Looking to jump into a new captivating mystery that you won’t be able to put down? Nothing beats a good mystery!
Discover 50 of the best mystery books of all-time with our ultimate list below, containing both classics and new finds:
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Of course, you can’t talk about the best mystery books of all time without talking about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel follows Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson on their first mystery together. After Watson takes lodgings with consulting detective Sherlock, he is pulled headfirst into the dark world of mystery and murder. In a mystery that has police baffled, Sherlock and Watson tackle a case of a murdered man without a cause of death and a mysterious word written in blood at the crime scene.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his imaginative crime-solving duo have been at the forefront of the mystery genre since these first adventures. The friendship between the two very different men gives the stories an engaging charm that plays off the intriguing mysterious exceedingly well. Doyle’s writing has captured his reader’s interest for decades, and the popularity of these stories does not look like it is going to diminish any time soon.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Nick and Amy Dunne are the perfect couple, and they are getting ready to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when suddenly, Amy disappears. Golden boy Nick is adamant that he is innocent, but his evasive behavior quickly makes him the chief suspect. As the police continue to search for Amy, the perfect marriage image beings to fall apart and lies, anger, and secrets abound.
The novel was published in 2012 by the New York Times best-selling author Gillian Flynn. The dark mystery story mixed with Flynn’s signature element of the psychological thriller makes for an enticing and chilling read. Gone Girl takes you deep into the minds of its characters where the reader must witness all of their darkest thoughts and feelings. Flynn has an infectious and intriguing writing style that makes the book hard to put down until all the answers reveal themselves.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones was written by author Alice Sebold and published in 2002. The book is told through the perspective of Susie Salmon who had been murdered and is now watching and waiting in heaven for her family to solve the mystery of her disappearance. The uniquely told take gives the reader an interesting vantage point at which to watch the case unfold and the just.
How much Susie affected those around her. The story is dark and intense from beginning to end but also hold within its pages a quiet and peaceful undertone that will hook you instantly. The incredibly writing, deep emotions, realism, and loving family depicted in the novel are more than enough to grab hold of any readers heartstrings as they are pulled along on this journey. The novel is unlike any mystery story that I have ever read and is sure to stick with me for a long time.
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Written by author Paula Hawkins, Girl on the Train is a dark and shocking mystery novel that asks us to reexamine the way we see those around us. The couple that Rachel sees every day through the train window on her commute seem to her to be the epitome of happened and living lives of perfection. But one day, Rachel witnesses a dark event that will shift her view of them and the world around her forever.
Written in 2015, this novel quickly pulled the attention of its readers and quickly became one of the most popular mysterious of its year. Following the track of other psychological thriller mystery stories, this book delves deeply into the minds of its heavily flawed characters. It plays deeply into a sense of human realism and the intrigue that we all have about those around us and the dark thoughts within ourselves.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
You cannot delve into the genre of mystery novels without looking at the queen of the genre. Agatha Christie is one of the best mystery authors, and she has written multitudes stories with a number of different and intriguing characters. In this 1934 classic, the reader follows private detective Hercule Poirot from Istanbul to London. Poirot is traveling through the Middle East when he receives an urgent letting calling him home.
He barely manages to get the next train to London, but luck fails him, and the train is forced to stop due to a snow storm. It is here, while the train is stranded that a mystery begins to unfold. A body is found, and detective Poirot is on the case.
While this is the tenth book following the private detective, this story has remained a favorite among mystery readers and Agatha Christie lovers and still manages to surprise readers today. The setting of a mystery on a train sparked a whole subgenre under mystery literature.
Mr. Mercedes by Steven King
This suspense-filled mystery thriller is a chilling read about blood list, survival, good, evil, and justice. Retired cop Bill Hodges receives a message from a killer who drove his Mercedes through a job fair, killing eight people and injuring fifteen more.
But the killer was never caught, and now he is taunting Hodges with the threat of an even more violent attack. Hodges will have to come out of retirement and pair up with two unlikely helpers to solve the case before more innocent lives are taken.
The chilling story is by one of the most renowned authors still writing, Steven King, the master of suspense and fright. The novel is a gripping read with intense and thrilling consequences if the heroes do not succeed. In this book, King has created a captivating work of fiction that is an absolute page-turner from beginning to end.
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Tom Clancy’s best-selling novel is filled with action, intrigue, and espionage. The military mystery thriller is a wonderful example of a story that uses details accuracy to make its readers wonder how much of it could really happen, adding to the thrill of the story.
This is a story about a chase that could change the course of history. A secret Russian missile sub is the target and both the United States of America and Russia are desperate to be the one in control of it. A Soviet submarine captain named Marko Ramius has gone rogue with the powerful weapon and an analyst working for the Central Intelligence Agency named Jack Ryan has a theory that he must strive to prove.
The Hunt for Red October is one of the novels that helped shoot Clancy’s writing career off, and Jack Ryan quickly became one of his most popular characters.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre, is the first book in The Karla Trilogy. In the book, it is discovered that there is a mole that must have been implanted decades before by Moscow Centre in Brittish Intelligence. The operations he has blown and the information he has mean that he must be one of the highest leveled members of the organization.
George Smiley has been assigned to discover who the traitor is and once he has dow that, destroy them. This mission is a top priority, for who knows what other chaos they could unleash. The exciting story is at the height of the espionage mystery genre.
The level of realism added into these novels is in part due to the fact that Carre worked for both MI5 and MI6 during his career. This exceedingly well-written novel is a thrilling and gripping read.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Harriet Vanger, heir to one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Sweden, disappeared without a trace forty years ago, but her aging uncle refuses to give up. He decides to hire Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist, to investigate, and partner up with Lisbeth Salander, a punk prodigy, to get to the bottom of the disappearance once and for all.
But the trio discovers a world of corruption, deceit, and iniquity like nothing they could have ever imagined. This international best-seller was written by Stieg Larsson and translated by Reg Keeland and is only the first book in the Millenium series. The book is a complex and rich mystery full of murder, love, and money. The story expertly weaves together multiple characters and plots, leaving behind just enough clues keep you guessing. It is an enthralling book that sparked attention world-wide.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The heroine of this story is a young girl working as a ladies maid when she is completely swept off her feet by Maxim de Winter. The wealthy and charming gentleman is a widower, and our heroine cannot believe her luck. He takes her to his country estate, where she begins to learn more about his first wife and see just how much the previous Mrs. de Winter still casts her shadow. It is here that our heroine begins to feel an evil that threatens her marriage and even her life. Author Daphne du Maurier is considered to be one of the best authors of her time and Rebecca is regarded as one of her most celebrated masterpieces. Written in the gothic style, this mystery is both chilling and enticing, as the reader is pulled along with the heroine into the depths of the dark and mysterious estate.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
One of the most chilling novels ever written, Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs yanks its reader into the mind of Hannibal Lector, a character who is sometimes referred to as ‘the ultimate villain of modern fiction.’ The story follows FBI special agent Clarice Starling who must turn to Lector for help to solve another gruesome serial killer case. The two form a strange bond as Starling continuously comes back to lector for help finding Buffalo Bill. In return, she must open up to him about her own tragic childhood as an orphan. The intelligence and charm of Lector just make him that much more terrifying a villain, and the closer Starling gets to him, the more shivers will run down your spin. The layers of murder, mystery, and personal agenda throughout this book make it hard to put down as all the pieces work to fall into place before you.
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Going into Dennis Lehane’s novel Shutter Island, it is important to remember one thing; nothing is as it seems. It’s a borderline horror story, in our opinion. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule soon discover this as they are sent to Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, on Shutter Island. A murderer has disappeared and is hiding somewhere on the island. Along with finding her, the dup must also discover how she managed to escape her locked cell kept under constant surveillance. The longer the two men stay, however, the more horrifying the place seems to become as the discover strange experiments and surgeries, leaving no one on the island unscathed. The dark and unsettling read contains one mystery after the next, continuously proving to the reader that things can always get worse, and expectations are made to be torn apart. Lehane does an amazing job of creating a setting that terrifies the reader while pulling them into the intrigue he has set for them. Shutter Island is one of (if not THE) best psychological thriller books ever written.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
One of the greatest hardboiled detective writings in literature, Raymond Chandler, is known for his intricate writing style, backstabbing characters, and multiple secrets revealed. When private investigator Philip Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood to find his son-in-law, he thinks the case will be an easy one. This is until he meets the general’s daughters Carmen and Vivian. Marlowe finds himself surrounded by crime, dealing with multiple murders, mobsters, while the General’s daughters make it all anything but easy for him. He is going to have to act quickly if he wants to complete the job and not get himself killed in the process. The book is a web of crime that goes from one action-packed moment to the next swiftly in a thrilling adventure. The captivating read changed the genre of crime mysteries when it was published in 1939, adding a pace to the genre that hadn’t been played with before.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
An exciting adventure that makes history itself a mysterious code that must be explored, The Da Vinci Code, by renowned author Dan Brown, is one of the Robert Langdon mystery series novels. The book is a worldwide race against time that starts in Paris where Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon gets a phone call in the middle of the night telling him that curator of the Louvre has been murdered, but on top of that, his body was found covered in mysterious symbols. Working with a talented French cryptologist named Sophie Neveu, Robert must work quickly to untangle the strange clues and riddles that all seem to lead them back to Leonardo da Vinci. The story only gets more complex from there with secret organizations, historical secrets, and mysterious adversaries. This is the kind of book that makes you look at the world with a new eye, as you wonder about the secrets buried all around you.
To the Hilt by Dick Francis
Alexander Kincaid is living as a partially starving artist in the highlands of Scotland, painting golf courses and staying away from his family. This peace is broken when he receives a letter fro home asking him to come back and help save his family from financial ruin. His step-father has passed away, and his mother is near ruin. He returns home to try and help his family find a family heirloom that could save them all, a sword hilt that is supposed to have belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie. The book is incredibly intriguing, charming, humorous, and engaging. The characters in the book are particularly well fleshed-out and fun to read about. Author Dick Francis is well known for his intellectual and fun mystery novels, and this book is many readers favorite. His writing style is beautiful and clever, making this book an exceeding pleasurable read.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Wilkie Collin’s fifth novel is considered to be one of the very first mystery books. The eerie tale follows a number of character but is centered around two half-sisters, Laura and Marian. Their uncle hires Walter Hartright to teach them painting, but shortly before beginning work, Hartright stumbles upon a mysterious woman dressed all in white in the streets. He is later informed that she is an escaped patient from a mental institution and was once very devoted to laura’s mother. Laura and Walter begin an affair, despite Laura being engaged to Sir Percival Glyde, who is 25 years her senior. The little group finds themselves in a web of lies and secrets, as someone begins to warn them about who Glyde truly is and what he wants from them. The gothic tale is an intriguing web of mysteries that the characters must unravel to save themselves.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Sam Spade thinks he has been hired to track down Miss Wonderley’s sister, who has recently eloped with a man that Mrs. Wonderley does not approve of, a fairly straight forward job. But when Spade’s partner, Miles Archer, is shot while on the job, a series of new mysteries begin to reveal themselves. Mrs. Wonderley is not who she says she is, Spade is now not only on the hunt but is being hunted himself, and behind all the lies seems to be a jewel that people are willing to kill for. Spade must track it down and learn just how much it is worth before he is caught and killed in the process. Author Dashiell Hammett wrote the Thrilling adventure novel in 1930. The iconic private investigator has only increased in popularity since the novel’s release and is considered one of the greats.
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Written by Elizabeth Peters, this novel is set in the year 1884. The first book in the Amelia Peabody series introduces us to the leading lady herself. Amelia is a strong, clever, and talented woman with a large inheritance. She chooses to spend this money, fueling her greatest passion, Egyptology. Amelia meets, travels with, and soon befriends Evelyn Barton-Forbes along the way. The two then meet the charming archaeologist, Radcliffe Emerson, who doesn’t understand the intelligence and bravery within the two women. The two adventurous women find themselves swept up in plots of missing mummies and strange mysteries. Amelia is the kind of character who captures the heart of her readers quickly and doesn’t let go. Her passion and determination make her a wonderful adventurer to follow throughout the story. The enchanting mysteries and intriguing history made this book an instant classic within the mystery genre.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Vida Winter has made a career out of writing about her outlandish and made-up life in a series of mystery tales. They have brought her fame and fortune for excitement but also because everyone has always known that one tale is missing. Nearing the end of her life, Winter hires Margaret Lea, a journalist, to reveal the thirteenth tale, that will also finally hold the truth of her tragic and extraordinary life. She bares all, the strange tale of family, secrets, death, and a devastating fire. But Margaret is also holding onto secrets and pain; together, the two women tackle the ghosts that have been haunting them. The story takes its inspiration from the classic gothic novel of the 1800s, despite being published in 2006. The eerie and enchanting story is a gripping read. As each mystery comes to light, the story takes, even more, hold of its readers.
The Haunting at Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House is one of the most chilling novels that I have ever read. The story is filled with unanswered questions and spine-shivering and hair raising mysteries. Four stranger come together at an unfriendly estate called Hill House. They are brought together by Dr. Montague, who is studying the house for its haunting. Along with the scholarly doctor, there is Theodora, an enthusiastic assistant, Eleanor, who already knows what it is to be confronted by hauntings, and Luke, the future heir of the house itself. The longer they stay in the house, the more spooky their experiences become until they reach a point of being truly terrified and can only ask the question, is the house itself alive and trying to kill them? The story plays with the fears that easily creep into the back of peoples minds, questioning what is around the corner, what made the creaking sound, and building them up until the character question tier own sanity.
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
A master in the realm of historical fiction, Ken Follett has created an intricate and engaging mystery in Eye of the needle. The best-seller is set in the throes of WWII. A ruthless assassin, who is only known as The Needle, holds the key to the Nazi victory, but an unlikely heroine stands in his way. An Englishwoman living alone on an island is falling in love with the mysterious man who has invaded her world. Both have secrets, though, and the outcome of their bond could change the fate of history. The mystery is a unique read within the genre, and intriguingly combines together a thrilling adventure, a mysterious romance, espionage, and danger. Although this is one of Follett’s earlier novels, his detail-oriented writing style and ability to write in-depth characters were already incredibly strong, making this a standout read in the genre.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum’s life has hit an all-time low; she lost her job, lost her car, and sold most of her possessions to pay last months rent and has nothing left for the upcoming payment. Rather than lose hope, however, Stephanie decides to become a bounty hunter. She decides to go big or go home by going after cop gone bad, Joe Morelli. She has her own personal history with Morelli that fuels her desire to bring him down once and for all. In order to do that, however, she is going to have to face adversaries that are not afraid to kill to get what they want. Written by author Janet Evanovich, this book is filled with action and humor. The book is an easy read that will keep you engaged with its characters and story throughout. Stephanie is the kind of person who doesn’t give up once she sets her mind on something, and it is a thrill to be taken along for the ride with her.
True Fiction by Lee Goldberg
Ian Ludlow has a unique job; he dreams up terrorist sceneries in order to help the government prepare for any and all eventualities. Years later, one of those scenarios comes true, and Ian is the only person who knows how it was done and who could be behind it. Ian is forced to go on the run to avoid getting killed over the information he has, and he ends up accidentally getting aspiring singer Margo French caught up in it with him. If they slow down before they can find a safe place to hide, they will get killed, leaving them no choice but to keep moving and try to solve the mystery and apprehend the true culprit before it is too late. True Fiction is the first novel in the Ian Ludlow Thrillers series by Lee Goldberg, introducing the reader to the clever and courageous character. Goldberg’s humor and depth of writing make the book instantly gripping.
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
Alex Witt is the new creative writing teacher an English prep school. She gives her students a writing prompt and is shocked by some of the responses that are turned into her. This leads her down a path of discovering the dark secrets being kept within the school. An elite student hierarchy, whispers of their connection to the mysterious The Darkroom, a riot against the concept ‘boys will be boys’ and a student ready to take her revenge all make this job much more that Ms. Witt bargained for. As secrets trickle out, the war between the boys and girl get worse the threat against everyone at the school becomes ever-increasing more dangerous sand more real. Lisa Lutz’s engaging and imaginative story has quickly caught attention from readers. The themes in the novel are not only exciting and mysterious but also extremely relevant to readers today.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Caleb Carr’s novel was an instant success when it came out in 1994, remaining on the New York Times Best-Sellers list for six months. The historic mystery-thriller takes the reader back to New York City in the year 1896. John Schuyler Moore is working as a journalist when a friend of his, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, calls him in to look at a horribly mutilated body of a young boy. The two of them join forces in creating a psychological profile of the killer in the hopes of tracking down the person responsible for the gruesome murder. This is a story that delves deep into the tortured mind of the killer, making it a dark but riveting read. The book takes the reader into what feels like another world as the characters explore the underbelly of New York City. This is the kind of book that will keep you guessing as you dive headfirst into the thrilling tale.
The Firm by John Grisham
John Grisham’s novel takes the world of murder and mystery into the corporate office. At the beginning of the book, the reader is introduced to Mitch McDeere, a Harvard Law graduate who starts to become suspicious of the tax firm where he works when a series of mysterious deaths begin to occur throughout the office. But as Mitch starts to look into it, he notices just how obsessive the office security is and the Chicago mob figure that has a connection to the corporation. The book has a wonderfully creepy atmosphere that unsettles both the reader and Mitch as more and more secrets come out. The book is a wild adventure from beginning to end and is a constant surprise. This was the first novel of Grisham’s to gain great success and enabled his future novels to gain their notoriety as this work showed off his writing ability and clever plots.
Of course, John Grisham is also well-known for creating some of the best mystery books in the genre, so it should be no surprise to see him on this list.
Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrew
The first book in Donna Andrew’s Meg Langslow series brings the reader into the world of the titular character. Meg is already dealing with trying to plan three different friends wedding for the summer. The last thing she needed was a mysterious murder to top it all off. During the preparations, a mysterious guest showed up and began hinting at the different guest’s dark secrets, and now she is dead. Meg knows it cannot be a coincidence, so she decides to turn her attention to solving the strange crime. Along the way, Meg finds out just how dangerous this murderer is and will have to solve the case quickly before it gets her killed. This cozy mystery novel is filled with both light and dark humor that keeps the book an easy read that is hard not to smile at as you go. The captivating story and clever main character work together perfectly.
Postmortem by Patricia Daniels Cornwell
Author Patricia Daniels Cornwell has created an intriguing, dark, and clever mystery story that uses the fascinating world of forensic research. The heroine of the story is a medical examiner named Kay Scarpetta. She is on a mission to solve a series of gruesome crimes that have left four women dead already. But the mystery of their deaths is only part of her problem, someone is trying to cabbage her investigation and some, it seems, wants her dead as well. The suspense fille novel makes the reader questions their assumptions as Kay tackles a dark and crime-filled world. When this book was published in 1990, Patricia and Kay were trailblazers in the genre of crime fiction and still affect the genre today. The unique use of forensics is captivating and opens up a new side to the investigations. This dark mystery is an enthralling read.
Déjà Dead Kathy Reichs
Now the name Temperance Brenan is most known for the long-running television show Bones, but the inspiration for the popular tv series lies in the novel written by Kathy Reichs. Deja Dead is the first book in the Temperance Brennan series and thrusts both Brennan and the reader deep into a murder mystery. Temperance finds the corpse of a female that has been disassembled while traveling through Quebec and quickly gets herself involved in the investigation, determined to find the killer who could be capable of the horrifying murder. But where there is murder, there is danger, and Temperance soon realizes that her life is not the only one in danger and she will have to work quickly to keep her best friend and her daughter safe. Reichs was able to use her own experience as a forensic anthropologist to add a level of realism and details in her book that makes it that much more fascinating to take in.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The engaging tribute novel, the great detective Sherlock Holmes, finds the investigator partnering up with Miss Mary Russell, an intelligent woman with a talent for detection and disguises. The two work together well and find great enjoyment in being able to share their extraordinary intellects. But when a mysterious villain appears, their new friendship will be put to the ultimate test. Laurie R. King does a wonderful job of paying homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in bringing his character to life, but she is also able to make the story wonderfully original and unique. Mary Russell stands well on her own, and the bond between her and Sherlock is interesting, fun, and feels realistic. From the very beginning until the very end, these two characters provided witty banter, intellectual discussion, and a great deal of excitement in their adventures. I was very impressed with this novel, and the writing style fo the author.
The Tower Treasure by Franklin W. Dixon
The first book in the exciting adventure series, The Hardy Boys, by author Franklin W. Dixon, gets right into the action as Frank and Joe Hardy are introduced when they barely get out of the of a speeding driver. This traumatic start to the day is only the beginning though, for the boys learn that the driver is responsible for stealing a boat that belongs to a friend of theirs. The mysteries do not stop here, however, and soon a robbery takes place at the Tower Mansion, and the father of one of their friends is blamed. The boys, with the help of their detective father, will have to work hard to clear their friend, find the thief, and return to treasure. The Hardy Boy adventures are an engaging and fun series of book that leaves the reader plenty of clues so that they can guess and solve the mystery right along with the characters. The plots are classic, but the iconic pair is a must-read.
Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
A unique choice in the world of crime mysteries, Naked in Death takes the reader forward in time to the year 2058, where technology has completely changed the way that the world is run, including how crimes are committed and solved. Homicide detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas is given a very high profile case when the senator’s daughter is killed, and her secrets are revealed to the world. Dealing with the circles of politics and high society is anything but easy and full of secrets and deceit. The only thing that could make it any worse, Eve is developing feelings for the extraordinarily wealthy and charming Roarke, aka, the lead suspect. Author J. D. Robb gives the reader an interesting view of earth’s future and the ways in which technology affect everything is fascinating. The book is wrought with intrigue, suspense, and fun characters that pull it all together.
Rules of Prey by John Sandford
In this book, the talented mystery-thriller writer, John Sandford presents one of his most popular characters, Lieutenant Lucas Davenport. The story is set in the Twin Cities where a serial killer, known as ‘Mad Dog,’ is terrorizing the inhabitants. The killer is a genius and is enjoying taunting and playing with the cops. This is when Lieutenant Lucas Davenport is called in to help. His own intelligence and determination make him a match for the cocky killer. It is a dark and twisting mystery story that looks cops who know that to get killers off the streets; sometimes, you have to bend the rules. Lucas is an intriguing character as he is independently wealthy and is unafraid to show his wealth and class. The strange game of cat and mouse that forms between the lieutenant and the killer is gripping to witness; the two of them each trying to prove themselves smarter than the other.
The Secret of the Old Clock by Nancy Drew
When you think of the most famous literary detectives, who do you think of, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and of course, Nancy Drew. The teenager detective is courageous, determined, and curious about the world around her. Inspired by her fathers work as a criminal defense lawyer, Nancy finds herself delving in the mysteries of the world around her. In this first novel, Nancy is determined to help a struggling family, facing ruin after the death of their relative Josiah Crowley. After some probing, Nancy discovers some clues that point to Crowley’s will being hidden in an old family clock. Nancy will stop at nothing until she solves the puzzle and finds the clock, no matter the danger she finds herself in along the way. Initially written in 1930 by Carolyn Keene and rewritten and released in 1959 by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. The young detective has managed to capture the hearts of her readers through her kindness and cleverness.
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
The first book in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly, this book is a quick, dark, and complex mystery thriller that is an instant page-turner. For a homicide detective, every case is hard, but for maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, finding the body of fellow Vietnam “tunnel rat,” who fought along with him, makes this case personal. Not only does he put everything he has into the case, trying to get justice for this friend, but his mind is taking him back to the days in Nam, and his survival mode is kicking in. The lines between justice and vengeance are blurring, and the truth behind the crime will shock Bosch as much as it will the reader. The darker and gritty story is not only an action-packed and exciting mystery, but depth given to Bosch’s war trauma adds a layer of depth to this book that gives it real and strong emotions.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
Written by the immensely talented author Elizabeth George, A Great Deliverance is a fascinating web of secrets and scandals set in the tranquil English countryside. George does a wonderful job of bringing her setting and characters to life in a way that make you feel like you are there with them throughout the book. As this is the first book in the series, it is here we are introduced to Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, for whom the series is named, and his partner Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. The duo finds themselves in Keldale a peaceful country town that has been wrecked by a savage murder. Solving the mystery will also unveil a series of dark scandals and appalling crimes that the town is determined to keep hidden. This is one of those stories that gets much darker than you would expect, but the gripping tale and delightful characters keep you invested.
Still Life by Louise Penny
In this enthralling mystery novel, the reader is taken to the quiet and sweet haven of Three Pines. The villagers are left in shock, disbelief, and denial when they find Jane Neal dead in the woods. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache shows up and quickly dismisses their assumption that the death must have been an accident. Gamache has been in the job long enough to know when something much darker is afoot. He sees the quaint little town with its innocent acting people and knows if he watches closely and for long enough, even this town will have to give up its dark secret. The novel was written by Louise Penny and is the first of fourteen novels that she wrote about the cynical and clever chief inspector. The book is insightful and full of depth that makes it a unique and refreshing read with plenty of unexpected twists.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
This novel takes its reader way back to 1327 to a wealthy Italian abbey. Here, the Benedictines have been convicted of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville has been sent to investigate the case. This mission, however, is quickly disrupted when seven mysterious deaths take place, leaving Brother William no choice but to take up the detective mantle and solve this new and deadly problem. Brother William is a fascinating character who uses his in-depth knowledge of Aristotle and Roger Bacon to help him decipher clues and his own determination to see him through until the end. But the longer he stays at the abbey, the stranger, the events around him seem to get. The incredibly clever and unique story was written by the Italian writer Umberto Eco and was translated by William Weaver. Everything about this novel is a delightful surprise, and the witty humor is engaging and intelligent.
In the Woods by Tana French
Tana French’s first Dublin Murder Squad novel presents the reader with a truly horrifying mystery read that sent chills down to my bones. In the year 1984, at dusk, the mothers of Dublin call their children home for the night, but three children never make it home. The police find one of the three at the edge of the woods, his shoes filled with blood and unable to remember anything that had happened in the previous hours. The other children were never found. Twenty years later Rob Ryan is a detective trying to move on from being that scared little boy. But when a little girl is murdered in those woods, he and his partner, Detective Cassie Maddox, take on the case. The book is exquisitely written and pulls the reader into the dark and eerie setting of the story with ease. I, for one, could not put the book down until the dark secrets from both mysteries were solved.
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Written by Kate Morton, this novel is the classic tale of a powerful aristocratic family living in their victorian estate. But the perfect family begins to fall apart after a mysterious death leaves the house feeling empty. The secrets of the novel are revealed in pieces to the reader by a woman who was there when it all happened, and she is finally ready to share her story with the world. The novel plays with themes such as the great change in lifestyle that took place between the world wars, the effects the war had on those who witnessed it, and the fading of memory. The book really captured my attention for this unique approach to the mystery genre, and the mystery itself kept me engaged and guessing throughout. Morton is able to capture the delicate balance between light and dark throughout the novel as well as a collection of well-written and in-depth characters.
The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry
This fascinating read leaves the main character, police detective William Monk, as much in the dark about the world around him as the reader. Monk was injured on duty as the accident has left him with no memory of his past. Desperate to hide just how bad his memory is from his colleagues, he returns to work. Here he is presented his own mystery to solve. A Crimean War hero has been murdered, and Monk must find the killer. Unfortunately, his memory was not the only thing he lost; he seems to have also lost all of his knowledge and skills as a detective as well. Written by Anne Perry, the memory aspect of this book forces to reader to look at the mystery novel in a whole new light. Suddenly the detective work, that so many great literary detectives find easy, is a strenuous task and the fumbles and struggles add to the thrill and suspense of the chase.
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
This historical suspense mystery novel is a gripping tale of murder, theft, and betrayal. Author Tasha Alexander has an amazing sense of character and timing in her writing that makes the entire story incredibly enthralling. Emily has done well playing the role of the grieving widow. It is not that she didn’t care for him, but she married him to escape her overbearing mother, and he died shortly after they wed. But two years after his death, an entirely different version of her husband comes to light. He was adventurous, daring, intelligent, and in love with his wife. Delving into his world to learn more about him, Emily finds herself caught up in a plot to steal precious antiquities from the Brittish Museum. I loved getting to see Emily realize that people can still surprise you and watch her come fully into herself as the independent, curious, and intelligent woman she is.
Her Royal Spyness
Rhys Bowen’s novel follows Georgie, also known as Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie. Georgie is trying her best to be independent and to survive. Most people are unaware that she is the cousin of King George V of England, and she prefers to keep it that way. She is living in London and cleaning houses for money and dealing with the fact that the queen wants to use her as a spy. Things are complicated but manageable. That is until she finds a body in her bathtub and realizes that someone is trying to kill her. This mystery story is clever and witty, making me gasp in surprise and laugh out loud within the same paragraph. This is only the first novel in the series, but it sets up the characters and their relationships really well for the later book while not letting suspense and intrigue of the plot sit on the backburner.
A Test of Wills
Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is still trying to recover from the trauma he faced during World War One Things are not made easy for him when he is put on a case to solve a murder that involves the military. Not only will Rutledge have to work hard, but the case will make him question even more some of his own actions in the war, causing him to start to lose grip of his sanity. This engaging novel was written by Charles Todd. It has a writing style that makes it easy to read and hard to put down. I was quickly immersed within the world that Todd built for his readers and felt connected with Rutledge. I appreciated the time spent on Rtuldeges journey as it wove in nicely with the greater mystery of the novel. This book is an excellent start to the exciting Inspector Ian Rutledge series.
1st to Die
The highly revered masterful writer James Patterson is the best-selling author of several different series, and his talent is not lost on this engaging murder mystery series. Four woman team up to help solve murders when they feel that the law has failed them. The first is Inspector Lindsay Boxer of the San Francisco Police Department, then her friend, Claire, the head ME. These two soon partners with newspaper reporter Cindy and assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt. The four women are determined to solve a case of newlywed coupes getting brutally murdered on their wedding nights. The four women are each talented, highly intelligent, and committed. This gritty murder story is balanced out well with the well-developed friendship that forms between the four women throughout the course of the novel. The action in the book is fast-paced, the characters are sharp and witty, and the balance between life and death is full of intrigue.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
The Talented Mr. Ripley is a story of obsession and dark tendency. Ripley is trying to escape his traumatic past when he becomes invested in the moneyed world of his new friend Dickie Greenleaf. Things quickly get out of control; however, as Ripley begins to show his anger, obsession, and social manipulation. These tendencies are leading Ripley down a dark path, maybe just dark enough to commit murder to get everything he wants. Ripley is a villain that quickly gained popularity in the literary world, some going so far as to call him ‘the ultimate bad boy sociopath.’ This dark but enticing story delves deeply into the head of this character and pulls the reader right into it as well. As the reader watches the events go by, you will either grow to despise Ripley or strangely want him to succeed. It is a gripping story of dark thoughts and darker actions.
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
This novel is the first by the talented James M. Cain. The novel brings the reader into the love affair of a married woman, Cora, and drifter Frank Chambers. There are instant sparks between the two, and soon they are embroiled deep in the heated affair. But it isn’t enough for them, and they begin to plot the murder of Cora’s husband. This novel is one of the epitomes of the hardboiled crime noir genre. The book is gritty, sharp, and witty. What made this book such a standout in the year 1934 when it was published as just how racy the love affair between the two Centrals characters is. It was even banned in some places when it was first released. The book opened the door for a new kind of gritty realism in fiction. The dark story and dark and desperate characters make it an astounding read from beginning to end.
Jack Reacher is an ex-military police officer. He is not a perfect person, but he certainly didn’t do anything worth getting arrested over in Margrave, Georgia, least of all murder. He may have his secrets, and he may have things he is ashamed of, but when he entered the town he was just going to be passing through and had no intention of causing trouble, but trouble found him anyway. The problem is, no one will believe him. This book is an exciting beginning to the series and a great way to get to know the title character, Jack. Lee Child has created a powerful character and one that will do what it takes to survive. The story is filled with action and suspense, and Jack put everything into solving the murder to prove his own innocence, especially as the body count keeps climbing. The book is dark and dangerous.
The Eye of the Beholder by Marc Behm
The book is the dark and mysterious story of a private detective who is following the destructive path of a female serial killer. He has followed her for years, tracking her as she changes her name, appearance, and victims, leaving only her motive the same. The PI has become obsessed with her and will do anything to keep his fantasy of her alive. The two dark and twisted characters are shrouded in their own mystery and secrets as the reader follows them across the map. The pacing of this story is slow and eerie, but the tension and suspense build-up throughout the book. It has a strange and almost terrifying quality to it as the reader struggles to learn more about these two people who seem to have lost all ability to care for the sanctity of human life. This book is somehow both disturbing and captivating to read.
A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
Charles Latimer understands a good mystery, at least the ones he writes and get published. But it turns out he is entirely unprepared for the world of political and criminal maneuvers. He got himself into this mess by trying to track the life of Dimitrios, a notorious criminal whose’s body was just discovered. Things get worse and worse for Latimer as he gets embroiled in espionage, drugs, assassination, and betrayal. The story is a complex web a ma way out of his depth is trying to untangle, but watching him try is thrilling and intriguing. The book, by acclaimed writer Eric Ambler, takes the reader on a heart-stopping adventure that keeps the reader guessing right along with Latimer. I could not help but become fully immersed in the intelligent writing, quick plot, an engaging cast of characters. This is an espionage mystery story that will knock you off your feet.
Did we leave your FAVORITE off of our list of the best mystery books? Shoot us a tweet @nerdmuch and tell us which is your favorite.