Friday, 18 March 2011

Top 5... Mystery Novels

Whenever somebody asks me what my favourite book is, I find myself unable to answer.  What, exactly, is meant by "favourite"?  Is it the book that made me laugh the most, or the story that stayed me with longest after I turned the last page?

I love reading books of every genre, and I bloody love writing about them too.  So this is my first post in a series on my favourite five books in any given genre.  Sorry, but I can't pick one.  Not even a top three.  Five is my number.

Philip's Top 5 Mysteries

The Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman

An engrossing thriller set against the backdrop of the New York art world, The Brutal Art is the story of Ethan Muller, a flawed but successful art dealer who stumbles across a vast work of unparalleled genius.  When he attempts to locate the artist who created this oeuvre, he is drawn into a world of violence and deception.

Light Before Day by Christopher Rice
After his first two novels, A Density of Souls and The Snow Garden, Christopher Rice took a step away from the modern Gothic genre and into noir with Light Before Day.  The first-person narrator, Adam Murphy, is a Los Angeles-based journalist, looking for his one time boyfriend who has seemingly vanished off the face of the earth.  His search takes him into the city's seedy underbelly, and Rice proves himself highly skilled at creating detestable figures in the drug dealers and sexual predators that Adam crosses paths with.
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Less of a conventional crime story than Dennis Lehane's other novels, Shutter Island toys with the reader's perceptions throughout.  The hero is Teddy Daniels, a Federal marshall called to Ashcliffe hospital on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a mental patient.  As a hurricane descends on the island and his migraines become more unbearable, Teddy becomes less certain of who he can trust.  I can't say much more without giving the game away - suffice to say it's well worth a read.  And much more rewarding than the film adaptation.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

In this, the first of Private Eye Jackson Brodie's adventures, Kate Atkinson playfully entwines the genres of crime and literary fiction.  Detective and divorcee Jackson is contacted by Julia and Amelia Land to find out what happened to their little sister Olivia years before.  At the same time, he is harrassed by an old man who needs answers about his daughter's death.  Seemingly unrelated events propel the story's narrative, and while the conclusion is not necessarily climactic, it provides the reader with a huge sense of satisfaction.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
This is it.  The big one, the daddy of noir.  Philip Marlowe is the original hard-boiled detective.  What else is there to say?  Considered by many (myself included) to be Chandler's magnum opus, The Big Sleep features pornographers, killers, femme fatales and one reluctant hero.  Classic.  Just classic.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Do you think I've missed an important mystery novel off the list?  What are your suggestions for the next genre to be featured in the Top 5 series?  Let me know!

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