Picks eight through ten.
Compiling a top ten list of the best mysteries of the Golden Age, the 1920′s and 1930′s, proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. There are hundreds of worthy novels and dozens of authors still popular today. Though I’ve read each of the novels that made the top ten, I wanted to make sure the list wasn’t Michael Murphy’s favorites. Many of you have contributed to the compiling of the list and I thank you all.
The blog would be far too long to list all ten, so today, I’ll start with picks eight through ten. Each week I’ll work my way to the top until I reveal my pick for the top mystery of the golden age.
Ten. The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett. The father of the hard-boiled detective novel, Hammett wrote The Thin Man as a lark, and for financial gain. It’s lighter and more whimsical than his others, but it gives us Nick and Nora Charles. The novel inspired six movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, as well as radio dramas and a television series starring Peter Lawford that lasted 72 episodes from 1957 through 1959.
The novel may not make other’s top ten list, but I found it to be funny, romantic, suspenseful, a logical, complicated mystery with plenty of suspects. While the movies, particularly the performances of Powell and Loy inspired my upcoming novel, The Yankee Club, I enjoyed the complexity of the novel and seeing how Dashiell Hammett created suspense while blending humor.
Nine. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, a baffling and ingenious masterpiece, and also the world’s best-selling mystery. I loved this novel for its incredible ending! It was originally released in May 1939 as a Saturday Evening Post serial, and qualified as a Golden Age novel by a matter of months. It’s suspenseful, complex and intricately written with an ending few readers ever saw coming.
The story begins when ten people arrive in a house with a recorded message from an unseen host. Each is accused of committing a murder and one by one, they are killed off and Christie brilliantly reveals the killer.
Also released as Ten Little Indians, the novel, like The Thin Man, inspired Hollywood, with radio and television versions, even a video game. It was not only popular with the public, but the New York Times in 1939 said, “The whole thing is utterly impossible and utterly fascinating. It is the most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written.”
In 1914, Agatha married a British aviator. During the First World War, she worked as a hospital nurse and in a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison. Following the breakup of her marriage, she married archaeologist Max Mallowan. Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East.
Eight. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers. I’d never read Dorothy Sayers until her mysteries were recommended by several people at the Library Thing. Thank you all. I started with The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club published in 1928, and just finished it. The novel was Sayers’s fourth featuring her famous fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey, a British gentleman, expert at food wine and fashion, and who solves crimes for the fun of it.
The novel is a classic old-style mystery with the reader along for the ride with a charming sleuth. At times, the novel seemed a bit too stuffy for my tastes, but I found myself engulfed in the intricately woven plot and couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed Wimsey and look forward to getting to know him better with her other novels.
Dorothy L. Sayers wrote novels and short stories mostly between World War I and World War II. Her career was overshadowed by the success of Agatha Christie, but many critics consider her writing to be superior. Although best known for her mysteries, she also wrote plays and essays. She considered her translation, late in life, of Dante’s Devine Comedy to be her best work. I think you’ll enjoy her old-school style.
Did these three make your top ten list of the Golden Age? Next week I’ll post picks five through seven. Will your favorites be on it?
Looking forward to your comments.