Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels

Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels

by John Connolly, Declan Burke

NOOK Book(eBook)

View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


The world’s most beloved mystery writers celebrate their favorite mystery novels in this gorgeously wrought collection, featuring essays by Michael Connelly, Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin, and more.

In the most ambitious anthology of its kind, the world’s leading mystery writers come together to champion the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of personal essays that reveal as much about the authors and their own work as they do about the books that they love, over a hundred authors from twenty 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 best 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!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451696585
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 10/02/2012
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 896,249
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

John Connolly is the author of the Charlie Parker series of mystery novels, the supernatural collection Nocturnes, the Samuel Johnson Trilogy for younger readers, and (with Jennifer Ridyard) the Chronicles of the Invaders series. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.

Declan Burke has published six novels: Eightball Boogie (2003), The Big O (2007), Absolute Zero Cool (2011), Slaughter’s Hound (2012), Crime Always Pays (2014), and The Lost and the Blind (2015). Absolute Zero Cool received the Goldsboro/Crimefest "Last Laugh" Award for Best Humorous Crime Novel in 2012. He also is the editor of Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (2011). He hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays.


Dublin, Ireland

Date of Birth:

May 31, 1968

Place of Birth:

Dublin, Ireland


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)


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

Table of Contents

Introduction xvii

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

Acknowledgments 529

Credits 531

Index of Contributing and Subject Authors 535

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Carlin More than 1 year ago
Some of these essays are interesting to read, others are not. But I found enough keeperss to make me glad I own the book.