Barry Forshaw's Crime Top Ten

1. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
Penguin £8.99

"A coruscating diamond of a novel: sardonic, fiercely plotted and boasting a matchless cast of characters. The impeccable whipcrack dialogue remains a yardstick for the genre. "

2. The Mask of Dimitrios - Eric Ambler
Penguin Modern Classics £9.99

"Eric Ambler’s most famous book gets better with the years. The crime novelist Latimer hears about the evil Dimitrios in Istanbul when looking at the latter’s dead body, freshly retrieved from the Bosphorous. And Latimer makes the mistake of trying to find out the truth about the murdered man."

3. Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith
Vintage £8.99

"Looking back on the author's career as one of the most disturbing practitioners of the psychological crime novel, it's astonishing to see how she virtually arrived fully formed with this classic of the genre. Readers are now, of course, obliged to disentangle the original novel from Hitchcock's celebrated adaptation, but the effort is worthwhile – particularly as censorship restrictions of the day forced the director to soften one key element in the narrative."

4. The Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris
Arrow £7.99

"In crime writing terms, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ took the serial killer and profiler phenomenon which Harris established in ‘Red Dragon’ (1981) onto a whole new level. Clarice Starling is a trainee FBI agent, working hard to discipline mind and body. She is sent by her boss, Section Chief Jack Crawford, to interview the serial killer Hannibal Lecter, kept in the very tightest security, to see if he’s prepared to help in the case of a killer using a bizarre modus operandi. Lecter remains the most iconic über-criminal in modern fiction."

5. The Ministry of Fear - Graham Greene
Vintage £8.99

"London in the Blitz is brilliantly conjured in this dazzling piece. Greene claimed a division between his ‘entertainments’ and his ‘literary’ work, but the moral issues here are as rigorously handled as anything in his more ambitious novels. Arthur Rowe is pitched into a world of shadowy, murderous figures."

6. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Headline Review £6.99

"The stories here show a willingness to take on subjects which must have been uncomfortable to a less tolerant readership than that of today. Dark and destructive secrets lie in the heart of Victorian propriety, and Doyle’s dispassionate unearthing of these undercurrents lends a peculiarly subversive charge."

7. Mystic River - Dennis Lehane
Bantam £7.99

"Lehane is in the top ranks of crime novelists on the strength of such astringent thrillers as ‘Gone, Baby, Gone’. But ‘Mystic River’ is his best work. Childhood friends Sean, Jimmy and Dave have their lives changed when a strange car turns up in their street. Two and a half decades later, Sean is a homicide detective, while Jimmy has become a criminal. The past is about to erupt into the present… "

8. The Moving Target - Ross MacDonald
Warner Books £5.99

"One of Macdonald's most popular novels, this is in some way the quintessential outing for his Marlowesque private eye Lew Archer, with an ambitiously large dramatis personae, all impeccably characterized. A great many people are going to a great deal of trouble to get their hands on a hundred grand in small notes. Archer finds himself running up against Elaine Samson, disenchanted wife of a millionaire, ex-D.A. Albert Graves (not a man noted for philanthropy), and the violent chorus boy Dwight Troy. All of this is vintage Macdonald and one of the best post-Chandler private eye novels, with a palpable sense of evil."

9. Nineteen Seventy-Seven - David Peace
Serpent's Tail £7.99

"David Peace's dark and pungent novel ‘Nineteen Seventy-Seven’ is the second book in his much-acclaimed Red Riding Quartet. Like its predecessor, the book trenchantly evokes the period and the corruption that was endemic in the police force during that time. The books forged a gritty new crime genre: Yorkshire Noir."

10. The Broken Shore - Peter Temple
Quercus £8.99

"Peter Temple bagged the 2007 Crime Writers’ Association Dagger with ‘The Broken Shore’, instantly marking out (for those who didn’t know it existed) a rich Antipodean arm of the crime fiction genre that made most contemporary writing in the field seem thin and etiolated. The prime Temple virtue - sheer storytelling acumen - is what makes ‘The Broken Shore’ so distinctive."