As part of its 70th anniversary celebration, the Mystery Writers of America is currently polling membership in an effort to compile a list of the 100 Best Mystery Novels of All Time. Presented with this impossible task, I almost punted. Ten? How I do choose? What will I leave out? Absurd! Ridiculous! Can’t be done.

But of course I did it anyway.

The good news is we were invited to include additional titles after our list of ten, so I filled in the whole survey, 16 in total.

My process was rigorous and deeply scientific. (Ahem.) I thought of titles I wanted to include and wrote them down. My key criterion was, “Oooo, ooo, you gotta read this!” I scratched some off, not because they weren’t worthy but because I thought of something else which in the moment had a slight edge. Once I had my list, I added them to the survey and clicked send. Seconds later, I thought of others, but it was too late.

Damn. But what are you going to do?

And so, below, for better or worse, are my own personal nominations. I have no regrets, except that the list isn’t long enough. It can’t possibly be long enough. The list of 100, compiled from all the nominations, can’t be long enough either.

So be it.

  • When the Sacred Ginmill Closes
    Lawrence Block
  • What the Dead Know
    Laura Lippman
  • In the Best Families
    Rex Stout
  • And Then There Were None
    Agatha Christie
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley
    Patricia Highsmith
  • The Secret History
    Donna Tartt
  • The Nine Tailors
    Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Rebecca
    Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Name of the Rose
    Umberto Eco
  • The Daughter of Time
    Josephine Tey

Additional titles.

  • The Thin Man
    Dashiell Hammett
  • The Blue Hammer
    Ross MacDonald
  • An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
    P.D. James
  • A Rage in Harlem
    Chester Himes
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice
    James M. Cain
  • Devil in a Blue Dress
    Walter Mosley