I saw an article in which Ian Rankin named his favorite five great crime novels. That made me want to write my own list.
I’ve been reading mystery novels since I was a kid. I first read the Complete Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle when I was about eight years old. I read it multiple times over the years because we had it in the house. When I was eleven we moved into town and I could go to the library. The librarian there didn’t let me have free reign as I had at home, so I was relegated to reading Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and other juvie books, but she did let me read Agatha Christie, so I did.
The year I was twenty-one, my military hubs and I moved to Amarillo, Texas. We were dirt poor, so we went to the library once a week, each checked out ten books, read them all and switched with each other. It didn’t take long to read the entire collection of mysteries at our branch. When that happened, I asked the librarian to make a list of classics for me and I read all those. But that’s another story.
The point is, I’ve been reading mysteries all my life. So what are MY top five? Here’s today’s list:
P. D. James’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. This book introduced Cordelia Gray who solves what appears at first to be a suicide involving autoeroticism. P. D. James is the queen of all crime novels as far as I’m concerned.
Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone. I have read every Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine (her pen name) book published. But this one still gives me chills every time I think about it. The opening line is “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write”.
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. You no doubt no Ms. Jackson for her short story called The Lottery. The Haunting of Hill House is not a mystery per se. It is a classic horror story, and she wrote scenes that still keep me up at night.
Henning Mankell’s Wallander series. Kurt Wallander is a cantankerous police officer in Sweden, where people always seem to have colds and take days off work. The place seems dreary, cold and depressing. Wallander often wonders whether he should have become a police officer at all, and he feels guilty for having killed a man in the fog. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But somehow I enjoy reading this, watching Wallander solve the murder, and go away feeling that at least I’m not as bad off as he is.
Ian Rankin’s John Rebus series. Rankin’s protagonist drinks too much, is a rebellious sort at work (he’s another cop), always on the outs with someone. Lives in Scotland. I enjoy reading about Scotland’s cities, parks, towns. For this reason, I also love Denise Mina (see how I sneaked another author in there?) who writes mysteries with amateur detective protagonists. But wait! Val McDermid is also Scottish, and she is also a best-selling author.
Seriously, I can name lots of authors that are my faves. I’ve recently begun reading lesbian mystery authors as well, and I enjoy Lori L. Lake and Jessie Chandler in this genre. Read Lake’s Gun series, and if you like humorous mysteries, read Chandler’s.
As you can probably tell, I’m a fan of the genre. Funny, tough, dark and twisted, I love them. If you like dark and twisted, you’ll love Portland author Chelsea Cain (another NYTimes best selling author).
I managed to stuff my list of five to overflowing. In fact, I doubled the number! Five, ten, it’s all good.