BOOK OF THE YEARS 1900-1949
1949 W R Burnett The Asphalt Jungle
A gripping tale of the planning and execution of a jewellery store heist in a dark and corrupt Midwestern metropolis. Set amid a seedy urban wasteland of crooks, killers and con-artists, the various members of the gang are steadily undone by personal obsessions, double-crossing and cruel fate.
1948 Josephine Tey The Franchise Affair
About to leave work, a solicitor gets a call from a local woman who lives with her mother at a country house. They have been accused of brutally kidnapping a young woman named Betty. Betty’s claims seem highly unlikely, even to Inspector Grant, until she describes her prison in detail. Can the solicitor solve the mystery?
1947 Mickey Spillane I, The Jury
Manhattan PI Mike Hammer vows to personally execute the murderer of his ex-cop friend who had saved Hammer’s life and lost an arm in the process. After several further murders the hardboiled Hammer finally gets to carry out his own brand of justice during a memorable finale.
1946 Edmond Crispin The Moving Toyshop
Gervase Fen investigates an Oxford toyshop replaced overnight by a grocery store. Poetic Richard Cadogan found the apparently strangled body of an elderly woman upstairs, but she vanishes as well. Rife with literary references, eccentric British characters and humour.
1945 Michael Innes Appleby’s End
Appleby's End was the name of the station where Detective Inspector Appleby got off the train from Scotland Yard. Everything that happened from then on relates to stories by Ranulph Raven, Victorian novelist. Why did Raven's mysterious descendants make such a point of inviting Appleby to spend the night at their house? Scholarly wit aplenty.
Set in a military hospital during the blitz, it’s an intricately plotted novel; the puzzles executed with Brand’s characteristic cleverness and gusto. When a patient dies under the anaesthetic, and later the presiding nurse is murdered, Inspector Cockrill finds himself with six suspects and not a discernible motive among them.
1944 Christianna Brand Green for Danger
The classic story of an evil woman motivated by greed corrupting a weak man motivated by lust. Walter Huff is an insurance investigator like any other until the day he meets the beautiful and dangerous Phyllis Nirdlinger and falls under her spell. Together they plot to kill her husband and split the insurance. It'll be the perfect murder. Taut noir.
1943 James M Cain Double Indemnity
Sixteen years ago, Caroline Crale died in prison while serving a life sentence for poisoning her husband. Her daughter asks Poirot to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice. He approaches the other five suspects to find the fatal flaw in the case that might clear her name. Five separate accounts of one devastating event are used masterfully by Christie.
1942 Agatha Christie Murder in Retrospect (UK-Five Little Pigs)
1941 James M Cain Mildred Pierce
A rip-roaring tale of a woman scorned. Mildred Pierce, a gorgeous as she was tough, used her attributes to survive, to claw her way out of the lower middle class. A divorced mother in the depression era Los Angeles of the 1930s, Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter.
1940 Raymond Chandler Farewell, My Lovely
Eight years ago Moose Malloy and cute little redhead Velma were getting married - until someone framed Malloy for armed robbery. Now his stretch is up and he wants Velma back. PI Philip Marlow meets Malloy and agrees to help him. The search for Velma turns up plenty of dangerous gangsters with a nasty habit of shooting first and talking later.
1939 Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep
Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer so he needs Marlowe's help. But with Sternwood's wild daughters prowling LA's seedy backstreets, Marlowe's got his work cut out - and that's before he stumbles over the first corpse . . .
1938 Graham Greene Brighton Rock
A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, he is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold. A gripping, terrifying and exciting thriller that exposes a world of loneliness and fear.
1937 Leo Bruce Case Without a Corpse
A young man walks into the village pub, announces he has just murdered someone, and swallows a vial of poison. So the murderer is known but who is the victim? Brawny and brainy, Sergeant Beef of Braxham village constabulary - later turned private detective – and his ‘Watson’ Lionel Townsend, are on the case. Ingenious, intriguing and fun.
1936 Margery Allingham Flowers for the Judge
The Barnabus publishing dynasty discovers one of its directors dead in a locked cellar. Albert Campion – already called to work investigating the founder’s missing nephew who vanished in broad daylight – is out to solve the puzzle of why the deceased man was in the basement - and in his best attire? And what about that disappearing nephew?
1935 John Dickson Carr The Hollow Man (US-The Three Coffins)
Two murders are committed, in each case the murderer has seemingly vanished into thin air. Dr Gideon Fell is brought into this bizarre mystery after professor Grimaud is shot by a killer leaving no footprints.
An all-time great locked room mystery.
1934 James M Cain The Postman Always Rings Twice
The fever-pitched tale of an amoral young drifter who stumbles into a job, and soon becomes obsessed by a beautiful, sullen woman with whom he has an affair. But she’s the wife of his boss and the only solution is grisly. Bleak, violent, gritty, authentic and
snappy, it'll take your breath away.
1933 Dorothy L Sayers Murder Must Advertise
The iron staircase at the advertising agency Pym’s Publicity is a deathtrap that Victor Dean tumbles down it, cracking his skull along the way. Lord Peter Wimsey, acting as Dean’s replacement, suspects foul play and searches for the man who pushed him. But how does one uncover a murderer in a business where it pays to have no soul?
1932 Agatha Christie Peril at End House
A pretty young woman - an heiress of a local estate - has recently survived a series of very close calls. She appears to be the target of a dedicated killer—and it’s up to Hercule Poirot to save her life. Perfectly paced, with subtle and ingenious clueing, and an unexpected but totally logical solution.
1931 Dashiell Hammett The Glass Key
Gambler Ned Beaumont is devoted to his best friend Paul Madvig who happens to want the daughter of a Senator, the heiress to a dynasty of political purebreds no less, but did he want her badly enough to commit murder? And if Madvig was innocent, which of his dozens of enemies was doing an awfully good job of framing him?
1930 Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon
Meet Sam Spade, the blonde satan, an original hard-boiled private detective. Spade possesses a cold detachment, an eye for detail, and an unflinching determination to achieve his own justice. He's seen the wretched, the corrupt, the tawdry side of life but still retains his "tarnished idealism". Spade's misdirection of motive is a masterstroke.
1929 Dashiell Hammett Red Harvest
A classic exploration of corruption and violence in the American grain. When the only honest man in Poisonville - a city torn apart by gamblers, gunmen and crooked police -
is murdered, the Continental Op stays on to punish the guilty - even if that means taking on an entire town.
1928 Liam O’Flaherty The Assassin
Set in the 1920s and based on an actual event, it captures Dublin life - and its criminal fraternity - with a taut yet vivid style. Michael McDara, assassin, together with fanatical revolutionary Kitty Mellett, and Fetch, a brutal thug with a conscience, plan an execution and a daring escape - but dissension breaks out among the conspirators.
1927 Arthur Conan Doyle The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
The final twelve Holmes stories are an unusual and dark collection. Treachery, mutilation, and the terrible consequences of infidelity are explored, along with touches of the gothic involving a blood-sucking vampire, crypts at midnight and strange bones in a furnace. Challenging and bizarre tales reflecting the mood of the 1920s.
1926 Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
When wealthy Roger Ackroyd is found stabbed in his study, Poirot agrees to investigate. The narration is packed with red-herrings and the stock characters are all present in this typical village murder mystery which is transformed by the last chapter and its stunning and controversial revelation.
1925 Earl Derr Biggers The House Without a Key
The first of the Charlie Chan mysteries. John Quincy Winterslip, a Boston bond dealer who is sent by the family to bring home his missing aunt, arrives in Hawaii to find that his wealthy uncle Dan, a controversial figure with plenty of enemies, has just been killed. The head detective arrives with Charlie Chan assisting with the case.
1924 Freeman Wills Crofts Inspector French's Greatest Case
It opens with the discovery of a dead body; that of the head clerk of a Hatton Garden diamond merchant. The body was found beside the merchant’s open safe, his valuable diamonds missing. There are many people to suspect, mysteries to solve and false clues to unravel in this police procedural.
1923 Ernest Bramah The Eyes of Max Carrados
Carrados is the blind detective who, in order to compensate for his lack of sight, has developed his other senses and skills to such a level that he is a mystery solver par excellence. Assisted by his sharp-eyed manservant, Parker, Carrados works a series of baffling puzzles. Written with wit, style and panache.
1922 Agatha Christie The Secret Adversary
Agatha Christie's detective team Tommy and Tuppence make their first appearance in this novel, in which the duo is hired to find Jane Finn, a woman who disappeared with sensitive government documents but soon find themselves drawn into a web of intrigue, intelligence agents, dubious identities, false clues, and danger.
1921 Rafael Sabatini Scaramouche
Once he was a lawyer raised by nobility, unconcerned with the growing discontent among France’s lower class—until his best friend is mercilessly struck down. Now, he is Scaramouche, speaking out against the unjust French Government. More of a swashbuckling romance rather than a crime novel but it fits the definition.
1920 Sapper Bulldog Drummond
Seeking adventure and excitement following the war, Captain Drummond places an advert seeking suitable work. A beautiful woman soon sends him off to investigate what looks like blackmail but turns out to be far more complicated and dangerous. An entertaining trail of a master criminal.
1918 Melville Davisson Post Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries
Famed historical detective and sturdy mointaineer Uncle Abner solved perplexing crimes of passion and greed, and mysterious tragedies, with courage and the understanding that justice must be served. The 18 tales take place in what is now West Virginia, in the mid 19th century.
1917 Arthur Conan Doyle His Last Bow
Containing seven Sherlock Holmes stories, it's an entertaining set of adventures including the investigation of a practical joke, the saving of the Nation's naval prestige, a mysterious and terrifying case in Cornwall, and the thwarting the evil Hun on the eve of war.
1916 John Buchan Greenmantle
Richard Hannay travels across war-torn Europe in search of a German plot and an Islamic Messiah. Joined by three others, the group move in disguise through Germany to Constantinople and the Russian border to face their enemies: the grotesque Stumm and the evil beauty of Hilda von Einem.
1915 John Buchan The Thirty-Nine Steps
Richard Hannay finds a corpse in his flat, and becomes involved in a plot by spies to precipitate war and subvert British naval power. The resourceful victim of a manhunt, he is pursued by both the police and the ruthless conspirators. Fast-paced, it’s a seminal ‘chase’ novel from the father of the spy thriller.
1914 Arthur Conan Doyle The Valley of Fear
From the annals of Dr Watson comes this dark tale of Sherlock Holmes’ early encounter with Professor Moriarty. When Holmes and Watson receive a cipher from one of Moriarty’s henchmen warning of dark doings at a manor house, they find themselves on the trail of a murderer that Includes a blown off head, secrecy, gang life and corruption in America.
1913 E C Bentley Trent's Last Case
Philip Trent investigates the death of a scheming American capitalist. The newly widowed ‘lady in black' has a disarming effect on Trent in this classic detective story that twists and turns. An irresistible combination of ingenious deductions and misplaced assumptions.
1912 Samuel Hopkins Adams Average Jones
Average Jones, a young, brilliant man, sets up in business as an Ad-Visor, helping people determine if ads - especially newspapers’ want ads - are legitimate or shady. Each case featured stems from a strange ad that points to criminal conspiracy. These fun stories involve all kinds of criminal behaviour, including kidnapping and murder.
1911 G K Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown
He might not be a conventional detective at first glance but Father Brown, the short, stumpy, catholic priest, possesses the instincts and insights of the best of them. This first collection of stories featuring Brown is an amusing batch with several ingenious denouements.
1909 Cleveland Moffett Through the Wall
Rich in Parisian atmosphere this is a novel of mystery and adventure. A well plotted, complex tale, in which master detective is pitted against a master criminal. More than a simple locked-room mystery there’s an emphasis on relationships without a shortage of cliff-hangers.
The first-person narrator is a middle-aged guardian of her orphaned nephew and niece. She rents a large country house for the summer but a murder ensues, linking other strange activities and unexplained deaths to the house. It’s an original ‘had I only known earlier...’ style of mystery.
1907 Joseph Conrad The Secret Agent
Verloc, political anarchist and peddler of dubious merchandise, hides behind the façade of a shop owner and regular family man. Reluctantly involved in a disastrous plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory, Verloc becomes embroiled in a London of politicians, policemen and foreign diplomats in this superior spy story.
1906 Anna Katharine Green The Woman in the Alcove
Our narrator begins: ‘I was, perhaps, the plainest girl in the room that night. I was also the happiest - up to one o'clock.’ She’s little going for her, save a recently earned nurse's diploma, but the reader is immediately on board. An American detective story / thriller from an author known for logical construction and a knowledge of criminal law.
1905 Edgar Wallace The Four Just Men
Four young, handsome, immensely wealthy vigilates, are prepared to kill in the name of a justice that’s not seen to be done. When a Foreign Secretary, determined to see his Bill made law, receives a threatening letter signed Four Just Men, so begins a case that leaves Fleet Street and Scotland Yard baffled. Just who are these men?
1904 Arthur Conan Doyle The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The first collection after the fall of Holmes and Moriarty, begins with Holmes explaining to Watson – the narrator - how he escaped his watery grave. What follows is a fine collection of challenging puzzles. With murder, abduction, baffling cryptograms and robbery, plus another cruel adversary, it’s like Holmes never went away.
1903 Erskine Childers The Riddle of the Sands
A British sailor on holiday in the Baltic comes across an evil German plan, masterminded by the father of the woman he loves. Should he warn his country and risk losing her? Well characterised and authentic, it’s set in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and intrigue that was soon to lead to war. Arguably the first spy thriller.
1902 Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles
The legend of the devil-beast that roams the mist-enshrouded moors around Baskerville Hall warns the descendants of the Baskerville family never to venture out there. When the most recent Baskerville is dead, with the footprints of a giant hound found near his body, Holmes and Watson investigate this supposed family curse.
1900 Fergus Hume The Bishop's Secret (AKA Bishop Pendle)
Ben Baltic, an interesting detective, investigates the shooting of a man in a quiet cathedral city, alongside many ‘amateur’ detectives. Local convention and political intrigue crop up in this multi-layered mystery of secrets, agendas and a long list of suspects.