A few months ago, my mother sent me a "best of" book, which lists the top 100 mysteries. Well, the top 100 mysteries as determined by a British critic. Uh, the top 100 mysteries by a British critic and crime writer that is only current until the year the book was published (1987). It is Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books by H.R.F. Keating. A prolific crime writer, Keating died of heart failure in March.
While Keating's selections seem static, like a phone book or a social media handbook, which are generally out of date by the time of binding, it is a completely useful and I'm glad I have it.
This selection of the best has helped steer me towards some writers I had overlooked--for example, Ngaio Marsh, the author of Surfeit of Lampreys or, even better, suggested books by authors I've read and broadening my reading of these writers--such as suggesting The Franchise Affair, as well as Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.
Dipping into this collection, I can slow down and focus on what one expert appreciates about books that influenced him as a crime writer, what criticisms he has of particular works of crime and mystery books.
While it may seem dated, I often find that there is so much information available that it pays to take a look at a list of award winners, dip into the recommendations of an expert, or focus on the reviews from people who make it their business to know what is a great book--worthy of inclusion alongside the masterful Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, or Agatha Christie--and why.
So this summer, while I'm also enjoying Jo Nesbo's The Snowman, I'll take a look and find out if there are any surprises in this "best of" that might warrant a reading to help me with my craft or simply help me enjoy a good book that I might have missed, had it not been pointed out by a "dated" book of bests.
Are there book lists or award lists that you use to help you decide what to read? Of so, what are they? If not, do you take recommendations from friends? Family? Book sellers?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina and itching for a vacation (and not itching from mosquito bites).