Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Favorite Titles

To me, the title of a good mystery book is of paramount importance. I think more than in any other genre, it is the main “hook” that gets me to pull a book off the shelf and give it a look. If the jacket/cover blurb continues to intrigue me I may just be plopping down my cash or plastic at the counter. And a fundamental element in a good title in the mystery genre is that the title itself be somewhat mysterious. Catchy, grabby, but leaving you like, “what?” Here’s ten of my favorite mystery novel titles, in no particular order.

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M. Cain

Double Indemnity – James M. Cain

The Anatomy of a Murder – Robert Traver

The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The Bone Collector – Jeffery Deaver

Speaking in Tongues – Jeffry Deaver

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John le Carr

How about you? How important is the title to you, and in what way? And what are some examples of great mystery book titles in your opinion?



Mark Troy said...

A title alone isn't enough to get me to buy the book. It's not easy distilling the essence of a book into one, two or even five words. As I look over my bookshelf, I see a lot of great books with non-distinctive titles. A few titles stand out, however. I like the ironic twist of Sarah Paretsky's Killing Orders. There's also some nice irony in Robert Crais's Demolition Angel and Vicki Hendricks's Miami Purity. Crais's main character is no angel and Hendricks's is anything but pure. Victor Gischler manages to come up with titles that grab you--Shotgun Opera, Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, for example.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Mark. I also like irony in a title. And I also will not buy a book just because of the title - I just meant when browsing the Mystery Books aisles, I tend to be more likely to pick up a book with a title that jumps at me, more so than some of the other genres.

Morgan Mandel said...

Titles and cover art hook people first, then the back cover blurb and first paragraph take it a step further. If you can get them that far and they like what they see, you've got a sale.

Morgan Mandel

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I agree with Morgan - people start with title & cover and gravitate to the back, then possibly the inside. But unless you are a best selling author, your spine will be all that shows on the book rack, so it's got to grab someone's attention.

And the write thrillers rather than mysteries, but the titles of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's books always seem enticing, especially "The Relic." That one just oozes tension & mystic to me.

L. Diane Wolfe

A. Kichu said...

The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris is a cool one.. Even the book is super cool..

Suko said...

I'd extend this to all books, not just mysteries. A good book needs a great title. Or maybe a great book needs a good title. In any case, your post is on the mark, at least for me. A title is very important. It has to capture my attention.

Anne Carter said...

Sometimes the blurb is needed to understand the irony of a title. My favorite example is FULL MOON HONEYMOON by Cheryl Norman. Murder mystery solved by a newlywed amateur sleuth on her honeymoon, booked on a cruise ship where all the other passengers are nudists! (Her groom got a good deal on the ticket!)


Dana Fredsti said...

Sometimes titles are TOO clever/cute (some of the series mysteries) and make my teeth hurt and then I don't want to buy the book. It works both ways, I guess.

Anne, I love Full Moon Honeymoon...

Ann Parker said...

Hmmm. I'm often drawn in by interesting titles. Okay, now that I've said that, I'm running around, looking at my bookcases, trying to come up with examples. Take Martin Cruz Smith. I love the titles "Stalin's Ghost" and "Wolves Eat Dogs" is ... brrr. Chilling. Of course, I'll read his books even if the title says "Phonebook," so maybe this isn't the best data point for you.
I do like titles where there is an obvious, surface meaning and a "hidden meaning" that reflects the story or its themes.