Julian Symons wrote Mortal Consequences in 1972 and it too is brilliant, though far more controversial in its appraisals. (In the copy Symons inscribed to me, he accurately describes it as "material for disagreement and argument," following one of our many disagreements and arguments--the one we had when he failed to accept the enduring brilliance of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels.)
David Lehman's The Perfect Murder was originally published in 1987 and has at last been reissued in paperback, with a new chapter on mystery novels of the 1990s. While Lehman is as opinionated as Symons, he is more generous in his taste and seems to prefer the best writers. (This actually means that his taste coincides with mine, which suggests that it is impeccable!)
Although mainly chronological in structure, The Perfect Murder jumps around some, even including references to modern films while discussing old books. Oddly, the chapter on Sherlock Holmes precedes the chapter on Edgar Allan Poe, but somehow it all makes sense. His list of favorite books at the end is one of the most intelligent selections I've ever encountered--with the exception of The Name of the Rose, which is impenetrable, and The Singing Detective, which just tries too hard to be cool.
If you are interested in mystery fiction but know little beyond the obvious classics, read this to be the biggest expert on your block. If you're already the biggest expert on your block, read it to learn how much you don't know, and be grateful for its perceptive insights. --Otto Penzler