Who's asking: Valerie Vanaman, Los Angeles, CA
Valerie is one of the owners of The Mystery Bookstore, so I'm a little nervous about answering this question -- but I've been reading mysteries since I got my first Nancy Drew, at the age of six or seven, and I didn't start working at The Mystery Bookstore until I was 34. (Which makes seven years next month that I've been affiliated with the store. Yikes, time flies.)
Anyway, I could never pick just one book as "the best," so here's an opportunity for another list. Even this list might change from one day to another. If these are not my absolute Top Ten Mysteries of All Time, they're favorites I go back to, have owned multiple copies of, and have thrust on unsuspecting friends. Some of them I even bought at The Mystery Bookstore.
What's your favorite mystery novel(s)? Leave them in the comments section.
And if you're in central Maine, don't miss the social event of the season tonight at Hallowell City Hall, when Gaslight Theater launches its 70th season with "Almost, Maine," by John Cariani. The performance starts at 7:30, with a gala reception to follow. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors; call 207-626-3698 for reservations.
Ten Favorite Mysteries
James Lee Burke, In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead. My favorite Dave Robicheaux novel, though Jolie Blon's Bounce comes close. I think I originally checked this out of the Alexandria Public Library (Ellen Coolidge Burke branch), but bought my own copy later.
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye. If I had to pick just one as "the best," this would be it. And I did buy it at the store. I'm embarrassed to say that I never read Chandler until I moved to Los Angeles.
John Connolly, The Killing Kind. Again, not necessarily the "best" Charlie Parker novel (that might be The Black Angel or The Unquiet, which I'll discuss tomorrow), but the one that captured my imagination most. I first read an ARC, but bought the US edition in both hardcover and paper (to give away) at the store.
James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss. Tom Ehrenfeld may have given me my copy of this book sometime in the 1980s. It is one of the greatest PI novels, and I think of it as an essential book of the 1970s.
Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca. Classic in every sense. I checked it out of the Norfolk Academy library in eighth grade, bought the paperback sometime in my twenties, and reread it at least once a year.
Dennis Lehane, Mystic River. An epic American tragedy that also happens to be a mystery. I'm pretty sure I bought my copy at the store.
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know. The newest book on this list, and I haven't bought it yet; I got an ARC and a copy of the book itself from William Morrow. Many people will be getting this book from me as a gift, so I'll be buying a few copies from the store.
Sharyn McCrumb, She Walks These Hills. The best and saddest of McCrumb's Appalachian mysteries. I think I bought this one in an airport bookstore.
Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night. Another book I first read in middle school, and I still have the battered paperback I bought then.
Josephine Tey, To Love and Be Wise. I cannot find my copy of this book, and wonder if I left it behind in one of my moves -- in which case, I will need to buy another copy (from the store, of course). It's a tossup between this one and Brat Farrar, but no one wrote better about the damage caused by polite lies.