What are the crime, mystery, and thriller novels that every fan of this genre should be sure to read before he or she dies? That's the question Britain's Daily Telegraph asked a couple of weeks back, but its answers were ... well, let's be generous and call them unspectacular.

Hoping to do a better job, The Rap Sheet is putting together its own list of must-reads -- but we need your help. Which books and authors do you think should be included? We won’t limit our list falsely to 50 books and authors, as the Telegraph did, but will instead feature as many names as seems appropriate. And we'll publish the results sometime in the near future.

The floor is now open to suggestions, folks.

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By Hammett: Maltese Falcon, Dain Curse, Red Harvest, The Glass Key, The Thin Man, complete collectgion of Op stories, The Name of the Game is Death by Dan Marlowe, By Jim Thompson: Savage Night, Hell of a Woman, Swell-Looking Babe, The Getaway, Mr. Arkadin by Orson Welles (??), Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, Solomon's Vineyards by Jonathan Latimer, The Spy who Came in from the Cold by LeCarre, By Chandler:The Long Goodbye, The Big Sleep, The Little Sister, I, the Jury by Spillane, Anyone's My Name by Seymour Shubin, How Like a God by Rex Stout. By Willeford: Cockfighter, The Woman Chaser
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.
Any John D. MacDonald novel pre Travis McGee, any Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker, and SANSIBEL FLATS by Randy Wayne White.
What irritates me about these lists is that the most important component of the equation has been ignored: the reader. Every reader has individual tastes. One person can say "Silence of the Lambs" but for someone who can't stomach reading anything beyond cozies, well... It won't matter how vivid the descriptions, how real the characterization, how incredible the story is if it pushes people so far out of their comfort zone they find the subject matter distasteful.

Now, I love to push. Myself, and others. But I push others I know, knowing how far I'm nudging them. It's easier to get someone to move from A to B than it is to force them all the way to X in one leap.

And then there are cultural variables. The original list was a UK list. It's more reasonable to question why they omitted Ian Rankin than to wonder about US authors who haven't broken through there. PI novels aren't very popular in the UK, for example.

If this was asking authors to pick the one author/book and post a number of authors' picks, it could be valuable, but the risk here is this will be a list of the most popular books, and may well overlook the best books that really should be on such a list.

And I think there's a big difference between what authors should read in the genre, and telling readers there's anything they must read. An author should be reasonably well read and know their genre. It's their business. There's a completely different list that applies to them as opposed to readers.

For that matter, while I rarely read cozies, I refuse to read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. I have found in general that the most hyped novels are almost never much good, and often irritating. I'm not going to make suggestions, but let me say that not one of the books mentioned would be on my list.
how many of the books mentioned have you actually read?
I've read THE MALTESE FALCON, and books by Le Carre, Chandler, Spillane, Rex Stout, Robert B. Parker, and John MacDonald. Didn't like the ones I read, or at least not enough to put them on a list.
Cannot abide Spillane. But then that whole segment of mysteries is not my cup of tea. I read more British authors than American.
If hard pressed, I'd nominate GORKY PARK.
I would include SOTL because it was one of the most influential genre novels of the 20th century. Harris practically invented the serial killer sub-genre, which is still going strong today.
Would you include The Da Vinci Code for similar reasons? (I read 2/3 of that).
The Da Vinci Code sold because of hype and controversy. SOTL sold because it was a great book and then a great movie. The two aren't even in the same league.

You can't dismiss SOTL and pretend to talk about crime fiction from the past twenty years, any more than you can dismiss Sgt. Pepper's and pretend to talk about rock and roll from the past forty.
Silence of the Lambs is a really strong book--brilliantly executed. Red Dragon was also in the same league. Given SOTL is a sequel that's pretty impressive. They kinda went off the deep end with the second & third sequels.

If I was going to recommend a book that represents crime fiction I'd plump for Ellroy's American Tabloid. For style & panache, mostly. But the plotting across the first 2 books of the trilogy is hugely impressive.

Invented it? What about stories about Jack the Ripper, or Sweeney Todd?


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