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A List of top Mysteries, Literary and otherwise…with one Appalling Oversight

At the end of an essay On Literature and Mystery at Sarah Weinman’s place, Kyle Minor provides a list of mystery stories that belong in the literary canon, and a list of canonical works of literature that are, at their core, mysteries. If it matters, I’ll let you decide which is which, he says (and I’ll let you guess one appalling oversight):

American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Knockemstiff, by Donald Ray Pollock

As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat

The Bright Forever, by Lee Martin

In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien


The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain

Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane

The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler

The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos

Lush Life, by Richard Price

Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson

The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett

The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy

Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard

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5 Responses to “A List of top Mysteries, Literary and otherwise…with one Appalling Oversight”

  1. Arthur Durkee Says:

    Couldn’t agree more on this, especially with regard to Chandler and Hammett. I’ve been saying just this for a long time now, as have others.

  2. Rohan Maitzen Says:

    Wow, both of these lists are kind of weird. Where’s Bleak House, on that first list, for example? Or was it deliberately restricted to the 20thC? No women writers at all on the second,not even Sayers or P D James? I read Mystic River recently and was underwhelmed; I haven’t read Lush Life but I found Clockers pretty unimpressive from a literary perspective as well. Chandler and Hammett are predictable candidates (Chandler himself was among the first to credit Hammett with making mystery fiction literary).I guess I’ll have to click over to the original essay and see how he justifies these choices!

  3. Judith Fitzgerald Says:

    Great Expectations.  Fifth Business.  Crime and Punishment.  The Name of the Rose.  The Third Policeman.  Gorky Park.  Double Indemnity.  The Simple Art of Murder.  The Big Sleep.  Tales of Mystery and Imagination.  Our Man in Havana.  Dracula.  The Quiet American.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  Murder on the Orient Express.  Anatomy of a Murder.  The Thirty-Nine Steps.  The Woman in White.  The Thin Man.  Paradise.  The Big Sleep.  Wuthering Heights.  Rebecca . . .

    G’Night, Dear Nigel, G’Night . . .

  4. Judith Fitzgerald Says:

    Oh, damn.  Pynchon!  Vonnegut!  Philip K. Dick!  Sorry about Two Big Sleeps, hehehehe . . .

  5. Nigel Beale Says:

    Okay, enough with the mysterification of the appallation, Nigel.  I am
    serial :) . . . What’s the appalling oversight?  And, more to the
    point, do I
    win a prize?  Can I borrow, puhleeze, a Boyden pic, IOW, you
    lovable loyal
    right royal lure-dangler, you?


    Third on your list my dear…C&P. As for the prize…I’l have to think on it…and yes, certainly you may borrow Boyden…

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