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



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




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


HOROWITZ, Anthony 

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      


RANKIN, Ian   

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






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


GRAFTON, Sue    

C is for Corpse      1986

Down the line, capable


GRISHAM, John   

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, Jefferson

California Girl       2004

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


PETERS, Ellis 

The Leper of Saint Giles   1981     Crime/Historical Fiction

Competent medieval whodunnit


RANKIN, Ian   

A Good Hanging   1992     Crime/Short Stories

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


ROZAN, S. J.  

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



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                

Truth   2009     Crime

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





BEDFORD, Jean   

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


PRICE, Anthony

The Labyrinth Makers       1970

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




 CARCATERRA, Lorenzo       

Sleepers    1995    

 Fails as either fact or fiction    


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