50 Best Detective Books of All Time

detective book novels noir mystery

Detective novels are such a great genre of books, filled with with quirky private investigators, dark back alleys, sultry heiresses, and shocking villains.

I fell in love with Agatha Christie novels early on when I was young for reasons I don’t entirely understand, but I’ve loved detective novels ever since. Most of the authors on this list have written multiple detective novels, but I tried to limit most of them to one or two entries, usually the first book in a series unless there’s a particularly good or well-known book in the series. The only exception is Agatha Christia, who gets three because I love her!

Anyway, there’s the list of the Best Detective Books of All Time! Happy detecting slash reading! :)

The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe #1)
Raymond Chandler | Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

What It's About: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid....He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.

This is the Code of the Private Eye as defined by Raymond Chandler in his 1944 essay 'The Simple Act of Murder...

Publication Date: February 6, 1939

The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett | Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

What It's About: A coolly glittering gem of detective fiction that has haunted three generations of readers, from one of the greatest mystery writers of all time.

A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter 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...

Publication Date: August 1, 1992

Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie | Harpercollins Pub Ltd

What It's About: Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer—in case he or she decides to strike again.

Publication Date: May 31, 2001

And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie | St. Martin's Griffin

What It's About: First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate...

Publication Date: November 6, 1939

The Murder of Roger Akroyd
Agatha Christie | Harper Collins

What It's About: 'Key in the lock all right, sir. On the inside. Mr Ackroyd must have locked himself in,'

Poor Roger Ackroyd. He knew that the woman he loved had been harbouring a guilty secret - she poisoned her first husband. And yesterday she killed herself.

But guilty secrets rarely stay secret...

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle | Thomas & Mercer

What It's About: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales are rightly ranked among the seminal works of mystery and detective fiction. The handsome packaging and splendid illustrations in this limited edition collection more than befit that classic status. Included are all four full-length Holmes novels and more than forty short masterpieces—from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes and more...

Publication Date: November 13, 2012

The Murders in the Rue Morgue
Edgar Allan Poe | Penguin Books

What It's About: The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in Graham's Magazine in 1841. It has been recognized as the first modern detective story; Poe referred to it as one of his "tales of ratiocination".

Publication Date: April 1, 1841

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7)
Jo Nesbø | Knopf Publishing Group

What It's About: V Osle napadol prvý sneh. Jonas ráno vstane a zistí, že jeho matka zmizla. Ostane po nej jediná stopa – ružový šál, čo jej daroval na Vianoce. Má ho na krku snehuliak. Predošlú noc sa nečakane zjavil na dvore a jeho čierne oči hľadia priamo do domu.
Prípad rieši inšpektor Harry Hole, ktorý nedávno dostal tajomný list s podpisom Snehuliak...

Publication Date: January 1, 2007

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1)
Lee Child | Jove

What It's About: Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He's just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he's arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Jack knows is that he didn't kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn't stand a chance of convincing anyone. not in Margrave, Georgia...

Publication Date: March 17, 1997

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)
Kate Atkinson | Little, Brown and Company

What It's About: The first book in Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie Mysteries series, called "The best mystery of the decade" by Stephen King, finds private investigator Jackson Brodie following three seemingly unconnected family mysteries in Edinburgh
Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night. Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac's apparently random attack...

Publication Date: September 1, 2004

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson | Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

What It's About: Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander...

Publication Date: June 23, 2009

The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter #2)
Thomas Harris | Gardners Books

What It's About: Hannibal Lecter. The ultimate villain of modern fiction. Read the five-million-copy bestseller that scared the world silent. The Silence of the Lambs. A young FBI trainee. An evil genius locked away for unspeakable crimes. A plunge into the darkest chambers of a psychopath's mind--in the deadly search for a serial killer...

Publication Date: July 31, 2002

The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme, #1)
Jeffery Deaver | Signet

What It's About: Lincoln Rhyme was once a brilliant criminologist, a genius in the field of forensics -- until an accident left him physically and emotionally shattered. But now a diabolical killer is challenging Rhyme to a terrifying and ingenious duel of wits. With police detective Amelia Sachs by his side, Rhyme must follow a labyrinth of clues that reaches back to a dark chapter in New York City's past -- and reach further into the darkness of the mind of a madman who won't stop until he has stripped life down to the bone.

Publication Date: January 3, 1997

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)
Jasper Fforde | Penguin Books

What It's About: Great Britain circa 1985: time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. Baconians are trying to convince the world that Francis Bacon really wrote Shakespeare, there are riots between the Surrealists and Impressionists, and thousands of men are named John Milton, an homage to the real Milton and a very confusing situation for the police...

Publication Date: July 19, 2001

Shutter Island
Dennis Lehane | William Morrow Paperbacks

What It's About: The basis for the blockbuster motion picture directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island by New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane is a gripping and atmospheric psychological thriller where nothing is quite what it seems. The New York Times calls Shutter Island, “Startlingly original...

Publication Date: April 15, 2003

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2)
Stephen King | Scribner

What It's About: Wake up, genius.

The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising...

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)
Jane Harper | Flatiron Books

What It's About: A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier...

Publication Date: May 31, 2016

The New York Trilogy
Paul Auster | Penguin Classics

What It's About: The remarkable, acclaimed series of interconnected detective novels – from the author of 4 3 2 1: A Novel

The New York Review of Books has called Paul Auster’s work “one of the most distinctive niches in contemporary literature.” Moving at the breathless pace of a thriller, this uniquely stylized triology of detective novels begins with City of Glass, in which Quinn, a mystery writer, receives an ominous phone call in the middle of the night...

Publication Date: March 28, 2006

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Douglas Adams | Pocket Books

What It's About: There is a long tradition of Great Detectives and Dirk Gently does not belong to it. But his search for a missing cat uncovers a ghost, a time-traveller, AND the devastating secret of humankind!
(back cover)

Publication Date: May 15, 1987

The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco | Harvest Books

What It's About: The year is 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon—all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity...

Publication Date: September 28, 1994

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1)
Tana French | Penguin Books

What It's About: A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods...

Publication Date: May 17, 2007

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn | Crown

What It's About: Marriage can be a real killer.

One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction...

Publication Date: April 22, 2012

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1)
Jacqueline Winspear | Penguin Books

What It's About: Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, began her working life at the age of thirteen as a servant in a Belgravia mansion, only to be discovered reading in the library by her employer, Lady Rowan Compton. Fearing dismissal, Maisie is shocked when she discovers that her thirst for education is to be supported by Lady Rowan and a family friend, Dr...

Publication Date: July 1, 2003

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)
Alexander McCall Smith | Anchor

What It's About: Precious Ramotswe has only just set up shop as Botswana's No.1 (and only) lady detective when she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. However, the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.

Publication Date: February 6, 2003

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Haruki Murakami | KNOPF.

What It's About: Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat...

Publication Date: April 12, 1994

In Cold Blood
Truman Capote | Vintage

What It's About: On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy...

Publication Date: February 1, 1994

Brighton Rock
Graham Greene | Penguin Classics

What It's About: In this classic novel of murder and menace, Graham Greene lays bare the soul of a boy of seventeen who stalks Brighton's tawdry boardwalk with apathy on his face and murder in his heart. Pinkie, the boy with death at his fingertips, is not just bad, he worships in the temple of evil, just as his parents worshipped in the house of God...

Publication Date: September 28, 2004

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1)
Robert Galbraith | Mulholland Books

What It's About: After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that...

Publication Date: April 18, 2013

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #1)
Laurie R. King | Picador

What It's About: Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes' pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger...

Publication Date: January 15, 1994

Rivers of London (Rivers of London #1)
Ben Aaronovitch | Gollancz/Orion Publishing Group, London, England

What It's About: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost...

Publication Date: January 10, 2011

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)
Jim Butcher | Orbit

What It's About: Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out that 'everyday' world is full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in.

Harry is the best at what he does - and not just because he's the only one who does it...

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

Mystic River
Dennis Lehane | William Morrow

What It's About: The New York Times bestselling novel from Dennis Lehane is a gripping, unnerving psychological thriller about the effects of a savage killing on three former friends in a tightly knit, blue-collar Boston neighborhood.

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends...

Publication Date: January 30, 2001

Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta #1)
Patricia Cornwell | Pocket Books

What It's About: Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman...

Publication Date: January 9, 1990

Magpie Murders (Susan Ryeland #1)
Anthony Horowitz | Harper

What It's About: When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she's intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages...

Publication Date: October 6, 2016

The City & the City
China Mieville | Del Rey

What It's About: When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own...

Publication Date: May 26, 2009

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1)
Louise Penny | St. Martin's Paperbacks

What It's About: As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life - all except one…

To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found lying dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident - a hunter's arrow gone astray...

Publication Date: January 1, 2005

A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone #1)
Sue Grafton | St. Martin's Paperbacks

What It's About: A IS FOR AVENGER
A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she's got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes...

Publication Date: April 15, 1982

Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross #1)
James Patterson | Grand Central Publishing

What It's About: A missing little girl named Maggie Rose . . . a family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C. . . . the thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher . . . a psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him - even after he's been captured...

Publication Date: February 1, 1993

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1)
James Ellroy | Mysterious Press

What It's About: On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia—and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman...

Publication Date: September 1, 1987

Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs #1)
Richard K. Morgan | Del Rey

What It's About: Centuries from now, advances in technology have redefined life itself. A person's consciousness can now be stored in the brain and downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve"), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen. Onetime U.N. Envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful...

Publication Date: February 28, 2002

The Surgeon (Rizzoli & Isles, #1)
Tess Gerritsen | Ballantine Books

What It's About: In her most masterful novel of medical suspense, "New York Times" bestselling author Tess Gerritsen creates a villain of unforgettable evil--and the one woman who can catch him before he kills again.
He slips into their homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, unaware of the horrors they soon will endure...

Publication Date: August 21, 2001

Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh #1)
P.D. James | Scribner

What It's About: Headstrong and beautiful, the young housemaid Sally Jupp is put rudely in her place, strangled in her bed behind a bolted door. Coolly brilliant policeman Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard must find her killer among a houseful of suspects, most of whom had very good reason to wish her ill. Cover Her Face is P...

Publication Date: May 8, 2001

Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #1)
Dorothy L. Sayer | Avon

What It's About: It was the body of a tall stout man. On his dead face, a handsome pair of gold pince-nez mocked death with grotesque elegance.

The body wore nothing else.

Lord Peter Wimsey knew immediately what the corpse was supposed to be. His problem was to find out whose body had found its way into Mr Alfred Thipp's Battersea bathroom.

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins | Modern Library

What It's About: "The Moonstone is a page-turner", writes Carolyn Heilbrun. "It catches one up and unfolds its amazing story through the recountings of its several narrators, all of them enticing and singular." Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre–the detective mystery...

Publication Date: August 1, 1868

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon | Vintage Contemporaries

What It's About: Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning...

Publication Date: July 31, 2003

The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon | Harper/Collins

What It's About: For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish...

Publication Date: May 1, 2007

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1)
Alan Bradley | Delacorte Press

What It's About: It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath...

Publication Date: April 28, 2009

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: The Greatest Detective Stories: 1837-1914
Graeme Davis | Pegasus Crime

What It's About: Some of these stories are a bit hit and miss, but it's kinda interesting on an academic level if you're someone very interested in this genre.

Publication Date: June 4, 2019

detective books novels stories noir mystery

detective books novels stories noir mystery