My Favourite Mysteries – Part One

There are a few “Top Twenty” mystery lists floating round at the moment, but I’m not going to try for twenty. I have a habit of finding an author that I like and sticking to them like glue until I’ve finished most of their books. There seems to be an unwritten “one book per author” rule which I’m going to flagrantly ignore, but instead, have my own “one book per detective”. It seems much fairer and will help make my list a bit longer.

So, no in depth reviews here, but a small selection of my personal favourites, by which I mean the ones that I enjoyed the most. And they’re in no particular order, by the way. I’ll comment on some, but others speak for themselves.

 1. The Way Through The Woods, by Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse)

The early Morse books are clever little puzzles, the later ones tend to be more emotional affairs with a mystery almost as a subplot. This is the pivot, if you like, combining the best of both worlds. An absolutely cracking read which was, if I recall correctly, absolutely butchered for the TV adaptation. Also, The Riddle of the Third Mile is a masterpiece for the puzzle-minded among you.

2. The ABC Murders, by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot)

 3. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (Miss Marple)

4. The Reader is Warned by Carter Dickson (Sir Henry Merrivale)

Just edges out The Judas Window and She Died A Lady

5. Till Death Do Us Part, by John Dickson Carr (Gideon Fell)

Yes, I know I’m supposed to say The Hollow Man here, but I’m not going to. The Black Spectacles is the other contender here for me.

6. The French Powder Mystery by Ellery Queen (Ellery Queen)

Well, that one won’t make it onto anyone else’s list, but the completely satisfying and surprising revelation of the murderer in the last paragraph of the book has really stuck in my memory. There’ll be an Ellery Queen review coming very soon, by the way.

EDIT: The review for There Was An Old Woman is now up. And fickle old thing that I am, that book now bumps The French Powder Mystery off this list. It’s fantastic. Find it and read it!

EDIT 2: Partway through the Ellery Queen bibliography and the current leader in terms of quality is The Siamese Twin Mystery.

 7. The Devil’s Teardrop by Jeffery Deaver

OK, more of a thriller than a mystery, but there is very cleverly put together and immensely satisfying – apparently this has recently been made into a mediocre TV movie, which is a bit of a waste. If I had to pick one of the Lincoln Rhyme books, then I’d go for The Coffin Dancer. Roadside Crosses, a Kathryn Dance thriller is also a decent mystery hidden inside a thriller.


Hmmm… I’m kind of unsure as to whether to include this one. It’s an amazing mystery, completely fairly clued as well, inside a very entertaining, funny novel. But the fact that you don’t realise that you’re even reading a mystery until the reveal and the explanation is what made this book so clever for me. So by telling you, gentle reader, the name of the book, it might rob it of its magic.

Well, I’m going to think about how to tell you about number 8 and the next few books on the list. In the meantime, let me know what you think.


  1. Another excellent list – hurrah! I actually realyl enjoyed the TV adaptation of THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS – but then for my money INSPECTOR MORSE is the best british TV detective series ever – but there is no denying that it was substantially altered for telly, as were most of the books. The novel is not dissimialr to LAST SEEN WEARING but is a smart and improved variation on it – having said that, the TV version was much less altered compared with the earlier adaptation which even changed the identity of the murderer! Having said that, as you say, this is a more emotional story and I thought the increased emphasis on the Lewis/Morse dynamic on TV really worked, probably because it was the first of the ‘one-off’ adaptations that were nade after the end of the rregular series. I shall definitely have to read the Deaver as I have only read a few and clearly need to try harder – thanks.


    • Really? I’ve written a little on it (and my other favourite Fell stories) here. The first solution is clever, but how on earth the reader is supposed to work out the true answer… just too much for me.


  2. oh I have to tell you that the link to “A murder is announced” is not correct, if you click on it then it takes you to the hollow. thanks.


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