Your Favourite British Library Crime Classics: Round 1

Last week I launched off a series of polls to find out which novels or story collections were the most popular from the British Library Crime Classics series. I decided to do split the books from the series into 5 groups, as the series is now at the lofty height of 50 books! In each poll readers could select up to three texts. Based on the results of these polls a final two polls will be launched to help narrow down the favourite British Library Crime Classic novel and Story Collection. It was really interesting when I finally looked at the results. There were some expected results, but there was actually also a large number of surprises. Who knew Freeman Wills Crofts was so popular? [Has JJ been secretly voting more than once?]

Anyways let’s start with the top three winners from Group 1:

  1. Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  2. The 12:30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts
  3. Family Matters by Anthony Rolls

I was not surprised by Farjeon’s popularity in this group, as it was this very title which really grabbed the public’s attention and rapidly increased the popularity of the series. As you can see Crofts has also nabbed a top 3 position, (be prepared for more of that), and I was also glad that Roll’s novel made it through as well. Every other novel in the group did get at least one vote except The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams and Gil North’s Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm.

And here are the top three books from Group 2:

  1. Mystery in the Channel by Freeman Wills Crofts (Why? Why? Seriously why?)
  2. Quick Curtain by Alan Melville
  3. Verdict of 12 by Raymond Postgate

So yes as you can a slightly surprising front runner (for me anyways). The only two novels not to receive votes this time around were Anthony Rolls’ Scarweather and William Stephens Hayward’s Revelations of a Lady Detective. The position of 4th place is crowdedly held by the two John Bude titles in this round, The Sussex Downs Murder and Death on the Riviera and Mavis Doriel Hay The Santa Klaus and each of these texts were only one vote away from third place.

Group 3’s top three winners were:

  1. Death of Anton by Alan Melville
  2. The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts (Look whose back. Again!)
  3. Murder of a Lady by Antony Wynne and Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay

Much relief all round that Melville’s title made into the top 3, this title being one of my favourites from the series. Miles Burton and John Bude also followed closely behind these three, though no votes were given for Lois Austen-Leigh’s The Incredible Crime, nor for John Rowland’s Murder in the Museum.

Group 4 was the final poll for the remaining novels in the British Library series and the top 3 here were:

  1. The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley
  2. Death of An Airman by Christopher St John Sprigg
  3. Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts

Berkeley’s novel unsurprisingly gained the most votes out of all the novels in the series, not that this isn’t deserved, as it really is an excellent story. Once again of course Crofts makes it into the final three, (who knew he was so popular?), and when it comes to the final vote, (for the novels), Crofts will have four entries going in, which is more than any other author, though Alan Melville also has both of this titles going into the finals as well. The voting was much more concentrated in this round, with all these three texts being way ahead of the others. The three texts to not receive any votes were Gil North’s The Methods of Sergeant Cluff, John Rowland’s Calamity in Kent and Andrew Forrester’s The Female Detective.

Last but not least was the poll purely focused on the short story collections and due to the voting being much more spread in this round, (with many joint winners), I have decided to do a separate final poll for them. Your top 3 choices were:

  1. Crimson Snow and Miraculous Mysteries
  2. Murder at the Manor
  3. Serpents in Eden and Capital Crimes

Is anyone else surprised by the results? Any omissions or additions which seem perplexing? Or is it just me who can’t fathom the popularity of Crofts? Given the number of Bude titles in the British Library Crime Classics series I was surprised that none of them made it into the top 3, though they were often in 4th position. The least popular titles in the series definitely seem to be those which were originally published pre 1900 or post 1960, as only one text from these two time periods got any votes, Leonard Merrick’s Mr Bazalgette’s Agent. Additionally both titles from John Rowland in the series failed to garner any votes.

So without further ado here are the final two polls, the first focusing on the novels and the second, the short story collections. In the first poll you are allowed to vote for up to 3 books, but in the second poll you can only vote once, given the smaller number of texts:



  1. I was away for a while, so I missed the first round of voting, but I am surprised about the results in the best short story collections insofar as I thought “Miraculous Mysteries” was the most disappointing collection the BL has done and while “Crimson Snow” was fine many of the stories were already collected recently in “The Black Lizard Big Book Of Christmas Mysteries”.

    Freeman Wills Crofts seems to be turning into your arch nemesis on this blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t vote, having read only three of these books so far.
    And I must be the only person who hated ‘A Mystery In White’.
    It started off strongly, but as soon as they left the train it fell apart, IMO. It turned into some kind of Pinter play, with characters talking past one another, keeping pointless secrets, and behaving irrationally. And my cynical side says it never would have sold as well as it did without that subtitle on the cover: A Christmas Crime Story.
    It had practically nothing to do with Christmas!, he whined.

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha no I don’t think you are the only person to not enjoy MIW. A fellow blogger of mine named JJ (who writes The Invisible Event blog) had similar misgivings. Hope this book hasn’t put you off the BL CC series entirely. Perhaps the final results will give you some recommendations for other books to try in the series.


  3. “Why? Why? Why?”
    The eternal cussedness of things.

    I read the Channel book by Crofts. I would say Symons picked le mot juste with Humdrum. This was the best of the 4 or so Humdrums I have read, but I would only give it about 3/5. So I share your puzzlement (and dismay). Sad to think this will encourage Poisoned Pen to reissue more Crofts instead of other more interesting writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha well I don’t think the BL can cater just for us! (Shame!). Thankfully though I think the BL are pretty dedicated to delivering a range of books throughout the year so it is easy to skip a Crofts without missing out on too much.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.