Top 100 Best Mysteries of All Time (Mystery Writers of America)

The best mysteries of all time? A tall order you’d think, but in 1995 the Mystery Writers of America complied just that. The Top 100 Best Mysteries of All Time was compiled by the ‘active members’ of the Mystery Writers of America. It contains a few surprises, including Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent at number 5, Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer at 26 and the Swedish modern classic The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo at 46.

100 Best Mysteries of All Time

1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Including these individual high vote-getters:

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • A Study in Scarlet
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Sign of Four

2. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett (Comment: interesting that Hammett makes the Best Mysteries of All Time list ahead of Chandler)
3. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Edgar Allan Poe. Including these individual high vote-getters:

  • The Gold Bug
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue

4. The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
5. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow
6. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré
7. The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
8. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
9. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
10. An Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (Comment: presumably featured in the Best Mysteries of All Time list under several titles!)
11. Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver
12. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
13. The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
14. The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
15. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
16. The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
17. A Coffin for Dimitrios, Eric Ambler
18. Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers
19. Witness for the Prosecution, Agatha Christie (Comment: an often under-rated Christie that’s good to see in the 100 Best Mysteries of All Time)
20. The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
21. Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
22. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
Best Mysteries of all Time23. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
24. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevski
25. Eye of the Needle, Ken Follett
26. Rumpole of the Bailey, John Mortimer
27. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris
28. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L Sayers
29. Fletch, Gregory Mcdonald
30. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carré
31. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
32. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
33. Trent’s Last Case, EC Bentley
34. Double Indemnity, James M. Cain
35. Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
36. Strong Poison, Dorothy L Sayers
37. Dance Hall of the Dead, Tony Hillerman
38. The Hot Rock, Donald E Westlake
39. Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
40. The Circular Staircase, Mary Roberts Rinehart
41. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
42. The Firm, John Grisham
43. The Ipcress File, Len Deighton
44. Laura, Vera Caspary
45. I, The Jury, Mickey Spillane
46. The Laughing Policeman, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
47. Bank Shot, Donald E. Westlake
48. The Third Man, Graham Greene
49. The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson
50. Where Are The Children?, Mary Higgins Clark

The Bottom 50 Best Mysteries of All Time

51. “A” is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
52. The First Deadly Sin, Lawrence Sanders
53. A Thief of Time, Tony Hillerman
54. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
55. Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household
56. Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L Sayers
57. The Innocence of Father Brown, GK Chesterton
58. Smiley’s People, John le Carré
59. The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler
60. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
61. Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
62. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens
63. Wobble to Death, Peter Lovesey
64. Ashenden, W Somerset Maughan
65. The Seven Per-Cent Solution, Nicholas Meyer (Comment: another Sherlock Holmes in the 100 Best Mysteries of All Time!)
66. The Doorbell Rang, Rex Stout
67. Stick, Elmore Leonard
68. The Little Drummer Girl, John le Carré
69. Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
70. Dracula, Bram Stoker (Comment: showing that the 100 Best Mysteries of All Time is a broad category!)
71. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
72. The Moving Toyshop, Edmund Crispin
73. A Time to Kill, John Grisham
74. Last Seen Wearing, Hillary Waugh
75. Little Caesar, W.R. Burnett
76. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V Higgins
77. Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L Sayers
78. From Russia, With Love, Ian Fleming
79. Beast in View, Margaret Millar
80. Smallbone Deceased, Michael Gilbert
81. The Franchise Affair, Josephine Tey
82. Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
83. Shroud for a Nightingale, PD James
84. The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy
85. Chinaman’s Chance, Ross Thomas (Comment: another recent hit that might not make the 100 Best Mysteries of All Time now – sadly, Ross Thomas’s light is not as bright now as it was in 1995!_
86. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
87. The Dreadful Lemon Sky, John D MacDonald
88. The Glass Key, Dashiell Hammett
89. Judgment in Stone, Ruth Rendell
90. Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
91. The Chill, Ross Macdonald
92. Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley
93. The Choirboys, Joseph Wambaugh
94. God Save the Mark, Donald E Westlake
95. Home Sweet Homicide, Craig Rice
96. The Three Coffins
97. Prizzi’s Honor, Richard Condon
98. The Steam Pig, James McClure
99. Time and Again, Jack Finney
100=. A Morbid Taste for Bones, Ellis Peters,
and Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin (tie)

Are They Really The Best Mysteries of All Time?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven A Shafer October 27, 2009 at 3:16 am

Great list. Thank you. I am reading them and loving them.

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John S. Papa March 2, 2010 at 12:47 am

Raymond Chandler is my favorite. Surprised to see only one Ross MacDonald book on the list.

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Ankush October 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

My vote goes to John le Carre! Was there ever a better mystery writer? No, sir!

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james March 2, 2011 at 7:01 am

A Time to Kill? Really?

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