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October 06, 2006



I am no apologist for women, but I can't believe that you finally came up with a list without ANY women in it. Shame on you (in the nicest possible way).

Allingham, Christie, Sayers, Slaughter, James (PD), and various others that have been suggested in the comments.

This is just like some scientific society when they give their fellowships and awards to all-male lists year in year out since 1645.

David Montgomery

Ah, don't put any shame on me! :)

I definitely considered female authors in the decision. I read and review a lot of books by women. I think that, in this narrow corner of the genre, though, women don't figure quite as prominently.

As a result, I didn't come up with any books by women that were so strong that they would replace anything that's currently on there. (And I didn't want to go with an "affirmative action" approach and just include a woman for the sake of including a woman.)

I read many Agatha Christie books year ago and enjoyed them. She's a fine writer and a pivotal figure in the mystery genre, no question. I didn't think any of her books were of the level of the ones I included, though. She's more notable for her body of work than for any individual book.

I've never read Sayers or Allingham, and didn't care for PD James. Karin Slaughter and Mary Higgins Clark don't really write detective novels.

My favorite contemporary female detective writers are probably Laura Lippman and Denise Hamilton. I think they're both great writers, but neither quite cracked the list.

I'm still willing to be persuaded on different books. I just haven't come up with any yet.

 Elaine Flinn

If anyone is 'anti-gender bias'-it's Dave - so please don't fault his list. And I mean that in the nicest way as well. :)

Keith Raffel

No real arguments about the 10 selected; they're great. A more modern detective story that belongs on a top 10 list (and is by a woman) is Laurie King's Beekeeper's Apprentice. One from the golden age is Dorothy Sayer's Murder Must Advertise. I'd also like to see a Ross Macdonald up there -- maybe Drowning Pool. A book that's on my own top 10 list and that haunts me still is River of Darkness by Rennie Airth.

Sherry Early

You've Never Read Dorothy Sayers? Well, I've only read four of the ten authors on your list, but I still would say Sayers is better than any of them.

David Montgomery

I think I might have read a Sayers novel 15 years ago or so, back when I was devouring Agatha Christie's books. But I don't remember for sure. If I did read one, I obviously wasn't too impressed.

One of the things this discussion has really emphasized for me is how many great books there are in this genre -- and how impossible it is for even those of us who read a lot to encompass anything like the breadth of the genre.

RM1(SS) (ret)

I definitely agree on the Block! I've also read the Stout, but haven't read any of the others. Looks like you've given me something to write about, to go with my list of Top Ten Read-Agains....

terence sherar

What are RMI Top Ten Read-Agains....
DOes anyone have other books.
to reccomend.


If you haven't read half of Haycraft-Queen's cornerstones, your list may lack perspective. But lists like these awaken me to Crais and others whose dust jackets didn't tweak my interest when they first were published. My list(and the next ten would certainly include Hammett,Chandler,Tey, Crofts, June Thompson, and Wilkie Collins.
1.Agatha Christie, And then there were none
2.Michael Innes, Lament for a Maker
3.Dorothy Sayers, The Nine Taylors
4.R.A.Freeman, Mr. Pottermack's Oversight
5.Ruth Rendell, From Doon with Death
6.Arthur Upfield, Death of a Swagman
7.Elizabeth George, Playing for the Ashes
8.Michael Connolly, Trunk Magic
9.Patricia Cornwell, Postmortem
10. James Lee Burke, Crusader's Cross


How can anybody take this list seriously?!

If I can barge past the feminists for a second and say a couple of words to Mr Montgomery... 'Sherlock Holmes'

It's not even up for discussion.

The fact that this list seems to have been a starting point for discussion on the genre is frankly amazing.

CT Henry

Have you summoned enough strength to write a list of the 10 Greatest Assassin Novels?

You wrote:
"As soon as I summon my strength, I think I'm going to shoot for the 10 Greatest Assassin Novels."

Andres - Buenos Aires

1-Agatha Christie "Ten Little Niggers"
2-Agatha Christie "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd"
3-J.D.Carr "The Three Coffins"
4-A.C.Doyle "The Hound of the Baskervilles"
5-J.D.Carr "The Waxworks Murder"
6-Gaston Leroux " The Mystery of the Yellow Room"
7-Michael Innes "Lament for a Maker"
8-Wilkie Collins "The Moonstone"
9-Eric Ambler "A Coffin for Dimitrios"
10-Dashiell Hammett "The Maltese Falcon"

That's my list. Maybe I should've included some Chandler, Stout, Sayers or Queen, but I think's alright anyway.

BTW= Rv,yours is a neat top ten!

Eugene Buckley

Does anyone know the top ten German Detective Fictions?


Andres: Thanks, I can't argue against your choices, which might have been on my list on a different day. I consciously omitted including two titles by any one author and tried to have even representation of male and female writers. The only German detective I am familiar with is Detective Dagobert, whose tales are due out in first English translation next year. Here's a link to site about mysteries with German=based detectives:http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/LocationCats/Europe/Germany.html Send me a note (rvhlaw@aol.com) if you'd like to talk more about classic mysteries. RV


If I am not mistaken, Edgar Allan Poe is considered as one of the founders of detectives and horror stories, his books are still being read! That's really good, I think, because our young generation is taught on "right" books.


I am with Maxine. No women?

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I'm so happy reading about novels because I read two books a day, even more when it's realted to detective stories because I can get excellent drama and most of time the plot is perfect.

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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