Classic Mystery Novel Receommnedations

What is the single best (or most representative)book by various

classic mystery writers — Rex Stout, John Dickson Carr, Ngaio Marsh,

Ross MacDonald, Agatha Christie, etc.? If I were going to read only

one book, which

one should it be — and why?

2 thoughts on “Classic Mystery Novel Receommnedations

  1. This is, of course, a highly subjective matter; a Mickey Spillane fan

    would give a very different answer than would an admirer of G.K.

    Chesterton. I am approaching this from my own personal tastes (which,

    while broad, are not all-inclusive, since I tend somewhat more toward

    older British "manor house" style mysteries rather than modern-day

    gritty detective novels.)

    If I had to pick only one mystery as "the best," I would choose Agatha

    Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd." In this 1926 novel, Dame

    Agatha turns the conventions of mystery writing topsy-turvy with a

    brilliant twist that caused much controversy among her fellow mystery

    writers, and is still suprising readers today.

    A few remarks from critics:

    "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," wrote a New York Times reviewer,

    "cannot be too highly praised for its clean-cut construction, its

    unusually plausible explanation at the end, and its ability to

    stimulate the analytical faculties of the reader." "The secret [of

    this novel] is more than usually original and ingenious," a Nation

    reviewer thought, "and is a device which no other writer could have

    employed without mishap." William Rose Benet of Saturday Review

    recommended that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd "should go on the shelf

    with the books of first rank in its field. The detective story pure

    and simple has as definite limitations of form as the sonnet in

    poetry. Within these limitations, with admirable structured art, Miss

    Christie has genuinely achieved."

    Barnes & Noble

    Here are a few reasons why I am selecting "The Murder of Roger

    Ackroyd" as THE mystery novel to read, if you are reading just one:

    1. One of the greatest fictional detectives of all time, Hercule

    Poirot, is in fine form in this book. Although this was Christie's

    third novel to feature Poirot, the little Belgian sleuth's personality

    seemed to come to full flower in "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd." This

    was the book that put Agatha Christie and Poirot "on the map." The

    book is still in print after more than seventy-five years, a testament

    to its continuing ability to entertain readers.

    2. Christie's delicious depiction of the incidental characters is most

    delightful to me. As an American who has never traveled abroad, I

    neither know nor care whether the descriptions of characters and

    places are accurate depictions of English country life of the 1920s;

    they are so vividly drawn that they are real to me, whether or not

    they resemble fact.

    3. In this novel, as in many others, Christie's intricate plot, while

    being (literally) deadly serious, has also some qualities of a comedy

    of manners (perhaps "manors" would be more apt in this case!) The

    crowning comic touch is the reader's realization that he or she has

    been monumentally misled throughout the narrative, as if the entire

    book is an elaborate joke on anyone who would attempt to foresee "who

    done it." Some readers dislike trick endings which seem tacked on.

    This mystery is a trick from first to last, with the ending being

    merely the coup de grace. I have seldom met anyone who read "The

    Murder of Roger Ackroyd" only once. Most readers, upon finishing the

    book, immediately begin rereading it in order to savor the cleverness

    of the stunning twist which places all the story's events in a new


    If I could cheat a bit and list ten classic mysteries which could be

    taken to a deserted island for a lifetime's enjoyment, this would be

    my list:

    1 – "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," Agatha Christie

    2 – "Strong Poison," Dorothy L. Sayers

    3 – "The Blind Barber," John Dickson Carr

    4 – "The Man Who Was Thursday," G.K. Chesterton

    5 – "Some Buried Caesar," Rex Stout

    6 – "False Scent," Ngaio Marsh

    7 – "Rebecca," Daphne du Maurier

    8 – "The Long Goodbye," Raymond Chandler

    9 – "The Green Ripper," John D. MacDonald

    10- "Death of an Expert Witness," P.D. James

    Here are a few excellent sites that may be of interest to you in your

    quest for the perfect crime novel:

    Grobius Shortling's Mystery List


    Christian Henriksson's Mystery Bibliography

    Mystery Booksellers: The 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century

    My Google search stragegy:

    "mystery" + "novels"


    Thank you for asking a question which was most enjoyable to answer! If

    anything I have said is not clear, if you need further information, or

    if any of the links do not function, please ask for clarification

    before rating my answer, and I will gladly provide further assistance.

    Best regards,


  2. Thank you very much for the five-star rating! If we researchers could

    rate questions, yours would have been a five-star question, since it

    gave me an opportunity to discuss one of my favorite subjects in all

    the world: mystery novels. 🙂


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