Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Listed: Todd Downing's Six Favorite Detective Novels

In 1934 American detective novelist Todd Downing, asked to name his "favorite mystery stories," listed the following:

1. Murder by Latitude, by Rufus King (or any of King's maritime mysteries)
2. The Greene Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine (or The Bishop Murder Case)
3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie
4. The Red Lamp, by Mary Roberts Rinehart
5. The Silver Scale Mystery (Murder of a Lady), by Anthony Wynne
6. From This Dark Stairway, by Mignon Eberhart

What do you think of this list?  There are probably a few surprises!  Four American authors and two British, three women and three men.  I'm pleased to say that I have actually read all these books.  Would I put them on my list?  A few of them, possibly.  I find the idea of doing such a compressed list daunting, however.  What would you list for yourself?

Compare with, previously posted

Sinclair Lewis' "four essential mystery stories"

Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
The Lodger, by Marie Belloc Lowndes
Malice Aforethought, by Francis Iles (Anthony Berkeley Cox)
The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Michael Dirda's alternative to Sinclair Lewis' list

The A.B.C. Murders, by Agatha Christie
Lament for a Maker, by Michael Innes
The Poisoned Chocolates Case, by Anthony Berkeley (Anthony Berkeley Cox)
The Three Coffins, by John Dickson Carr 

Who has the best list, do you think?

See also on Todd  Downing:

Review of Vultures in the Sky

The Precious Right to Read a Murder Mystery


  1. I like Downing's rather non-conformist list Imagine Anthony Wynne making a "Best of" mystery list! Eberhart's book is rather an obscure choice as well. Not read that one, but I will remedy that very soon. In fact I've read only seven of the books in all three lists. Pretty sad for me considering so many of the titles are genuine classics of the genre. I attempted LAMENT FOR A MAKER twice but I never get past that first section in Scotland. The regionalisms and dialect drove me to distraction and I gave up both times.

    In Dirda's list I know all four works but only because I've seen movie or TV adaptations of all of them. I've only read THE NINE TAILORS from that list. Shameful, I know.

  2. John, thanks for the comment.

    Gosh, I've actually read them all. That really doesn't happen that much! Lament indeed is pretty "authentic dialect" mad, lol.

    I really like Murder by Latitude and Silver Scale--better than, say, The Greene Murder Case, actually!

    My favorite Eberhart of the Keates is The Mystery of Hunting's End. You can probably tell from Todd's list he was rather attracted to suspense and outre elements. I imagine a few years later a Carr would shown up on the list.