Will Hannibal Lecter's sadism triumph over Agatha Christie's old-school deduction? Is The Hound of the Baskervilles not just Sherlock Holmes's finest hour, but the mystery genre's supreme achievement?
Literary giants from Raymond Chandler to Arthur Conan Doyle are among the candidates in a poll to unmask the greatest crime novel ever written.
The Crime Writers' Association has asked its 600-strong membership to choose the finest published example of literary sleuthing. The members, all authors with at least one novel to their name, will also vote for the best crime writer and crime series.
The results will be revealed as part of the celebrations surrounding the association's 60th anniversary on 5 November. However, The Independent on Sunday has seen the shortlists for the categories and the association is inviting readers to add their own voice in a website poll, to be found at HERE.
While Scandinavian murder-mysteries dominate the current bestseller lists, there is no sign of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the detective novels of Norwegian author Jo Nesbo on the writers' list. Christie remains the queen of crime with two entries in the top 10. Another double entrant is Chandler, with Philip Marlowe's long-form debut in The Big Sleep and its successor, The Long Goodbye.
Contemporary writers on the list include Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs. Its inclusion is evidence that crime fiction has evolved considerably from Poirot's drawing-room deductions, according to Alison Joseph, chair of the association and author of the Sister Agnes mystery series. "We see authors today stretching the limits of the genre, examining the truth of criminality, its causes, its effects, yet still telling page-turning stories," she said.
"I was surprised there wasn't representation from the Scandinavian novelists since they consistently top the bestseller's list. Perhaps the bloodlust is all too much for people?"
She said the nomination for Reginald Hill, author of the Dalziel and Pascoe detective series, who died last year, was "absolutely deserved". Hill's On Beulah Height, a study in grief and revenge, is nominated for best crime novel; he is also named in the best writer and series shortlists. Elmore Leonard, the prolific US writer who died in August, is nominated for the best writer category, along with P D James and Ruth Rendell.
The association staged a similar poll 15 years ago and on that occasion the best novel was The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers, which beat The Big Sleep and Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Chandler won the best writer title.
Results will be announced at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London WC2 on 5 November. Tickets: foyles.co.uk
Best crime novel nominations
On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill
1998 novel, with Dalziel on a chilling child abduction case. It "demonstrates the excellence that detective fiction can accommodate", The Wall Street Journal said.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The first outing for laconic detective Philip Marlowe and a merging of two short stories; even Chandler admitted that his murky sex and pornography plot disguised a few loose ends.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
This 1926 Poirot deduction ends with a then-unprecedented double plot twist introducing the concept of the "unreliable narrator".
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The most famous Sherlock Holmes mystery of all, with a savage hound terrorising Dartmoor. First gripped readers in serialised form in 1901.
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers
This 1934 mystery marked the ninth case for Lord Peter Wimsey. Ruth Rendell said Sayers demonstrated "great fertility of invention, ingenuity and a wonderful eye for detail".
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Chandler considered this his best work. "One of the greatest... who set the standards others still try to attain," said The Sunday Times.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Poirot boarded the luxury train service in 1934. "A brilliantly ingenious story," enthused Dorothy L Sayers in The Daily Herald.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
A hugely influential novel, it was an immediate hit on publication in 1988. Roald Dahl hailed is as "the best book I've read in a very long time".
Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
A convincing depiction of stultifying Soviet bureaucracy, through stoic investigator Arkady Renko's pursuit of the truth. Called "the thriller of the Eighties" by Time magazine.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Timeless story of a stolen diamond, published in 1868. "The first... and the best of modern English detective novels," according to T S Eliot. G K Chesterton was also a fan.
Crime series shortlist
Sherlock Holmes; Arthur Conan Doyle
Adam Dalgliesh; P D James
Dalziel & Pascoe; Reginald Hill
Hercule Poirot; Agatha Christie
Morse; Colin Dexter
Philip Marlowe; Raymond Chandler
Rebus; Ian Rankin
Peter Wimsey; Dorothy L Sayers
Campion; Margery Allingham
Crime writers shortlist
Arthur Conan Doyle
Dorothy L Sayers
Ruth RendellReuse content