One of the greats of the mystery genre, too little appreciated these days, is Ellery Queen. The two men who made up that writing team created a classic American form of mystery with real intellectual ambition and great entertainment value.
Ellery Queen’s mysteries combined surrealism, gothic imagery, unpretentious but insightful probing into psychology and philosophical issues, inventive use of thematic elements, and fair-play mystery puzzle-construction that dealt with social, political, and religious issues with sophistication and intelligence. All the things that readers admire in today’s more psychological-suspense-oriented mysteries were present in Queen’s work, along with wit, brain-smashing puzzles, and a real concern for individual human welfare. (I’ve written frequently about Queen, for this site and elsewhere: see http://theamericanculture.org/?s=Ellery+Queen for examples.)
Over at his Classic Mysteries site, mystery expert Les Blatt has produced an audio essay on an Ellery Queen story collection from the 1930s (Queen’s heyday, for many readers), The New Adventures of Ellery Queen, which Blatt greatly admires. I think that this volume is indeed one of the essential mystery fiction short story collections, along with its predecessor, The Adventures of Ellery Queen.
In his article and podcast, Blatt rightly focuses in particular on the novelette “The Lamp of God,” which is the highlight of this must-have collection. “The Lamp of God” is simply one of the very best “impossible crime” stories of all time. The mystery idea: an entire house vanishes overnight.