While we’re most well-known for our our major collecting areas in Irish history, Jesuitica, and Catholicism, Burns Library also has a strong mystery collection. With over 5,000 volumes, our mystery collection ranges in date from 1827 to 2018, and in language from English to Dutch to Swedish and several in between. It contains books, journals, audio recordings, and one doctoral thesis, all devoted to the mystery genre.
On May 18, 1994, our mystery collection grew even further when Burns Library finalized a gift from Thomas J. Shamon. We don’t know much about him, other than that he came bearing a formidable collection of 19th-21st century English-language mystery fiction, criticism and reference, and he wanted to give all 40 boxes of it to us.
This year we were able to devote the resources to more thoroughly catalog these books.
And while we were going through it, we discovered a fun little feature Shamon built in to his collection: In addition to his personal monograph stamp, which is present on the front flyleaf of every book he gave us, he also penciled in his handwritten ratings and reviews of the novels.
Shamon was fairly moderate in his ratings. The lower end of his ratings never really dipped below C- . His reviews could get scathing, however–one C- book (Death at Swaythling Court, by J.J. Connington, for the record) had a handwritten review that just read “Very, very tiresome.” Of another book, The mystery of the
French milliner, by Sir Basil Thomson, Shamon declared, “This book has no value except its historical significance.” (What historical significance the book has could not be determined.) And the novel Strike out where not applicable, by Nicholas Freeling, had the review “Freeling’s growing obscurity is getting very trying.” Ouch.
We’ve gotten through the full collection of fiction (only a couple boxes of criticism to go!) and we can now present to you Thomas J. Shamon’s Top Mystery Books of the Past 150 Years. We’ve collected titles of every book that received an A+ rating or higher. 14 books
were rated A+, 19 were rated AA, 5 were granted an AAA rating, and one exceptional work received the rating AAA+. All of these books are in Burns Library’s catalog if you want to come verify the ratings or check out the reviews (although if you want to take them home and read them, you might want to check O’Neill Library or Interlibrary Loan).
- Bailey, H.C. Orphan Ann. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1941.
- Bonett, John and Emery Bonett. Dead lion. Garden City, New York : Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1949.
- Cauldwell, Sarah. The shortest way to Hades. New York: Scribner, 1985.
- Gielgud, Val Henry. Cat: a novel. London : Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1956.
- Gordon, Neil. The silent murders. Garden City, New York: Published for the Crime Club, Inc. by Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc, 1930.
- Grimes, Martha. The Anodyne Necklace. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1983.
- Harrington, Joseph. The last doorbell. Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott Company, 1969.
- Hill, Peter. The liars. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1978.
- Irish, William. Phantom lady. New York : P.F. Collier & Son Corporation, 1942.
- McGuire, Paul. A funeral in Eden. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1976.
- Sjöwal, Maj and Per Wahlöö. The laughing policeman. Translated by Alan Blair. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970.
- Symons, Julian. The Detling secret. New York: Viking Press, 1983.
- Waugh, Hilary. Last seen wearing–. San Diego: University Extension, University of California, in cooperation with Publisher’s Inc., 1978.
- Anthony, David. The midnight lady and the mourning man. Indianapolis : The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1969.
- Beeding, Francis. Death walks in Eastrepps. New York: The Mystery League, Inc., 1931.
- Brown, Frederic. Night of the Jabberwock. New York : E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1950.
- Collins, Wilkie. The moonstone. New York : The Century Co., 1905.
- Demijohn, Thom. Black Alice: a novel. Garden City, New York : Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968.
- Fearing, Kenneth. The big clock. New York : Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946.
- Ford, Leslie. The Bahamas murder case. New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.
- Freeman, R. Austin. Mr. Pottermack’s oversight: a detective story. New York : Dodd, Mead & Company, 1930.
- Gores, Joe. Hammett: a novel. New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1975.
- Grimes, Martha. Jerusalem Inn. Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 1984.
- Hare, Cyril. Tenant for death. London: Faber & Faber Limited,1937.
- Innes, Michael. Hamlet, revenge!. New York : Dodd, Mead & Company, 1937.
- Japrisot, Sebastien. The 10:30 from Marseille. Translated by Francis Price. Garden City, New York : Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963.
- McGerr, Patricia. The seven deadly sisters. Garden City, N.Y. : Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1947.
- Mills, Osmington. Enemies of the bride. New York: Roy Publishers, Inc., 1967.
- Postgate, Raymond. Verdict of twelve. New York : Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday, Doran and Co., Inc., 1940.
- Sayers, Dorothy. The nine tailors : changes rung on an old theme in two short touches and two full peals. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1962.
- Tey, Josephine. To love and be wise. New York: Macmillan Company, 1951.
- Wallis, J.H. The mystery of Vaucluse. New York : E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1933.
- Berkeley, Anthony. Trial and error. Garden City, New York : Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 1937.
- Boutell, Anita. Death has a past. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1939.
- Christie, Agatha. And then there were none. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1966.
- Freeling, Nicolas. Auprès de ma blonde. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1972.
- Steeves, Harrison R. Good night, Sheriff. New York: Random House, 1941.
- Hart, Francis Noyes. The Bellamy trial. New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1927.
“The perfect detective novel and a masterpiece among all fiction”- Thomas J. Shamon
— Tess Amram, Special Collections Cataloging Specialist, John J. Burns Library