Murder, mystery, detective, hardboiled, spy, legal/courtroom





DOYLE, Arthur Conan          

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes           1892

Thoroughly enjoyable


HADDON, Mark   

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time  2003    Crime/Novel

Triumphant autistic fantasy. Authentic characters, engaging narrative and excellent structure



The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy 1)   2006

Satisfying, cold, intellectual, brutal, spare, engaging, original


LEHANE, Dennis

A Drink Before the War   (Kenzie/Gennaro 1)     1994

Thoroughly enjoyable


ISHIGURO, Kazuo     

When We Were Orphans 2000

Black, very clever subversion of mannered detective novel to deliver stinging theme


MOSLEY, Walter

Fear of the Dark (Fearless Jones 3)   2006

Ahhhh, at last, someone who can write. Celebrates conventions, but still a distinctive voice




The Fencing Master   1999 (trans.)

Sophisticated. Stunning climax




CHANDLER, Raymond    

The Big Sleep      1939

Great ‘hardboiled’ mood, powerful and witty figures of speech


Farewell My Lovely    1940

Original, dry humour with heart in the mean streets


The Lady In The Lake 1943

Great ‘hardboiled’ mood, powerful and witty figures of speech


The Long Goodbye          1953

Great ‘hardboiled’ mood, powerful and witty figures of speech


ELTON, Ben   

The First Casualty           2005    Historical Fiction/Crime

Alternate political characters enhance rather than overwhelm WW1 crime story





Stonemouth    2012    Novel (almost crime)

Capable narration, strong characters deftly weaved into a cleverly paced non-linear crime-ish plot


FFORDE, Jasper

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, Book 1)  2001    SF/Humour/Crime/Action

As good as, worse and better than Adams or Pratchett


The Big Over Easy     2005    SF/Humour/Crime/Action

Another enjoyable excursion


DOYLE, Arthur Conan          

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes    1893

Clever ideas, engaging lead characters


The Return of Sherlock Holmes  1905

Clever ideas, engaging lead characters


The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes 1927

Clever ideas, engaging lead characters


HAMMETT, Dashiell

Nightmare Town 1923-34     Crime/Short Stories

Capable, original Chandler precursor


The Glass Key     1931    Crime

Fascinating alternative world and spin on heroism


HART, John

King of Lies    2006

Some cliché, some melodrama, but a strong ride, and some strengths



The House of Silk      2011

Impressive, satisfying, but falls into some of the Moffat/Gattiss disappointments


LEHANE, Dennis

Sacred (Kenzie/Gennaro 3)    1997

Some nice pacing, humour and dialogue. Still problems of scale


Gone, Baby, Gone (Kenzie/Gennaro 4)    1998

Flawed, but not the scale problem of previous novels in the series. Killer moral dilemma climax.  


Prayers For Rain (Kenzie/Gennaro 5)      1999

Mostly a great ride, just skirts around another dealbreaking scale flaw, vigilantism oversimplified


McCALL SMITH, Alexander

Tears of the Giraffe    2000

Charming company in exotic Botswana


PARKER, T. Jefferson

The Fallen     

In the ugly crime world, but not of it



The Dumas Club  1993 (trans.)

Intelligent, interesting on medieval occult and books


The Flanders Panel    1994 (trans.)

Intelligent, interesting on medieval painting


The Seville Communion  1995 (trans. S. Soto, 1997)

Nice style, strong characters, able plot     



Beggars Banquet       2002 (1990-2000) Crime/Short Stories

Capable, interesting



In the Best Families (A Nero Wolfe Mystery) 1950   

Wonderful departure from conventions of series (but read a few other Wolfe’s first)


TARTT, Donna                

The Little Friend   2002    Crime/Novel

Impressively textured characters, yet steadfastly misanthropic 


TEMPLE, Peter               

The Broken Shore      2007

Feels pretty authentic Australian, if keeping to pretty dark territory


WESTLAKE, Donald E.   

God Save the Mark    1967    Crime / Humour

Capable enough humourous playing with crime conventions





BLOCK, Lawrence

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons  2013

Much more about urbane, often flirtatious wit than car chases and suspense


BURKE, James Lee

The Glass Rainbow    2010

Competent, but nagging moral flaws, plot weaknesses, and exaggerated characters



Playback   1948    Crime (Screenplay)

Competent, but not the best way to enjoy Chandler


CHANDLER, Raymond/PARKER, Robert B.

Poodle Springs          1989

Parker completes an unfinished (married) Marlowe novel


FREDRICKSON, Michael      

A Defence for the Dead   2005

Solid effort, beyond cliché characters, never soars



C is for Corpse     1986

Down the line, capable



The Partner    1997    Crime/Legal Thriller

Clever and well-paced heist story, really dumb final twist



A Murder of Quality (George Smiley investigates)     1962

Competent enough episode


LEON, Donna 

Doctored Evidence    2004

Capable, avoids cliché, original dealing with bureaucratic context … but never soars

LEONARD, Elmore  

Bandits     1987

Leonard knows what he’s doing


Rum Punch    1992




Weep For Me        1951

Able writing, interesting as time-piece – particularly on views of women



Last Drinks     2000

Several capable elements, but profundity a bit contrived


MOSLEY, Walter

A Little Yellow Dog (An Easy Rawlins Mystery)   1996

Potent, original, capable, sexually puerile



Rumpole of the Bailey     1978     Short Stories/Crime

Courtroom wit and detection


The Trials of Rumpole     1979     Short Stories/Crime

Courtroom wit and detection


PARKER, T. Jefferson

California Girl       2004

Assured, capable, none of the characters particularly engaging for me



The Leper of Saint Giles  1981    Crime/Historical Fiction

Competent medieval whodunnit



A Good Hanging  1992    Crime/Short Stories

OK, but short form feels like you’re on fast-forward



A Bitter Feast 1998    Crime

Definitely not second rate. But not quite first rate either


Ghost Hero     2011    Crime

Sum is less than its parts


RUBINSTEIN, Matt          

Death of the Author   2012   

Capable writing, cool idea, but the form works as much against as for the book


SOBOL, Donald J.          

Still More Two-Minute Mysteries      1975    Crime/Puzzle

Find the clue to solve each page long case



And Be A Villain (A Nero Wolfe Mystery) 1948

Pleasant. Lightly comic


The Second Confession (A Nero Wolfe Mystery) 1949    Crime

Able without soaring. Touches on McCarthyism issues. Second book to refer to Wolfe’s nemesis Zeck – read it before ‘In the Best Families’


Champagne for One (A Nero Wolfe Mystery) 1958

Pleasant. Lightly comic


TEMPLE, Peter    

White Dog (Jack Irish #4)  2003    Crime

Capable, gritty quasi-mythical Australian characters with crime staples (e.g. beaten down sleuth comfortable in high or low culture, knight rescuing swooning damsels). Interesting cultural marker: saw it as a movie before reading it, villain had been changed from standard industrialist to Hillsong preacher – society’s new whipping boy


Truth   2009    Crime

      Intelligent, biting, capable – but perhaps only if you need a dark counter to recent overindulgence in things sentimental and twee



Murder on the Thirty-first Floor        Crime / SF - Dystopia 

Unengaging narration of bland urban dystopia within crime framework








To Make a Killing       1992

Unsubtly PC, fairly shallow, set around Nowra



 N or M?    1941    Crime / Spy

OK setup, but gets bogged down, hinges on some horribly implausible plot points, and adds insulting characterisation


LEHANE, Dennis

Darkness Take My Hand (Kenzie/Gennaro 2)      1996   

Disappointing: Lehane uses the same dodgy tropes he ridicules


MANKELL, Henning

The Man Who Smiled      1994

Starts with some promise, but ends in breathtaking stupidity


PARKER, T. Jefferson

Full Measure         2014   

Capable enough snapshot of a young Afghanistan vet returning to rural hardships and divided subcultures, but I couldn’t enjoy the consciously ugly crime (sub)plot


PRICE, Anthony

The Labyrinth Makers           1970

Competent plot, pacing; never soars; juvenile/puerile romance




 CARCATERRA, Lorenzo     

Sleepers    1995   

 Fails as either fact or fiction  


COOK, Thomas   

The Crime of Julian Wells     2012

Pretentious, bland


DAVIS, Lindsay   

Scandal Takes a Holiday       2004    Crime/Historical Fiction

Some OK research maybe, but overwhelmed by contemporary cliché characters and glib voice


GRIMES, Martha

The Horse You Came In On   1993

Embarrassingly insecure/arrogant. Self-indulgent


HART, John

Down River     2007

An Edgar? Really?






The Color of Law 2005    Novel/Crime

Definitive stereotype, appallingly myopic






First to Die       Action/Crime

Dumbs down an already simple formula