On 30 More of my Favorite Mysteries Ever [Revision 0]

I have some very shocking news for you all today. I, l. Stump, of Solving the Mystery of Murder infamy, am a fan of mysteries. I know, I know, I’ve been running this cooking blog for so long, it must be shocking to some of you to learn that I have interests outside of measuring the precise measure of marinade I need to create the best mushroom sauce. In fact, I love mysteries. I’ve dedicated my entire education and career path to mysteries, studying a whole second language in order to read, translate, and even write mystery novels in that language. Therefore, today I’d like to go a little off-topic on my cooking blog and explore my more less-known passion of mystery novels by sharing all of my favorite mystery stories with you all.

I covered this topic once before, on my list of my 15 favorite impossible crime stories. In the interest of brevity, I will not be reiterating those stories with full descriptions on this post, and will instead offer a list of those stories with no notes or further thoughts; if you’d like further thoughts on my favorite impossible crimes, please consider reading that post linked above! Just like that post, this list will be medium non-specific. Novels need not be the only medium represented; cartoons, comic books, television shows, movies, and video games are all applicable! With that out of the way, I’m pleased to announce my list of favorite mystery stories (revision 0)!

Furthermore, while impossible crimes do appear on this list, I do not consider them necessarily inferior to the entries that appeared on the dedicated impossible crime list! Some were passed up because their interests lie elsewhere, others passed-up because I limited myself to a certain number of works-per-author, and others weren’t included because I read them between writing that list and this one. I don’t want to note all of the reasons why an impossible crime wound up on this list instead of that one, just keep in mind that if I include this on this list it’s at least almost as good as any of the stories from the other!

(*TomCat, if you’re reading this, I’ve left a special recommendation for you in one of the entries I think would appeal to specifically and exclusively you! Hope you enjoy it!)

My Favorite 15 Impossible Crimes
Death of Jezebel – Christianna Brand
The Moai Island Puzzle – Arisu Arisugawa
Whistle Up the Devil – Derek Smith
Murder in the Crooked House – Sōji Shimada
Time to Kill – Roger Ormerod
Till Death Do Us Part – John Dickson Carr
Jonathan Creek (Season 1 Episode 2) “Jack in the Box” – David Renwick
The Great Ace Attorney 2: The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō (Case 3) “The Return of the Great Departed Soul” – Shū Takumi (2017)
Death Among the Undead – Masahiro Imamura
Death in the House of Rain – Szu-Yen Lin
The Kindaichi Case Files Shin (Case 3) “The Prison Prep School Murder Case” – Seimaru Amagi
Case Closed/Detective Conan (Anime-original, Episodes 603-605) The Séance’s Double Locked Room Mystery Case – Chiko Uonji
— “The Lure of the Green Door” by Rintarō Norizuki
— “The Clown in the Tunnel” by Tetsuya Ayukawa (1958)
— “The Ginza Ghost” – Ōsaka Keikichi (1936) trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2017)

Tour de Force (1955) – Christianna Brand

Christianna Brand’s Tour de Force is, fittingly, a Christianna Brand tour de force. She could’ve called it Mystery Par Excellence and the title would be equally accurate!

On a vacation to Italy, a murder is committed at the hotel at which Inspector Cockrill was staying! However, every person at the hotel who could’ve committed the murder has a perfect, airtight alibi: at the time of the murder, they were all standing right before Inspector Cockrill’s very eyes! The solution to this puzzling alibi problem is audacious in the extreme (part of Brand’s brand), and as always she shows acuity in her misdirection; where other authors are content implanting small ideas into your head, Brand can force you to create entire false narratives! My favorite Christianna Brand that isn’t Death of Jezebel.

Green for Danger (1944) – Christianna Brand

In Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger, a murder occurs in a wartime hospital’s operation room as the building is bombarded by air raids! Inspector Cockrill is on the scene to solve the crime before

Everything that could be said about Tour de Force and Death of Jezebel can be said about Green for Danger. While the mechanics of the crime are less audacious and shocking, this is the epitome of Brand’s powers of misdirection, and the best example of how well she can really force you to imagine entire stories based on slight suggestion! A magician she is! This also features her best-drawn cast of characters, as a bonus! A third masterpiece from my personal candidate for The Grand Mistress of Crime!

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981) – Shimada Sōji, trans. Ross and Shika Mackenzie (2017)

I’ve covered Shimada’s influence on the detective genre extensively in multiple posts, so I’ll keep this brief. This debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, is easily the most important Japanese detective novel to exist, essentially being the reason that classical detection was ever able to return to Japan in the first place. Shimada went on to help spread the gospel of puzzle plot detection, fostering a new generation of mystery writers… His influence truly cannot be overstated!

In this novel, astronomer Kiyoshi Mitarai investigates a decades-old murder case involving the systematic slaying of six young women in accordance to a crazed astronomer and artist’s idea of how he could create the perfect woman! Only, the artist was murdered before he could conduct the plot, and the serial killing was committed by someone else entirely… The bizarre and shocking case has been a focal point among the Japanese people for decades, but it’s only with the help of a sudden clue from the daughter of a man connected to the case that Kiyoko can piece everything together…

This is an impossible crime, but I neglected it for my favorite impossible crimes list because the locked-room isn’t the focus of the plot, nor is it very impressive. Instead, what The Tokyo Zodiac Murders offers is the genre’s most baffling serial killing, with one of the most stunning murder tricks of all time! A truly inimitable novel worthy of its monumental reputation.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations (Case 2) The Stolen Turnabout (2004) – Takumi Shū

I’ve reviewed the first game in the Phoenix Wright:Ace Attorney franchise rather inadequately on this very blog. The review of the first game was somewhat lukewarm, mostly because the first game isn’t my favorite, but felt I did a better job capturing my love for this fantastic mystery series when I mentioned it in my favorite impossible crime lists and my list of 12 shin-honkaku mysteries I want to read, and detailing my history with the series in On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’re Not Reading ThemPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is actually my favorite mystery series of all time. It is charming, stylized, and often brilliant! Plus, there are ten other games in the series, each boasting 4-6 mystery stories, most of which being very good, so I’ll warn you now that the series will appear on this list more frequently than any other author… I know most of you will wholesale refuse to “lower” yourselves to playing a mystery video game, but this is my cooking blog and I’ll indulge in my love for this series where and when I can, thank you very much! There’s just that many fantastic mysteries in the series I never get to talk about!

Ace Attorney is a mystery video game series in which you play the role of a lawyer, typically Phoenix Wright, who defends clients falsely accused of murder! Every case of Ace Attorney is organized like a Perry Mason novel, with the first half of each day dedicated to conducting investigations and collecting evidence, and the second half being dedicated to trial segments. During trials, witnesses who have either been tricked by the killer or are maliciously hell-bent on seeing your client be sent to prison will offer testimony littered with lies, mistakes, and misunderstandings! Through simple button-prompts, the game invites players to present evidence contradicting these lies, and then through Ellery Queen-esque series of deductions you explain why the lie was told, what the contradiction really means, and what the truth of the situation really is! By repeating this process and slowly destroying the case against your client, you eventually locate the real killer and solve the mystery!

The second case of the third game, Trials and Tribulations, is called “The Stolen Turnabout”. It is, in fact, my favorite case in the entire series, and a perfect case for TomCat over at Beneath the Stains of Time, because this twisty and tricky baroque alibi plot is something that you’d think could only come out of the pages of a Christopher Bush novel!

In a bizarre departure for the series, you defend Mask☆DeMasque, a phantom thief accused of stealing a valuable vase belonging to a family of spirit mediums from a well-guarded museum! Despite the fact he is by profession a great thief, the true identity of Mask☆DeMasque, a pathetic, mild-mannered little man named Ron DeLite, makes Phoenix doubt whether he could be the true thief…

To go even further into the plot would invite spoilers, but this mystery is a winding path of the best sort, in which, just like in a Christopher Bush novel, the series’s most devious killer becomes apparent halfway into the story, but he’s tricked you into incriminating him in one crime so that he may use it as the alibi for another! Complex and densely-packed, this is the peak of a fantastic mystery series! More cases from this series will follow, but spread-out for your reading benefit!

The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939) – John Dickson Carr

When a man named Marcus sets out to prove that eye-witness testimony is inherently unreliable, he invites three witnesses to participate in a psychological experiment. He’ll perform for them, and they’ll answer questions about what they think they saw. What these three witnesses see is a cloaked-and-coated figure figure in a top hat appear with a medical bag, produce a fat green capsule, and force it down Marcus’s throat! Marcus soon dies to poison that was in the capsule! When investigators arrive to investigate, they are met with an unusual situation, though: although these three people all supposedly saw the same murder take place, none of them could agree on the specific details of what they saw! Exactly as Marcus had predicted in his experiment…

This Dr. Gideon Fell tour de force par excellence extraordinaire is a brilliant mystery from the maestro of impossible crimes and gothic murders! While it might seem like sacrilege to say so, this non-impossible mystery is my favorite from the master’s oeuvre that I’ve read so far. An entirely unique and inimitable premise delivered upon with a suitably baffling solution makes this the ultimate offering from that immense figure of crime, and only reminds me that my neglect of Carr’s writing is unforgiveable…

She Died A Lady (1943) – John Dickson Carr

After two lovers jump off of a cliff, leaving only their footprints behind them, their mutual suicide is accepted as fact. But when the two corpses wash up and it’s discovered they were shot from close range, police struggle to reconcile this with the facts… this killer would to be lighter than air, or capable of floating over the side of the cliff! Fortunately, Henry Merrivale is on scene and ready to offer some illumination!

When I really think about it, I’m actually sure I prefer this one to Till Death Do Us Part, which wound up on my top 15 impossible crimes list… However, I read this one (like all of the Carrs I’ve read) ages ago, so it was likely just a trick of me not remembering which old book I’d read at the time! But really, both novels are fantastic, so I’m glad this list gave me an opportunity to mention both! I intend to read more Carr, starting with re-reads to see if I still love these novels as much as I thought I did, so don’t worry…

As it’s Carr, the impossible is finely laid, and expertly resolved, with brilliantly clued misdirection abound. I never could appreciate Carr as a storyteller, but as a weaver of dastardly deeds and mind-melting mysteries, he’s one of the masters!

Alibi Cracking, At Your Service (Episode 2) “The Alibi of the Stalker” – Ōyama Seīchirō (original), Yoshihiro Izumi (screenplay)

Ōyama Seīchirō is a mystery novelist in Japan who specializes in short fiction, with (apparently) his most popular series being those short stories focusing on a young clockmaker named Tokino Mitani who took over her grandfather’s shop after his death. As her grandfather’s motto was that anything to do with time was the business of a clockmaker, he also offered a special alibi-cracking service in which he would destroy any guilty person’s airtight alibi — for a small fee, of course! Now taking over all of his duties, young Tokino often finds herself secretly assisting a police officer whose instincts always allow him to spot the correct killer in any case, but whose limited imagination prevents him from cracking their usually all-too-perfect alibis…

This series was adapted into アリバイ崩し承ります (Alibi Cracking, At Your Service) a television drama that retells seven of Ōyama original stories, most of which, as you can gather from the premise and title, being semi-inverted impossible alibi problems. The acting is corny and hammy in the extreme, but the actress playing Tokino is absolutely adorable and constantly a joy to watch, and the quality of the stories are quite consistent! The best of the seven episodes is “The Alibi of the Stalker”.

In “The Alibi of the Stalker” a professor of pathology is murdered in her apartment over a dinner of soup. The police quickly zone in on the victim’s ex-husband, who had gotten into a very public fight with the victim hours before the death, and whom insists on his own alibi without even being told what time the murder was committed! However, he is quite correct in that his alibi is airtight: the victim’s time of death can be narrowed down based on the contents of the victim’s stomachs. A number of trustworthy and reliable witnesses place him at the bar for this time, meaning it’s impossible for him to have committed the murder!

A lot of the tricks in this series are fairly good redressings of old hat concepts, but this episode’s central trick is entirely unique and brilliant, as well as simple and believable! It’s actually a kind of trick that feels like it ought to have been done before, but to my knowledge certainly hasn’t. This series has struck fertile new ground in the uses of food in mystery fiction, which we always appreciate on this cooking blog! For anyone interested in imaginative alibi plots, this is a highlight with the sweetest detective in all of fiction.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations (Case 5) Bridge to the Turnabout (2004) – Takumi Shū

Back to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and again with the third game, Trials & Tribulations! In this case, Phoenix Wright and his spirit-channeling legal assistant Maya Fey go to a mountain retreat where members of the Fey clan train to sharpen their spiritual acuity. Phoenix is immediately caught off-guard by the young nun who tends to the temple, Iris Fey, who looks uncannily like his ex-girlfriend Dahlia Hawthorne… It was, in fact, the murder case in which Dahlia Hawthorne committed a murder and pinned it on Phoenix many years ago that convinced Phoenix to go to law school and become a lawyer, after the lawyer Mia Fey proved his innocence and sent Dahlia off to her execution… Naturally, encountering this young woman, who is very much the splitting image of the dead woman who put him through the most traumatic experience of his life leaves him deeply uncomfortable…

However, Phoenix doesn’t have time to be uncomfortable with his situation, as that very night, a child’s book author named Elise Deauxnim, who came to the temple for inspiration, is killed with the seven-bladed sword held by the statue of the Fey clan’s founder! Multiple witnesses swear up and down that Iris is the culprit and Phoenix, unable to shake Iris’s resemblance to the girl he was once in love with, takes her case and sets off to prove her innocence…

This case is essentially the culmination of everything that is, was, and was meant to be Ace Attorney. The plot ties back into characters, stories, and relationships established as early as the second case of the first game, and which have only been built on with time. This mystery is the dramatic culmination of every dangling plot thread in the franchise, going back 13 cases, three games, and four years — and many of these plot threads are hidden in shocking, well-hidden ways! What this all amounts to is one of the franchise’s most labyrinthine, emotionally-charged, dramatic, and complex mysteries — perhaps of all time! — involving complex plots, counter-plots, and counter-counter-plots, killers and attempted-killers of killers, death-defying stunts, the genre’s most audacious and Machiavellian serial killer, and the genre’s most inventive and bizarre clue! Add to that that nearly every returning character in the series has their character arcs concluded, as well as a generous sprinkling characters new to this game! It’s only fitting that so much will be packed into this one case, as this is the original finale to the franchise…

Add to all of that that this is the first, and for a while the only, case that calls upon the franchise’s implied magical elements — the existence of Spirit Mediums who can summon ghosts into their body — and that also makes this an exceptional fantasy-hybrid mystery that could only exist in the world of Ace Attorney. As a story that pays off on nearly 60 hours of mystery-plotting build-up, concluding the arcs of every returning character in the series, there has never been a more suitable swansong or finale than this one! While I am happy the series came back like it did, if this were the final mystery in the series like it was intended to be, I think I’d always be happy with this beautiful conclusion.

“Death in Early Spring” (1958) – Ayukawa Tetsuya, trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2020)

Kazuomi Kokuryō has been fatally strangled at a construction site near Gofukubashi 3-Chōme! The only possible suspect is Fukujirō Fuda, who was competing with Kazuomi for the affections of a girl, but unfortunately for Inspector Onitsura the young man has a perfect alibi…

Tetsuya Ayukawa was a Japanese proliferator of locked-room mysteries, but more than impossible crimes Ayukawa is the Japanese alibi! To Japan what Freeman Wills Crofts or Christopher Bush are to the Anglosphere, Tetsuyawa Ayukawa is famous for his unique perspective that a locked-room is merely a spatial alibi, and an alibi a temporal locked-room… Through this philosophy, Ayukawa’s most notable tales utilize alibi tricks to construct impossible crimes, and impossible crime tricks to construct alibis, creating a unique portfolio of crime fiction blending two rarely-reconciled sub-genres!

As it happens, “Clown in the Tunnel”, another story in the same collection which appeared on my favorite impossible crimes list, was a prime example of utilizing alibi trickery to create an impossibility! It’s only fitting, therefore, that my other favorite Ayukawa story is the one in which he uses locked-room trickery to create a perfect alibi for a murder in a construction site… This one is a brilliant wrinkle on the Croftsian time-tabler, and for my money better than any of the Crofts I’ve read, all in less than two dozen pages…

Death On The Nile (1937) – Agatha Christie

Honeymooning newly-wed Linnet Doyle attempts to commission Poirot to deter the stalking of her husband’s ex-girlfriend and her ex-friend Jacqueline De Bellefort. Poirot refuses payment, but unfortunately fails to deter Jacqueline from conducting whatever schemes she has cooked up. When an unsuccessful attempt on Linnet’s life is followed by a more successful one, however, it comes to light that Jacqueline isn’t the only person on the ship with a feasible motive to commit this gruesome murder!

Agatha Christie, the Grande Dame of Crime, doesn’t need much of an introduction! One of the progenitors of the Golden Age of fairplay detective fiction, Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time in over a dozen different languages. Her most famous literary creation is the egg-headed Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, who is characterized by his excessive need for tidiness and cleanliness. Death on the Nile is just one of the many fantastic Hercule Poirot novels that demonstrates how, even as she got on in her career and started to get comfortable with some of her old, well-known tricks, she still knew how to throw out brilliant, original plots! Death on the Nile is twisty and tricky and one of the best novels from one of the best authors of the genre. Her writing is always immensely readable, too, making this a very approachable and accessible novel at that. This is the goods! I won’t mention Agatha Christie too much, because if I mentioned every fantastic Agatha Christie novel this would just become a long list of Agatha Christie novels most of you have already read…

“Mom Makes a Bet” (1953) – James Yaffe

I’ve reviewed this collection of Mom short stories on the blog already, so check it out for reviews of the other stories in My Mother, the Detective! The series follows a little old Jewish mother living in the Bronx who, using a combination of Miss Marple-esque understanding of human nature and Ellery Queen-esque logical deduction chains, helps her police officer son David with difficult cases over Sunday dinner! The series is filled with very fun post-GAD mystery stories, and the best of the lot is “Mom Makes a Bet”.

When a rude customer winds up dead in his soup, clearly having ingested poison, David is sad to have to arrest the mild-mannered waiter whom everyone loves. But, of course, since the poison could have only found its way into the victim’s soup between being prepared in the kitchen and winding up on the victim’s table, the only reasonable explanation is that the waiter is the killer… Mom has other ideas, however, based on nothing but the clue of the victim claiming to be on a low-sodium diet and ordering saltless soup!

The deduction chain that derives from this clue is beautiful, allowing Mom to bring the crime home to a surprising culprit with a whole hidden layer to the plot going on right under our noses! This story really is just like any of the best early-era Ellery Queen stories, only with a cross-dressing and aged-up Queen… I’m sure the pair of writers making up Ellery Queen approved of this fantastic story!

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 (Case 3) The Inherited Turnabout (2011) – Yamazaki Takeshi

Wait? 2004 was supposed to be the finale of Ace Attorney? But didn’t you just say that this game came out in 2011? Yeah, corporate meddling saw to it that Ace Attorney would keep being made after it took off in the west. Game 3 was supposed to be the end, and there are now 11 games in the series, so chew on that a little… the Miles Edgeworth Investigations spin-off series is a little different from a normal game in this series, in that these mysteries are formatted more like traditional murder mysteries. You no longer have clients to defend, merely a mysterious scenario to unravel, and you now play as Miles Edgeworth, the antagonist from the first game in the series! This format lends itself well to the new writer’s unique style of plotting, and the best case in the whole Miles Edgeworth Investigations series is “The Inherited Turnabout”.

When a murder is committed on the set of a baking show, Miles Edgeworth begins to realize that this murder is related to a case investigated by his father in the same location, under the same circumstances, nearly 20 years prior! As the case unfolds, you investigate both crimes, playing as both Edgeworths, in order to solve this generations-crossing murder!

The setting of a baking show is utilized well in this episode, as it’s the kind of setting that’s brought to its insane logical extreme by the post-revival Ace Attorney quirkiness. This is one of the longest and most complex cases in the whole series, as it’s two murder mysteries stitched into one greater, overarching plan! A time-defying murder that defies generational boundaries in one of the most unusual settings for it, this is a very well-done and ingenious entry into one of the best games in the series, though every case in this particular game is simply fantastic… How many more Ace Attorney cases will I mention, you ask? I’d say we’re about halfway through my favorite Ace Attorney cases…

Furuhata Ninzaburō (Season 1, Episode 7) “The Rehearsal Murder” (1994) – Kōki Mitani

I’ve reviewed part 1 and part 2 of Furuhata Ninzaburō already, so please check out those reviews for more information on this excellent inverted mystery drama! Inspired by Columbo, Furuhata Ninzaburō is a 90s detective drama starring a titular police lieutenant who solves murders all over Japan! Just as in Columbo, at the beginning of every episode we see the culprit commit the crime, and the mystery is in figuring out how Furuhata solves the mystery… The best episode of season 1 of the show is “The Rehearsal Murder”.

In this episode, samurai actor Jushiro, desperate to save his movie studio from being sold and transformed into a mall, concocts a devious plot to tamper with the choreography of a swordfight scene in which his boss guest stars as the villain! Doing this, he’s able to use a real sword to cut his boss’s throat open so that it looks like nothing more than a prop-and-choreography accident during the rehearsal, with dozens of witnesses swearing up and down that the crime was an accident. Now, Furuhata is posed with a new problem: not with proving who committed the murder, but instead with proving that the murder was deliberate and premeditated!

The episode teases you with the clue of a moving moon prop during its entire runtime, and when the explanation for how that nails the killer’s guilt is revealed it is a gob-stopper! This is the show that turned me onto inverted mysteries, and this is the episode that solidified the series’s place in my heart! Absolutely fantastic, but it is by no means the only fantastic episode in the show, so please do consider checking it out at some point!

The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye (1928) – Brian Flynn

Brian Flynn, that author recently rediscovered by Dean Street Press, is one of my most sorely-neglected authors and it’s so odd… When the first batch of ten were released, I ate up three or four of them and really generally enjoyed them! But then the next ten came out, and I was just already on reading other stuff and never got back to him… Hmph…

Brian Flynn’s oeuvre is eclectic. There is no style of plotting that defines his Anthony Bathurst series, and that is exactly what defines his writing. Every damn kind of plot under the sun from adventure stories to chase-thrillers and pulp-ish yarns and classical detection and legal dramas and inverted mysteries and impossible crimes has been written by Flynn, but sad purist as I am it has always been his third novel, the pure, classical mystery novel of The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye that I’ve always enjoyed the most!

It’s odd I haven’t read more of Flynn, actually, because this stands as one of my favorite mystery novels of all time, boasting a devious piece of meta-misdirection that’s as clever as it is original! The workmanlike attitude of the novel betrays none of the very subtle, deft, and imaginative cluing under the hood that eventually culminate in the reveal of a stunning killer and a clever plot! Very good stuff here!

“The Hornet’s Nest” (1968) by Christianna Brand

When a rotten man is murdered at a dinner celebrating his soon-to-be nuptials, killed by a poisoned apple, Inspector Cockrill is at hand to resolve the crime!

Christianna Brand is at top-form in this short story offering, providing all of the brilliant twistiness, misdirection, and false-thought-implanting of any of her best novels. This reasonably short story is impressive in managing to do all it does in its page count, even managing to fit in three false solution(!), without feeling bloating or like it’s rushing through to the end! The story isn’t even 30 pages long, at that… Brand’s brilliance is always on display, but especially so in this story which I consider one of the best-constructed puzzlers of the short-form mystery.

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 (Case 5) The Grand Turnabout (2011) – Yamazaki Takeshi

Long after exposing the culprit of the failed assassination of the president of a far-off nation of Zheng Fa, Miles Edgeworth is shocked to find out that he’s been killed, this time entirely for real! Together with his partner, Kay Farafay, Miles begins to investigate the murder, but ends up being sidetracked by a kidnapping of a child that might have something to do with the murder… Soon Miles Edgeworth learns that the series of seemingly unrelated murders he’s recently investigated have a common link, and the plot spirals fully out of his control!

What Bridge to the Turnabout was to Trials and Tribulations, The Grand Turnabout is to Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2. Similarly, this is a very complex case that benefits from it being the culmination of long build-up, tying the resolutions of multiple other mysteries together into a grand narrative, and it’s a striking send-off for the Miles Edgeworth Investigations side-series… While this one is a little less tightly-wound than Bridge to the Turnabout, as that one bakes the long-lasting plot threads more intimately into the central murder plot in a way that makes the actual murder mystery more dense, this is still nonetheless another striking finale case for Ace Attorney that expertly brings multiple parallel long-running plots dovetailing together into a striking end point. Fantastic fun and shows just how damn convoluted (in a positive way) Ace Attorney could really make itself without losing control of itself or becoming uncomfortably bloated!

The Miles Edgeworth Investigation series is also notable in that many of the mysteries touch up on topics that feel more “hard-boiled” than the rest of the series, including smuggling rings, kidnapping, international political conflicts, judicial corruption, and even the involvement of Interpol. Let it be a testament to Yamazaki, then, that never do his plots ever stop feeling like classical Golden Age mysteries in construction despite the subject matter! This spin-off series is a great little nugget of Ace Attorney canon.

Detective Conan / Case Closed (Case 18 – Volume 7 Chapters 2-7) “The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case” – Gosho Aoyama

Detective Conan is the biggest Japanese franchise of all time, having well over 700 unique mystery stories within it across every medium of comic, animation, video game, live-action television, plays, novels, movies, and everything else you could think of! It’s probably the series that turned a lot of today’s Japanese mystery writers onto the genre, and to celebrate this fantastic series I’ve been reading, reviewing, and ranking every single case in the entire series… While I might need to reevaluate my ranking a little, as it stands “The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case” is my favorite case in the whole series, and a fantastical musical murder mystery…

In “Moonlight Sonata Murder Case”, an island town is haunted by the ghost of a world-famous pianist who, after going mad, locked himself and his entire family in their house and burnt the whole place down… As he burnt to death, the pianist stayed at his piano, playing the Moonlight Sonata until his very last breath! Now, the piano has become something of a haunted relic of the island, with it playing the Moonlight Sonata all on its own, and every time it does, a corpse is soon to follow… In light of these strange events, famous detective Richard Moore is summoned to put a stop to things…

This is a fantastically written murder mystery which turns on a neat alibi trick that entirely relies on the fact that the case is a serial killing — it simply wouldn’t work as well in a single death! While I think the murder plot itself isn’t as brilliant or audacious as many other cases in the series, “Moonlight Sonata Murder Coast” can still be considered the best-constructed story in the whole franchise, eventually ending on a sour note that becomes something of a trauma for Conan throughout the series… The ending is beautiful, giving the killer a touching send-off. It works even better in the anime adaptation, where you can hear the Moonlight Sonata playing in the background as the house burns… That all said, I’m willing to admit that after ranking 70+ stories of this series (about 1/10 of the way done), I’ll be sitting down and reevaluating my opinions soon. But as it stands, this is still the perfect representative case for Detective Conan

The beginning of this story, in which the man commits suicide by fire, especially appeals to the sensibilities of this cooking blogger.

The Case of the April Fools (1933) by Christopher Bush

Ludovic Travers, a financier, is invited to a party by a pair of men who intend to make a fool out of him on April Fools day… However, when the prank is co-oped by a mysterious party to contrive a dastardly double murder in which the two plotting men die — one man shot, the other stabbed — Travers is now embroiled in a complex and mysterious scheme against his wishes..!

Described as “to the alibi what John Dickson Carr is to the impossible crime”, Christopher Bush is a master of alibis like Freeman Wills Crofts but with an extra dose of imagination and flair… It might seem odd, then that my first chosen Bush novel is one without much of a focus on alibis, but of all the Bushes this is the one I adore most. It isn’t the most baffling or tricky, but the April Fools motif is used expertly to create a very clever and ingenious murder plot in perhaps the only novel-length exploration of the concept! Fantastic Bush that borders more on the Carr-ian than the Croftsian…

The Case of the Missing Minutes (1936) – Christopher Bush

Trowte, a vicious child abuser, gets his just-desserts when his home is broken into and he’s knifed right in front of his door! While taking care of his now-orphaned 10 year old granddaughter Jeanne, Ludovic Travers manages to find the killer but is damned by the cussedness of his perfect alibi…

I couldn’t help it! Now this is vintage Bush, complete with a killer obvious halfway through the novel and sudden shifts from a whodunit to a howdunit! The alibi-trick is one of Bush’s best, and the ending is incredibly sweet…

In the only honorable mention on this post, Cut Throat by Christopher Bush has an alibi plot that is equally brilliant, if not even more so, but I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the driest pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I almost never find myself caring about straightforward prose, but my eyes glossed over multiple times while reading it and I had to try to finish the thing on four separate occasions. It turns into a great mystery novel, but it needs more of a running start than these two… Nonetheless, I think very highly of it nowadays, but I still had to reduce it to being a mere honorable mention…!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice (Case 2) The Magical Turnabout (2016) – Yamazaki Takeshi

In the sixth game of the main Ace Attorney series, Spirit of Justice, we return to classic courtroom battles. Spirit of Justice actually has a ludicrous over-arching narrative involving a lawyer-hating country whose government you overthrow through pure logic and reason. It’s, frankly, not a very good story, and one of the worst-realized in the series, but the overall quality of mystery-writing in this game is still very high, and much higher than many of the new-era games preceding Spirit of Justice. It makes it very refreshing, therefore, when you get to take a break from the oppressive revolution storyline with Case 2, The Magical Turnabout, in which a fantasy stage play (mixed with magical performances from all of the actors) ends with an actor being stabbed for real at the end of a sword-stabbing magic trick, and Trucy Wright being accused of the crime!

This story has lots of fun with its magic setting, including going so far as to have you “cross-examine” a magic trick and scenes in the play! Not only aesthetic, the magician lore and stage production play a heavy part in the plot, creating one of the most unique and fun murder mysteries in the entire Ace Attorney series, and a stand-out from the modern era of games that works well without relying overmuch on gimmickry or ongoing plotlines! A pure, traditional mystery from the franchise that’s as good as any other!

This game also introduces the concept of being able to view the memories of the victims’ ghost! Because this is a well-known facet of the country’s legal system, many killers take advantage of this to create misleading memories for the victim… Part of the mystery-solving of finding lies and contradictions now involves finding “tricks” in the senses of the victim! What does the victim see, hear, taste, smell, or feel at his time of death that shouldn’t be there? This is a brilliantly-handled gimmick that adds lots of fun mystery-solving concepts, and while it’s not used in this particular case it is used in three of the other four and I couldn’t help but add a footnote here for the other fun mysteries in Spirit of Justice. Good fun all-around!

Furuhata Ninzaburō (Season 2, Episode 1) “The Lawyer Murder” (1995) – Kōki Mitani

We return to Japan’s answer to Columbo. The first episode of the second season, “The Lawyer Murder” is a classic of the series! In it, Furuhata’s bumbling sidekick Imaizumi is arrested for a murder after accidentally stumbling into the crime scene. The catch, however, is that the true killer is the very same lawyer who is now defending him in court. The killer is now trying to manipulate the court in a professional capacity to get Imaizumi arrested for his own crime!

This is a fantastic episode and one of the best examples I can think of to demonstrable how much more comfortable Furuhata is with getting high-concept than Columbo. The setting of a courtroom is intrinsically thrilling, and watching the killer act in his capacity as a lawyer to manipulate a murder trial is a fantastic, tense way to execute on the inverted mystery premise! The killer is eventually caught on a “slip of the tongue” trap that is so common in this series, with the show having a dozen different variations of the idea. However, this is easily the best one, a slip of the tongue buried under so many layers of assumptions and inferences that it’s impossible to spot even though it’s staring you right in the face! This is an exceptional inverted mystery that shows this drama’s deftness of plotting and concept that puts it over Columbo in my estimation.

Fun note: This episode actually inspired a case of Ace Attorney! It was so shocking to watch this episode and realize that I’ve seen the core of the plot before, but the two stories are different enough that seeing one doesn’t hurt the other…

“The Alibi of Issunbōshi” (2019) – Aoyagi Aito

I was surprised to mention this story, because it’s one I actually finished while making this list! This Japanese-language short story is the first story in the Mukashi Mukashi Aru Tokoro ni, Shitai ga Arimashita (Once Upon a Time, There Was a Corpse) collection by Aoyagi Aito! In this collection, every story is a murder mystery in the tradition of the fairplay Golden Age puzzlers with a twist: every mystery is cobbled together from the magic-filled stories of Japanese folklore!

“The Alibi of Issunbōshi” is a twisting of the epic of Issunbōshi, a tiny man who, although only an inch tall, shows immense bravery in wanting to protect his princess! As per the original legend, Issunbōshi is eaten by an Oni (a Japanese ogre-like demon) while protecting the princess, but manages to defeat the beast by attacking it from inside! He’s awarded a magical hammer that grows him to a man standing over 1.8 meters tall!

However, deviating from the classical tale, it later comes out that Issunbōushi is now also the main suspect in a murder. The detective is convinced Issunbōshi is guilty, but is thrown off-kilter by his unusual alibi: at the time of the murder… Issunbōshi was inside of the stomach of an Oni, a fact attested to by many witnesses, including 9 members of the Princess’s own faithful royal guard! How could Issunbōshi have committed this murder, then?

I’m not ashamed to admit that, as I am American and not Japanese, I had no pre-conceived attachment to the fable of Issunbōshi. I don’t really know any Japanese fairytales outside of the few that get referenced in anime or video games, honestly. Going into this collection, I was worried my enjoyment would be curbed by this fact, but I was wrong! This first short story is an excellent example of the fantasy-hybrid mystery, utilizing its magical aspects in clever, properly-clued ways to tell an unique mystery splot that can only exist inside of this story. The alibi plot meets fairytales, and I’m all for it! If this is the standard of this series, I can only look forward to my Japanese expanding far enough to read the rest of the stories…

The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932) – Ellery Queen

Queen, the King, is the American detective story. So much is said about this pair of pseudonymous writers ad nauseum, and as with a few others on this list Queen hardly warrants an introduction. He is the byword for mysteries relying on rigorous chains of deduction and sliding-piece puzzlers, and a favorite of so many people! The Greek Coffin Mystery, involving the murder of a Greek art dealer, is easily the most famous of their “National” series, and for good reason, as the plot is brilliant and a blasted classic! Perhaps a not very inspired pick, but it’s deserved!

As is the standard with early-era Queen, The Greek Coffin Mystery presents us with a mysterious problem that is solved through deftly-placed clues and impressive (if but occasionally dubious) logic unraveling a very neat, complex scheme! Forgive this rather generic description, but Queen really is both “see it to believe” phenomenon, and also someone whom you all have already seen and already believe! That being said, it’s easy to see how Ellery Queen has become so noteworthy that no less than four authors in Japan have developed into worthy successors to his style and form… Fantastic work!

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Case 3) The Golden Court (2012) – Takumi Shū

And here we’ve come to the final Ace Attorney case on this list (to great applause, I’m sure!) Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a spectacular crossover between Ace Attorney and fellow mystery-solving mystery series Professor Layton, a game franchise that focuses more on brain-teasers and logic problems than murder mysteries! In this bizarre mash-up, the protagonists of both games and their sidekicks are transported to Labyrinthia, a fantastical medieval kingdom inside of a storybook where witches run amok among the people! Here, all trials of law are Witch Trials, and instead of defending innocent people accused of murders you defend women falsely accused of casting spells and being witches! By using the witches’ magic tome, which contains all of the rules by which magic must abide, as well as logic and physical evidence, you point out lies in the testimony of witnesses who are hell-bent on seeing your client burnt for their witchcraft!

This is an insane premise. Ace Attorney never shied away from hinting at magic in its universe, and even using it in four of its 30+ mysteries, but no game in the series has committed as hard to such a far-out premise as this non-canon spinoff — which, frankly, only works because it is non-canon. The game perfectly blends elements of both series, so that every plot, character, and locale would be right at home in either Professor Layton or Phoenix Wright. While I think the overarching story will frustrate some people who aren’t fans of Professor Layton, relying on its dubious science-fiction to explain everything away, the individual magical murder mysteries are just cracking good, vintage Ace Attorney cases that spin excellent mystery plots from this outrageous fantasy premise.

This particular case is not only one of my favorite cases in the series and one of my favorite pieces of mystery-writing ever, but it also beautifully captures everything that this crossover should be! When Professor Layton — the Professor Layton, protagonist of the Professor Layton game series! — is murdered by being turned into a golden statue by magic, Phoenix’s own legal assistant Maya Fey is accused of the murder by witnesses who claim to have seen her committing the crime! Worse yet, one of the witnesses who believe Phoenix’s legal assistant committed the murder… is Layton’s own assistant, Luke Triton, a young boy only about ten years old who is training to be a gentleman like the Professor! Outraged and confused by this apparent betrayal by their friend Maya, and Phoenix’s betrayal in defending her, Luke Triton is one of the critical witnesses in the case against Maya Fey, which risks seeing her executed for a crime she didn’t commit…!

Maya Fey being a defendant in an Ace Attorney case is normal — at a stretch if you play with technicalities, she’s the defendant in every single game she makes a speaking role in. But committing to the shocking premise of murdering the protagonist of one of the two series you’re crossing over was a huge shock, and by pinning it the secondary protagonist of the other game series in the crossover, you get to have a surreal kind of confrontation that suits both games but could exist in neither without the crossover. Furthermore, putting Layton and Triton into this kind of situation is very unlike Professor Layton, where Layton always has a hold on every situation he’s in and rarely in dire straits. By taking it to this opposite extreme and putting Layton in extreme danger, you also put Luke Triton out of his depth, placing him into a situation he’s never been in and getting some surprisingly fresh characterization out of this otherwise typically one-note character! It especially works that Layton usually reigns in Luke’s more childish tendencies, so giving him this room to be awash in very childlike antagonism and anger and confusion makes it an entirely in-character scene that still shows a side to his personality that other factors typically keep in check — a more compelling use of a crossover to enhance characterization, I’ve never seen!

Of course, the mystery plot at the heart of this is fantastic too! It’s as good as any of the best cases from Ace Attorney, with a surprising and creative culprit and a twist that expertly makes use of the unique setting of the game, this being the best use of magic in any of the game’s cases. But for all of that, what makes this case so strong in my estimation is how perfectly this case does everything that any crossover should strive to do, perfectly blending elements of the source material so masterfully that what comes out of it is something that could existence in either game, but needs the other to thrive. Using one to enhance the other, this crossover isn’t mere fanservice: it’s a genuine exploration of how the two games can bring something special to the table. In my opinion, not only the best crossover of mystery fiction, but one of the best crossovers of all time, and nothing displays it more than this excellent, surreal, fantasy-infused mystery case.

This is the last Ace Attorney case on the list, and I think I’ve done a good job at covering the series in a variety of different contexts. Cases that function from paying off on years of build-up, cases that thrive on their implementation of unusual elements like magic and ghosts, cases that incorporate more hard-boiled elements, cases that cross generational-boundaries, cases that play with alibis and have fun with the theming of more outlandish mystery sub-genres, and pure good fun cases that excel without reliance on any gimmick, content to just be excellent murder plots. The series is excellent and boasts an insane variety in style, form, and structure while rarely compromising on quality! I hope some of you reading this aren’t too annoyed with Ace Attorney‘s representation on this list, and are instead inspired to seek the series out and play through it for truly fantastic mystery plots…

Magpie Murders (2016) – Alan Conway

Magpie Murders is the latest modern homage to the Golden Age following the exploits of German detective Atticus Pünd! In this thrilling installment in the series, Atticus is commissioned to investigate the death of a house-servant in a faraway countryside village, not only to determine if the death was murder, but to also bring the crime (if any should there be) home to the culprit! What follows is another triumph from this author that waves all of the clues under your nice with one hand while making you look at the ceiling with the other, perfectly capturing the energy and spirit of Agatha Christie and her contemporaries…

…only, the ending isn’t there!? What kind of mystery novel ends without a solution!? The kind, as it happens, which appears in Magpie Murders (2016) – Anthony Horowitz.

In actuality, the 300 pages you just read was an unfinished manuscript, sent to an editor to finalize for publishing! Dot the t’s and cross the i’s. Only, as we just established, the ending is missing! Well, she can’t publish this novel without its final chapter, so she goes to find Alan Conway, only to find him murdered..!

This novel is an utterly brilliant meta-mystery in which the interplay between a modern Golden Age-styled mystery novel and a modern-world murder mystery are central to the narrative. The novel is not only entirely fairplay, but blindingly clever at misdirecting you, boasting wholly original solutions to both problems that dovetail into one another beautifully. This is also a mystery novel that explores mystery novels intro- and retrospectively wonderfully through its “novel-within-a-novel” structure. A modern masterpiece if there ever was one from someone who clearly understands the genre and what it sets out to accomplish.

“A Stretch of the Imagination” (1973) by Randall Garrett

Randall Garrett is an author from well after the Golden Age who sought to keep the blood of mysteries flowing with his fantasy-imbued locked-room mystery Too Many Magicians, featuring his wizard-detective Lord Darcy in an alternate 20th century where the laws of magic evolved in place of the laws of physics. I don’t entirely love Garrett, as I feel he doesn’t commit as much to the fantasy side of his writing as he should — he doesn’t produce mysteries informed by fantasy, he produces mysteries set within fantasy — stopping him from being a proper classic crafter of the hybrid mystery. However, “A Stretch of the Imagination”, collected in his Lord Darcy short story collection Murder and Magic is still a damn good locked-room mystery in spite of all that!

This locked-room mystery, involving a hanging in a room that nobody had entered or left for quite some time, has a devious and dastardly original hanging trick that, while not enhanced by the fantasy elements of this story, is still a pleasure to see in action! A hybrid-mystery that makes for a better pure mystery than the hybrid variation, nonetheless excellently done!

“The Urban Legend Puzzle” (2001) – Norizuki Rintarō

Norizuki Rintarō, detective, hears from his police officer father a description of a recent murder of a university student in which, after a party, a young woman returns to the house to retrieve her bag. The next day, the body of the student who hosted the party is found, with a message written in blood reading “AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN’T TURN ON THE LIGHT?”. Norizuki is shocked; after all, this is the exact same thing that happened in an urban legend he’s heard about! Together, the two men get to work to solve the mystery of this urban legend-mimicking murder!

As you can tell from the fact that the author shares his name with his detective, and his detective just so happens to be part of a crime-solving team with his cop father, Norizuki Rintarō is one of the many Japanese descendants of Ellery Queen! Another story of his, a biblio-locked-room mystery called “The Lure of the Green Door”, also appeared on my list of favorite impossible crimes, and his excellent story is pretty much just as good! The plot eventually turns on breaking apart an airtight alibi with a satisfying solution, nd the urban legend backdrop is compelling! While neither story have the rigid chains of deduction that are so prevalent in Ellery Queen or Arisugawa Arisu’s Moai Island Puzzle, and I’m proud to say I fairly easily solved both stories, this is nonetheless an excellently clever and well-realized tale from another master of the Japanese detective story! It was collected in Passport to Crime — the Janet Hutchings one, not the John Pugmire one — so go read it and the other stories in that collection!

Death After Evensong (1969) by Douglas Clark

One of my favorite spin-off genres of the classical Golden Age puzzler is the ways that authors after the Golden Age blended the clue-heavy puzzlers with more modern trappings. One of my favorite examples is the very excellent Roger Ormerod who blends the private eye thriller with a fairly-clued impossible alibi problem in his superb debut, Time to Kill, which I mention on my favorite impossible crimes list, as well as in the very traditionalist locked-room mystery More Dead than Alive. Recently I learned that another member of this esteemed spinoff-sub-sub-genre is Douglas Clark, who writes the same sort of traditionally fairplay Golden Age-styled puzzle plots, married with the styles of gritty post-World War II police procedurals!

Death After Evensong is a superb impossible crime involving a bullet that disappears from mid-air, the method for which reveals how well Clark could incorporate modernity to create a truly unique, baffling, and striking impossible crime set-up and resolution that likely couldn’t or wouldn’t exist in the Golden Age proper. Nothing short of fantastic, and I’m excited to see some of Clark’s famously genius poisoning methods in his other novels.

Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Case 5) Smile at Hope in the Name of Despair (2012) – Kazutaka Kodaka, Akira Kawasaki

I’ll be frank, right out of the gate, I have a very complicated love-hate relationship with the Danganronpa franchise. I consider myself a fan, but with about a dozen footnotes, conditions, and exceptions. The series is very teeny-bop, with lots of unfunny and crass humor filling the runtime. I also don’t like any of the mysteries of the first game, and it takes nearly the entire second game to get to the first mystery in the series I think is genuinely great (that being the case immediately before this one). After that it’s a lot more consistent, with the third game in the series frequently having very good mysteries, as the game writers commissioned an award-winning mystery novelist to co-write and plot the cases for the game. If I were to recommend Danganronpa to a mystery fan, I’d probably recommend only playing Danganronpa V3, because while there’s a lot of overarching plotwork, the series’s interweaved narrative is also ludicrous and I believe it’s better to ignore it. V3‘s ending also comes off a lot better if you’re not an established Danganronpa fan who is likely to get upset at the way it de-canonizes the entire franchise (including itself!) in a shocking way that made everyone incredibly, incredibly angry. Plus, as I mentioned, because they’re written by a proper mystery novelist, they’re as a consequence consistently among the best cases in the series, being very clever mechanical crimes. That being said, the best mystery in the series is actually truly fantastic…

Danganronpa is a game series inspired by Ace Attorney and boasting a lot of the same gameplay of finding contradictions in testimony. However, in this game, you play as a student who attends Hope’s Peak Academy — one of fifteen extremely talented students who are the best in the world at what they do. Shockingly, you find out that Hope’s Peak isn’t actually the haven for geniuses you thought it was, but instead the new grounds for a killing game in which fifteen students are locked inside of the school. You’re instructed that, in order to escape, one of the students must commit murder and avoid detection in the ensuing Class Trial! If the killer is found out, they’re executed… but if they succeed in tricking you, everyone else is executed and the killer is permitted to leave the school!

It’s hard to discuss the set-up to this case, as in Danganronpa revealing who dies when, and who is alive when, is considered major spoilers, so it’ll suffice to leave it at saying that this case is one of the few instances in which the “rules” of the school are employed in a way that intimately informs the murder plot. What ends up coming from this is not only a murder mystery plot that can only exist in the Danganronpa setting, it’s a type of mystery storytelling structure that can only exist in the Danganronpa setting, totally recontextualizing what it means to discover “the killer” in a shocking way. This extremely innovative mystery story is the second great case in the series, with the first being the previous case, Case 4 of Danganronpa 2, a surreal a tricky mystery that also makes use of the technology exclusive to the school to create an equally unique plot that relies intimately on the Danganronpa universe to function. These two cases, as well as the near-entirety of Danganronpa V3 are the saving graces of this series, and while this case is my candidate for best case in the series, I recommend anyone interested in the series go play Danganronpa V3 as that’s the one game in the series I unconditionally consider to be great mystery material, and then play the second game if they’re interested in more and seeing the ways Case 4 and 5 evolve the mystery genre with its unique setting.

If this seemed like a very weird, paradoxical review in which I’m very negative about the series while calling this case one of my favorite mysteries of all time, while also telling people not to play the game that this case appears in and to instead skip it and go straight to Danganronpa V3, then I am sorry. This messy self-conflicting review, I think, perfectly captures my opinions on Danganronpa: messy, and self-conflicting. I still recommend checking the third game out, though!

When the Old Man Died (1991) – Roger Ormerod

Hey, Roger Ormerod! You know that name, right? I mentioned him above in reference to Douglas Clark as another exceptional author specializing in puzzle-plot mysteries infused with the trappings of modern police fiction! Roger Ormerod’s specialize trope is the blending of alibi and locked-room mystery, not unlike Tetsuya Ayukawa who appears earlier in this list! Combining the trickery of locked-room mysteries to established airtight alibis works just as well in When the Old Man Died as it did in the earlier “Death in Early Spring”, featuring a tricky and well-clued narrative that represents the best of Ormerod’s work. As I keep saying, Ormerod’s understanding of crafting and shattering alibis is unparalleled, especially among English-speaking authors who wrote after the Golden Age ended! I cannot recommend this novel enough, as it is the third excellent novel of his I’ve read (compared to one bad one), so, hey! What a track record!

And, there we have it. 30 more favorite mystery stories from every corner of the genre. I thought this would make for a fun way to return from my hiatus, simply writing up on my favorite mystery stories. Originally it was supposed to only be 10, then 15, then 20… But eventually when I realized I wanted to write about six Ace Attorney cases, and wanted to spread them out, I settled on 30, with three stories between each Ace Attorney entry and the next! And, easy it was not, as I had a medical health scare in the middle of writing it, and it took me three days to assemble this list.

I had a lot of fun writing this, but I anticipate most people won’t read a lot of the reviews as this blog post is incredibly long, and will likely skim the titles and ignore the “less respectable” ones, like mysteries from video games, manga, and J-dramas. I hope the four of you who read those reviews and feel compelled to check out the mysteries represented have fun, however!

This post also represents a return from my hiatus. In the meantime I am also working on an essay on hybrid mysteries — mysteries infusing fantasy or science-fiction into their plots — inspired by current events in the Golden Age Detection group, and the other projects described in On My Hiatus and Blog Projects. Those take priority over reviews for the time being. Also if this post seems like it’s missing, like, a lot of tags… that’s because it is. I’ll add them later!

In the meanwhile, happy reading, and good sleuthing!


9 thoughts on “On 30 More of my Favorite Mysteries Ever [Revision 0]

  1. nickfuller November 12, 2022 / 7:42 pm

    Isaac – You’ve convinced me: I do need to play the Ace Attorney games. Looks like plotting in mystery games has come a long way since the days of The Last Express and The Dagger of Amon-Ra, let alone Deadline!

    The Problem of the Green Capsule was my very first Carr; it blew me away – it was cleverer and twistier and more intricate than, say, Ngaio Marsh or Margery Allingham or even Agatha Christie. I never liked Till Death Do Us Part, though; I found the solution hard to visualise, and messing about with pins and strings seems mechanical. Give me Plague Court, Red Widow, or The Reader is Warned instead.

    Magpie Murders is another one that underwhelmed me; I read it this year, and thought it too much like a TV mystery. Horowitz’s scripts for TV – Foyle’s War and the like – are excellent, but I haven’t warmed to any of his books.

    I will add Douglas Clark and Roger Ormerod to my expanding list of books to read.


    • l. Stump November 12, 2022 / 10:30 pm

      Hey, Nick! I appreciate your comment! I’m glad I’ve convinced you to check Ace Attorney out, it really is a special series to me! The third game in particular is something special to behold! I hope you enjoy it, and Clark and Ormerod!

      I wanted to add real quick that I don’t go by Isaac anymore. In the future could you just call me “L.” on this blog, please? I appreciate it, and I’m very sorry for the trouble!


      • nickfuller November 13, 2022 / 12:47 am

        Sorry for using the wrong name – I hadn’t realised. I’ll call you L. henceforward.


  2. TomCat November 13, 2022 / 7:01 am

    I’m pleasantly surprised to finally see someone else recommend Bush’s The Case of the Missing Minutes, which is not only an extremely well plotted detective story with one of his best alibi-tricks, but is also one of his most human stories. Regrettably, the under appreciated Cut Throat has made some people reluctant to dip into the likes of The Case of the Missing Minutes and The Case of the 100% Alibis. Death After Evensong is another welcome surprise to find on your list. I’ve only read half a dozen of his mysteries and most of them show why he was the pharmacist of crime, but non-poisonous Death After Evensong stands out as his best. Not only because of the excellent bullet-act or the fascinating setting (for me anyway), but Clark had not yet felt the need to disguise or cover-up his traditional roots (see my review of Golden Rain).

    Clark and Ormerod make a fascinating contrast in their treatment of a classically-styled plots in modern police procedurals and private eye novels. And how that approached changed over time.

    A great and very varied list! Thank you for the personal recommendation of Ace Attorney, but I’m still going to give it a pass for now.


    • l. Stump November 13, 2022 / 7:21 pm

      I’m sorry to pry! Is there a reason you seem hesitant to try Ace Attorney? I hope it’s nothing to do with a disdain for video game mysteries, because I’d be surprised to hear something like that from one of the genre’s largest proselytizers of manga!

      Yes, I read Douglas Clark after discussing him with you on your blog, and I’m excited to announce I loved the story and intend to read plenty more of him! I’m also glad to hear the list is varied. Outside of the video games and television shows, I was worried this list felt a little too generic… Not that I make my decisions of what to mention based on whether I think they’re generic or not, just that I was worried it wouldn’t be interesting to read.


    • l. Stump November 14, 2022 / 3:46 am

      By the way, TomCat, you might be entertained to know that very similarly to “Clown in the Tunnel”, “Stretch of the Imagination” is another story I was frustrated to have read knowing that I wrote a story with a very similar solution years prior. Though my story retooled the trick as an alibi gimmick as opposed to a locked-room trick, it’s still very similar, and I’m floored again at how proud I was of a supposedly original trick only to encounter it in the most random of places…


      • TomCat November 15, 2022 / 12:24 pm

        I can only divide my attention so much and don’t find Ace Attorney particularly alluring.

        Well, the locked room mystery is a specialized niche of the genre. So it’s to be expected writers specializing in them to sometimes come up with the same or similar ideas independently of each other.


      • l. Stump November 15, 2022 / 4:41 pm

        I can’t begin to understand what isn’t alluring about a series that shares fan with Detective Conan and boasts about 10 of the best mysteries I’ve ever read (there are more than what I mentioned on this list), but I won’t push the point. 😛


  3. Thyist November 14, 2022 / 1:38 pm

    I am absolutely with you on Danganronpa’s first two games being a letdown as a mystery-lover first and foremost. But yes, 2-5’s case is great because of the way the scriptwriters transformed what would be a “contrived coincidence” of the killer’s plot in any other universe into a mechanic that makes perfect sense in DR’s. (I think the talents are something they don’t touch on nearly enough, I’d say Case 1 of the first game and how the killer uses their talent to destroy evidence is the only thing similar.)

    And yes, V3’s cases are much better, and unfairly maligned because of the ending! Case 1 of V3 is great with the amount of false solutions provided (Without spoiling too heavily, I especially like the one about how the sliding doors could’ve been used to launch a certain projectile.), Case 4 was neat with them changing the in-universe medium to play with physics, and I think how the second murder in the 3rd case was done+the atmosphere surrounding it was the best of all the games (Even if the killer was obvious!). I’m definitely looking forward to the developer’s next game, Code Rain, if they’ve retained the V3 case writer.

    And Then There Were None/Orient Express were the only two mystery books I read as a kid, for a school project back in eighth/ninth grade, I think. I picked up murder mysteries properly, and especially the impossible crime genre, back in 2017. Your blog was one I used for suggestions, so it’s great to see you still regularly updating! My college had an archive that held original prints of several classics, so I had fun going through some of your features here after sitting down to read the novels. I can still remember reading some of them like Rim of the Pit, She Died A Lady, Death Do Us Part, The Hollow Man, Judas Window, He Who Whispers and He Wouldn’t Kill Patience in the basement of the library, since they were in pretty delicate condition and couldn’t be removed (As you can see, our library was not lacking in Carr!).

    I’ve been getting back into reading, so I just finished up Death of Jezebel a couple weeks back (which was great, I also definitely recommend it to others!) and The Lord of Misrule last week. Right now I’m about a third through White Priory. I’ll see about Tour de Force, it sounds good! I also picked up some of the Honkaku novels you’ve covered, such as Tokyo Zodiac, Decagon House and The Honjin Murders, and have been satisfied with each. I’m pretty sure I had the Tokyo Zodiac solution spoiled to me by some series I can’t remember now, but I found Decagon just as great and surprising.

    I also love how your list mixes mediums, Bridge to Turnabout, and the Phoenix Wright series, are personal favorites of mine as well. Right now I’m working through the Naruhodo series, I finished the first chronicle so I’ll need to get into the second which has Departed Soul in it. The Mask Mansion murder (Which I think you reccomended?) is my favorite from Case Closed, so I’ll need to work through your Conan reccs as well.

    Speaking of mystery video games, not only Code Rain, but a new game called Process of Elimination, slated for 2023, sounds like it has promise, just to give you a heads up! Additionally, have you ever attempted to read Umineko no Naku Koro ni? It’s a visual novel that mixes magic and murder mysteries, and is so indebted to Golden Age Detective fiction that I’m sure you’d enjoy it.


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