The butler didn't; Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations, by Julian Symons. Illustrated by Tom Adams. New York: Harry N. Abrams. 144 pp. $18.50.; We, The Accused, by Ernest Raymond. New York: St. Martin's Press. 509 pp. $12. 95.; The Care of Time, by Eric Ambler. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. 271 pp. $11.95 .; Missing Woman, by Michael Z. Lewin, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 224 pp. $10.95.; What Nigel Knew, by Evan Field. New York: Clarkson N. Potter. 250 pp. $10.95.; Dupe, by Liza Cody. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 224 pp. $10.95.; Deadlier Than the Male: An Investigation into Female Crime Writing or Why Are Respectable English Women So Good At Murder? by Jessica Mann. New York: Macmillan. 192 pp. $12.95.
Sherlock Holmes, Jane Marple, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, Maigret, Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlowe - these are seven of the most popular detectives ever to work between the covers of a book. Readers addicted to their adventures are sure to enjoy ''Great Detectives.'' In it, mystery critic Julian Symons sets down his speculations about unknown aspects of the lives of these famous sleuths. Expertly mimicking the literary styles of their creators, Symons makes intriguing references to their cases and provides a bibliography to delight mystery buffs.
''Great Detectives'' also contains handsome illustrations by Tom Adams, which capture the period and atmosphere of each detective.
''We, The Accused,'' billed as ''a classic, unforgettable novel of an almost-perfect crime,'' surpasses the hype. This reprint edition introduces new readers to Paul Presset, the middle-aged schoolteacher, who sees only one way out of his numbing marriage to the wrong woman - murder. And he nearly gets away with it. The eventual discovery of his crime and the convoluted manhunt that follows provide the tensest moments in this supremely suspenseful novel. Yet Presset's capture, trial, and execution don't relieve the tautness. One closes the book with a lingering sympathy for Presset and an admiration for author Raymond's extraordinary character study.
Eric Ambler, the veteran suspense writer, knows how to ensnare readers in his fictional webs. ''Care of Time'' begins: ''The warning message arrived on Monday , the bomb itself on Wednesday. It became a busy week.'' The recipient is Robert Halliday, a professional writer, the sender an international terrorist using the name of Zander. Zander forces Halliday to act as an intermediary in some complex negotiations between NATO and the not-altogether-sane ruler of an Arab nation. Ambler stirs in hard-core revolutionaries and gentlemanly intelligence officers, chase scenes and convoluted schemes - all the predictable devices of multinational intrigue. Though the book contains no innovations, most readers will be entertained by it.
Albert Samson, the sleuth in Michael Z. Lewin's ''Missing Woman,'' is anything but glamorous, but he manages to get his job done. This time out, Samson must find a missing woman. His search takes him to a small town in Indiana, where the corpse of a local playboy surfaces to give the case some unexpected turns. Samson picks his way through the evidence, switches clients, earns the enmity of the local police, and moves uncertainly toward the solution. Lewin's quirky literary style takes some getting used to, but his laconic private eye has unusual appeal.
''What Nigel Knew'' is a mystery spoof that will delight film buffs, at least until they reach the book's ridiculous conclusion. Nigel Whitty, a top-notch film critic-turned-nasty gossip columnist, is attending the world premiere of ''Le Dernier Souffle,'' by the noted French director Jean-Paul Pauljean, when he is strangled with his own typewriter ribbon. All 11 people present in the screening room at the time of the murder have good reason to want Whitty dead, and it's up to Lt. Michael Connelly to find the guilty party. Evan Field (actually the pseudonym for a pair of film critics) knows the world of cinema well enough to produce a fine satire.
It's easy to see why Liza Cody's ''Dupe'' received England's John Creasey Award for best first-mystery novel of the year. Cody writes with the confidence of an experienced novelist, and she knows how to craft a plot. Her protagonist is Anna Lee, a one-time policewoman now employed by Brierly Security. When a couple, distraught over the verdict of accidental death of their daughter, come to Brierly for help, Lee discovers that the girl was involved with a film pirating ring. From this beginning the detective manages to sort out the case. We want to know more about Lee than Cody tells us here, but the dialogue is effective and the story carefully crafted.
Writer Jessica Mann asks: ''Why are respectable English women so good at murder?'' Her book, ''Deadlier Than the Male,'' attempts to answer the question. The first half examines historical and theoretical issues; the second half offers short critical biographies of leading mystery writers, among them Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Mann has thought deeply about her subject, and, while not everyone will agree with her conclusions, few will find the book boring.