Here, as promised, is my highly subjective and apt-to-change-in-the-blink-of-an-eye list of top ten favourite Golden Age detective novels. I've imposed some limitations - just one book per author, and I've focused on detection rather than psychological crime (hence, no room for the wonderful Malice Aforethought.) I've tended to choose books that were in some way very original. Mike Linane made a very good suggestion that I should pick novels that are not too difficult to obtain, and I've gone part of the way to doing this. The Hull book, for instance, was an old green Penguin that you often find in second hand bookshops or at book fairs, although I can't claim that it's very easy to find. The King book was republished by Collins Crime Club in the 80s, and again is not terribly rare. So I hope anyone who wants to track them down will be able to do so, even if it takes a bit of perseverance. Next week, however, I shall develop a theme which Mike put in my mind by listing ten Golden Age books that are very obscure, but in my opinion undeservedly so.
Finally, I should say that, to show how difficult this game is, I changed my mind several times during the course of writing this post. And I'll probably change it a few more times as I'm reminded of classics I've overlooked...
10. The Crooked Hinge by John Dickson Carr - I'm a great fan of "impossible crime" mysteries, and Carr wrote several superb examples. Hard to choose just one, but I did admire this mystery.
9. Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare - several of Hare's books appeared as late as the Fifties,but like Christie's and that of Edmund Crisipin and Christianna Brand, his work belongs in spirit to the Golden Age. This is a classic study of law and crime. Very unusual.
8. Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull - a strangely under-estimated book by a writer who was always trying something different. Very clever twist on the idea of the courtroom drama.
7. Death Walks in Eastrepps by Francis Beeding - a wonderfully original serial killer whodunit, with a great twist and terrific seaside setting.
6. Obelists Fly High by C. Daly King - King wrote barmily implausible books, but this one is written with such gusto, and has such a detailed "clue finder" that I find it impossible not to include it in my list.
5. Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley - this is the book that was the catalyst for the Golden Age school of writers, and it's really very well done. Elegant and memorable.
4. Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers - I find it very hard to pick my favourite Sayers book. They all seem flawed to me - but usually because she was so admirably ambitious. The Nine Tailors and The Documents in the Case are really good too. I'm not a member of the Gaudy Night fan club, I'm afraid, even though again I respect what Sayers was trying to achieve.
3. Lonely Magdalen by Henry Wade - a police story, and much darker than most Golden Age books. But very impressive, and a landmark title in terms of police procedure mysteries.
2. The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley - witty and clever, this is a masterly example of the multiple solution detective mystery. Both Sayers and Christie loved it, and so do I.
1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - as I said on Monday, this one is simply unbeatable in my opinion...