The Ten, 2020 Edition

Since it is very unlikely that I read another admirable book before Midnight, I may as well declare the year over and proceed to reveal my annual Top Ten Reads. 2020 was a rotten one for everyone everywhere and I had my share of bad luck and catastrophes like everybody else, but it oddly also was my best reading year in a long time, both in quantity and quality. My numbers are nothing to brag about, but they were significantly better than last year – and the books themselves were extremely good too, so much so that it was very difficult to rank them – and the number one spot remained uncertain to the end. Ready? Here we go!

Book of the Year:

Lawrence G. Blochman, Wives to Burn

2. Patrick Quentin, Puzzle for Pilgrims

3. Germaine Beaumont, La Harpe irlandaise

4. Agatha Christie, The Murder at the Vicarage

5. George Bellairs, The Dead Shall Be Raised

6. Martin Edwards, Mortmain Hall

7. Ngaio Marsh, Scales of Justice

8. Patrick Laing, The Lady is Dead

9. Anthony Gilbert, The Long Shadow

10. Michael Butterworth, The Soundless Scream

Distinguished mentions:

The Reluctant Medium (L.P. Davies) Murder by Experts (Anthony Gilbert) The Stranger Diaries (Elly Griffiths) The Accomplice (Matthew Head) L’Auberge de banlieue and L’Enveloppe mauve (Léo Malet)

Some comments:

I’ve been known for years as that French guy with a taste for obscure books and writers and so it’s a surprise even to me how mainstream this Top Ten is. Most of the books are familiar to mystery fans and in print or easy to find on the second-hand market. None of the writers qualifies as obscure either, with the possible exception of Germaine Beaumont whose books sadly never made it to the Anglosphere. What’s more, and something rare enough to be mentioned, one of them is a living contemporary writer!

This is also my most GAD-oriented Top Ten since I’ve started compiling them, with nearly all of the books linked to the Golden Age, be it chronologically, stylistically or thematically – even Dames Agatha and Ngaio make an appearance! After years and years of a flattering yet thoroughly undeserved reputation as a GAD purist, it is good to finally come up with a list that somehow justifies it!

All in all, I am satisfied with my reading year, and this is the only 2020 trend I hope will continue in 2021. Less viruses, more books – this is what I wish you and myself for the New Year.

7 commentaires sur “The Ten, 2020 Edition

  1. Yes I was surprised by your list, not because it contains bad books, but as you say so many are more mainstream GAD. You may enjoy Marsh more than I do. Scales of Justice is one of her better ones but even so I can’t see it making any top ten of mine lol I think a lot of my favourites were less well known ones such as Bernice Carey and Ruth Sawtell Wallis. Maybe we have switched places lol I would like to try a Blochman book at some point. Annoyingly I included one in a coffee and crime box – a dell mapback of Wives to Burn! If only I had known lol
    Happy New Year Xavier!

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  2. I don’t want to think about how long it’s been since I read The Murder at the Vicarage. Let’s just say it was some time last century. I have been thinking about re-reading it though, and now I’m thinking about it even more seriously. Are you a fan of the Miss Marples in general? I think of myself as more of a Poirot guy.

    As for Ngaio Marsh, I didn’t like Death in a White Tie at all but I do need to give her another chance. I’m ashamed to say that I think that’s the only book of hers that I’ve read.

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    1. I can’t believe that it took me so long to read Vicarage – one of the side effects of digging obscure mysteries is that you end up being awfully ignorant of the mainstream. As for your question about me being a Marple or Poirot guy I’d say I’m more of a Hercule fan in general but I’ve liked all the Marple stories that I’ve read. I even like the Beresfords, that’s saying how tolerant I am! 😉

      Dame Ngaio is more of an acquired taste but I found her perfectly fine once I understood what she was up to and that Christie-like plotting brilliance is not her thing. I suggest you try Clutch of Constables which is by general agreement one of her best books and is the perfect Ngaio Marsh novel for people who don’t like Ngaio Marsh. Troy Alleyn heavily features in that one, and she’s a more interesting and charming character than her husband.


  3. I must seek out the Blochman. Never heard of him.
    The QPQ is excellent indeed, more of a melodrama than a mystery, but with a nicely dovetailed plot. I have yet to read a bad book from them.
    Vicarage is a classic of course.
    Looking forward to Mortmain Hall, but it’s not available here yet.

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