Dave Lull has sent me a link to an article by P. D. James (creator of Adam Dalgliesh) listing her five favourite crime books. (Actually the article says "best" but I am using a less confrontative adjective.)
P. D. James’ choice:
1. Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare (1943)
2. The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1949)
3. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946)
4. Murder must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers (1933)
5. Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (2003).
Of these books, I have read and enjoyed 2, 3 and 4. I don’t think I would call them my favourite crime novels, or the best-ever written, for that matter — I think they would seem pretty slow and dated if I read them again now (if I recall correctly, the Sayers is nastily anti-semitic). They may have seemed ground-breaking at the time, but I think the field has moved on. (A bit like reading The Moonstone now: it was innovative at time it was written, but seems a bit obvious to the modern reader.)
An odd thing about James’ list is that four of her selections are vintage 30s and 40s, yet one is very recent. I haven’t read or, I think, heard of Sansom’s book, but according to James it is set in the sixteenth century, involving the church and "sinister acts of sacrilege". James’ interest in religion no doubt accounts for its inclusion, but I wonder how much crime fiction published between 1949 and the present she has read, for comparison?
I’m going away to think about my five favourites. I’d love to know yours.
Thanks again, Dave, for the link.
Link: OpinionJournal – Five Best.