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

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
mystery classics crime

The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett

What It's About: From "a master of the detective novel [and] one hell of a writer" ( The Boston Globe) comes a coolly glittering gem of detective fiction that has haunted three generations of readers.

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

Publication Date: August 1, 1992
classics crime noir

Murder on the Orient Express
Christie Agatha

What It's About: Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the famous Orient Express in its tracks as it travels through the mountainous Balkans. 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...

Publication Date: January 1, 1934
mystery crime mystery thriller

And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie

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
mystery ágatha christie thriller

The Murder of Roger Akroyd
Agatha Christie

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: June 7, 1926
mystery agatha christie crime

The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle

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
classics mystery books i own

The Murders in the Rue Morgue
Edgar Allan Poe

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
mystery short stories horror

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7)
Jo Nesbø

What It's About: Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother's pink scarf. Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he's received and the disappearance of Jonas's mother - and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall...

Publication Date: August 19, 2007
mystery crime thriller

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1)
Lee Child

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 Reacher knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone...

Publication Date: April 25, 2006
thriller mystery lee child

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)
Kate Atkinson

What It's About: In #1 of series, Jackson Brodie PI follows three 30-years cold, unconnected Cambridge family cases:
1 A little girl disappears in the night.
2 A beautiful young office worker falls to a maniac's attack.
3 A new mother is overwhelmed by demands from her baby and husband - until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape...

Publication Date: September 1, 2004
mystery crime series

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson

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
mystery thriller crime

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

What It's About: The Silence of the Lambs is a psychological horror novel by Thomas Harris. First published in 1988, it is the sequel to Harris's 1981 novel Red Dragon. Both novels feature the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, this time pitted against FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling.

Publication Date: July 31, 2002
horror thriller mystery

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

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
mystery thriller crime

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

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
mystery humor science fiction

Shutter Island
Dennis Lehane

What It's About: US Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to find an escaped murderer named Rachel Solando.

As a killer hurricane bears down on the island, the investigation deepens and the questions mount. How has a barefoot woman escaped from a locked room? Who is leaving them clues in the form of cryptic codes? And what really goes on in Ward C?

The closer Teddy gets to the truth, the more elusive it becomes...

Publication Date: August 25, 2009
mystery thriller horror

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2)
Stephen King

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
stephen king horror thriller

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)
Jane Harper

What It's About: 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: November 8, 2016
mystery thriller crime

The New York Trilogy
Paul Auster

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
mystery 1001 books american

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Douglas Adams

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
science fiction sci fi fantasy

The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco

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: February 17, 1994
historical fiction mystery classics

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

What It's About: 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. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours...

Publication Date: May 17, 2007
mystery thriller crime

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn

What It's About: Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him...

Publication Date: May 14, 2012
mystery thriller book club

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1)
Jacqueline Winspear

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
mystery historical fiction mysteries

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

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
mystery africa book club

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Haruki Murakami

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
magical realism japanese fantasy

In Cold Blood
Truman Capote

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: January 1, 1959
non fiction classics true crime

Brighton Rock
Graham Greene

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
classics crime mystery

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

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
mystery crime thriller

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

What It's About: An Agatha Award Best Novel Nominee
Named One of the Century's Best 100 Mysteries by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association

From New York Times bestselling author Laurie R. King comes the book that introduced us to the ingenious Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes mysteries

In 1915, Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees in Sussex when a young woman literally stumbles into his lap on the Sussex downs...

Publication Date: January 15, 1994
historical fiction mysteries series

Rivers of London (Rivers of London #1)
Ben Aaronovitch

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
urban fantasy mystery crime

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)
Jim Butcher

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: April 1, 2000
urban fantasy mystery paranormal

Mystic River
Dennis Lehane

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
mystery thriller crime

Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta #1)
Patricia Cornwell

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
mystery crime thriller

Magpie Murders (Susan Ryeland #1)
Anthony Horowitz

What It's About: Alan Conway is a bestselling crime writer. His editor, Susan Ryeland, has worked with him for years, and she's intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. Alan's traditional formula pays homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers...

Publication Date: October 6, 2016
mystery crime audiobook

The City & the City
China Mieville

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
fantasy science fiction mystery

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1)
Louise Penny

What It's About: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines - a place so free from crime it doesn't even have its own police force...

Publication Date: October 3, 2005
mystery mysteries audiobook

A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone #1)
Sue Grafton

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. She's a twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments but with a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes...

Publication Date: April 15, 1982
mystery sue grafton series

Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross #1)
James Patterson

What It's About: What have we got? 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
mystery james patterson thriller

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

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
mystery crime noir

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

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
science fiction sci fi cyberpunk

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


A killer who targets lone women, who breaks into their apartments and performs terrifying ritualistic acts of torture on them before finishing them off. His surgical skills lead police to suspect he is a physician - a physician who, instead of saving lives, takes them...

Publication Date: October 2, 2001
mystery thriller crime

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

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
mystery crime mysteries

Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #1)
Dorothy L Sayers

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: November 1, 2016
mystery mysteries classics

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins

What It's About: Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre–the detective mystery. Hinging on the theft of an enormous diamond originally stolen from an Indian shrine, this riveting novel features the innovative Sergeant Cuff, the hilarious house steward Gabriel Betteridge, a lovesick housemaid, and a mysterious band of Indian jugglers...

Publication Date: August 1, 1868
mystery classic books i own

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

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. This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

Publication Date: July 31, 2003
mystery young adult books i own

The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon

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
mystery science fiction alternate history

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

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
historical fiction book club series

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

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
mystery short stories on my shelf

detective books novels stories noir mystery

detective books novels stories noir mystery

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