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Mystery novels and crime fiction can date back to Sherlock Holmes or be as current as James Patterson. Some mysteries have graphic murder scenes while others never depict a crime scene at all. There are classic detective stories in the spirit of A. Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dash Hammett and Ellery Queen, modern mysteries by authors like Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell, and true crime such as those by John Stark Bellamy.

Mystery books are good for children too. Not only do they enjoy reading them, mysteries are a great way of inspiring the imagination of a young reader and getting them hooked on books for life.

Good attributes for a quality mystery book include:

  1. Real, believable characters - Is he or she flawed in a realistic way that gives him dimension? Do you feel compassion for this character? Do you like or dislike him? Well-written characters are key to any mystery. That includes the bad guys as well as the good guys. Strong character development is critical.

  2. Good dialogue - Whether it's dark and gritty or sharp and clever, the language makes the characters real and moves the story along. Bad dialogue is laden with cliches or sounds wooden and forced when spoken aloud.

  3. Believable plots - A mystery plot has to make sense as it evolves, be satisfying, and follow logically. A mystery should not be overly convoluted or have motives that strain credulity. A good mystery book plot keeps the reader hanging until the end.

  4. Clear setting - The story location should be described well enough for you to see it in your mind's eye as you read.

  5. Book conclusion - In mysteries, the conclusion is a huge element of the story. There should be a fitting and satisfying conclusion.
The British-based Crime Writers' Association listed the following as the top 20 of 100 crime novels of all time.
1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (1951)
2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
3. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John le Carré (1963)
4. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (1935)
5. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)
6. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
7. Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (1940)
8. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)
9. The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton (1962)
10. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930)
  11. The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1948)
12. Last Seen Wearing ... by Hillary Waugh (1952)
13. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)
14. Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (1939)
15. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (1953)
16. Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles (1931)
17. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)
18. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934)
19. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)
20. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
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