The world’s greatest mystery writers on the world’s greatest mystery novels:
Michael Connelly on The Little Sister . . .
Kathy Reichs on The Silence of the Lambs . . .
Mark Billingham on The Maltese Falcon . . .
Ian Rankin on I Was Dora Suarez . . .
With so many mystery novels to choose among, and so many new titles appearing each year, where should a reader start? What are the classics of the genre? Which are the hidden gems?
In the most ambitious anthology of its kind yet attempted, the world’s leading mystery writers have come together to champion the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of personal essays that often reveal as much about the authors and their own work as they do about the books that they love, 119 authors from 20 countries have created a guide that will be indispensable for generations of readers and writers. From Agatha Christie to Lee Child, from Edgar Allan Poe to P. D. James, from Sherlock Holmes to Hannibal Lecter and Philip Marlowe to Lord Peter Wimsey, Books to Die For brings together the cream of the mystery world for a feast of reading pleasure, a treasure trove for those new to the genre and for those who believe that there is nothing new left to discover. This is the one essential book for every reader who has ever finished a mystery novel and thought . . .
I want more!
“Why does the mystery novel enjoy such enduring appeal? There is no simple answer. It has a distinctive capacity for subtle social commentary, a concern with the disparity between law and justice, and a passion for order, however compromised. Even in the vision of the darkest of mystery writers, it provides us with a glimpse of the world as it might be, a world in which good men and women do not stand idly by and allow the worst aspects of human nature to triumph without opposition. It can touch upon all these facets while still entertaining the reader.”
—From the introduction of Books to Die For
|Publisher:||Atria/Emily Bestler Books|
|Product dimensions:||6.48(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.52(d)|
About the Author
John Connolly is the author of Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind, The White Road, Bad Men, Nocturnes, and The Black Angel. He is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at www.johnconnolly.co.uk.
Date of Birth:May 31, 1968
Place of Birth:Dublin, Ireland
Education:B.A. in English, Trinity College Dublin, 1992; M.A. in Journalism, Dublin City University, 1993
Read an Excerpt
The Dupin Tales
by Edgar Allan Poe (1841–44)
J. WALLIS MARTIN
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–49) was an American author, poet, editor, and critic best known for his tales of mystery and imagination, many of them decidedly gothic in tone. For mystery readers, though, his fame rests on the three short stories he wrote about the character of Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, which Poe described as his tales of “ratiocination.” Intellectual yet imaginative, brilliant but eccentric, Dupin became the template for fictitious detectives to come, among them Sherlock Holmes, who name-checks Dupin in the very first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, albeit by describing him as “a very inferior fellow.”
Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of 18–, I there became acquainted with a Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin.
So begins the story that many consider to be the earliest in which a private detective assists the police by solving a murder mystery. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is the first of three stories in which Dupin solves a case that has baffled police, and Poe’s importance to, and influence on, subsequent generations of writers of crime, mystery, and tales of the supernatural is significant. Consider the following passage, which might have been drawn from a story in which Sherlock Holmes or Poirot took the place of Dupin:
“Tell me, for Heaven’s sake,” I exclaimed, “the method—if method there is—by which you have been enabled to fathom my soul in this matter.”
Dupin obliges, and the benefactor of his powers of analysis can only marvel at him.
“The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” was a sequel to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and opens with the following observation: “There are few persons, even among the calmest thinkers, who have not occasionally been startled into a vague yet thrilling half credence in the supernatural,” whereas in “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin is exhorted to help the police retrieve a letter stolen from a woman who is being blackmailed.
These three stories comprise The Dupin Tales, but as they have been analyzed elsewhere, I will not deconstruct them here. What interests me about them is what we can learn about Poe’s character from his portrayal of his alter ego (many academics agree that Dupin is undoubtedly that), for when introducing Dupin for the first time, the narrator of the story describes him thus:
This young gentleman was of an excellent—indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy of his creditors, there still remained in his possession a small remnant of his patrimony; and, upon the income arising from this, he managed, by means of a rigorous economy, to procure the necessaries of life, without troubling himself about its superfluities. Books, indeed, were his sole luxuries, and in Paris these are easily obtained.
The description accords with what we know of Poe’s personal circumstances when he wrote the story. The narrator goes on to say:
It was at length arranged that we should live together during my stay in the city; and as my worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through superstitions into which we did not inquire.
The “common temper” of which Poe wrote may have been a reference to the moods of elation and despair that plagued him all his life, and support a posthumous diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Were he alive today, Poe might well agree with the diagnosis, for he was, in fact, aware that his moods were cyclic, and that they alternated in nature. In a letter to the poet James Russell Lowell, whose own temperament was deeply moody, he wrote:
I can feel for the “constitutional indolence” of which you complain—for it is one of my own besetting sins. I am excessively slothful, and wonderfully industrious—by fits. There are epochs when any kind of mental exercise is torture, and when nothing yields me pleasure but solitary communion with the “mountains & the woods”—the “altars” of Byron. I have thus rambled and dreamed away whole months, and awake, at last, to a sort of mania for composition. Then I scribble all day, and read all night, so long as the disease endures.
As is so often the case for those who suffer from bipolar disorder, Poe’s personal life was a disaster. He was reputed to be irresponsible, unstable, and impossible to deal with. The following is an excerpt from Poe’s letter to his guardian, John Allan, after the latter refused to pay gambling debts Poe incurred at university:
Did I, when an infant, solicit your charity and protection, or was it of your own free will, that you volunteered your services in my behalf? It is well known to respectable individuals in Baltimore, and elsewhere, that my Grandfather (my natural protector at the time you interposed) was wealthy, and that I was his favourite grandchild—But the promises of adoption, and liberal education which you held forth to him in a letter which is now in possession of my family, induced him to resign all care of me into your hands. Under such circumstances, can it be said that I have no right to expect any thing at your hands?
Poe’s accusation was grossly unfair. John Allan had in fact provided for him well, but he eventually lost patience with Poe’s appeals for money. As a result, the relationship broke down when Poe was in his early twenties.
Inability to handle money, and a tendency to overspend with scant regard for the consequences, are features of bipolar disorder. (Consider Poe’s purchase of three yards of Super Blue Cloth and a set of the best gilt buttons, bought at a time when he was almost two thousand pounds in debt!) So, too, is an ability to focus on a piece of work to the exclusion of all else. However, this was but a small part of what the manic stage of the illness enabled Poe to do. The illness blessed yet cursed him with a clarity of vision, a heightening of the senses which he describes vividly in “The Fall of the House of Usher”:
He entered, at some length, into what he conceived to be the nature of his malady. It was, he said, a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy—a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off. It displayed itself in a host of unnatural sensations. Some of these, as he detailed them, interested and bewildered me; although, perhaps, the terms and the general manner of their narration had their weight. He suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid food was alone endurable; he could wear only garments of certain texture; the odours of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light; and there were but peculiar sounds, and these from stringed instruments, which did not inspire him with horror.
And again, in this extract from “The Tell-Tale Heart”:
TRUE!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.
The period during which those who suffer from bipolar disorder experience a heightening of the senses can last for days or months before the decline into a depression that can be mild to severe. Poe’s depressions were deep, and following one such period, he wrote:
I went to bed and wept through a long, long, hideous night of despair—When the day broke, I arose & endeavoured to quiet my mind by a rapid walk in the cold, keen air—but all would not do—the demon tormented me still. Finally I procured two ounces of laudnum [sic] . . . I am so ill—so terribly, hopelessly ILL in body and mind, that I feel I CANNOT live . . . until I subdue this fearful agitation, which if continued, will either destroy my life or, drive me hopelessly mad . . .
In the above, Poe refers to having procured two ounces of laudanum with which to self-medicate. Another drug of choice was alcohol. Elevated rates of drug and alcohol abuse are often to be found in bipolar individuals, and premature death is a feature of the illness. It is likely that a combination of the two led to Poe’s premature death in 1849. “We know now that what made Poe write was what made him drink,” observed one of his biographers: “alcohol and literature were the two safety valves of a mind that eventually tore itself apart.”
J. Wallis Martin (PhD St. Andrews) is publishing director of the Edgar Allan Press Ltd. Her novels have been published internationally, and adapted for the screen. She lives in Bristol. Visit her online at www.wallis-martin.co.uk.
Table of Contents
1841: Edgar Allan Poe, The Dupin Tales J. Wallis Martin 3
1853: Charles Dickens, Bleak House Sara Paretsky 8
1859: Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities Rita Mae Brown 15
1867: Metta Fuller Victor, The Dead Letter Karin Slaughter 18
1868: Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone Andrew Taylor 23
1892: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Linda Barnes 27
1902: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles Carol O'Connell 32
1928: Liam O'Flaherty, The Assassin Declan Burke 38
1929: Erskine Caldwell, The Bastard Allan Guthrie 42
1930: Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon Mark Billingham 46
1931: Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key David Peace 52
1932: Dorothy L. Sayers, have his Carcase Rebecca Change 56
1932: Leslie Charteris, The Holy Terror (aka the Saint v. Scotland Yard) David Downing 62
1933: Paul Cain, Fast One Chuck Hogan 67
1934: James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice Joseph Finder 70
1934: Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express (aka Murder on the Calis Coach) Kellis Stanley 74
1938: Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca Minette Walters 79
1938: Graham Greene, Brighton Rock Peter James 83
1938: Rex Stout, Too Many Cooks Arlene Hunt 86
1939: Geoffrey Household, Rogue Male Charlaine Harris 90
1940: Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely Joe R. Lansdale 94
1941: Patrick Hamilton, Hangover Square Laura Wilson 99
1942: James M. Cain, Love's Lovely Counterfeit Laura Lippman 103
1943: Léo Malet, 120, Rue de la Gare Cara Black 105
1946: Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop Ruth Dudley Edwards 108
1947: Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place Megan Abbott 112
1947: Georges Simenon, Act of Passion (Lettre àmon juge) John Banville 116
1947: Mickey Spillance, I, the Jury Max Allan Collins 119
1948: Carolyn Keene, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall Liza Marklund 123
1948: Josephine Tey, The Franchise Affair Louise Penny 126
1949: Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister Michael Connelly 129
1949: Josephine Tey, Brat Farror Margaret Maron 133
1950: Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train Adrian McKinty 136
1952: Margery Allingham, The Tiger in the Smoke Phil Rickman 140
1953: Elliott Chaze, Black Wings has my Angel (aka One for the Money) Bill Pronzini 144
1953: William P. McGivern, The Big Heat Eddie Muller 150
1958: John D. MacDonald, The Executioners (aka Cape Fear) Jeffery Deaver 158
1958: Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Pledge Elisabetta Bucciarelli 167
1960: Clarence Cooper Jr., The Scene Gary Phillips 171
1960: Margaret Millar, A Stranger in my Grave Declan Hughes 175
1960: Harry Whittington, A Night for Screaming Bill Crider 179
1960: Charles Willeford, The Woman Chaser Scott Phillips 183
1962: Eric Ambler, The Light of Day (aka Topkapi) M. C. Beaton 188
1962: P.D. James, Cover her Face Deborah Crombie 190
1962: Kenneth Orvis, The Damned and the Destroyed Lee Child 194
1962: Richard Start, The Hunter (aka Point Blank and Payback) F. Paul Wilson 196
1963: Nicolas Freeling, Gun Before Butter (aka Question of Loyalty) Jason Goodwin 201
1963: John le Carré, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Élmer Mendoza 205
1963: Ed McBain, Ten Plus One Deon Meyer 209
1964: Ross Macdonald, The Chill John Connolly 212
1964: Jim Thompson, Pop. 1280 Jo Nesbø 218
1965: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Roseanna Qiu Xiaolong 221
1966: Truman Capote, In Cold Blood Joseph Wambaugh 224
1967: Agatha Christie, Endless Night Lauren Henderson 229
1968: Peter Dickinson, Skin Deep (aka the Glass-Sided Ants' Nest) Laurie R. King 233
1969: Ross Macdonald, The Goodbye Look Linwood Barclay 239
1970: Joseph Hansen, Fadeout Marcia Muller 244
1970: George V. Higgins, The Friends of Eddie Coyle Elmore Leonard 248
1971: James McClure, The Steam Pig Mike Nicol 252
1973: Tony Hillerman, Dance Hall of the Dead William Kent Krueger 258
1974: Donald Goines, Daddy Cool Ken Bruen 264
1975: James Crumley, The Wrong Case David Corbett 268
1975: Colin Dexter, Last Bus to Woodstock Paul Charles 274
1976: Jean-Patrick Manchette, 3 to Kill (Le petti bleu de la côte ouest) James Sallis 280
1976: Mary Stewart, Touch not the Cat M. J. Rose 285
1976: Newton Thornburg, Cutter and Bone George Pelecanos 289
1976: Trevanian, The Main John McFetridge 293
1977: Edward Bunker, The Animal Factory Jens Lapidus 297
1977: John Gregory Dunne, True Confessions S. J. Rozan 301
1977: Ruth Rendell, A Judgement in Stone Peter Robinson 305
1978: James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss Dennis Lehane 309
1979: Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Southern Seas (Los mares del sur) Leonardo Padura 313
1980: Andreu Martín, Prótesis (Prosthesis) Cristina Fallarás 319
1981: Robert B. Parker, Early Autumn Colin Bateman 324
1981: Martin Cruz Smith, Gorky Park Jean-Christophe Grangé 328
1982: Sue Grafton, A is for Alibi Meg Gardiner 332
1982: Stephen King, Different Seasons Paul Cleave 336
1982: Sara Paretsky, Indemnity Only Dreda Say Mitchell 339
1983: Elmore Leonard, LaBrava James W. Hall 343
1984: Kem Nunn, Tapping the Source Denise Hamilton 347
1987: Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Christopher Brookmyre 352
1988: Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs Kathy Reichs 356
1988: Sara Paretsky, Toxic Shock (aka Blood Shot) N. J. Cooper 362
1990: A. S. Byatt, Possession Erin Hart 366
1990: Patricia Cornwell, Postmortem Kathryn Fox 370
1990: Derek Raymond, I was Dora Suarez Ian Rankin 375
1991: Lawrence Block, A Dance at the Slaughterhouse Alison Gaylin 378
1992: Michael Connelly, The Black Echo John Connolly 382
1992: Peter Høeg, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow (aka Smilla's Sense of Snow) Michael Robotham 388
1992: Philip Kerr, A Philosophical Investigation Paul Johnston 392
1992: Margaret Maron, Bootlegger's Daughter Julia Spencer-Fleming 396
1992: Richard Price, Clockers Gar Anthony Haywood 400
1992: James Sallis, The Long-Legged Fly Sara Gran 404
1992: Donna Tartt, The Secret History Tana French 407
1993: Jill McGown, Murder... Now and then Sophie Hannah 412
1993: Scott Smith, A Simple Plan Michael Koryta 416
1994: Peter Ackroyd, Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem (aka the Trial of Elizabeth Cree) Barbara Nadel 421
1994: Caleb Carr, The Alienist Reggie Nadelson 425
1994: Henning Mankell, The Man Who Smiled Ann Cleeves 430
1995: James Ellroy, American Tabloid Stuart Neville 434
1996: George Pelecanos, The Big Blowdown Declan Burke 438
1997: Suzanne Berne, A Crime in the Neighborhood Thomas H. Cook 443
1997: Natsuo Kirino, Out (Auto) Diane Wei Liang 447
1997: Walter Mosley, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned Martyn Waites 451
1997: Ian Rankin, Black and Blue Brian McGilloway 455
1997: Donald E. Westlake, The Ax Lisa Lutz 459
1998: Cara Black, Murder in the Marais YRSA Sigurdardóttir 463
1998: Reginald Hill, On Beulah Height Val McDermid 466
1998: Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red Reed Farrel Coleman 469
1999: J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace Margie Orford 473
1999: Robert Wilson, A Small Death in Lisbon Shane Maloney 479
2000: David Peace, Nineteen Seventy-Four Eoin McNamee 483
2000: Scott Phillips, The Ice Harvest Eoin Colfer 486
2001: Harlan Coben, Tell no One Sebastian Fitzek 490
2001: Dennis Lehane, Mystic River Chris Mooney 497
2005: Peter Temple, The Broken Shore John Harvey 502
2007: Gil Adamson, The Outlander C. J. Carver 506
2007: James Lee Burke, The Tin Roof Blowdown Katherine Howell 510
2007: Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know Bill Loehfelm 514
2007: Perihan Magden, Escape Mehmet Murat Somer 518
2008: Mark Gimenez, The Perk Anne Perry 525
Index of Contributing and Subject Authors 535
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Some of these essays are interesting to read, others are not. But I found enough keeperss to make me glad I own the book.