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Old 06-26-2011, 01:28 PM   #1
GA Russell
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The best crime/mystery novel of the Twentieth Century

In the Maltese Falcon Vote thread, I mentioned that I feel that The Maltese Falcon is the best crime/mystery novel of the twentieth century. Apparently no one agrees with me!

So I wonder...Which ONE crime/mystery novel do you consider to be the best of the century?

I'm always open to suggestions!
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Old 06-26-2011, 02:41 PM   #2
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I didn't disagree with you. It's just that there are so many to choose from.
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Old 06-26-2011, 02:52 PM   #3
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I'd find it impossible to choose one, but if I had to pick the best author of mysteries, for me it would probably be Dorothy L. Sayers. Her "Lord Peter Wimsey" books are my favourite crime novels as a series, largely because of the continual character development that goes on throughout the series.
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Old 06-26-2011, 03:00 PM   #4
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I've read and reread Sayers, but I think the books would have been better if she hadn't fallen in love with Lord Peter. Busman's Honeymoon was embarrassing.

I have to think about whom/what I consider best, especially since it involves comparing apples and oranges and pineapples and kumquats.
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Old 06-26-2011, 03:11 PM   #5
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Got it. Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley.
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Old 06-26-2011, 03:27 PM   #6
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I think it's an impossible question to answer. So much depends on one's own background and general tastes. Sayers was the first crime novelist I ever read. That was at a time when I thoroughly despised genre fiction (I was a very swotty teenager). The only reason I read her was because she had been an undergraduate at my Oxford college. As well as an extremely well-stocked academic library, we had a small reading room for lighter reading. It was mainly supplied with books written by members of the college and one day I ventured to read one of hers. And naturally Gaudy Night appealed most, because it was set in an Oxford women's college.

I'm sorry to say that I never managed to finish The Maltese Falcon. It bored me to tears.

I wonder what qualities we are looking for in judging a crime novel as outstanding?
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Old 06-26-2011, 04:53 PM   #7
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I'd like to put up Agatha Christi's And Then There Were None

or maybe Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely
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Old 06-26-2011, 05:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
I think it's an impossible question to answer.
+1 on this. First of all, think of the four main branches of the mystery genre tree:

*the cozy mystery
* the "hard boiled" private eye mystery
*the police procedural
*the spy/international thriller

Each have their different pleasures, advantages, and drawbacks- pleasures that that often contradict with each other. With the "cozy mystery", for example, you are shielded from the reality that there is a violent crime and a corpse at the center of the mystery , whereas the police procedural practically rubs your nose in it.
Fans of one variety are unlikely to consider examples of another variety as " best or even "good". Think Val McDermid , with her graphic descriptions of violence and unabashed talk of sex vs Dorothy Sayers: we are practically talking of different planets!!

Maybe we can talk of a best subgenre of mystery fiction: best police procedural, etc.
That at least is conceivable.
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Old 06-26-2011, 05:40 PM   #9
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+2 on impossible question. And good point on the subgenres.
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Old 06-26-2011, 05:55 PM   #10
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Yup - impossible.
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Old 06-26-2011, 06:30 PM   #11
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Agatha Christie - "The Hollow" - Poirot is out-foxed by the most unexpected assemblage of characters ever included in one book.
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Old 06-26-2011, 06:46 PM   #12
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I had been meaning to post a reply in the vote thread, but since there is this thread now, I'll say it here: The Maltese Falcon wouldn't even be in the Top 10 of best crime/mystery books of the 20th century for me. Maybe Top 100.

The first one that came to mind upon seeing the thread title was "And Then There Were None". I'm not a huge Christie fan, but that is definitely her best book and the book is so expertly plotted, especially for it being "the first of its kind" and leading to the now well-known die-one-by-one genre that has transferred to films.

I used to read a lot of mystery when younger but it's not often my cup of tea anymore, for the most part. So I may have missed a lot of good ones.
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Old 06-26-2011, 09:05 PM   #13
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My top candidates in each of my categories:
Cozy mystery- " Hercule Poirot's Christmas", Agatha Christie
Hard boiled private eye- " Devil in a blue dress" , Walter Mosely
Police procedural- "The mermaids singing," Val Mcdermid
International\spy thriller- Shibumi, Trevanian.

Anyway, that's my candidates this week. Note how completely different these books are from each other .
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Old 06-26-2011, 10:01 PM   #14
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Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" is a good one.
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Old 06-26-2011, 10:02 PM   #15
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I don't read that many crime books but I am a big fan of Barbara Vine on the "mystery" side.

There's something that seems different about her books as mysteries. They seem to dwell in the ordinary but slowly reveal terrible catalysts or unveil buried mysteries that make the stories extraordinary - to me anyway.

She will always be my preferred author in that particular area of fiction.
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