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Reviews of 1st Novels

100 BEST


To Order  

When Partners & Crime first opened its doors in 1994 we decided to have a section of  "100 of the Best We've Ever Read." The approach was for each of the original 5 Partners to list their 20 favorite mystery books.  The goal was to include selections from the classics as well as some of our personal favorites. Over time the list has changed; books went out of print new books superseded some of our original choices tastes and personnel changed... but we hope you enjoy our selection.

Rennie Airth - River of Darkness

Eric Ambler - A Coffin for Dimitrios
A mild-mannered mystery writer is intrigued by the murder of a notorious Greek criminal. As he delves into the dead man's multinational espionage activities, he finds his own life hanging in the balance. Ambler is credited with changing the course of the modern spy thriller, raising it into the realm of art and paving the way for such future writers as Graham Greene and John Le Carre. 

Kate Atkinson - Case Histories

Robert Barnard - A Scandal in Belgravia

Nevada Barr - A Superior Death
The second in the extraordinary series featuring the pathologically independent park ranger Anna Pigeon. A different National Park is a major character in each mystery, with local environmental and social issues informing the nature of both the crime and how Anna deals with what she finds. Exciting to say, these tales are anything but sentimental and even refreshingly amoral from time to time.

Martyn Bedford - The Houdini Girl

Lawrence Block - Eight Million Ways to Die
One of the strongest entries in the brilliant series (now numbering 18?) featuring New York City P. I. Matthew Scudder, ex-cop and alcoholic in recovery.

Christopher Brookmyre - Quite Ugly One Morning

James Lee Burke - Black Cherry Blues

James M. Cain - Double Indemnity
Greed and lust fuel a murderous insurance fraud cooked up by a scheming femme fatale and her weak-willed lover. Cain, whose pared-to-the-bone writing style has been compared to Hemingway's, was - and still remains - the "poet laureate" of the 1940's hardboiled school.

Truman Capote - In Cold Blood

David Carkeet - Double Negative

Caleb Carr - The Alienist
Author's first novel about the beginnings of psychiatry and the pursuit of a serial killer, takes place in turn-of-the-century New York.

Sarah Caudwell - Thus Was Adonis Murdered
A delightfully plummy-voiced UK mystery with a quirk of British law at its core, related by the gender-mysterious Hilary Tamar and set in Venice.

Raymond Chandler - The Long Goodbye
Two mysteries ultimately converge in Chandler's sixth novel. Philip Marlowe is the archetype for the American private eye: a tough guy in an ugly business, principled but not respectable, idealistic yet cynical, a doomed romantic destined to travel the mean streets alone. Chandler captures the zeitgeist of L.A. in the post-war years with an economy of words which belies the punch of his social commentary.

Lee Child - Killing Floor
A stranger (Jack Reacher) comes to town, in this case, the picture-book perfect Margrave, Georgia, and is arrested a half-hour later for the murder of another stranger on the outskirts of the sleepy community. Just as the local police verify Reacher's alibi, they discover the murdered man is his brother. First book by a new author, and an absolute knockout, a unanimous Partners Pick.

Erskine Childers - The Riddle of the Sands
In 1913, Childers was concerned with the vulnerability of the unprotected English sea coast to a possible attack by the German navy. To reach the widest public, he cast his warning in the form of this full- blooded, thundering adventure of spies, sailboats and sea charts.

Agatha Christie - And Then There Were None
This celebrated tale of the nursery rhyme murders on Indian Island is still a model of ingenious plotting.

James Church - A Corpse in the Koryo
Every once in a while we encounter something completely different, and James Church’s first novel is one of them. Set in what is likely the most closed society in the world – North Korea – this is a police procedural with a distinctively Kafkaesque flavor. Inspector O is given a rather vague assignment to watch a certain border crossing early one morning, and when he fails to complete it to the satisfaction of his superiors, he unintentionally sets off a secret firestorm of competing agendas among the nation’s security agencies. Church (not his real name, he’s still in the intelligence business) has created a hero worth admiring in O, and a definite particularity of place that will haunt you beyond the reading. Our favorite quote: "There is no such thing as scrap - not wood, not people." (O's Grandfather)

Michael Connelly - Black Echo
Author’s first book, first in the Harry Bosch series, and MWA Edgar winner for Best First Novel.'

Colin Cotterill - The Coroner's Lunch
Author’s first novel. In his makeshift coroner's office in a state (Laos) where most of the educated classes have fled, Paris-trained Dr. Siri Paiboun is too old to pay much attention to the communist party bureaucrats who attempt to sway his findings. With a sudden embarrassment of corpses on hand, he finds ingenious ways to keep his professional integrity and stand up in a crumbling social structure. Deceptively smooth, with a solid lashing of local beliefs. We really like this series!

Robert Crais - The Monkey's Raincoat
Meet Elvis Cole, Our Man in L. A. He's a Vietnam vet who quotes Jiminy Cricket, has some awesomely tough pals but a tender heart for a sob story, and doesn't know how to quit with the wisecracks - or a case. This is the first of one of our favorite series, which continues in Stalking the Angel, Lullaby Town, Free Fall, Voodoo River, Sunset Express, Indigo Slam, and the latest — just nominated for the MWA Best Novel for 1999, L. A. Requiem. Elvis just keeps getting better. Read them all!

James Crumley - The Last Good Kiss

Colin Dexter - The Way Through the Woods

Michael Dibdin - Ratking
The first Aurelio Zen mystery is set in Venice and the threatening underbelly of Venetian society has never been so simultaneously attractive and repellent.

Richard Dooling - White Man's Grave

Arthur Conan Doyle - Complete Sherlock Holmes Novels & Stories (2 volumes)
Sherlock Holmes is the first hugely popular fictional private detective, whose serialized exploits spawned an entire genre of cerebral private detectives with not-so-clever sidekick/chroniclers (Poirot and Hastings, Wolfe and Goodwin) — not to mention a world of the further adventures of Holmes himself, by writers of all temperaments and nationalities. Holmes' powers of observation and insight into human behavior provide solid entertainment for all age groups; the stories range from the ingeniously amusing to the truly frightening, but any violence occurs well off-stage.

John Dunning - Booked to Die
A unanimous choice of the original five Partners. A Denver cop is booted off the force and realizes his lifelong dream of opening his own bookstore specializing in rare books and first editions. The tough private-eye thriller and the world of the book collector mesh beautifully. Few customers leave our store without having this book recommended to them - and most return to thank us for it.

Ruth Dudley Edwards - Matricide at St Martha's

James Ellroy - The Black Dahlia
In 1947, the greatest manhunt in California history was sparked by the murder of a beautiful girl whose tortured body was found in a vacant lot. Ellroy's masterful fictionalization of the infamous case is the first volume of his Los Angeles quartet.

Kjel Eriksson - The Princess of Burundi
One of our favorite Swedish debut novels

Dan Fesperman - Lie in the Dark

Jasper Fforde - The Eyre Affair
A delightful first novel that caused quite a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, The Eyre Affair is a bibliomystery set in an alternate universe. The year is 1985, Wales is a Soviet Republic, dodos are available in home-cloning kits, the Crimean War is 131 years old and the ending of Jane Eyre has been stolen by the archfiend Acheron Styx. Thursday Next, a LiteraTec promoted to Section 5, is the heroine of this heady brew. Time runs funny in Thursday's world and we can't wait for her next adventure - kind of a literary fractured fairy tale for all you former Rocky and Bullwinkle fans.

Tana French - In The Woods

Elizabeth George - A Great Deliverance

Bartholomew Gill - Death of a Joyce Scholar

Robert Goddard - Past Caring

Sue Grafton - A is for Alibi
Kinsey Millhone is the epitome of the modern heroine in crime fiction: a professional private detective who has life pared down to the essentials - no pets, no house plants and one black dress (usually to be found in the trunk of her car…). Grafton, who is now up to O in the "alphabet series", has given us a humane and quirky P.I. whose better instincts often blow up in her face, but soldiers on — a loner who likes to work alone, a tough woman who can make tough choices.

Michael Gruber - Tropic of Night
Five Thumbs Up for a thriller that really thrills! Author’s first novel blends anthropology, scholarship, voodoo and violence in a story that will keep you spellbound from the opening scene to the last page - and beyond. Jane Doe leads an unremarkable existence on the fringes of Miami's under- class until her past begins to catch up with her...  A career ethnologist, her far-flung researches into shamanism had taken her from the Russian steppes to West Africa, where her work attracted a predator so powerful that she fakes her own suicide and retreats into total anonymity...   The tautly constructed plot is complemented by a compelling cast of characters and superb writing in this imaginative and original debut.    

Mark Haddon - Curious Incident of Dog in Night-Time

Dashiell Hammett - Red Harvest
The town of Personville is so corrupt and lawless even its citizens call it Poisonville. A local millionaire hires a Continental Op agent to help clean up the mess; the resulting body count is one of the highest in crime literature.

John Harvey - Lonely Hearts

Carl Hiaasen - Skin Tight
Reading Hiaasen is like riding a runaway roller-coaster—outrageously funny plots, over-the-top characters and the most bizarre cast of villains you’re ever likely to meet. Hiaasen's most durable series character is the state of Florida, a flawed paradise where the excesses of the rest of the nation seem to grow fangs and multiply. Skin Tight tackles the sleazy side of cosmetic surgery: prosthetic weed-whackers, anyone?

Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr. Ripley

Reginald Hill - A Clubbable Woman
Set in Yorkshire, Hill's police procedurals featuring Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Detective Peter Pascoe have expanded the form of the crime novel in almost every direction. Hill writes with compassion, wit and a keen insight into the human condition, however tragic or comic that may turn out to be.

Chester Himes - A Rage in Harlem

Charlie Huston - Caught Stealing

Arnaldur Indridason - JAR CITY
Yet another fabulous crime novelist from the far north! Welcome to Reykjavik, where murder is usually squalid, pointless and obvious – but not this time. Detective Inspector Erlendur is called to a small, neat apartment where an elderly man lies dead, apparently murdered. As the investigation reaches into the victim’s past, a disturbing pattern of intertwined damage, violence and death is revealed. Dark, moody and intense, this is a uniquely Icelandic mystery; the crime at its core is possible only in a small and isolated place. Winner of the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel and the author’s first novel to be translated into English, Jar City is a stunning debut and a police procedural that transcends the genre. The American edition is the first hardcover edition.

Elizabeth Ironside - Death in the Garden

Jean-Claude Izzo - Total Chaos

P. D. James - An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
Cordelia Gray, forced by circumstances into an "unsuitable job," is one of the first prototypes of a new breed of modern fictional heroine - the tough, savvy female private investigator who can give any man a run for his money.

Philip Kerr - Berlin Noir Trilogy
Three complete novels now together in one volume. Cast in the classical Chandler-Hammett mold and set in Berlin of the 1930s-1940s, ex-policeman Bernie Gunther's cases pull him deeper and deeper into the grisly excesses of the Nazi subculture.

Laurie R. King - A Darker Place

Natsuo Kirino - OUT

Andrew Klavan - Don't Say a Word

David Lambkin - The Hanging Tree
Paleontologist Kathryn Widd is called to the Kenyan wilderness to investigate a set of hominid skull fragments. Her journey is a compelling literary exploration into the nature of humanity, a wildly disturbing adventure story, and a detective novel as complex and satisfying as a Bach fugue.

Erik Larson - The Devil in the White City

John LeCarre - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Dennis Lehane - Mystic River

Donna Leon - Death at La Fenice

Jonathan Lethem - Motherless Brooklyn

Martin Limon - Jade Lady Burning

David Liss - A Conspiracy of Paper
Rave reviews and high expectations usher this engrossing first novel onto the literary scene. We think discriminating readers will find much to savor from scholar-turned-novelist Liss: perfectly pitched dialog, exquisite character detail, intelligent humor and a wealth of historical scenery, all of which set the stage for a plot worthy of Shakespeare.   Snared by curiosity deepened by a guilty conscience, Benjamin Weaver, a renowned pugilist now turned honest "thief-taker," reluctantly returns to his Jewish roots to investigate the accidental death of his estranged father, a stern patriarch much more concerned with stock jobbery than parenting.  Ben bears witness to the fevered years of London's fledgling stock market and the political machinations of an earlier age, with insiders no less insidious, dealers no less devious, and losers no less desperate than those of the most lurid Wall Street Journal expose. Liss, whose doctoral research fuels this tale, wisely leaves his footnotes at home and delivers a refreshingly modern thriller with its footing firmly in the past.

Peter Lovesey - The False Inspector Dew

John D. MacDonald - The Deep Blue Goodbye
Travis McGee is the rugged, sexy Florida boat bum with a special talent for helping fiends in trouble--or avenging their deaths. This was the first in a series of 21 novels - and we bet you can't read just one!

Ross MacDonald - The Chill
Lew Archer is Ross MacDonald's private detective, whose cases take him into the dark underbelly of sunny California and often spin tentacles into a past which resonates with the dark side of the American Dream.

Barry Maitland - The Marx Sisters

Michael Malone - Uncivil Seasons

Henning Mankell - Faceless Killers

Ngaio Marsh - Artists in Crime

Val McDermid - Place of Execution

Gregory McDonald - Flynn

Denise Mina - Garnethill
Winner of the John Creasey Award for Best First Novel (equivalent to the U.S. Edgar), Garnethill is a first novel of character, depth and rage. Glaswegian Maureen O'Donnell, eight months out of the psychiatric hospital where she was in treatment for abuse by her long-gone father, has decided that her current affair with a therapist is over. What she has a hard time convincing the police is that she didn't kill him. Just because he was bound to a chair in her living room with his throat cut and she had come home the night before too drunk to even undress, with a copy of his marriage certificate in her handbag...What is even more difficult for Maureen is convincing her family -- her outrageously melodramatic and alcoholic mother (who could upstage an eclipse), inept drug-dealing brother and unsympathetic sisters -- who all seem to believe that Mauri has false memory syndrome about her father and maybe about everything else. The dark humor and exceptional feeling that author Mina has poured into Garnethill makes her a writer to watch.

Richard Morgan - Altered Carbon

Walter Mosley - Devil in a Blue Dress

Magdalen Nabb - Death of an Englishman

Barbara Nadel - Belshazzar's Daughter

Katherine Neville - The Eight
A chess-driven plot that jumps back and forth between a French Revolution era nun and a 1970s female financial executive, this cult classic has been called "A Feminist Answer to the Raiders of the Lost Ark".

Sarah Paretsky - Indemnity Only

George Pelecanos - A Firing Offense

Arturo Perez-Reverte - The Flanders Panel
Hired to clean a fifteenth century Flemish master’s painting of chess game between a knight and his Duke before it is sold at auction, Julia is fascinated by the dark lady in the background. She discovers a centuries-old inscription hidden in a corner of the work reading: ‘Who killed the knight?’ As the puzzle unwinds into the twentieth century, the novel's pacing and structure reflect that of an actual a chess game: stately moves followed by sudden carnage. The Flanders Panel has been a best seller in Spain, France and Greenwich Village.

Anne Perry - The Face of a Stranger

Thomas Perry - The Butcher's Boy

Ian Rankin - Knots and Crosses

Matt Beynon Rees - The Collaborator of Bethlehem

Ruth Rendell - From Doon to Death

Gregory Roberts - Shantaram

Peter Robinson - In a Dry Season

S. J. Rozan - China Trade

Dorothy Sayers - Gaudy Night
Mystery writer Harriet Vane returns to her Oxford alma mater, where she lays old demons to rest and solves a new mystery with the help of Lord Peter Wimsey. Sayers is the Jane Austen of the mystery genre, whose characters and settings provide a detailed and convincing portrait of the lifestyles, concerns and conversations of her social class during the Golden Age of the detective novel. Her ability to absolutely transport the reader to that time makes Sayers possibly the most re-read of all traditional mystery writers.

Steven Saylor - Roman Blood

Diane Setterfield - The 13th Tale

Maj Sjowall  & Per Wahloo - The Laughing Policeman

Alexander McCall Smith - No 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Martin Cruz Smith - Rose

Olen Steinhauer - The Bridge of Sighs

Rex Stout - Fer-De-Lance

Josephine Tey - Miss Pym Disposes

Ross Thomas - Chinaman's Chance

Jim Thompson - The Killer Inside Me
The "me" of the title is deputy sheriff Lou Ford of a small Texas town. It amuses him that folks think he's a little slow and a little boring. No one knows he's also a psychopathic killer. Thompson's underground classic since 1952, this is the book that made his name synonymous with the roman noir.

Charles Todd - Test of Wills
The time is 1919 and Inspector Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked veteran of the World War, has returned to Scotland Yard to resume his promising career. Though physically fit, he is haunted by the 'voice' of a young Scots soldier he had executed on the battlefield for cowardice. A malicious superior has arranged for Rutledge to investigate the murder of a popular war hero in a no-win, politically sensitive case, hoping that the Inspector's inner demons will bring him down. Reginald Hill writes "Most Golden Age detective novelists wrote as if the First World War hadn't happened. In A Test of Wills Charles Todd gives us a Golden Age crime story in its proper historical setting."  Todd's writing is richly evocative of time and place, and his characters are deeply affecting.

Jan Willem van de Wetering - Outsider in Amsterdam

Minette Walters - The Ice House

Donald Westlake - The Hot Rock

Robert Wilson - A Small Death in Lisbon

Don Winslow - California Fire & Life

Cornell Woolrich - Night Has a Thousand Eyes



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Revised: March 2010