Here are 25 of the best mystery books of all time. This list includes what is hot right now on Amazon and well-loved murder mystery and detective stories that are recognized as classics in the genre. They are sure to be read again and again.
A IS FOR AVENGER, ACCUSED, AND ALIBI—Kinsey Millhone, a former cop turned private investigator, has a soft spot for underdogs and victims of injustice. In walks Nikki Fife, falsely accused of murdering her cheating husband, who needs Kinsey’s help finding the murderer. Things heat up when another corpse shows up, more suspects and motives. The closer Kinsey gets, the closer she gets to the edge—the razor sharp edge.
“I love Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone novels … you are never disappointed.” —The Guardian
Immediately after the fall of a probe satellite in a desolate area of northeastern Arizona, the nearby town of Piedmont has dead bodies lying flung across the ground with their faces in frozen surprise. Despite warnings from prominent biophysicists on the sterilization procedures of returning probes being inadequate to prevent contamination, something has gone seriously wrong. There is no telling what could cause this shock and fear—but the terror has begun and there is no end in sight.
“He had me convinced it was all really happening.” —New York Times
Andrew Yancy, a detective of the Monroe County sheriff’s office, has a human arm in his freezer. Yancy thinks the boating-accident/shark-luncheon explanation is full of holes, and if he can prove murder, the sheriff might relieve him of ‟roach patrol,ˮ a local health inspector gig for the Department of Hotels and Restaurants. However, with the wild Hiaasenian cast of characters and unexpected twists, there is no telling how Yancy will solve the murder while surviving the widow of the human arm, a voodoo witch doctor known as the Dragon Queen, his ex-lover, his new found love, the kinky coroner … and of course, the bad monkey.
“Bad Monkey boils over with corruption and comeuppance. And yes, there’s a monkey.” ―O,The Oprah Magazine
Private eye Philip Marlowe is hired by a dying millionaire to deal with his daughter’s blackmailer. But there is more than just extortion at play. Pornography, kidnapping, double-crossing, and murder are just a few of the complications Marlow must untangle in this hard-boiled crime story.
“The iconic first novel from crime fiction master Raymond Chandler, featuring Philip Marlowe, the ‘quintessential urban private eye.’” —Los Angeles Times
This is a comprehensive collection of more than forty-seven stories and two novels—noir detective stories that appeared in the legendary pulp magazines, such as Dime Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly, Black Mask, and more. Discover dangerous dames, hard-boiled detectives, gangsters, and lethal murder mysteries that popularized the mystery genre. Here is crime fiction at its gritty best.
“This impressive anthology of pulp-era crime stories from a veteran editor and publisher Penzler reveals not only tales with surprising staying power but also some high literary quality.” —Publishers Weekly
John Milton was the man MI6 sent in to “fix” the problems they could not. After 10 of years of loyal service, he’s ready to retire. Retirement means only two things: death or going underground—Milton opts for life. Life, however, does not get simpler. Attempting to help a young mother save her son from involvement with a deadly gang, he faces a dangerous foe on unfamiliar ground … and MI6 sends in another agent who wants him dead.
“Mark Dawson’s John Milton books are sharper than a stiletto. If you’ve run out of Lee Child books, Mark Dawson is your man. Absolutely brilliant.” —Mail on Sunday
Four members of the Clutter family were murdered using a shotgun only a few inches from their faces. Truman Capote traveled to the small town of Holcomb, Kansas to investigate the crime. Up against apparently no motive, and few clues, he interviewed local residents and investigators before authorities discovered or apprehended the perpetrators. In Cold Blood, is a work that goes beyond the crime itself, with insights into the nature of American violence, and is the second-biggest-selling true crime book in publishing history.
“Capote’s spellbinding narrative plumbs the psychological and emotional depths of a senseless quadruple murder in America’s heartland. A tale of such power moves not only around the country but around the territory of the human psyche and heart.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Often considered to be the first true detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe introduces Chevalier Auguste Dupin. Dupin is an amateur sleuth who uses logical deduction to solve how the crime was committed, putting himself into the position of the criminal. Also included are “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” and “The Purloined Letter.” Read these groundbreaking mysteries in a single volume.
“They set the mold for the mysteries that followed—strange, atmospheric, and crawling with elaborate clues and odd logical deductions. These stories are not only the undervalued roots of modern detective fiction but staggeringly good stories as well.” —Amazon Reviewer
Private Investigator Cormoran Strike lands the high-profile case of a lifetime. While the police have brushed the case aside as suicide, the death of supermodel Lula Landry, known by friends as Cuckoo, will not be left unsolved by her brother John Bristow. Strike finds himself in the world of rock-star boyfriends, desperate designers, and multi-millionaire beauties, navigating all varieties of enticement, seduction, pleasure, and delusion. You have never met a detective like Strike, nor seen the famous and wealthy under the scrutiny of an investigation like this.
Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon, is called to the Louvre in the middle of the night, where the curator has been murdered and his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and Sophie Neveu, a gifted French cryptologist, decipher the symbols, they discover a trail of clues in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, ingeniously disguised by the painter. Unless Langdon and Neveu can solve the puzzle—while running from a hidden adversary who knows their every move—the ancient truth will be lost forever.
“Blockbuster perfection. A gleefully erudite suspense novel.” —The New York Times
#1 New York Times Bestseller and USA Today Book of the Year
EVERY DAY THE SAME, UNTIL TODAY—Rachel takes the same train every day, passing the same homes, stopping at same the signal, watching the same couple live perfect lives … similar to the one she recently lost. Today she sees something shocking. This changes everything. She takes it to the police and finds herself entangled in the investigation and lives of those involved. But is she reliable? Has she created more trouble than good?
“Marries movie noir with novelistic trickery … hang on tight. You’ll be surprised by what horrors lurk around the bend.” —USA Today
Jack Reacher, an ex-military policeman, gets picked up and arrested for murder in less than an hour after arriving in Margrave, Georgia. While he is certain he has not killed anyone, at least not anyone in Margrave, Georgia, he doesn’t have any way of proving it. Attempting to solve the case for which he is the primary suspect, he unearths a counterfeiting ring implicating the mayor himself. Through a complicated and dangerous web of deceit, Reacher faces off with a foe that will stop at nothing to protect the operation.
“This first thriller by a former television writer features some of the best-written scenes of action in recent memory, a crash course in currency and counterfeiting, and a hero who is just begging to be called on for an encore.” —Amazon Review
When Detective Sam Spade’s partner is killed during a hunt for a missing girl, Spade becomes embroiled in a mystery involving a grifter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. At the heart of the mystery is a valuable Maltese Falcon statuette. Can Spade find the treasure—a treasure worth killing for—before it’s too late?
“The Maltese Falcon is not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, but it is also an exceedingly well-written novel.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)
Meet the quiet heroes and see the noir side of life that makes Montana as real as it is mythic. These are stories written by authors with Montana in their blood. While Montana Noir may seem incongruous to some; noir is black-and-white, streets and alleys—noir knows no boundaries. Noir is struggle, being trapped, doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. These are timeless sagas of choice, crime, and consequences.
“Montana may not have the back alleys so common to noir but it has Western justice which can be quick, brutal, and final and that is as satisfying as anything found in the urban streets that typically attracts the dark beauty of the noir genre.” —New York Journal of Books
When writing mysteries, L. Ron Hubbard immersed himself in the salient subject matter—studying both forensic science and criminal investigation. He interviewed a wide spectrum of law enforcement officials, federal investigators and even served as a Special Officer with the Los Angeles Police Department creating an authentic foundation for his detective fiction. So while his readers might remain in the dark until the final revelation, enjoying every twist and turn along the way, writing a mystery was never a mystery to L. Ron Hubbard himself. Enjoy this collection of four books, with 10 stories of sharp-edged crime and uncertain clues in the thrilling pursuit of the truth.
“Vivid action writing, suspenseful situations, and storytelling expertise carry the reader on a fast ride.” —Mystery Scene
Have you read a noir detective story? Get your free e-book download of L. Ron Hubbard’s The Carnival of Death, and get caught in the intrigue of this murder mystery by a master of the craft.
Was the wrong person sentenced to death for the murder of Christopher Thomas, curator of the San Francisco’s McFall Art Museum? Twenty-six authors follow detective Jon Nunn as he re-opens the case ten years later and discloses the web of deceit surrounding the Thomases, suspect by suspect. While solving the case may bring redemption to Thomas, those behind the murder will stop at nothing to keep their secret.
“It’s a fast-paced mystery that tells its story from many characters’ points of view. With so many threads being pulled into a story that includes murder, art theft, and forgery, the plot still runs seamlessly. It is an exciting read.” —Amazon Review
Meet Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum. After blackmailing her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman, to hire her as his apprehension agent, she teams up with a bounty hunter named Ranger to teach her a few tricks of the trade. Their first job is more than she bargained for: ex-lover and former vice cop Joe Morelli on a charge of murder. The powerful chemistry still between them makes for an interesting chase … and very dangerous.
“Snappily written, fast-paced, and witty.” —USA Today
Detective Ralph Anderson has what appears to be an open and shut case. An 11-year-old boy is found dead in the town park. All evidence points to Terry Maitland, one of the town’s most prominent citizens. As Detective Anderson digs deeper, shocking and horrifying information begins to emerge, creating almost unbearable suspense.
“King is arguably as much an American icon as the ’68 Fastback or a classic red-and-white Plymouth Fury. All of these glories are on full display in his latest mystery-horror hybrid … you’re in for one hell of a ride.” —The Washington Post
A monster strikes in the dead of night, leaving a gruesome trail of strangled victims. Kay Scarpetta, the chief medical examiner, suspects a deliberate campaign by a sadistic serial killer. She calls on the latest advances in forensic research to uncover the few clues. But this investigation is being sabotaged from within, and with each step closer, she is closer to her own death.
“Dazzling … fascinating … a first-rate thriller.” —Los Angeles Times
A threat so devastating that all of America is at risk, has the nation gripped in uncertainty and terror. There is a rumor of cyber-sabotage and a traitor in the Cabinet, implicating the president himself. Then he goes missing from public view…. Set in a three day period, inner light is shed on the workings and vulnerabilities of the nation, with the authentic detail only a commander in chief could know.
“Harrowing. Mr. Patterson withholds details until the moment of maximum dramatic effect.” —The Wall Street Journal
Two sisters, opposite in nearly every way, were torn apart by the tragedy of their teenage sister, who went missing more than 20 years ago. While neither has yet recovered from the heartbreak and horror, the wound is reopened when one of their husbands is killed. Reluctantly, they come together to find the truth that destroyed their family so many years ago and to discover the possibility of revenge—and redemption.
“A hell-raising thriller. A genuinely exciting narrative driven by strong-willed female characters who can’t wait around until the boys shake the lead out of their shoes.” —New York Times Book Review
Reporter Camille Preaker must cover the murder of two pre-teen girls that have been murdered in her hometown. For years, she has barely spoken with her mother or her half-sister, who seem to have a strange hold on the town. Staying in her old bedroom in the family mansion, she starts to identify with the victims—too strongly. She must fight her own demons and unravel the puzzle of her past to get the story … and survive this homecoming.
“A wickedly dark thriller that Stephen King calls a ‘relentlessly creepy family saga’ and an ‘admirably nasty piece of work.’ We’re calling it a cross between Twin Peaks and Secretary—sinister, sexy, and stylish.” —Amazon Review
Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead outside his mansion. While the death seems to be from a heart attack, his best friend is convinced the strike was due to a supernatural hound that has been haunting the family for years, known as the Baskerville Curse. With the Baskerville heir arriving, he enlists Sherlock Holmes’ help.
“Extremely well written and enjoyable. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I am an avid reader of the Special Agent Pendergast novels by Lincoln and Child and these stories appear to me to be the precursor for the Pendergast novels.” —Amazon Review
One of the top-selling mystery books in history. Invited to an exclusive vacation at a mansion on Indian Island, 10 people with wicked secrets are left stranded. Their mysterious host never arrives. Due to bad weather, and other unforeseen factors, they find themselves cut off from the outside world. Then the countdown begins, dying one at a time. Will they find the killer? Will any survive?
“The whole thing is utterly impossible and utterly fascinating. It is the most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written.” —New York Times
A black father takes justice into his own hands when his 10-year-old daughter’s life is shattered by two white drunken men. Defense Attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life as this small, mostly-white town of Clanton, Mississippi explodes with burning crosses and sniper fire. John Grisham probes the depths of racial violence as he delivers this compelling story of uncertain justice.
“Grisham is an absolute master.” —Washington Post
These suggestions of the best mystery books were compiled after research into what mystery lovers are reading. We scoured Goodreads, Amazon, and Google to bring you book recommendations that will be enjoyed again and again.
What makes a mystery book a great mystery book?
Mystery readers love the suspense of solving the puzzle, finding out “who done it,” and the thrill of figuring it out.
Mystery books are among the most popular books to read. In fact, crime fiction and mystery are one of the top-selling fiction genres, second only to romance, according to Bookstr.
New York Times bestselling author L. Ron Hubbard shared his secret to creating suspense in an article written to help mystery authors improve their craft:
“Next to checks, the most intangible thing in this business of writing is that quantity ‘Suspense.’
“Keep your reader wondering which of two things will happen and you get his interest. You focus his mind on an intricate succession of events and that is much better than getting him a little groggy with one swift sock to the medulla oblongata.
“That is about the only way you can heighten drama out of melodrama.
“There is not, unhappily, any firm from which you can take out a suspense insurance policy. The only way you can do it is to make sure that the reader is sitting there tensely wondering which of two or three momentous things is going to happen first.” (read the full article at L.RonHubbard.org.)
As our gift to you, download your free e-book of The Carnival of Death by L. Ron Hubbard: a noir detective murder mystery where Agent Bob Clark works deep undercover to break up a carnival drug ring and solve a bizarre series of decapitations, putting his own head at risk.
Discover the mystery and intrigue that sets this bestselling genre apart.
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