Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Anthony Boucher's Choice: The Twenty Best Crime Novels of 1943

What was the good mystery stuff seventy years ago, in the midst of World War Two? Here's a list of critic and mystery writer Anthony Boucher's favorite 1943 crime novels:

Death of a Busybody, George Bellairs
The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler

Painted for the Kill, Lucy Cores
The Mouse in the Mountain, Norbert Davis

She Died a Lady, Carter Dickson
Unidentified Woman, Mignon Eberhart
Ministry of Fear, Graham Greene

A Stranger and Afraid, Michael Hardt
The Smell of Money, Matthew Head
Death in the Doll's House, Hannah Lees and Lawrence Bachmann
Colour Scheme, Ngaio Marsh

The Green Circle, Chris Massie
Do Not Disturb, Helen McCloy

Wall of Eyes, Margaret Millar
The Thursday Turkey Murders, Craig Rice

The Year of August, Mark Saxton
Murder Down Under (Mr. Jelly's Business), Arthur Upfield

Stalk the Hunter, Mitchell Wilson
The Black Angel, Cornell Woolrich

Only a few of the names that are familiar to me come from the hard-boiled/noir school (Raymond Chandler, Norbert Davis, Cornell Woolrich).  Some of the books I didn't recognize, but I think these are, like Graham Greene's Ministry of Fear, espionage tales, which naturally would have been of particular interest during WW2.  The Green Circle I'm not sure should really be considered a crime novel, but then I tend to be something of a purist about these things.

How many of these have you read?  If over half, I would say you are a classic crime fiction superstar!

My own top twenty--the top twenty novels I blogged this year--will be starting soon.  Here are the links to last year's thrilling countdown:

And, incidentally, in my recent Christmas Number

Do Not Murder Before Christmas (1949)

I forgot to post last year's Christmas Number:

Murder for Christmas (1941)

Though I did post the one from the previous year (and do so again, just to have everything neat and tidy):

Mystery in White (1937)


  1. I could never be so organized with a countdown to the top 20, Curt. I have a hard enough time just listing 10 at the end of the year. I will be watching for your lists.

    1. And they have commenced! Thanks for the comment, Tracy.

  2. Happy holidays, Curt! I've read 13 of these, so I'm delighted to think I'm a "classic crime fiction superstar". Whoohoo! I wouldn't have put Lucy Cores's "Painted for the Kill" on any best-of list, though; it's pissed me off for years. I won't say precisely why, for fear of spoiling someone's potential enjoyment, but times have certainly changed for the better since it was written.

    1. 13 is impressive! I would love to hear more about the Cores books, I know Rue Morgue, which has a partiality to "wacky" mysteries, reprinted it, but I have not read it (I have never liked too much wacky mystery besides Taylor and Rice).

  3. Wow, Noah beats me on this list! I've read only eight of this "Best of" grouping. Feel like a slacker. (But in total I have read twelve of the writers though not some of the specific titles listed.) Three of them I have never heard of: GREEN CIRCLE by Chris Massie (though I know the writer's name), A STRANGER AND AFRAID, and YEAR OF AUGUST. So of course now I will have to track down those books and rectify my ignorance of those writers. I've always wanted to try out Mitchell Wilson who had a few books reprinted as Dell Mapbacks and whose books turn up frequently in my book browsing and online hunting. I guess I know which one to start with now.

    BTW -- I have a review of a Christmas themed detective novel coming tomorrow! Found the book back in the summer and saved it especially for the last FFB post of 2013. Turns out to be one fo the best books I read this year.

    1. I'll have to check that out! And let us know what you think of Mitchell Wilson.

      And thanks for the card!