The Best of 2011: A Year in Review

"Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn't it, of a long line of proven criminals?"
- Ogden Nash

Christmas with Detective Conan
There were a number of motivating factors for starting this blog, but the most important one was the presence of another blog on the web, The Case Files of Ho-Ling, maintained by Ho-Ling – who is perhaps the only other person here, in the Netherlands, as consumed and enamored with classical and neo-orthodox detective stories as I am. I have been following his train of thoughts on the genre ever since it embarked on its journey, back in 2009, but it wasn't until his review of Ayatsuji Yukito's The Decagon House Murders (1987) that a light bulb appeared above my head and the filament began to glow. "Hey," I thought, "I can do this, too!" and when I told him the response was brief and to-the-point: "Do it!"

I finally had found a path that, in the deluded, self-made reality that exists only in the brain box of yours truly, might end, if properly treaded, with me becoming a 21st century equivalent of Anthony Boucher or Frederic Dannay – and usher in the dawn of a Silver Age of Detection. But in spite of this enthusiasm driven folie de grandeur, I still found remnants of doubts and uncertainty, which were left there by my notorious super-sloppy-typing-skills and could prove itself to be a handicap in this endeavour, but these fears turned out to be unfounded – as the responses that began pouring after putting up the first couple of review were overwhelmingly positive. Not only in the comment section of this place, but also in responses left on other websites, like the GADdetection Group, and I want to bestow my gratitude on each and everyone of you who took the time to peruse my vague little ramblings and compile responses.

It's thanks to you that the page counter sped by the 10.000 mark after only a few months, which, I think, proves that readers who enjoy a classically constructed detective story shouldn't be listed as extinct – and this is also reflected in the blogs from fellow mystery addicts who were also able to garner unexpected successes and popularity with their mystery blogs:

Patrick released At the Scene of the Crime only a short month after I opened up this place business, but just as quickly became one of the must-read blogs for everyone who enjoys a good, old-fashioned whodunit. Pretty Sinister Books covers a more broader scope of fiction, but when he dabbles in Golden Age Detective fiction you can be assured that the stories are obscure and that you probably haven't read it. One of his semi-regular features, entitled Left Inside, is one of the best things going in the blogosphere today! Sergio from Tipping my Fedora and Steve the Puzzle Doctor from In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel are the all-rounders of our crowd, covering everything from classic mysteries and modern crime stories to historical fiction and thrilling movies, which makes their blogs perfect places to seek inspiration if you have no clue what to read or watch next. Keep up the good job in 2012, guys! Bev from My Reader's Block and Patti from Pattinase are the glue of the community with their Vintage Mystery Challenges and the Friday's Forgotten Books listings. William's Traditional Mysteries has really taken off in the past few months and specialized himself in short, to-the-point reviews of both GAD and neo-GAD mysteries. Definitely recommended! Mystery scholar and author of the forthcoming Masters of the Humdrum Mystery (2012), Curt Evans, has began blogging and will be wondering through the genre, as The Passing Tramp, and has already established himself as rival to John Norris – when it comes to brining up obscure, nearly forgotten detective stories that most of us probably have never read before. Les Blatt's weekly audio reviews keeps us posted on which past gems are currently in print. And then there's the always knowledgeable Xavier Lechard, who blogs over At the Villa Rose, whose posts are infrequent but always worth reading.

I also want to thank authors Bill Pronzini and M.P.O. Books, for tirelessly bouncing emails back-and-forth with me, and Patti for welcoming me as a contributing member of the FFB crew.

And now it's time to announce the best and worst detective novels and short story collection read during the year 2011!

My top 35 of favorite detective novels read this year (in alphabetical order):

The Trampled Peony (Bertus Aafjes, 1973)
Mystery and More Mystery (Robert Arthur, 1966)
Jumping Jenny (Anthony Berkeley, 1932)
The Last Chance (M.P.O. Books, 2011)
The Case of the Solid Key (Anthony Boucher, 1941)
The Wooden Overcoat (Pamela Branch, 1951)
Death of Jezebel (Christianna Brand, 1948)
Fire, Burn! (John Dickson Carr, 1957)
The Dead Sleep Lightly (John Dickson Carr, 1983)
Killed on the Rocks (William DeAndrea, 1990)
Killed in Fringe Time (William DeAndrea, 1995)
Death in the Back Seat (Dorothy Cameron Disney, 1937)
The Strawstack Murders (Dorothy Cameron Disney, 1939)
The Anubis Slayings (Paul Doherty, 2000)
The Stoneware Monkey (R. Austin Freeman, 1939)
Something Nasty in the Woodshed (Anthony Gilbert, 1942)
The Fourth Door (Paul Halter, 1987)
Inspector Ghote Draws a Line (H.R.F. Keating, 1979)
The Last Express (Baynard Kendrick, 1937)
Mother Finds a Body (Gypsy Rose Lee, 1942)
Mr. Splitfoot (Helen McCloy, 1968)
Pick Your Victim (Pat McGerr, 1946)
St. Peter's Finger (Gladys Mitchell, 1938)
The Seclusion Room (Fredric Neuman, 1978)
The Glass Mask (Lenore Glen Offord, 1944)
Death and the Maiden (Q. Patrick, 1939)
Hoodwink (Bill Pronzini, 1981)
Shackles (Bill Pronzini, 1988)
The Tragedy of Errors (Ellery Queen, 1999)
Black Widow (Patrick Quentin, 1952)
The Gold Deadline (Herbert Resnicow, 1984)
The Dead Room (Herbert Resnicow, 1987)
Death on the Board (John Rhode, 1937)
The Anagram Detectives (Norma Schier, 1979)
The Silver Scale Mystery (Anthony Wynne, 1931)

Special Awards:

The Worst Mystery Read in 2011: Elvire Climbs the Tower (Maurice-Bernard Endrèbe, 1956)

The Best Impossible Crime Story Read in 2011: The Dead Room (Herbert Resnicow, 1987) (just for being completely original in its set-up and execution)

The Best Short Story Collection Read in 2011: Murder – All Kinds (William DeAndrea, 2003)

The Greatest Discovery of 2011: Herbert Resnicow 

Well, that was it for this summing up. I hope everyone had a magical Christmas and wish you all the best in 2012! 


  1. An interesting list. I'm working on a very similar post of my own at the moment, but you beat me to it!

    Thanks for the shout-out-- it's been an interesting year for us all and I for one can't wait to see what 2012 will bring us! (One thing I *do* know about the upcoming year: Paul Halter has two books due to be published in French in 2012, one of which is the short story collection I cried out for on my blog when reviewing THE NIGHT OF THE WOLF!)

  2. Great post and thanks for the plug. You're one of a handful on my must read list.

  3. Well, I've read about half the books on that list! Glad to see a Rhode there (I wouldn't have included The 4th bomb either).

    I'm so glad a blogging environment is being strengthened for classical, ratiocinative mystery. If you folks hadn't shown the way, I'm not sure I ever would have started.

    I will try for my part to keep posting about those obscure books and forgotten authors. However, I must admit I got my most views by a good stretch when I posted on Raymond Chandler!

  4. @Patrick

    I think 2012 will turn out to be great year for consuming vintage mysteries, especially the ones that appear to be completely sealed. ;)

    It's also safe to assume that we will see a rise in reviews of foreign-language (i.e. non-English) detective stories. Hopefully, this will, one day, clue up big-time publishers that there's still a hungry audience out there waiting for an opportunity to gobble up these books.


    You're welcome and thanks!


    Like I said to Patrick, I hope this ever-expending web of blogs, dedicated to the traditional detective story, will eventually ensnarl a publisher or two. There's still a market for orthodox mysteries and there are a ton of untranslated detective stories from countries like France and Japan waiting to be introduced to an English-reading audience.

    Yes, established and better-known writers will generate more activity than the obscurer ones. Some of my most popular posts are on Carr and Stout. They simply familiar names to a lot more readers than writers like Herbert Resnicow and Jefferson Farjeon.

  5. Congratulations on an excellent year TomCat. Looking forward to 2012.

    In terms of most popular reviews, mine (by about a factor of 3) is The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin. Certain authors just have a massive following. My recent review of Hercule Poirot's Christmas is rapidly shooting to the top of the list though...

  6. And my most popular post is ironically on SCREAM 4...

  7. Yours and Patrick's are the two best blogs around. Keep it up!

    I need to contact you on a matter of mutual interest. Please e-mail me at pugmire1@yahoo.com

  8. @Patrick

    I have checked my stats and the most popular post on here is my review of Bill Pronzini's Nightcrawler, which isn't exactly a model of the classic GAD puzzle novel. The second and third most popular posts are my review EQ's The Tragedy of Errors and my piece on Why Nero Wolfe doesn't age.


    Thanks, and I have just dispatched that email. You can also expect more reviews of impossible crimes in the upcoming year!

  9. Thanks for the plug! Which seems kinda undeserved, as all I said was really just the four letters of doen, IIRC. And maybe an exclamation mark.

    Anyway, let's hope that next year's list will feature more Japanese titles ;P

  10. Lots of candidates here for forgotten books. Great!

  11. @Ho-Ling

    Nah. You deserve the plug and a much larger readership for your blog on top of that!

    Yes, there's an inexcusable lack of Japanese titles on this years list, but then again, there's not much left to sink your teeth in – as I have already read all of the major works that were translated. But I will read The Devotion of Suspect X as soon as possible (depending on how long it will take for my batch of impossible crime stories to arrive).


    Nearly every book mentioned on this blog constitutes as a FFB. ;)

  12. You could always try my (I-should-totally-go-proofread-it-one-of-these-days) translation Norizuki's The Green Door is Dangerous and see where it ends up ;P

  13. Yes, yes, I haven't forgotten about your translation and will read that story ASAP! Just give me a little bit more time... it's a busy period.