Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Twenty top mysteries —

Via a Book Riot post, but generated by looking at the most popular mysteries on Goodreads.

Okay, I’m mildly interested. Given this is a popularity contest, I’ll start by guessing that at least five titles will be by Agatha Christie. First, everyone has heard of her. Second, bookstores always carry some of her titles. Third, some of her books got made into well-known movies. Given all that, her name has to come up a bunch when you just look at most popular mysteries.

I have to admit that I have never been a Christie fan, though of course I’ve read a couple of hers and I saw Ten Little Indians once, I think.

Besides Christie, I don’t know whom I expect. I know what some of my favorites are — Gaudy Night, obviously — and I know who I think was a great mystery author — Rex Stout — but I don’t know who I expect to find on a Goodreads list.

Let’s take a look:

1 and 2: Agatha Christie, as expected. Murder at the Vicarage and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, neither of which I’ve read.

3: Oh ho, the third entry is a Sookie Stackhouse novel! Well, that is not a mystery. I mean, of course it’s a mystery, but it’s a paranormal. Most paranormals are also mysteries, but I think it’s kind of cheating to include paranormals and UF and other things on a list of top mysteries.

4: Here’s one I’ve read: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Actually, I listened to it in audio form.

This time set in 1950, our heroine is an aspiring chemist with an inquisitive mind who is intrigued by a series of seemingly unconnected events (a dead bird, a postage stamp, and a dead man in a cucumber patch). While I would probably back away from the bizarre turn of events, young Flavia de Luce is appalled and delighted. If you’re looking for a bit of history mixed with a plucky female protagonist then this series may be right up your alley.

Yes, well. I liked this book, but not that much. I liked Flavia, but not that much. I never did go on to the next book in the series.

5: Still Life by Louise Penny. I’ve read this one and liked it quite a bit. Setting is very important to me in mysteries. Penny delivers a wonderful setting, lyrically drawn. Her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is just okay for me though. I’ve read several of Penny’s books and might well go back to the series.

Okay, that’s the top five. Let me see how many of the others I’ve read . . . The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I read that one and liked it a lot. Gone Girl, no, ugh, I read a review of this one at The Book Smugglers and it turned me right off the book. Definitely don’t ever plan to read it. Rebecca by DuMaurier, wow, that’s a classic. Sure, I’ve read that one and seen the movie both.

Oh, here’s a true crime section. Yes, I’ve read In Cold Blood. That’s actually my favorite one on this list. The slow reconstruction of the crime was so interesting.

Okay, that’s it. I’ve read five of the books listed here. That’s 25%, more than I would have expected. Missing:

Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout. Gosh, look, Arthur Conan Doyle is missing, that’s actually shocking now that I think of it. PD James! She’s far from my favorite, given a tendency to create a sympathetic character and then make that person the murderer, but she’s so well known and popular, I’m a little surprised. Lots of really popular authors are missing from this list. Sue Grafton.

Let me see, who would I pick for a personal top twenty? Well, a personal top five, just off the top of my head

Dorothy Sayers — Gaudy Night

Rex Stout — overall list of titles

Ellis Peters — the Brother Cadfael stories, which for a change I liked better on the BBC than as novels

Dorothy Dunnett — the Dolly mysteries

Beverly Connor — both her series of forensic anthropology mysteries. I freely acknowledge these are not as well written on the sentence level as any of the above, but I love them.

Who are your favorite mystery authors? Did the Book Riot list pick any?

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4 Comments Twenty top mysteries —

  1. Kathryn McConaughy

    For my personal list…
    Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series (especially the first six books) for her hilarious and wonderful character voices and her intimate grasp of her setting (archaeological digs in late 19th century Egypt).
    Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, again for character voices and setting. And also for doing a surprisingly acceptable job of writing Sherlock Holmes. This series is much less funny than the Amelia Peabody series but the mysteries are more intricate.

  2. Alison

    I loved Margaret Frazer, Arianna Franklin, and Dorothy Dunnett. Thank goodness Deborah Crombie is still alive and writing!

  3. Evelyn M. Hill

    I must confess to a weakness for Edmund Crispin, though his characters break the fourth wall regularly (is it still called that when it’s a book not a play?)

    ‘Well, I’m going to the police,’ said Cadogan. ‘If there’s anything I hate, it’s the sort of book in which characters don’t go to the police when they’ve no earthly reason for not doing so.’
    ‘You have got an earthly reason for not doing so….The pubs are open,’ said Fen, as one who after a long night sees dawn on the hills.
    -The Moving Toyshop

  4. SarahZ

    I’m partial to the nursery crime mysteries from Jasper Fforde, where jack spratt is the detective investigating.

    What about The Westing Game?

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