Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tozai Mystery Best 100: So how many have you read?



I love going through lists, especially of books and movies. To tick-off a book read or a movie seen gives me great pleasure. Recently I came across this list of top 100 mystery novels, published by Japanese magazine Shūkan Bunshun (The Weekly Bunshun) in 1985. A revised edition, of 50 books, was published in 2012.

Here are the lists for your perusal and pleasure:

1985 LIST

Rank Author Title Year
1 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of Y 1932
2 William Irish Phantom Lady 1942


3 Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye 1953




4 Agatha Christie And Then There Were None 1939
5 Jack Higgins The Eagle Has Landed 1975
6 Gavin Lyall Midnight Plus One 1965
7 Freeman Wills Crofts The Cask 1920
8 Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 1926
9 S. S. Van Dine The Bishop Murder Case 1929


10 Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short stories) 1892
11 Alistair MacLean HMS Ulysses 1955
12 Frederick Forsyth The Day of the Jackal 1971



13 Raymond Chandler Farewell, My Lovely 1940
14 John Dickson Carr The Burning Court 1937
15 Lucien Nahum Shadow 81 1975


16 Gaston Leroux The Mystery of the Yellow Room 1907
17 Ira Levin A Kiss Before Dying 1953

18 Eden Phillpotts The Red Redmaynes 1922
19 Dick Francis For Kicks 1965
Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon 1930


21 Desmond Bagley High Citadel 1965
22 S. S. Van Dine The Greene Murder Case 1928
23 Catherine Arley Woman of Straw 1956


24 Ross Macdonald The Chill 1964
G. K. Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown (short stories) 1911
26 John Dickson Carr The Hollow Man aka The Three Coffins 1935
27 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of X 1932
28 Robert B. Parker Early Autumn 1981
29 Dashiell Hammett Red Harvest 1929
30 Sjöwall & Wahlöö The Laughing Policeman 1968
31 Ellery Queen The Egyptian Cross Mystery 1932
32 Robert Ludlum The Bourne Identity 1980
33 John le Carré The Spy Who Came in from the Cold 1963
34 Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express 1934
35 Carter Dickson The Judas Window 1938
36 Edgar Allan Poe The Murders in the Rue Morgue (short story) 1841


37 Roald Dahl Someone Like You (short stories) 1953


38 Christianna Brand Tour de Force 1955
39 Colin Dexter Last Seen Wearing 1976


40 Edgar Allan Poe The Gold-Bug (short story) 1843
41 Maurice Leblanc 813 1910
Brian Freemantle Charlie Muffin aka Charlie M 1977
43 Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep 1939

44 Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time 1951
45 Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles 1902


46 Anthony Berkeley Cox The Poisoned Chocolates Case 1929


Cornell Woolrich Rendezvous in Black 1948
48 Dick Francis Whip Hand 1979


49 Craig Rice Home Sweet Homicide 1944


Joyce Porter Dover and the Unkindest Cut of All 1967


51 Wilkie Collins The Moonstone 1868
52 Jeffrey Archer Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less 1976
53 Ellery Queen Calamity Town 1942

54 Ross Macdonald The Wycherly Woman 1961
Ellery Queen The Greek Coffin Mystery 1932
56 James M. Cain The Postman Always Rings Twice 1934
Jack Higgins Storm Warning 1976
58 Nicholas Blake The Beast Must Die 1938
59 Gavin Lyall The Most Dangerous Game 1964
60 Jack Higgins A Prayer for the Dying 1973


61 Isaac Asimov Black Widowers (short stories) 1980
Anthony Berkeley Cox Trial and Error 1937


63 Graham Greene The Human Factor 1978
64 William L. DeAndrea The HOG Murders 1979
Ed McBain Cop Hater 1956
Edgar Allan Poe The Purloined Letter (short story) 1845
67 Sébastien Japrisot Trap for Cinderella 1962


68 Daphne du Maurier Rebecca 1932
69 John Dickson Carr The Emperor's Snuff-Box 1942
70 Frederick Forsyth The Devil's Alternative 1979
71 Clive Cussler Raise the Titanic! 1976

Eric Ambler The Mask of Dimitrios aka A Coffin for Dimitrios 1939
73 Dick Francis Odds Against 1965
74 Richard Jessup Threat 1981
Edmund Clerihew Bentley Trent's Last Case 1913










Eden Phillpotts A Voice from the Dark 1925


77 Henry Denker Outrage 1982
78 Brian Freemantle Goodbye to an Old friend 1973


79 John Thomas Sladek Invisible Green 1977


80 Alistair MacLean The Guns of Navarone 1957
81 Steven L. Thompson Recovery 1980
82 Curt Cannon I Like 'em Tough (short stories) 1958
83 Georges Simenon A Man's Head 1931


84 W. Somerset Maugham Ashenden: Or the British Agent 1928
85 Ken Follett Eye of the Needle 1978
86 Harry Kemelman The Nine Mile Walk (short stories) 1947
A. A. Milne The Red House Mystery 1922
88 Dashiell Hammett The Glass Key 1931








89 Tony Kenrick Stealing Lillian 1975


90 Ellery Queen The Dutch Shoe Mystery 1931

Christianna Brand Death of Jezebel 1948
92 Bill S. Ballinger The Tooth and the Nail 1955
93 A. J. Quinnell Man on Fire 1980
94 A. J. Quinnell Blood Ties 1984
Ellery Queen Halfway House 1936
Edmund Crispin Buried for Pleasure 1948


97 Freeman Wills Crofts The 12.30 from Croydon aka Wilful and Premeditated 1934
Frederick Forsyth The Odessa File 1972
99 Lawrence Sanders The First Deadly Sin 1973
James Crumley The Wrong Case 1975


 THE REVISED LIST: 2012
Rank Author Title Year
1 Agatha Christie And Then There Were None 1939


2 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of Y 1932
3 Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short stories) 1892
4 William Irish Phantom Lady 1942
5 Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 1926
6 Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye 1953
7 Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose 1980
8 G. K. Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown (short stories) 1911
9 Thomas Harris The Silence of the Lambs 1988

10 John Dickson Carr The Burning Court 1937
11 Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express 1934
12 Stieg Larsson Millennium series 2005-2007
13 Ira Levin A Kiss Before Dying 1953
14 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of X 1932
15 Ross Macdonald The Chill 1964
16 John Dickson Carr The Hollow Man aka The Three Coffins 1935
17 Frederick Forsyth The Day of the Jackal 1971
18 S. S. Van Dine The Bishop Murder Case 1929


19 Jack Higgins The Eagle Has Landed 1975
20 Anthony Berkeley Cox The Poisoned Chocolates Case 1929

21 Lawrence Block Eight Million Ways to Die 1982



22 Jeffery Deaver The Bone Collector 1997
23 Ellery Queen The Greek Coffin Mystery 1932
24 Christianna Brand Death of Jezebel 1948
25 Gavin Lyall Midnight Plus One 1965


26 James P. Hogan Inherit the Stars 1977
27 James Ellroy White Jazz 1992
28 Gaston Leroux The Mystery of the Yellow Room 1907
29 Scott Turow Presumed Innocent 1987


30 Sjöwall & Wahlöö The Laughing Policeman 1968
31 Anthony Berkeley Cox Trial and Error 1937
32 Lucien Nahum Shadow 81 1975
33 Freeman Wills Crofts The Cask 1920
34 Edgar Allan Poe The Murders in the Rue Morgue (short story) 1841
35 Dick Francis For Kicks 1965
36 Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon 1930
37 John Dickson Carr The Emperor's Snuff-Box 1942
38 Dashiell Hammett Red Harvest 1929
39 Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time 1951


40 Stuart Woods Chiefs 1981
41 Sébastien Japrisot Trap for Cinderella 1962
42 Ellery Queen The Egyptian Cross Mystery 1932

43 R. D. Wingfield Frost at Christmas 1984
44 Carter Dickson The Judas Window 1938
45 Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors 1934

46 Dick Francis Whip Hand 1979


47 Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles 1902
48 Eden Phillpotts The Red Redmaynes 1922
49 Anthony Berkeley Cox Jumping Jenny aka Dead Mrs. Stratton 1933
50 John Thomas Sladek Invisible Green 1977


I had great fun going through the list and browsing the covers but to my horror I realised that I had read a measly 14 and a 1/2 books in all, four of which I have blogged about. [That half-book is Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I simply could not read after a point]. Also, there are 25 odd authors or so whom I have never heard of. Though there are a few authors that I would have loved to see in this list: Anthony Gilbert, Ethel Lina White, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Rex Stout. But then to each his own, I guess.

So how many of these have you read? Do you agree with this selection? Which are the books that you would have included?

31 comments:

  1. Neer, I have read many of the books from both the lists though there are significant authors, like Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, and Georges Simenon, I haven't read yet.

    I am, however, surprised by the generous inclusion of espionage and thriller writers like John le Carré, Alistair MacLean, Jeffrey Archer, Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett, and Jack Higgins in both the lists. They are not, strictly speaking, "mystery" novels though they could pass off as "crime" fiction. Follett's EYE OF THE NEEDLE, for instance, is an outright spy novel while many of MacLean's are set around WWII. Archer is certainly the odd one out.

    On the whole, a comprehensive list and many of these books are going to make it to my list of books to read. Some of the covers are brilliant—I can see that you have chosen the ones with most appeal.

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    1. Ellery Queen, I have come to know, is very popular in Japan. I too haven't read much of Queen, Carr, or Simenon.

      It does seem that the Japanese like espionage/ spy thrillers. It was fun going through a list from a country other than US or UK.

      Prashant, it took me a whale of a time going through and selecting the covers. And, as you say, some of them are really brilliant.

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  2. Neeru - Thanks for sharing these lists. I always find it absolutely fascinating to read what people consider the finest, the best, etc.. when it comes to crime fiction. These lists remind me of some authors I haven't read for years and whose work I really ought to re-read...

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    1. You are welcome, Margot.:)

      It is always fun to go through such lists though at times I don't agree with the selection.

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  3. I'm so glad to see Ellery Queen so well represented! Thanks for posting these lists (and I haven't read very many either 15 and 12.)

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    1. Thanks Debbie. Ellery Queen, it seems, is very popular in Japan. While there are only two of Christie, there are quite a few by Queen.

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  4. As someone who considers myself to be a fan of crime fiction, I am ashamed! I've read 8 from the original list and 10 from the revised list. So many new titles to try, though, and I loved seeing the covers, so thank you!

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    1. Thanks Marie for having a look. Even I was shocked at how few I have read. But then, like you, I too am excited about certain books which are now on my wishlist. It was fun browsing through the covers.

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  5. These are very interesting lists and many of the books are ones I want to read someday. In the first list I have read 11 for sure, another 5 maybe (so long ago I am not sure). In the 2nd list, 7 or 8. This was a fun post to read. I love lists like this too.

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    1. Thanks Tracy. These lists have surely put a lot of books on everybody's Wishlist. :)

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  6. I quite agree, there's nothing better than a good list to get your teeth into amd I'm glad to say I've read most of the books included. I think the top 100 suffers from too much very similar material (for instance having 7 by Ellery Queen, including both TRAGEDY OF X and Y, all excellent books but there's a lot of great books and authors out there ...) and they certainly have a very broad definition of mystery to incorporate thrillers, whodunits, espionage, action-adventure. It does give the impression tht a lot of very different people contributed to it.

    So, will we get your top 100 soon?

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    1. Glad you enjoyed going through the lists, Sergio.

      Queen does seem to be the most represented author and while I agree with your point of having other deserving authors and books, it is also in a way refreshing. I mean, how many times can we see Christie as being top of the tops?

      I agree, the range is pretty broad.

      Top 100? NO. But I might do a Top 13 to carry forward my A Baker's Dozen posts.

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  7. 47 from the first list; 30 from the second. Many of the remaining books are on Mount TBR.

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    1. Wow! Very impressive figures. How did you find the books that you have read? Worthy to be in a top 100 list?

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  9. Had to delete the previous typo strewn embarrassment. Here's the cleaned-up, lucid version:

    The Japanese have great taste and can always be trusted to find the more unusual and overlooked books in the genre -- whether an old chestnut like THE CASK or a modern one like FROST AT CHRISTMAS.

    I've read 32 in the original list, 25 from the second. And I've seen many of the movie adapatations of other books but still haven't read. I own an awful lot of the books in both lists, but will I ever get to read them? I smiled when I saw Christianna Brand showed up twice! I think I have to find a copy of Shadow 81 by Lucien Nahum. Never heard of the book or the writer. I at least know of *all* the other writers, if not the specific book listed.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, John.

      The Japanese certainly have picked up some of the old masters: Van Dine, Phillpotts, Crofts. Interestingly, Brand's JEZEBEL has been included rather than her more well-known GREEN FOR DANGER. If I remember correctly, you too find the former better than the latter.

      "I at least know of *all* the other writers": But than John, you are not like the rest of us ordinary mortals. :)

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  10. Oh, Neer, just what I needed MORE titles to add to my TBR list. Ha!

    I've read many of the books listed in your post, but there are still some I have not so I bookmarked your post and hoping to track down some of the lesser known books.

    I thought I'd already read all the best Ellery Queen books. I guess I was wrong. :)

    I've read DAY OF THE JACKAL and THE EAGLE HAS LANDED and they are two books I would also particularly recommend.

    I think Dick Francis' WHIP HAND should be nearer the top, by the way.

    Hopefully my library will still have some of the oldies.
    Thanks for a fabulous post, Neer.

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    1. Thanks a lot Yvette. Glad you liked the post.

      Dick Francis has been on my reading radar for long (mainly because of your liking for him) but somehow I have never picked up his books. I haven't read JACKAL or EAGLE either. I know the stories so well, it's almost like having read them. One day, perhaps I will...

      Hope you are lucky enough to find some of the lesser known titles. I am much intrigued by Phantom Lady.

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    2. Thanks a lot Yvette. Glad you liked the post.

      Dick Francis has been on my reading radar for long (mainly because of your liking for him) but somehow I have never picked up his books. I haven't read JACKAL or EAGLE either. I know the stories so well, it's almost like having read them. One day, perhaps I will...

      Hope you are lucky enough to find some of the lesser known titles. I am much intrigued by Phantom Lady.

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  11. Neere,

    Good to see Agatha Christie reigning these lists. Good work putting the lists and the covers together.

    - Nitu

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  12. Thank you Nitu di, glad you liked the lists. But Agatha Christie doesn't really reign, does she? Yes, her book occupies the first position in the revised list but there are just two books of her in the lists. Other authors have far more books.

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  13. Funny story, I actually contributed a little to the selection process of this list. To compile the list, the publisher had asked for two top 10 lists ('national=Japanese' novels and 'foreign' novels) from writers, critics and university mystery clubs etcetera, and I happened to be a member of the Kyoto University Mystery Club last year. We, as a club, were asked to hand in two lists too.

    Which were made by a lot of discussion and politics. I think we put Queen's The Tragedy of Y as the last on our list of foreign novels, figuring that enough other people would rank him higher anyway. We also opted to not name some authors, as we were sure they would appear anyway w/o our help.

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    1. Aha! Straight from the horse's mouth! Perhaps you can answer the question that is intriguing a lot of us: What is the reason behind Ellery Queen's popularity in Japan?

      And just wondering who are the authors you opted not to include.

      Thanks Ho Ling for having a look.

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  14. This interview is quite relevant to the question. I myself am not sure why Queen is still relatively popular in Japan, though the fact the books are still easily available in bookstores is probably of relevance (though that might be a chicken-egg thing). There are also authors out there who are clearly inspired by Queen (Norizuki Rintarou and Arisugawa Alice being the most obvious), so readers of their books almost 'necessary' end up reading Queen.

    Just checked, and our list was funnily enough devoid of any Chesterton and Christie. The ones we nominated but didn't make it were Fred Kassak's Nocturne pour assassin, Deaver's The Coffin Dancer, Crofts' Mystery on Southampton Water. (Oh, and it was The Tragedy of X we nominated, not Y).

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    1. Oh, and I had posted a bit on both lists when they were published late last year, including a list of the Japanese books available in English, for those interested in the Japanese list.

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    2. Thanks Ho-Ling for answering the queries, and the links. I had a look at the interview but didn't read much because of the Spoilers.

      Chesterton, to me, is an over-rated writer so I don't wonder much at his non-inclusion. But no Christie. That is mind-boggling. But perhaps you didn't include her because you thought others would be doing it anyway. And she did claim the first position, so definitely others must have voted for her.

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  15. Wow, there are truly some great mysteries there that I had not seen before. You've really upped my TBR list. I also love M. A. Comley a British author who writes the Justice series.

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    1. Thanks Linda for visiting. Sorry for the late reply but I was off-blogging for a while. I haven't heard of M.A Comley but will have a look.

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