Top Five of the First Fifty

Well, well, well. Since starting the blog, I’ve read and reviewed 50 books. I think it’s safe to say that my reader’s block seems to have been overcome. So, without further ado, I think it’s time to look at the Top Five Mysteries of the first Fifty.

5.            Corpse Candle by Paul Doherty

Slightly edging out Nightshade by the same author, I’ve put this at number five as it’s a recent read and I need to give it some distance before evaluating it properly, but this, along with The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin have restored my faith in the existence of the decent historical mystery.

4.            The Case of the Abominable Snowman by Nicholas Blake

A masterclass in how to create a surprising solution from a small group of characters without cheating. I’m still kicking myself as to how long I let this book fester on my shelf before picking it up.

3.            There Was An Old Woman by Ellery Queen

The best of the recent Queen novels that I’ve read – possibly as it is the one of the few on the bibliography that are not re-reads, but a clever, just-about-guessable, plot with Ellery on fine form, nowhere near as insufferable as in the early books. I know I’m supposed to prefer The Greek Coffin Mystery (which is also excellent) but I don’t. Sue me.

2.            She Died A Lady by Carter Dickson

A masterpiece in misdirection and characterisation, I had forgotten just how good this book was. It’s the only re-read in the top five, but it needs re-iteration. If you like mysteries at all, go and get a copy of this book. It’s reissued and available on Amazon (oddly credited to John Dickson Carr) so there’s no excuse. Get it now!!!

1.            Cursed Among Sequels by Nev Fountain

One of the inspirations for starting the blog, the third Mervyn Stone book is dazzling in its cleverness and simplicity. Never was there a book that, for me, gave that essential part of the best mysteries – the need to kick yourself repeatedly that you didn’t see what is perfectly obvious now that it’s been explained to you. It’s out in paperback now, so go and get it – and the other two, Geek Tragedy and DVD Extras Include Murder – the second of which should really be in this list as well, but I decided to limit it to one per author.

Honourable mentions go to Rim of the Pit by Hake Talbot, Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey, The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett and The Crack In The Lens by Steve Hockensmith.

Thumbs down to The Nine Giants by Edward Marston, Water-Blue Eyes (Ojos de Agua) by Domingo Villar and The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey. Yes, I know everybody else in the world loves the last two, but we’re all individuals.

So, before I launch into a Life of Brian routine, many thanks to all my readers, especially to Sergio for the recommendations of some excellent books. Here’s to the next fifty…


  1. This is an interesting compilation from your first fifty reviews, but I was surprise to see that Ellery Queen’s There Was An Old Woman and Nicholas Blake’s The Case of the Abominable Snowman kept books like Hake Talbot’s Rim of the Pit from obtaining a spot in the top ranks. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed those two books but neither of them even made it into my personal top 100 favorite mysteries.


  2. Well, I think Rim was just a little bit too busy for me – some of the impossibilities were very clever, but excellent though it was, it did seem as if Talbot had shoved every idea he could think of into a single book. Both the two books you mention, I have happy memories of really enjoying reading them, playing along as I read. Maybe they technically aren’t the best two of the fifty books, but they, like Cursed Among Sequels, are the ones that I enjoyed reading the most.


  3. An interesting list, Steve! Your two recent Paul Doherty reviews are intriguing- indeed, they sound just like the kind of books I’d enjoy reading! Curses! I’m leaving in just under two weeks and I’m still being tempted left and right!


    • So far the Doherty books are such a great combination of easy reads, interesting settings and good quality mysteries – in some ways, I’d say he’s the first genuine success in my hunt for new writers to follow, especially as he’s been so prolific. The blog is in serious danger of Doherty overload, but what the hell. I’m going to hit one of his other series next to see if it’s just the Hugh Corbett books that appeal or whether it’s the whole range.


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