HRF Keating 100 Best Crime & Mystery Books

HRF Keating 100 Best Crime & Mystery Books

H.R.F Keating was an English crime fiction writer most notable for his series of novels featuring Inspector Ghote of the Bombay CID. He was also a crime books reviewer for The Times for fifteen years and published a book of his “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books” in 1987.

I needed a new reading challenge after completing my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery novel list challenge so decided to read through all 1100 books in H.R.F Keating’s “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books”.

About H.R.F Keating’s “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books”

H.R.F Keating’s “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books” is based on his favorite books from the genre. His list is written in order of date published from Edgar Allan Poe (1845) through to P.D James (1986) with a two-page synopsis of his thoughts about the author and their novel. It’s a sort of history of crime writing using the exact approach I ended up following when I worked through my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery novel list challenge – except I wasn’t aware he had used the same approach until I brought his book!

His rules for selecting which books he included were based on:

  • No author should be represented by more than three titles.
  • Adding a few personal favorites that other reviewers mightn’t have included.
  • Books must have crime in them and weren’t pure thrillers, espionage novels, horror stories, pure suspense stories, or considered proper novels like Dostoiesvski’s “Crime and Punishment”. This is why authors like Dick Francis, Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Higgins Clark, and John Le Carre aren’t included in his list.
  • Books were also chosen on the basis that in 1987 you were still able to get hold of the book.

I started my H.R.F Keating’s “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books” reading challenge in August 2022. I’ve already read some of his books as they were in my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery novel list challenge. My H.R.F Keating’s “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books” reading challenge is documented on this page and includes a summary of each author and their novels as well as tips for finding the books from his list. I’ve focused on key points I felt would be helpful to others who might want to read the books from his list. For a more detailed review, you need to read H.R.F Keating’s “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books” two-page synopsis of each author and their novel.

I prefer reading physical versions of the books rather than e-books since my work involves working on a computer so I’ve indicated which books I was able to find as physical copies of the books vs those I had to read as e-books. Majority of my books I was able to purchase cheaply through charity shops. Harder-to-find books were brought from second-hand book shops, and hard-to-find were read as e-books or purchased second-hand online. I’ve included links to where a book can be read as a free e-book if it is available online.

Here is H.R.F Keating’s “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books” for those wanting a copy of his list.

Edgar Allan Poe (1841)

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) – Classic
  • The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842) – Classic
  • The Purloined Letter (1844) – Classic
  • The Gold Bug (1843) – Classic

Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination is a compilation of Poe’s suspenseful tales. Poe is better known for his dark tales of terror and the supernatural however many consider Edgar Allan Poe’s three Auguste Dupin short stories as the first detective stories published.

I’ve listed the four short stories to read for those who prefer to read his key short stories rather than the entire Tales of Mystery and Imagination book.

His three Auguste Dupin short stories provide insight into early detective stories and it’s helpful to be aware of these stories because some of the early 1900’s crime novels reference Dupin. His “The Gold Bug” story was heavily nominated by the Mystery Writers of America and isn’t a detective story; it’s an old-fashioned deciphering of a cryptogram in a tale without a crime.

Below are links to free ebooks that include the short stories:

Wilkie Collins (1860)

The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins was an English novelist and playwright whose two novels The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868) are considered by many as the precursors of modern mystery novel and suspense novels.

The novel was originally published in serial form by Charles Dickens, a close friend of Wilkie Collins, in “All the Year Round” and afterward published in book form.

I was originally reluctant to read Wilkie Collins’s novels as I was worried being written in the 1800s that they would be hard to read and include content I couldn’t relate to. I love all his novels. “The Moonstone” uses the multi-narration method where different sections of the novel are told by different characters which isn’t commonly used nowadays but was very effective in developing the stories.

The Moonstone is about a priceless stone that goes missing soon after being given as a present on a birthday and the investigation to find what happened to the stone.

The book can be downloaded as free ebooks from Project Gutenberg. I sourced my paperback version from a charity shop.

Charles Dickens (1870)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the final novel written by Charles Dickens and he dies before he finished this novel. No one knows how he intended to end it and only six of the planned twelve installments were published.

An incredible novel that I really enjoyed reading. Wasn’t easy to find in charity shops and wish I had realized sooner that I could have downloaded the free ebook here.

Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)

The Complete Sherlock Holmes (1887-1927)

H.R.F Keating lists the following Arthur Conan Doyle books on his list:

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
  • The Hounds of the Baskerville (1902)

I’ve listed “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” book as that is the best way to read his stories if you are interested in his character development.

Being reluctant to read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories after watching the different movie and TV adaptations, I now appreciate how amazing his stories are and how they’ve withstood the test of time.

Sherlock Holmes wasn’t the first fictional detective but he is the “most portrayed movie character” in history. The Sherlock Holmes stories have had a profound and lasting effect on mystery writing and popular culture.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, has been credited as an influence on forensic science due to Holmes’ use of methods such as fingerprints, trace evidence, serology, ciphers, and footprints long before they were commonly used by the police.

You can read my detailed review of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his work here.

My hardest task was working out where to start so here’s my recommendation of order to read:

  1. A Study in Scarlet (1887) – introduces Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.
  2. The Sign of Four (1890) – introduces Dr. Watson’s future wife Mary.
  3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 12 short stories published in The Strand in 1891-1892 with the most famous being “A Scandal in Bohemia” which introduces Irene Adler.
  4. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – 11 short stories published in The Strand in 1892-1893 with the most famous being “The Final Problem” which kills off Sherlock Holmes.
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes – 13 short stories published in The Strand in 1903-1904 with the most famous being “The Adventures of the Empty House” where Sherlock Holmes is resurrected.
  6. The Hound of the Baskervilles – serialized in the Strand in 1901-1902. Considered by many as the best Sherlock Holmes novel.
  7. The Valley of Fear – serialized in The Strand from 1914–1915.
  8. His Last Bow: Some Later Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes – stories published 1908–1917.
  9. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes – stories published 1921–1927.

You can read as individual novels or you’ll find them all in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His books can be downloaded as free ebooks or easily found in charity shops.

E.W. Hornung 1899-1904

The Collected Raffles

H.R.F Keating lists the novel as “The Amateur Cracksman” however it wasn’t until I read “The Amateur Cracksman” that I realized two of the stories, “The Fate of Faustina” and “A Jubilee Present”, he includes in his two-page synopsis of E.W. Hornung is from “The Black Mask”.

The best option is to read E.W. Hornung’s “The Collected Raffles” which includes his entire collection of Raffles stories – his character Raffles was referred to as the Amateur Cracksman. I’m assuming when H.R.F Keating lists “The Amateur Cracksman” he was actually referring to “The Collected Raffles”.

“The Collected Raffles” is E.W. Hornung’s collection of Raffles short stories and is based on A.J Raffles, a gentleman thief in late Victorian Great Britain who is assisted by his friend Harry “Bunny” Manders.

H.R.F Keating rates E.W. Hornung stories about A.J. Raffles, a gentleman burglar, squarely beside Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. E.W. Hornung was married to Arthur Conan Doyle’s sister. Holmes stories are narrated by Watson while Raffles stories are narrated by his sidekick Bunny. Holmes and Raffles are polar opposites with Raffles being like an inversion of Holmes. Holmes fights crime and Raffles plans crime.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1924 autobiography, Memories and Adventures, he said “I told him so before he put pen to paper, and the result has, I fear, borne me out. You must not make the criminal a hero.” E.W. Hornung died in 1921 so I decided to find out what crime books reviewer said about E.W. Hornung’s Raffles stories around the time he died compared to H.R.F Keating’s review. I have the benefit of being able to find reviews that were published when E.W. Hornung died which H.R.F Keating didn’t have when he published his book in 1987.

An excerpt from The Passing of E.W. Hornung published on Thursday 16 June 1921 said “For Sherlock Holmes represented the reaction against crime, and lives in the public favor in virtue of his eccentric skill in fighting it. Raffles, the criminal, is as dead as any Deadwood Dick hero that ever had a brief hour of popularity. With the younger generation, a reference to him almost needs an explanatory note. Older readers and theatre-goers recall him with languid indifference. The vogue of Raffles only ran through a very few years and would have faded out still more quickly but for the clever stage presentation.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s comment in his 1924 autobiography was a reflection that by the time E.W. Hornung died Raffles was no longer popular.

“The Collected Raffles” contains:

  1. The Amateur Cracksman (1899)
  2. The Black Mask (1901)
  3. A Thief in the Night (1905)

I’m not sure I would have appreciated the Raffles stories as much if I only read “The Amateur Cracksman” as the characters developed more with each book.

His books can be downloaded as free ebooks or occasionally found in charity shops/second-hand bookshops.

Jacques Futrelle (1907)

  • The Thinking Machine (1907)

Jacques Futrelle was best known for his short detective stories featuring Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen who was known as “The Thinking Machine” for his use of logic where he solves a variety of different mysteries with his friend and companion, Hutchinson Hatch, reporter of a fictional newspaper called The Daily New Yorker.  He died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 aged 37.   

I had no luck finding a physical copy of his books so ended up buying the First Thinking Machine Omnibus ebook which includes the following short stories:

  1. “Problem of Dressing Room ‘A.’ ” Associated Sunday Magazines [e.g. (Minneapolis) Sunday Journal], 2 September 1906. (The original magazine publication also featured an introductory vignette, “The Thinking Machine.”)
  2. “The Flaming Phantom.” Boston American, 13 November to 19 November 1905. Hatch is sent to investigate a “haunted house” where a flaming ghost chases off any intruders, but he is forced to summon Van Dusen)
  3. “The Great Auto Mystery.” Boston American, 20 November to 26 November 1905. Also published as “The Knife.”
  4. “The Man Who Was Lost.” Boston American, 18 December to 24 December 1905.
  5. “The Mystery of a Studio.” Boston American, 4 December to 10 December 1905.
  6. “The Problem of Cell 13.” Boston American, 30 October to 5 November 1905. Van Dusen accepts a challenge to escape from a death row cell within a week, and Hatch publicizes it in the newspaper
  7. “The Ralston Bank Burglary.” Boston American, 6 November to 12 November 1905.
  8. “The Scarlet Thread.” Boston American, 11 December to 17 December 1905.
  9. “Problem of the Motor Boat.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 9 September 1906.
  10. “Problem of the Crystal Gazer.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 23 September 1906.
  11. “Problem of the Interrupted Wireless.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 3 November 1907.
  12. “Problem of the Roswell Tiara.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 30 September 1906.
  13. “Problem of the Lost Radium.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 7 October 1906. The story takes place in a laboratory at the fictional “Yarvard University”, named for Yale and Harvard).
  14. “Problem of the Green Eyed Monster.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 28 October 1906.
  15. “The Problem of the Opera Box.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 14 October 1906
  16. “Problem of the Missing Necklace.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 21 October 1906.
  17. “Problem of the Phantom Auto.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 11 November 1906. Also published as “The Phantom Motor.”
  18. “Problem of the Stolen Bank Notes.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 18 November 1906. Also published as The Brown Coat.
  19. “Problem of the Perfect Alibi.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 4 November 1906. Also published as “His Perfect Alibi.”
  20. “Problem of the Superfluous Finger.” Associated Sunday Magazines, 25 November 1906. A doctor comes to Van Dusen with an ethical quandary: a woman wants a perfectly good little finger amputated, but won’t say why.

Mary Roberts Rinehart (1908)

  • The Circular Staircase (1908)

Mary Roberts Rinehart was considered America’s Agatha Christie. The Circular Staircase is considered the pioneer of “had I but known” mystery writing.

I love reading her novels as her style is similar to Agatha Christie. In addition to The Circular Staircase I’ve read the following novels:

  • The Man in Lower Ten (1909)
  • The Window at the White Cat (1910)
  • The Case of Jennie (1913)
  • The After House (1914)
  • Kings, Queens and Pawns: An American Woman at the Front (1915)
  • The Door (1930)

Enjoyed reading her autobiography My Story (1931) and would love to read the updated version of My Story (1948) that she published in later years. Very hard to find!

All of her books I’ve read as ebooks as I’ve only once seen her books in a shop in Australia. Some of her ebooks can be downloaded for free here.

G.K Chesterton (1911)

  • The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)

The Father Brown short stories were originally published in various magazines and later collated into five books. The first of the books published was The Innocence of Father Brown in 1911.

Can’t decide how I feel about the Father Brown stories. I’ve only managed to get so far the series of stories each time I try to read The Innocence of Father Brown! Worth reading for those that enjoy the Father Brown TV series to see how the show evolved from the stories.

I might have had more luck if I downloaded the free ebook rather than forgetting which short story I was up in my book!

Melville Davisson Post (1918)

  • Uncle Abner (1918)

Melville Davisson Post was an American author best known for his mystery-solving, justice-dispensing West Virginian backwoodsman, Uncle Abner set just before the American Civil War.  The Uncle Abner stories were published from 1911 to 1928 and were narrated by his young nephew and accomplished by Justice of the Peace, Squire Randolph.  Some consider his Uncle Abner stories “the greatest American contribution” to the list of fictional detectives after Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin.

I had no luck finding a physical copy of his Uncle Abner stories so ended up buying the Uncle Abner: Master of Mysteries ebook.  I found his short stories more challenging to read compared to other authors.  

Edgar Wallace (1925)

  • The Mind of JG Reeder

Edgar Wallace was one of the most prolific thriller writers of the early 1900s. He was once considered second in popularity to Dickens and his popularity diminished after his death. At one stage he was producing one in every four novels sold in England.

The Four Just Man was the first novel of his I read and I really struggled reading it. It was only after reading some of his other novels that I appreciated how enjoyable his novels can be. Part of the issue may be I struggled to relate the earlier spy novels compared to crime novels.

It is common to see his books in charity shops. Some of his ebooks, including “Four Just Men”, can be downloaded for free here.

Agatha Christie (1925)

  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) Poirot novel – The Golden Age
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1934) Poirot novel – The Golden Age
  • Sleeping Murder (1976) – stand-alone novel

I’m probably classified as an Agatha Christie fan based on my collection of her novels and other books related to her work and life. I read a selection of her novels when I was a teenager and initially started by reading “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” in my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery novel list challenge and ended up reading over 50 of her books.

I feel I would have appreciated “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” if I had read the Hercule Poirot novels in order of date published. The four novels included in this list are considered the best but aren’t my favorites. At least two of these novels represent a unique or different approach to crime writing that hadn’t been done before.

My recommendation is to start with “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” in the Hercule Poirot series. You can download a Poirot Reading List here which includes tips on the order and which to read. Here is the Miss Marple Reading list and you’ll find the complete Agatha Christie Reading list here.

“Sleeping Murder” was written during the Second World War but published after her death. Some consider this book one of her best.

You can download a few of her books as free ebooks here or buy them from charity shops. There is always a wide selection of her books being sold cheaply in charity shops due to their popularity. I was lucky enough to have purchased almost a complete collection of her Agatha Christie Crime Collection series at a charity shop.

Her An Autobiography is the best autobiography I’ve read written by an author and well worth reading once you’ve read some of her novels.

Dashiell Hammett (1929)

  • Red Harvest (1929) – hard-boiled detective
  • The Maltese Falcon (1929) – hard-boiled detective

Dashiell Hammett was an American author of hard-boiled detective novels and is widely considered one of the finest mystery writers of all time.

In hard-boiled detective novels, the typical protagonist is a detective who battles the violence of organized crime while dealing with a legal system that has become as corrupt as organized crime itself.

I’ve read all of Dashiell Hammett’s novels. My favorite is the “Maltese Falcon”.

You can borrow his novels from the Internet Archive or download his ebooks for free here. It’s fairly common to see his novels in charity shops.

CHD Kitchin

  • Death of My Aunt

Dorothy L Sayers (1926)

  • Documents in the Case (1930) – The Golden Age
  • The Nine Tailors (1934) – The Golden Age

“Documents in The Case” was written by Dorothy L Sayers and Robert Eustace. It is her only novel that doesn’t include Lord Wimsey, her most famous detective character. I would start by reading her Lord Wimsey novels before reading “Documents in The Case” as it isn’t like her other books and is very different from how most novels are written. It is an epistolary novel where the novel is written as a series of letters. This is the same style of writing used in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1987). Robert Eustace was an English doctor and writer who often collaborated with other writers. He supplied the main plot idea and supporting medical and scientific details for “Documents in The Case”. I’m not sure if I would have included “Documents in The Case” in a list of “The 100 Best Crime & Mystery books”. It wasn’t as well-written an epistolary novel as Dracula or as good as other crime and mystery books that weren’t included in the list.

‘Gaudy Night’ was the first Dorothy L Sayers novel I read and I read this book first as it was her highest-ranked novel on my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery novel list challenge but is the tenth novel in her Lord Wimsey series. I would have appreciated ‘Gaudy Night’ if had read her novels in order of the Lord Wimsey series.

I recommend starting with ‘Whose Body?’ first as an introduction to the Lord Wimsey characters and then reading “The Nine Tailors” if you don’t want to read all the books in the series.

Here’s the complete list of her detective novels:

  • Whose Body? (1923)
  • Clouds of Witness (1926)
  • Unnatural Death (1927)
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
  • Strong Poison (1930)
  • The Documents in the Case (1930) – stand-alone
  • The Five Red Herrings (1931)
  • Have His Carcase (1932)
  • Murder Must Advertise (1933)
  • The Nine Tailors (1934)
  • Gaudy Night (1935)
  • Busman’s Honeymoon: A Love Story With Detective Interruptions (1937)

Whose Body?’ can be downloaded as a free ebook. Some of her books can be borrowed from the Internet Archive or downloaded as ebooks here. Most of her books I sourced from libraries or brought from second-hand shops/charity shops. I’ve read and enjoyed all her novels.

Arthur W Upfield (1931)

  • The Sands of Windee

Frances Iles (1929)

  • Before the fact (1932) Frances Iles – Psychological suspense

Anthony Berkeley Cox was an English crime writer who wrote under several pen names, including Francis Iles, Anthony Berkeley, and A. Monmouth Platts.

I loved Lesley Grant-Adamson’s comment in her Psychological suspense chapter in Hatchards Crime Companion where she says I don’t like “Malice Aforethought”. “Malice Aforethought” had 30% more votes than any of the rest in the British Crime Writers ‘Psychological suspense category’ and I also wouldn’t clarify this as his best novel. The novel was unique for its time and is credited as being the first book to tell the reader from the onset what happened and then spent the remainder of the book sharing details of how it happened. I like “Before the Fact” more than “Malice Aforethought”.

You can borrow a few of his novels from the Internet Archive. The books I’ve read have been sourced from second-hand bookshops or charity shops.

Erle Stanley Gardner (1933)

  • The Case of the Sulky Girl

James M Cain (1934)

  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) – criminal

James M Cain was an American author most commonly associated with hardboiled American crime fiction. Both of these novels are typical of his writing style that show the crime and its consequences from the point of view of the criminal.

“The Postman Always Rings Twice” was his first novel and is considered one of the more important crime novels of the 20th Century. Its title is a red herring as a postman doesn’t appear in the novel or is alluded to. The saying refers to “The postman used to ring twice if there was something that needed an answer or signing for.” The story is narrated by a drifter who ends up working in a diner and conspires with the beautiful young wife, the operator of the dinner, to kill her older husband.

This novel was made into films and can be borrowed from the Internet Archive.

John Dickson Carr (1933)

  • Three Coffins (USA) The Hollow Man (UK) (1935)– The Golden Age

John Dickson Carr is an American author who lived for years in England and most of his novels have English settings with English characters. He is considered one of the greater “Golden age mystery” writers with plot-driven stories with complex puzzles. He was considered the master of the locked room mystery where a detective solves an apparently impossible crime.

“Three Coffins” published as “The Hollow Man” in the UK is a classic example of his locked room mystery. The story revolves around how Gideon Fell solves two murders to explain how Professor Charles Grimaud received his visitor in his study and when a gunshot is heard from the study, the alarm is raised – the door is broken down and Grimaud is found, shot dead, and alone. While just as nobody could have left that room, nobody could have murdered Pierre Fley in Cagliostro Street, shot at close range in front of witnesses but with nobody in sight and again, surrounded by undisturbed snow.

“Three Coffins” published as “The Hollow Man” in the UK is part of his Dr Gideon Fell series so I started by reading his earlier Fell novels before reading this one:

  • Hag’s Nook – 1933
  • The Mad Hatter Mystery – 1933
  • The Eight of Swords – 1934
  • The Blind Barber – 1934
  • Death-Watch – 1935
  • The Hollow Man – 1935 (US title: The Three Coffins)

Many of his novels can be borrowed from the Internet Archive. It’s fairly common to see his novels in charity shops. I borrowed “The Devil in Velvet” from a local library. He also published under the pseudonyms Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson, and Roger Fairbairn.

Rex Stout (1935)

  • The League of Frightened Men

Ethel Lina White (1936)

  • The Wheel Spins

Nicholas Blake (1938)

  • The Beast Must Die (1938) – The Golden Age
  • The Private Wound (1968)

Nicholas Blake is the pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis, the famous poet.

“The Beast Must Die” is a clever novel about a mystery novelist investigating who was responsible for the hit-and-run accident that killed his son. Packed full of twists and turns – very engaging and fast-moving.

I had no luck finding this novel in shops and ended up borrowing it from Open Library.

Cornell Woolrich (1940)

  • The Bride Wore Black

Ngaio March (1940)

  • Surfeit of Lampreys or Death of a Peer

Raymond Chandler (1942, 1953)

  • The High Window (1942) – Hard-boiled/Private Eye
  • The Long Goodbye (1953) – Hard-boiled/Private Eye

I’ve read all of Raymond Chandler’s novels. “The Big Sleep” was the first hard-boiled/Private Eye novel I read and it is an absolute classic. His ability to describe and set scenes, and create the imaginary, in this novel is incredible. The ending frustrated me as someone more used to Golden Age novels. Hard-boiled incorporates the tone of realism and is more cynical, and hard-edged. Golden Age Crime fiction is based on a puzzle plot detective storyline with elements of whodunnit and fair play.

He originally published stories in the pulp magazine Black Mask and most of his novels were written by cannibalizing these short stories into his novels. The plot was less important to him than the atmosphere and the characters. When he merged the short stories together he spent most of the time on the descriptions of people and places and less time on the plot – which is why there can be gaps in his plots.

“The Long Goodbye” is one of his last novels and the hardest to read. Some reviewers consider this his best novel and others consider it the worst. My mum’s comment on reading it was it should have been called “The Painful Goodbye”. She didn’t like it whereas I enjoyed it more because of the insight into the author. It is longer than his other novels and dragged on.

You can borrow his novels from the Open Library or download his ebooks for free here. It’s fairly common to see his novels in charity shops.

Cyril Hare (1942)

  • Tragedy at Law (1942) – Detective

Cyril Hare was the pseudonym for Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark who was an English judge. “Tragedy at Law” is his best-known crime novel and is considered among the best whodunnits set in the legal world. Enjoy able novel that kept me guessing.

You can borrow this novel from the Open Library or download the ebook for free here.

Ellery Queen (1942)

  • Calamity Town

Christianna Brand (1943)

  • Green For Danger (1943) – Golden Age

Wasn’t easy finding a paper-based version of the novel. Finally found a copy late 2020. Murder mystery based in a wartime hospital.

You can borrow this novel from the Open Library.

Michael Innes (1937)

  • Appleby’s End (1945) – The Golden Age
  • The New Sonia Wayward (1960) – The Golden Age

Michael Innes was a Scottish novelist and academic who published crime fiction under this pseudonym. His academic work was published under his real name J.I.M Stewart (John Innes Mackintosh Stewart). He was a lecturer in English at the University of Leeds from 1930 to 1935, then became Jury Professor of English in the University of Adelaide, South Australia. He returned to the United Kingdom in 1946 where he continued to lecture in English.

John Appleby is his best-known series.

I started by reading his first John Appleby novel “Death at the President’s Lodging” (1936) (also known as Seven Suspects). Appleby’s End is the tenth novel in his Appleby’s series.

Some of Michael Innes’s novels can be borrowed from the Internet Archive. It’s fairly common to see his novels in charity shops.

Edmund Crispen (1946)

  • The Moving Toyshop (1946) – Whodunnit

I’ve read most of Edmund Crispin’s novels. I find his novels less enjoyable compared to other Golden Age crime writers as characters and plot development aren’t as good.

You can borrow this novel from the Open Library .

Elizabeth Ferrars (1946)

  • Murder Among Friends

Helen Eustis (1946)

  • The Horizontal Man

Fredric Brown (1947)

  • The Fabulous Clipjoint

Margery Allingham (1948)

  • More Work for The Undertaker (1948) – Golden Age
  • Tiger in the Smoke (1952) – Golden Age

Margery Allingham is another of the well-known English novelists from the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction. I’ve read 16 of her novels.

“More Work for the Undertaker” and “Tiger in the Smoke” are part of her Albert Campion novel series so if you wanted to read in the order published you would read:

  • The Crime at Black Dudley (1929: US title The Black Dudley Murder)
  • Mystery Mile (1930)
  • Look to the Lady (1931: US title The Gyrth Chalice Mystery)
  • Police at the Funeral (1931)
  • Sweet Danger (1933: US title Kingdom of Death/The Fear Sign)
  • Death of a Ghost (1934)
  • Flowers for the Judge (1936: US title Legacy in Blood)
  • Dancers in Mourning (1937: US title Who Killed Chloe?)
  • Mr. Campion: Criminologist (1937: short stories)
  • The Case of the Late Pig (1937: originally appeared in Mr Campion: Criminologist)
  • The Fashion in Shrouds (1938)
  • Mr. Campion and Others (1939: short stories)
  • Traitor’s Purse (1941: US title The Sabotage Murder Mystery)
  • Coroner’s Pidgin (1945: US title Pearls Before Swine)
  • The Casebook of Mr Campion (1947: short stories)
  • More Work for the Undertaker (1948)
  • The Tiger in the Smoke (1952: serialised in US newspapers as Tiger Loose)

Frequently see her books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops. You can borrow her novel from the Open Library .

Josephine Tey (1948)

  • The Franchise Affair (1948) – Whodunnit
  • The Daughter of Time (1951) – History Mystery

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth MacKintosh, a Scottish author. She also wrote plays under the name of Gordon Daviot.

I’ve read all Josephine Tey’s novels and this is another example of where I should have read her novels in order of the series rather than reading what was considered her best novel first.

The first novel of hers that I read was “The Daughter of Time” which I am sure I would have appreciated more if I had read the earlier novels first. I encourage anyone who reads this novel to research the background behind the story and the influence this novel had. The story is entirely based on the detective stuck in a hospital bed researching the mystery of Richard III.

Incredible author and I enjoyed reading the biography of her life.

I often see her books in charity shops and you can download her ebooks for free here.

John Frankin Bardin (1948)

  • Devil Take the Blue

Georges Simenon (1949)

  • My Friend Maigret (1949)
  • The Stain Snow, the Snow was Black (1950)
  • Maigret in Court The New Sonia Wayward (1960)

WR Burnett (1949)

  • The Asphalt Jungle

Michael Gilbert (1950)

  • Smallbone Deceased (1950) – Whodunnit

Unable to find a paperback version I read it via Amazon Unlimited. A very enjoyable murder mystery set in a lawyer’s office that kept you guessing.

Hillary Waugh (1952)

  • Last Seen Wearing (1952) – Police Procedural

Last Seen Wearing is generally considered the finest early example of the police procedural. Excellent novel. Unable to find an ebook or paperback ending up borrowing from the Internet Archive. Based on the disappearance of a female freshman, the search into her disappearance, the discovery of her body, the inquest, and the subsequent police investigation to find her murderer.

Guy Cullingford (1953)

  • Post Mortem

John Bingham (1953)

  • Five Roundabouts to Heaven

Shelley Smith (1954)

  • The Party at No. 5

Margaret Millar (1955)

  • Beast in View (1955) – Psychological suspense
  • Beyond This Point (1970)

Margaret Millar was one of the leading American ladies of crime writing and this is considered her best work. It won the Edgar Award in 1956 and was adapted into an episode in Alfred Hitchock Hour. Margaret Millar published under her married name. Her husband Kenneth Millar was also a crime novelist better known under the pen name Ross MacDonald.

An enjoyable fast-reading novel that I completed within a day. I found a copy in a second-hand book shop and it can be borrowed as a free ebook from Open Library.

Patricia Highsmith (1950)

  • The Talented Mr Ripley (1955) – Psychological suspense
  • The Tremor of Forgery (1969)

Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist widely known for her psychological thrillers. Many of her novels have been made into popular movies but I’m not a fan of her obsessive, disturbing characters in her novels I’ve read so far.

She is considered the queen of the modern psychological thriller; her focus is more on the investigation of the human mind rather than the crime puzzle. What is interesting is Patricia Highsmith’s novels were more popular in Europe than in USA. This trend was highlighted in the two crime lists with her novels ranking higher on the UK list vs the USA crime writers list.

Frequently see her books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops. You can borrow her novel from the Open Library.

J.J. Marric (1955)

  • Gideon’s Day (1955) – Police Procedural
  • Gideon’s Week (1956)

I read “Gideon’s Day” on my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery novel list challenge. Written under the pseudonym J.J Marric by John Creasy, the Gideon series is considered his best-known. “Gideon’s Day” is a police procedural based on telling the story of the main character Gideon with a glimpse into his personal life while juggling overseeing a series of different crimes. Quick and easy read – read within 24 hours.

Ellin Stanley (1956)

  • Mystery Stories
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Dorothy Hughes (1963)

  • The Expendable Man

Nicholas Freeling (1963)

  • Gun Before Butter

Jim Thompson (1964)

  • Pop. 1280

EB Eberhart (1966)

  • R.S.V.P. Murder

Emma Lathen (1967)

  • Murder Against the Grain

George Sims (1967)

  • The Last Best Friend

Julian Symons (1967)

  • The Man Who Killed
  • The Players and the Game

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (1965)

  • Roseanna (1965)- Police Procedural

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö were Swedish authors, and partners, who are best known for their series based on police detective Martin Beck. Their novels are an example of nordic noir, a genre of crime fiction usually written from a police point of view and set in Scandinavia or Nordic countries.

They wrote 10 novels in the Martin Beck series and Per Wahloo died just before the last book in the series was published:

  1. Roseanna (1965)
  2. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1966)
  3. The Man on the Balcony (1967)
  4. The Laughing Policeman (1968)
  5. The Fire Engine That Disappeared (1969)
  6. Murder at the Savoy (1970)
  7. The Abominable Man (1972)
  8. The Locked Room (1973)
  9. Cop Killer (1975)
  10. The Terrorists (1976)

The Laughing Policeman” won the Edgar Award in 1971 for Best Mystery Novel.

I occasionally see their books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

Helen McCoy (1968)

  • Mr. Splitfoot

Peter Dickinson (1968)

  • The Glass
  • The Poison Oracle (1974)

Chester Himes (1969)

  • Blind Man With a Pistol

Joan Flemming (1970)

  • Young Man, I Think You’re Dying

Ed McBain (1956)

  • Sadie When She Died (1972) – Police Procedural

Ed McBain was considered the author who perfected the police procedural sub-genre – where the crime is solved by an entire police department as opposed to a single detective.

Cop Hater was his first novel in the 87th Precinct series. I read numerous Ed McBain novels when I was younger. Cop Hater didn’t engage me until almost the end of the novel; maybe the ones I read in my younger years had evolved more or my tastes changed?

Frequently see his books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

George V Higgins (1970)


  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) – Criminal

George V Higgins was an American author and lawyer best known for his crime novels that established the Boston noir genre of gangster tales.

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” was his debut novel published when he as an Assistant United States Attorney in Boston.

Think I might have brought the ebook from Amazon after being unsuccessful in finding a physical copy of the novel.

Tony Hillerman (1973)

  • Dance Hall of the Dead (1972) – Police Procedural

Tony Hillerman was an American author best known for his detective series featuring Navajo Tribal Police Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

“Dance Hall of the Dead” was his second novel and featured only Joe Leaphorn.

There was no ebook version of this novel and I think I brought it online as secondhand books.

Gregory Mcdonald (1974)

  • Fletch (1974) – Humorous

Gregory Mcdonald was an American mystery writer best known for his comic investigative reporter Irwin Maurice “Fletch” Fletcher.

“Fletch” is a fast-moving enjoyable novel and was Edgar Awards winner for Best First Novel.

Think I might have brought the ebook.

Celia Fremlin (1975)

  • The Long

Colin Watson (1975)

  • The Naked Nuns

P.D James (1971)

  • Black Tower– The Whodunnit
  • A Taste of Death (1986) – The Whodunnit

P.D James was an English novelist known for her detective novels featuring Adam Dalgliesh, a police commander, and poet.

To the best of my knowledge, I read all the P.D James novels when I was younger. Always enjoyable reads.

Her Adam Dalgliesh series in order is:

  • Cover Her Face (1962)
  • A Mind to Murder (1963)
  • Unnatural Causes (1967)
  • Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
  • The Black Tower (1975)
  • Death of an Expert Witness (1977)
  • A Taste for Death (1986)
  • Devices and Desires (1989)
  • Original Sin (1994)
  • A Certain Justice (1997)
  • Death in Holy Orders (2001)
  • The Murder Room (2003)
  • The Lighthouse (2005)
  • The Private Patient (2008)

Common to see her books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

Dorothy Salisbury Davis (1976)

  • A Death in the Life

Dorothy Uhnak (1976)

  • The Investigation

Ross Macdonald (1976)

  • The Blue Hammer (1976) – Hardboiled Detective

Ross Macdonald was the main pseudonym used by the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar known for his hardboiled novels set in Southern California. He was married to Margaret Millar who was one of the leading American ladies of crime writing.

Ruth Rendell / Barbara Vine (1976)

  • A Judgement in Stone (1977) Ruth Rendell – Psychological thriller

Ruth Rendelll was an English author of thrillers and psychological murder mysteries. I read most of her and PD James novels when I was younger.

She published her novels that explored the psychological background of criminals and their victims under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.

“A Judgement in Stone” is a fast moving suspense thriller where you know the killers at the start and the plot is about the events that lead to the murders and the eventual capture of the killers.

Common to see her books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

William McIvanney (1977)

  • Laidlaw

Donald E Westlake (1967)

  • Nobody’s Perfect – Humorous

Donal E Westlake was an American writer who specialized in crime fiction, especially comic capers.

“God Save The Mark” is a classic Donald Westlake comic crime novel and Edgar award winner for best novel;. The main character is a person who is often taken advantage of by cons. He inherits money from an Uncle he never knew, who was a well-known conman, and ends up being entwined in murders and being harassed as people try to recover the money he has inherited.

“The Hot Rock” is an enjoyable read about a team of criminals trying to steal an emerald and having trouble constantly losing it. Multiple heists to finally steal it. “Bank Shot” is a hilarious comic caper of a group of thieves stealing a bank. These two novels are part of his well known Dortmunder series.

Common to see his books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

Reginal Hill (1978)

  • A Pinch of Snuff (1978) – Police Procedural

Reginal Hill was an English crime writer best known for his Dalziel and Pascoe series.

I read most or all of his Dalziel and Pascoe novels when I was younger. I also loved watching the TV series but was annoyed that the TV story lines didn’t follow the novels.

Here is his series in order of date published for those interested in reading the series:

  1. A Clubbable Woman (1970)
  2. An Advancement of Learning (1971)
  3. Ruling Passion (1973)
  4. An April Shroud (1975)
  5. A Pinch of Snuff (1978)
  6. A Killing Kindness (1980)
  7. Deadheads (1983)
  8. Exit Lines (1984)
  9. Child’s Play (1987)
  10. Underworld (1988)
  11. Bones and Silence (1990)
  12. One Small Step (1990), novella
  13. Recalled to Life (1992)
  14. Pictures of Perfection (1994)
  15. The Wood Beyond (1995)
  16. Asking for the Moon (1996), short stories
    • “The Last National Service Man”
    • “Pascoe’s Ghost”
    • “Dalziel’s Ghost”
    • “One Small Step”
  17. On Beulah Height (1998)
  18. Arms and the Women (1999)
  19. Dialogues of the Dead (2002)
  20. Death’s Jest-Book (2003)
  21. Good Morning, Midnight (2004)
  22. The Death of Dalziel (2007), Canada and US Title: Death Comes for the Fat Man
  23. A Cure for All Diseases (Canada and US title: The Price of Butcher’s Meat) (2008)
  24. Midnight Fugue (2009)

Common to see his books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

John D MacDonald (1979)

  • The Green Ripper (1979) – Hardboiled/ Private Eye

John D MacDonald was one of the most successful novels of his time.

“The Dreadful Lemon Sky” is the 16th novel in his Travis McGee series. Enjoyable read like reading a Sue Grafton novel. Former friend Carrie asks Travis to safe keep some money and when she dies 2 weeks later he and his friend Meyer investigate her death and where the money came from.

I occasionally see his books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

Joseph Hansen (1979)

  • Skinflick

PM Hubbard (1979)

  • Kill Claudio

Amanda Cross (1981)

  • Death in a Tenured Position

John Wainwright (1981)

  • All On a Summers Day

Joseph Wambaugh (1981)

  • The Glitter Dome (1981) – Police Procedural

Joseph Wambaugh is an American writer best known for writing about police work in the United States.

Joseph Wambaugh is considered the father of modern-day police novels and started writing while working as a policeman for the LAPD. Reason he left he said was “I knew that when I wrote “The Choirboys,” it would be very hard to maintain my job, because “The Choirboys” was absolutely outrageous black comedy. Dark, dark comedy that ends up as a tragedy. I knew that I couldn’t write that book I envisioned and stay a cop with the LAPD.”

I struggled reading “The Choirboys”.

Common to see his books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

Peter Lovesey (1970)

  • The False Detective Dew (1982) – Historical

Peter Lovesey is a British writer known for his historical and contemporary detective novels.

“The False Detective Dew” was the Gold Dagger award by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1982. It’s a very clever story with multiple unexpected twists. For those intereted in history Inspector Dew was the detective who apprehended at sea American dentist Dr. Crippen and his mistress who murdered his wife in 1910 and escaped by ship on the S.S. Mauritania.

I occasionally see their books in charity shops and second-hand bookshops.

June Thomson (1982)

  • To Make a Killing

James McClure (1984)

  • The Artful Egg

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