autobiography and biographies, watched documentaries and interviews on YouTube, watched book reviews on YouTube and listened to audio from BBC Radio Dramas on walks.
Creation of My Reading List
My list was created by combining The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time published by the British Crime Writers Association in 1990 and The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time published by the Mystery Writers of America in 1995 into one list and removing any duplicates of the same book since many titles can be found in both lists (my list is at the bottom of this post).
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.
|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:|
My Reading Order
My approach to working through the reading list has evolved. Initially I started reading the books in the order of their ranking on the list. After discovering the lists were created from ten categories I decided to change to reading books in order of each category.
The further I read through the list the more I realized that reading the books in order of each category and their ranking was a flawed approach. The reason for inclusion in the list could be the novel was unique, one of the first examples of a category or early example of a specific school of writing:
- ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd‘ and ‘And Then There Were None‘ by Agatha Christie are considered by many to be the best two novels she ever wrote. These novels are uniquely written as a result of how both are narrated but aren’t my favorite Agatha Christie novels.
- ‘The Daughter of Time‘ by Josephine Tey is considered one of the best crime novels ever written. A unique novel based on a Police Inspector who while recovering in hospital from a back injury investigates the alleged crimes of King Richard III of England from his hospital bed. Published in 1951 it sparked mass interest in Richard’s redemption.
- ‘The Circular Staircase‘ publish by Mary Roberts Rinehart in 1908 is considered an example of “Had-I-But-Known” school of mystery writing while ‘Three Coffins‘ by John Dickson Carr in 1935 is considered by many as the best locked room mystery of all time.
- ‘The Secret Agent‘ published by Joseph Conrad in 1907 is considered one of the earliest spy thrillers and “The Riddle of Sands” by Esrkine Childers in 1903 is an early example of espionage novel and influential in the spy fiction genre.
And finally I decided reading the novel by an author on the list didn’t always help me appreciate their work, or the novel, especially if the novel was part of a series. ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ is the sixth novel in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series and ‘Gaudy Night’ by Dorothy L. Sayers is the tenth novel in part of her Lord Wimsey series. I might have appreciated both these novels more if I had read the author’s work in order of the series rather than trying to read both as stand alone.
My revised reading order is:
- Read the novels in order of their year published; from oldest to newest.
- Start with earlier novels by the author and work through their novels to the novel on the list. For example, I read John Dickson Carr’s Dr Gideon Fell series in the following order before reading The Three Coffins:
Benefit of this approach:
- Some of the authors from the early to mid 1900’s refer to novels or characters published by some of the more famous earlier authors.
- Better understanding of how writing in each category, and writing style, evolved.
- Greater appreciation of the author work.
My New Reading Order
Below is what my list looks like now. Duplicates removed and listed in order of date published. The list column indicates if the novel is included in both lists or only one of the list and the rank is the ranking the novel appears on the list. I’ve used the higher ranking if the novel is included on both lists. For example, ‘Trent’s Last Case‘ by E.C Bentley published in 1913 is ranked 33 on the Mystery Writers of America list and 34 on the British-based Crime Writers Association.
My original reading list is at the bottom of this post for those interested in checking out novels in order of rank and category.
My Reading List Progress
I’ve read 22 different authors and 28 novels from my reading list as well as the following numbers of novels by each author.
- John Buchan – 3 novels from Richard Hannay series
- Raymond Chandler – 6 novels
- John Dickson Carr – 5 novels from Dr Gideon Fell series
- Agatha Christie – 39 novels including entire Hercule Poirit series and Tommy & Tuppence series
- Wilkie Collins – 2 novels
- Dashiell Hammett – 5 novels
- Michael Innes – 3 novels from John Appleby series
- Mary Robert Rinehart – 8 novels
- Dorothy L Sayer – 11 novels
- Joephine Tey – 6 novels from Inspector Alan Grant series
And the following author autobiographies/biographies:
- Arthur Conan Doyle: Memories and Adventures
- Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
- Mary Roberts Rinehart: My Story
- Josphine Tey: A Life
My favorite categories so far are classics and the Golden Age. I prefer The Golden Age mystery stories to the hard boiled crime pioneers of Dashiel Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James M Cain. However, Raymond Chandler had an incredible ability to build atmosphere, describe places and people as highlighted in ‘The Big Sleep.’
My favorite novels are ‘The Woman in White‘ (1860) and ‘The Moonstone‘ (1868) by Wilkie Collins. Originally serialized in Charles Dicken’s magazine before being published as novels. Both novels use the “multi-narration’ method where a series of characters narrate different chapters.
Most of the novels I’ve read transcends time and are enjoyable to read. My exception is the early espionage novels. Possibly a flaw of spy thrillers set during specific time periods? I read other people’s reviews of John Buchan’s novels who reported while his books are a fast read — they weren’t a fan. I wondered while reading John Le Carre’s ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ whether those born after the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall would relate to the story as well as myself who was born a few years after the building of the Berlin War.
Finding the Novels
Part of the challenge, and fun, has been finding the novels to read.
Here’s the orders of where I source the novels from:
- Search Google using the title of the novel, author combined with ebook or PDF. First I try ebook and if that doesn’t work I repeat the search using PDF. Copyright on older novels has expired and you can download ebooks or PDFs for free from Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg Australia, Open Library and a range of other websites. The source of the ebook determines which app is used for reading on an iPad:
- Charity book sales. In Perth Save the Children holds several large books sales and ParaQuad’s Book Bazaar has a monthly sale (their contract with the State Library of Western Australia whereby all discarded library books are donated is why their shops have a diverse range of books).
- Charity shops (Thrift Shops). My favorite shops in Perth are ParaQuad Industries Op Shop & Book Bazaar, Willetton and Balcatta. Both shops have a large section of second hand books sorted in alphabetical order.
- Harder to source books I’ve purchased as ebooks from Amazon. I’ve just subscribed to Kindle Unlimited as many of the current books I want to read are free on Kindle Unlimited.
Borrowing from Open Library
I’ve learnt there are a few tricks to get the most out of reading books from the Internet Archive’s Open Library. To borrow a book from Open Library you need to create a free account and install Abode Digital Editions (if reading on an iPad).
Here’s my tips:
1. Log into your Open Library account.
2. Tap Borrow next to the book you want to read.
3. This opens the book inside their online reader. Tap on the More menu to download the book onto your device.
4. Tap on the Loan Information link and tap on Encrypted Abode PDF High Quality Page Images
5. Tap on Open in Digital Editions.
6. This loads as scanned pages of the book in Digital Editions. I’ve found the “Encrypted Abode PDF Smaller File. May Contain Errors” often contains numerous errors making them harder to read. The “Encrypted Abode PDF High Quality Page Images” versions have always been good quality and easy to read.
Here’s an example of what this format looks like:
My Book Collection
Provided the print size suits my aging eyes I prefer to reading books to ebooks and have been building my collection.
Here’s my Agatha Christie’s collection. Most of my Agatha Christie Crime Collection series, which consists of 3 novels per book, were brought for $2 per book from a charity shop.
I purchase books as I find them as classic and vintage crime novels can be hard to find locally. Most of the following books are waiting to be read!
I would really love to read My Story; a New Edition and Seventeen New Years by Mary Roberts Rinehart 1948 – but it is challenging to source in Australia 🙁
My Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time
Below is what my list looks like with 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)