The 100 Best Mystery and Thriller Books of All Time

This is one of the 280 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

    A captivating tale of mystery and suspense, "The Woman in White" follows the story of a young art teacher, Walter Hartright, who encounters a mysterious woman dressed in white on a moonlit road. The woman is revealed to be a mental asylum escapee, and as Hartright delves into her story, he uncovers a web of deceit, madness, and dangerous secrets involving a wealthy, titled family. The narrative explores themes of identity, insanity, and the abuse of power, with a complex plot filled with twists and turns.

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    A young, impoverished former student in Saint Petersburg, Russia, formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker to redistribute her wealth among the needy. However, after carrying out the act, he is consumed by guilt and paranoia, leading to a psychological battle within himself. As he grapples with his actions, he also navigates complex relationships with a variety of characters, including a virtuous prostitute, his sister, and a relentless detective. The narrative explores themes of morality, redemption, and the psychological impacts of crime.

  • The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green

    "The Leavenworth Case" is a gripping detective novel that follows the investigation of a wealthy man's murder. When the head of the Leavenworth family is found dead in his locked study, suspicion falls on his niece, who stands to inherit his fortune. As the evidence against her mounts, a brilliant young lawyer is determined to uncover the truth and prove her innocence. With twists and turns at every corner, this thrilling mystery keeps readers guessing until the final page.

  • Daisy Miller by Henry James

    "Daisy Miller" is a novella that explores the social differences between American and European society in the late 19th century. The story follows a young, affluent American woman named Daisy Miller, who defies societal norms while traveling in Europe. Her flirtatious behavior and disregard for European customs create a scandal among the upper-class expatriate community, particularly catching the attention of a young American man who is both attracted to and repulsed by her nonconformity. Ultimately, Daisy's refusal to conform to societal expectations leads to her downfall.

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

    This classic mystery novel follows a detective and his partner as they investigate a supernatural hound that has been haunting the Baskerville family for generations, supposedly causing the death of the recent family head. As the pair navigate the eerie moors surrounding the Baskerville estate, they unravel a plot of deception and murder, all while trying to protect the new heir from the same grisly fate. The story is a thrilling blend of mystery, suspense, and horror.

  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

    In a small English village, a wealthy man named Roger Ackroyd is found dead, stabbed with a dagger. The victim's friend, a retired detective, comes out of retirement to solve the murder. The detective uncovers a web of deceit, blackmail, and hidden relationships among the victim's family and employees. The shocking twist ending reveals the unlikely murderer and the ingenious method used to commit the crime.

  • The Crime At Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

    "The Crime at Black Dudley" is a thrilling mystery novel that follows a group of friends gathered at a remote country house for a weekend getaway. However, their plans take an unexpected turn when a sinister secret society and a murder plot are revealed. As tensions rise and suspicions grow, the guests must navigate a web of deception and danger to uncover the truth before it's too late.

  • The Patient In Room 18 by Mignon G. Eberhart

    "The Patient In Room 18" is a suspenseful mystery novel set in a hospital where a mysterious patient is admitted. As the staff tries to uncover the patient's identity and the reason behind their condition, they become entangled in a web of secrets, deceit, and danger. With each passing chapter, the suspense builds, keeping readers on the edge of their seats as they try to piece together the puzzle and discover the truth behind the patient in room 18.

  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

    This classic detective novel follows a private investigator who is hired by a mysterious woman to track down her missing sister. The case quickly becomes complicated when the investigator is caught up in a dangerous hunt for a priceless artifact, the Maltese Falcon. As he navigates a world of treachery, deceit, and murder, he must use his wit and courage to outsmart his enemies and solve the mystery.

  • The Conjure Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher

    "The Conjure Man Dies" is a captivating mystery set in 1930s Harlem, where a prominent African American physician is found dead in his home. As the police investigate, a cast of intriguing characters emerges, including a voodoo priest, a cunning detective, and a journalist determined to uncover the truth. With its rich portrayal of the vibrant Harlem Renaissance and a complex web of secrets and motives, this novel delves into race, class, and the supernatural, keeping readers guessing until the final page.

  • A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

    "A Man Lay Dead" is a captivating murder mystery set in a country house, where a group of guests gather for a weekend of games and entertainment. When a harmless game of murder turns into a real-life crime, Inspector Alleyn is called in to solve the case. As he delves into the lives and secrets of the eccentric characters, he uncovers a web of deceit, jealousy, and hidden motives. With a clever plot, intriguing characters, and a touch of humor, this book keeps readers guessing until the final twist.

  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers

    "Gaudy Night" is a mystery novel set in a women's college at Oxford University. The protagonist, a successful mystery novelist, is invited back to her alma mater as a guest of honor and soon finds herself embroiled in a series of disturbing incidents, including poison pen letters, vandalism, and threats. As she investigates, she is forced to confront her own feelings about intellectual pursuits versus emotional commitments. The novel explores themes of women's roles in society, the value of education, and the balance between personal life and professional ambition.

  • The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr

    "The Three Coffins" is a thrilling mystery novel that follows the renowned detective Dr. Gideon Fell as he investigates a seemingly impossible murder inside a locked room. With a clever blend of suspense, intricate puzzles, and unexpected twists, the book takes readers on a captivating journey filled with suspense and intrigue. As Dr. Fell races against time to unravel the complex web of clues, the truth behind the murder gradually emerges, leaving readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    A young woman marries a wealthy widower and moves into his large English country house. She quickly realizes that the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, haunts every corner of the estate. The housekeeper's obsessive devotion to Rebecca and the mysterious circumstances of her death continue to overshadow the second wife's attempts to make a happy life with her husband. As secrets about Rebecca's life and death are revealed, the new wife must grapple with her own identity and place within the household.

  • The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

    The book is a classic espionage thriller that revolves around a crime novelist who becomes intrigued by the story of a notorious criminal, Dimitrios. The novelist's curiosity leads him on a journey across Europe, tracing the steps of Dimitrios, who is believed to be dead. As he delves deeper into Dimitrios's world of political intrigue, drug trafficking, and murder, he finds himself caught up in a dangerous game with life-threatening consequences.

  • Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

    "Double Indemnity" is a gripping crime novel that follows the story of an insurance salesman who becomes entangled in a dangerous plot with a seductive woman, leading to murder and deceit. As the protagonist finds himself increasingly trapped in a web of lies, he must navigate the consequences of his actions while trying to outsmart those around him. With its noir atmosphere and complex characters, this thrilling tale explores themes of greed, desire, and the destructive power of temptation.

  • If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes

    Set in Los Angeles during World War II, the novel follows the life of an African-American shipyard worker who is battling racial tensions and discrimination. The protagonist, constantly living in fear of being falsely accused of a crime because of his race, is also dealing with a complicated relationship with a white woman, further complicating his life. The book explores the themes of race, class, and the psychological effects of racism and discrimination.

  • In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

    Set in post-World War II Los Angeles, "In A Lonely Place" follows the story of Dix Steele, a former fighter pilot turned Hollywood screenwriter. Dix becomes a prime suspect in a series of brutal murders plaguing the city. As the investigation unfolds, the novel delves into the dark depths of Dix's psyche, exploring themes of love, obsession, and the blurred lines between reality and fiction. With its gripping narrative and psychological tension, "In A Lonely Place" offers a chilling portrayal of a disturbed mind and the destructive power of loneliness.

  • The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

    A detective, laid up in the hospital, becomes fascinated with a portrait of Richard III, the historical figure accused of murdering his nephews to secure his throne. He decides to apply his investigative skills to delve into the mystery, using historical documents and records as his clues. As he pieces together the puzzle, he begins to question the accepted narrative of Richard as a villain, suggesting that this image was a fabrication by the Tudors to legitimize their own claim to the throne.

  • Beat Not The Bones by Charlotte Jay

    In "Beat Not The Bones" by Charlotte Jay, an Australian journalist named Lewis Hall travels to the remote Pacific island of Aldabran to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a fellow journalist. As he delves deeper into the island's secrets, Lewis uncovers a web of corruption, violence, and cultural clashes that threaten to consume him. With the help of a local woman named Dr. Claire Hayden, he must navigate the treacherous terrain of Aldabran society to uncover the truth and save his own life.

  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

    A British secret agent is tasked with bankrupting a French communist and paymaster of a Russian secret agency at a high-stakes card game in a casino. As he navigates the dangerous world of espionage, he encounters a beautiful woman who is being blackmailed by the enemy. The agent must outwit his opponents and survive numerous attempts on his life, all while grappling with his growing feelings for the woman.

  • A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

    In this gripping psychological thriller, a charming and manipulative young man becomes obsessed with achieving wealth and power, leading him to commit a series of calculated murders. As he weaves a web of deception, he targets a wealthy family and pursues a romantic relationship with the daughter, all while concealing his true identity and sinister intentions. With suspenseful twists and a shocking climax, this dark tale explores the depths of human obsession and the lengths one will go to achieve their desires.

  • The Long Goodbye: A Novel by Raymond Chandler

    This novel follows the story of a hard-boiled detective in Los Angeles who becomes embroiled in a complex case when he befriends a drunk named Terry Lennox. After Lennox's wife is found dead, Lennox disappears to Mexico and the detective is left to unravel the mystery. The detective then takes on another case of a missing husband, which becomes intertwined with the Lennox case, leading to a web of deceit, corruption, and murder. The detective's pursuit of the truth leads him through a gritty and corrupt world, testing his resolve and morality.

  • Beast In View by Margaret Millar

    "Beast In View" by Margaret Millar is a gripping psychological thriller that follows the story of Helen Clarvoe, a troubled woman who becomes entangled in a web of deception and manipulation. When Helen receives a series of disturbing phone calls from an unknown caller, she becomes convinced that someone is out to destroy her life. As she desperately tries to uncover the identity of her tormentor, Helen finds herself questioning her own sanity and unraveling dark secrets from her past. With its intricate plot and complex characters, this suspenseful novel explores themes of obsession, betrayal, and the fragile nature of the human mind.

  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene

    Set during the French colonial war in Vietnam, this novel follows a British journalist and a young American idealist who become friends and find themselves in a love triangle with a Vietnamese woman. As the war escalates, the journalist becomes disillusioned with the American's naïve political views and the destructive impact of foreign intervention. The story is a critique of American involvement in Vietnam, exploring themes of love, friendship, and moral ambiguity.

  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

    The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller that follows the story of Tom Ripley, a young man struggling to make ends meet in New York City. When a wealthy shipbuilder mistakes Tom for a close friend of his son, Dickie Greenleaf, he offers him an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy to persuade his wayward son to return home. Instead, Tom becomes obsessed with the luxurious lifestyle of Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge, and goes to extreme lengths to make it his own, including identity theft and murder.

  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

    This novel tells the story of the Blackwood sisters, Merricat and Constance, who live in isolation in their family mansion, following the mysterious death of their parents due to arsenic poisoning. The sisters' lives are disrupted when their estranged cousin, Charles, arrives with intentions of stealing their fortune. The story is a chilling exploration of family secrets, mental illness, and the destructive power of mob mentality.

  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré

    This novel is a fascinating tale of espionage during the Cold War, centered around a British intelligence officer who is seemingly ready to end his spy career. However, he is given one last mission before his retirement: to bring down the head of East German Intelligence. As he navigates the dangerous world of spies and double agents, he is forced to confront his own past and the sacrifices he has made for his country. The story is a complex exploration of morality, loyalty, and the personal cost of political conflict.

  • The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

    "The Honjin Murders" is a captivating mystery novel set in a rural village in Japan. When a young couple is found brutally murdered on their wedding night in an isolated mansion, the local police are baffled by the lack of evidence and suspects. As the investigation unfolds, dark family secrets, hidden motives, and a series of puzzling clues emerge, leading the reader on a thrilling journey to uncover the truth behind the Honjin murders.

  • Where Are The Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

    In this gripping psychological thriller, a young mother named Nancy Harmon finds herself living a nightmare when her two young children mysteriously disappear without a trace. Years later, after starting a new life and having two more children, Nancy's past comes back to haunt her as she becomes the prime suspect in a series of chilling murders. As she fights to clear her name and uncover the truth, Nancy must confront her darkest secrets and face a relentless killer who will stop at nothing to keep his own secrets hidden.

  • Misery by Stephen King

    A successful novelist is rescued from a car crash by a deranged fan who is upset with the death of her favorite character from his books. Trapped in her remote home, the writer is subjected to physical and psychological torture as the fan forces him to write a new novel bringing the character back to life. As he writes for his life, he must also plan his escape before his captor's rage becomes deadly.

  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

    The Last Good Kiss is a hardboiled detective novel set in the American West. The protagonist, a hard-drinking private investigator, is hired by a drunken, ex-con author to find his long-lost daughter. The search takes him from the streets of San Francisco to the Montana wilderness, where he encounters a variety of colorful characters and dangerous situations. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of deceit, corruption, and violence that forces him to confront his own demons and question his values.

  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

    Set in a wealthy Italian monastery in the 14th century, the novel follows a Franciscan friar and his young apprentice as they investigate a series of mysterious deaths within the monastery. As they navigate the labyrinthine library and decipher cryptic manuscripts, they uncover a complex plot involving forbidden books, secret societies, and the Inquisition. The novel is a blend of historical fiction, mystery, and philosophical exploration, delving into themes of truth, knowledge, and the power of the written word.

  • The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

    This novel details the story of a high-ranking Russian submarine captain who aims to defect to the United States without sparking a war between the two nations. The American government, upon receiving information about the captain's intentions, sends its best analyst to aid in the successful defection of the captain and his crew. The novel is a thrilling tale of espionage, filled with suspense and detailed technical descriptions of military technology and procedure.

  • A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

    "A Dark Adapted Eye" is a psychological thriller that delves into the complex dynamics of a family haunted by a dark secret. The story follows the life of Faith, who is drawn into investigating her aunt's execution for murder years ago. As she unravels the truth, she uncovers a web of deceit, jealousy, and obsession that has plagued her family for generations. With richly developed characters and a gripping narrative, the novel explores themes of family loyalty, the destructive power of secrets, and the lengths people will go to protect their own.

  • The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

    In a secluded island, seven university students gather at the Decagon House to spend their summer vacation. However, their peaceful retreat quickly turns into a nightmare when one of them is found dead, mimicking a murder described in a mystery novel. As more bodies appear, the remaining students must unravel the secrets of the Decagon House and uncover the identity of the killer before they become the next victims. With a thrilling blend of suspense and intricate puzzles, this book keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the shocking truth is revealed.

  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

    In this gripping psychological thriller, a young FBI trainee is enlisted to interview an incarcerated and manipulative cannibalistic serial killer to gain insight into the mind of another active serial murderer. The trainee must navigate a complex game of cat and mouse, using her own wits and the killer's insights to understand and anticipate the criminal's moves before he strikes again. As she delves deeper into the investigation, she confronts not only the horrors of the criminal mind but also the darkness within her own past, leading to a tense and chilling confrontation.

  • Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

    Set in 1940s Los Angeles, the novel follows an African American war veteran who, after losing his job, becomes a private investigator to pay his mortgage. He is hired to find a white woman known to frequent African American jazz clubs, and in the process, he gets entangled in a web of political scandal and corruption. The story explores themes of race, class, and the complex social dynamics of the time.

  • Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan

    "Mean Spirit" by Linda Hogan is a gripping novel set in 1920s Oklahoma during the oil boom, where greed and violence run rampant. The story follows the lives of several interconnected characters, including members of the Osage Nation who are targeted for their newfound wealth and forced to confront a sinister conspiracy. As the tension escalates, the characters must navigate a treacherous landscape of corruption, racism, and murder, ultimately revealing the devastating consequences of unchecked power and the resilience of the human spirit.

  • Postmortem by Patricia Daniels Cornwell

    In this gripping crime thriller, a forensic pathologist named Kay Scarpetta finds herself in the midst of a serial killer investigation. As she delves into the brutal murders of several young women, Scarpetta must use her expertise to unravel the clues left behind by the sadistic murderer. With her own life in danger, Scarpetta races against time to catch the killer before he strikes again, leading to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

  • Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

    In this thrilling crime novel, an elderly farmer and his wife are brutally murdered and the only clue is the wife's dying word: "foreign." This sets off a series of events that involves a dedicated detective who must solve the crime while dealing with his own personal problems. The investigation becomes even more complex when the press catches wind of the dying word, sparking a wave of xenophobia in the community. The detective must navigate through the fear and prejudice to find the truth and bring the killers to justice.

  • Dead Time by Eleanor Taylor Bland

    "Dead Time" is a gripping crime novel that follows the determined and resourceful African-American police detective, Marti MacAlister, as she investigates a series of mysterious deaths in a small Midwestern town. As the body count rises, Marti must navigate through a web of secrets and lies, uncovering shocking truths about the victims and their connections, while also facing personal demons from her own past. With a strong female protagonist, intricate plot twists, and a vividly described setting, this book keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the final page.

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt

    A group of six classics students at a small, elite Vermont college, led by a charismatic professor, become entranced by the study of Greek culture and decide to recreate a Dionysian ritual, which ends in a tragic accident. The group, bound by their shared secret, begins to unravel as paranoia and guilt take hold. The novel explores themes of beauty and terror, the allure of the esoteric, and the destructive consequences of obsession.

  • Smilla's Sense of Snow: A Novel by Peter Høeg

    The novel revolves around Smilla Jaspersen, a woman of Greenlandic-Inuit and Danish descent living in Copenhagen, who investigates the mysterious death of a small Inuit boy who falls from the roof of their apartment building. Despite the authorities ruling it as an accident, Smilla's understanding of the Arctic snow and ice, her intuition, and her relentless pursuit for truth lead her to uncover a much darker, dangerous conspiracy involving powerful corporations and government agencies.

  • When Death Comes Stealing by Valerie Wilson Wesley

    "When Death Comes Stealing" is a gripping mystery novel that follows Tamara Hayle, a former cop turned private investigator, as she delves into the suspicious death of a young woman named Crystal. As Tamara unravels the truth behind Crystal's demise, she uncovers a web of deceit, corruption, and secrets that lead her to confront her own past demons. With her sharp wit and determination, Tamara navigates through the dangerous streets of Newark, New Jersey, in her quest for justice, all while battling her own personal struggles. This thrilling and thought-provoking story explores themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the resilience of the human spirit.

  • Fade Away by Harlan Coben

    In "Fade Away" by Harlan Coben, former basketball star Myron Bolitar is drawn back into the world of professional sports when he receives a desperate call for help from his ex-girlfriend, Emily. As Myron investigates her disappearance, he uncovers a web of secrets and lies involving the dark underbelly of the sports industry. With his wit, determination, and a few unexpected allies, Myron races against time to unravel the truth and save Emily before it's too late.

  • Killing Floor by Lee Child

    In this gripping thriller, an ex-military policeman named Jack Reacher finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when he is arrested for a murder he didn't commit. With his sharp skills and determination, Reacher embarks on a mission to uncover the truth and clear his name, leading him to a small town filled with dark secrets and a powerful conspiracy that he must unravel before it's too late.

  • Lady Joker by Kaoru Takamura

    "Lady Joker" is a gripping crime thriller set in Japan, where a mysterious woman named Yuriko becomes entangled in a dangerous game of deceit and revenge. As she navigates the seedy underbelly of Tokyo, Yuriko takes on various identities, using her cunning and intelligence to manipulate those around her. With a complex web of characters and a plot filled with unexpected twists, the book explores themes of power, identity, and the blurred lines between good and evil.

  • Morituri by Yasmina Khadra

    "Morituri" by Yasmina Khadra is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that delves into the complexities of terrorism and its impact on individuals and society. Set in the backdrop of Algeria's civil war, the story follows a young police inspector as he investigates a series of brutal murders committed by an unknown terrorist group. As he delves deeper into the case, he confronts his own beliefs and struggles with the blurred lines between good and evil. Through vivid storytelling and compelling characters, the novel explores the consequences of violence and the eternal struggle for justice in a world plagued by extremism.

  • Out by Natsuo Kirino

    "Out" by Natsuo Kirino is a gripping and dark psychological thriller set in Tokyo. The story revolves around four women who work the night shift at a factory and become entangled in a web of murder and cover-up. As they struggle to dispose of a dead body, their lives quickly spiral out of control, revealing their hidden desires and the depths they are willing to go to protect themselves. With its intense plot and exploration of societal pressures and gender dynamics, "Out" is a compelling and thought-provoking read.

  • Inner City Blues by Paula L. Woods

    "Inner City Blues" follows the story of a determined African American detective, who finds herself caught in a web of corruption and deceit while investigating a high-profile murder case in Los Angeles. As she delves deeper into the city's dark underbelly, she must navigate through racial tensions, police politics, and personal demons to uncover the truth and bring justice to those who have been wronged.

  • A Place Of Execution by Val McDermid

    In a small and close-knit English village, a young girl mysteriously disappears in 1963, leaving the community in shock and despair. Decades later, a journalist becomes fascinated with the case and begins to unravel the truth behind the girl's disappearance, uncovering dark secrets and hidden motives that have haunted the village for years. As the journalist digs deeper, she uncovers a web of deceit, betrayal, and tragedy, ultimately leading to a shocking revelation that will leave readers questioning the nature of justice and the lengths people will go to protect their secrets.

  • Those Bones Are Not My Child by Toni Cade Bambara

    Set in Atlanta during the early 1980s, this novel explores the devastating impact of the Atlanta Child Murders on the African American community. Focusing on the lives of various characters, including parents, activists, and law enforcement, the story delves into the complex web of fear, grief, and resilience that arises in the face of a serial killer targeting black children. As the investigation unfolds, secrets are revealed, relationships tested, and the community's determination to find justice is put to the ultimate test.

  • Blanche Passes Go by Barbara Neely

    "Blanche Passes Go" is a compelling mystery novel that follows the life of Blanche White, an African-American housekeeper with a knack for solving crimes. When a prominent white family's matriarch mysteriously dies, Blanche becomes entangled in a web of secrets and deceit. As she navigates through racial tensions, family dynamics, and her own personal struggles, Blanche uses her wit and intelligence to uncover the truth behind the woman's death, exposing the dark underbelly of a seemingly perfect community.

  • Death Of A Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

    "Death Of A Red Heroine" is a crime novel set in 1990s Shanghai, China. The story follows Inspector Chen Cao as he investigates the murder of a young woman, whose body is found in a canal. As Chen delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of corruption, political intrigue, and personal secrets that challenge his loyalty to the Communist Party and force him to confront the complexities of modern Chinese society. Through vivid descriptions of Shanghai's changing landscape and insightful commentary on social issues, the novel offers a captivating portrayal of a country in transition.

  • The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø

    "The Redbreast" is a gripping thriller that follows the life of Detective Harry Hole as he investigates a series of mysterious murders that seem to be connected to events from World War II. As he delves deeper into the case, Hole uncovers a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and political intrigue that spans decades and threatens to shake the foundations of his own life. With its complex characters, intricate plot, and atmospheric setting, "The Redbreast" keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the final page.

  • Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

    "Mystic River" is a gripping tale set in a close-knit neighborhood in Boston, revolving around three childhood friends - Jimmy, Sean, and Dave. Their lives are irrevocably altered when one of them, Dave, is abducted and sexually abused. Years later, they are brought back together by a horrifying event - the murder of Jimmy's daughter. As Sean, now a detective, investigates the murder, suspicion falls on Dave, leading to a tense and tragic conclusion.

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    The novel follows the story of a young boy in post-war Barcelona, who discovers a mysterious book in a hidden library that his father takes him to, which houses forgotten books. The boy becomes captivated by the book and its author, but as he grows older, he realizes that someone is destroying all books written by this author. As he delves deeper into the mystery, the boy's life becomes intertwined with the author's, revealing a dark and tragic past that someone wants to be kept hidden. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, and a historical narrative set against the turbulent backdrop of a city recovering from war.

  • The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

    In this gripping thriller, a series of brutal murders shocks the city of Boston. As the police investigate, they uncover a disturbing pattern: all the victims have been targeted by a skilled surgeon who meticulously removes their organs while they are still alive. With the help of a brilliant female detective and a renowned trauma surgeon, the race is on to catch this sadistic killer before he strikes again. As the investigation deepens, the team discovers a shocking connection to a past crime, leading them down a dangerous path of secrets and betrayal. With its heart-pounding pace and shocking twists, this book will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end.

  • The Emperor Of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

    "The Emperor of Ocean Park" is a gripping novel that combines elements of mystery, legal drama, and family saga. Set in the affluent world of African-American elites in New England, the story follows Talcott Garland, a law professor and former Supreme Court nominee, as he investigates the mysterious death of his father, a prominent conservative judge. As Talcott delves deeper into his father's past, he uncovers a web of secrets, political intrigue, and corruption that threatens to unravel his own life and reputation. With its intricate plot and richly drawn characters, the book explores themes of power, loyalty, and the complexities of race and identity in America.

  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

    The novel is a gripping tale set in Victorian England, revolving around two young women, a petty thief and a rich heiress, whose lives intertwine in unforeseen ways. The thief is part of a con to defraud the heiress of her fortune, but as the plot thickens, the lines between deception and truth, loyalty and betrayal, love and manipulation get blurred. The narrative is filled with unexpected twists and turns, exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and class, and keeps the readers on the edge till the end.

  • The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

    In a small Swedish town, the body of a young woman is discovered in a bathtub, her wrists slashed. Local detective Patrik Hedstrom is assigned to the case, and as he delves into the investigation, he uncovers a web of secrets and hidden motives among the town's residents. With the help of crime writer Erica Falck, Patrik must navigate through personal and professional challenges to unravel the truth behind the tragic death of the ice princess.

  • 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

    The novel is a sprawling, ambitious work that spans continents and time periods, centering around an elusive, reclusive German author. It intertwines five different narratives: a group of European academics searching for the author, a professor in Mexico dealing with his own personal crises, a New York reporter sent to cover a boxing match in Mexico, an African-American journalist in Detroit, and the horrifying and unsolved murders of hundreds of women in a Mexican border town. The narratives are linked by themes of violence, mystery, and the search for meaning in a chaotic world.

  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

    "Case Histories" is a gripping mystery novel that follows the story of a private investigator who is hired to solve three seemingly unrelated cold cases that took place decades ago. As he delves deeper into the mysteries, he uncovers dark secrets and hidden connections between the cases. The narrative is a complex web of intrigue, suspense, and drama, filled with well-crafted characters and unexpected plot twists that keep the reader hooked till the end.

  • The Devotion Of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

    "The Devotion of Suspect X" is a gripping psychological thriller that follows the cat-and-mouse game between a brilliant mathematician and a determined detective. When a woman commits murder to protect her daughter, her neighbor, a brilliant mathematician, comes to her aid, meticulously planning the perfect alibi. As the detective investigates the crime, he becomes entangled in a battle of wits with the mathematician, leading to a suspenseful and unexpected climax.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

    A disgraced journalist is hired by a wealthy industrialist to solve a forty-year-old mystery involving the disappearance of his niece. He is assisted in his investigation by a brilliant but deeply troubled hacker. As they delve deeper into the mystery, they uncover a twisted web of family secrets, corruption, and murder. The story is a dark and gripping exploration of Swedish society, as well as a thrilling mystery.

  • The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

    "The Lincoln Lawyer" is a gripping legal thriller that follows the life of Mickey Haller, a criminal defense attorney who operates out of his car, a Lincoln. When Haller is assigned a high-profile case defending a wealthy real estate agent accused of assault, he soon discovers a web of corruption and deceit that puts not only his client's innocence but also his own life at stake. With a fast-paced narrative and complex characters, the book explores the dark underbelly of the legal system and keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the final page.

  • Snakeskin Shamisen by Naomi Hirahara

    "Snakeskin Shamisen" is a captivating mystery novel set in Los Angeles, following the life of Mas Arai, a Japanese-American gardener and Hiroshima survivor. When a fellow musician is found dead, Mas becomes entangled in a web of secrets and cultural tensions as he navigates the worlds of traditional Japanese music and the dark underbelly of the city. With vivid descriptions, complex characters, and a thought-provoking exploration of identity and heritage, this book takes readers on a thrilling journey through the hidden corners of LA.

  • Queenpin by Megan Abbott

    "Queenpin" by Megan Abbott is a gripping crime novel set in the 1950s, following the life of a young woman who becomes entangled in the world of organized crime. The story delves into the dark underbelly of the criminal underworld as the protagonist navigates her way through dangerous alliances and power struggles. With its noir atmosphere and complex characters, "Queenpin" offers a thrilling and suspenseful exploration of loyalty, ambition, and the consequences of one's choices.

  • What The Dead Know by Laura Lippman

    In "What The Dead Know" by Laura Lippman, a woman claiming to be one of the two missing Bethany sisters suddenly appears after thirty years, setting off a chain of events that forces the police, the media, and the families involved to revisit the unsolved case. As the truth slowly unravels, secrets from the past are exposed, revealing the devastating impact the disappearance had on the family and the lingering effects it has had on those left behind.

  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

    In an alternate reality where Jewish refugees found sanctuary in Alaska during World War II, the book follows a homicide detective in the Yiddish-speaking metropolis of Sitka as he investigates the murder of a former chess prodigy. The detective's quest takes him from the city's seedy underbelly to the highest echelons of power, and he uncovers a vast conspiracy that threatens the very existence of the Jewish homeland in Alaska. The novel is a blend of detective fiction, alternate history, and Jewish humor.

  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

    This novel centers around an eccentric woman living in a remote Polish village, who becomes embroiled in a series of mysterious deaths occurring in her community. As she investigates, she is drawn into a deeper exploration of nature, astrology, and the human psyche, all while navigating the dismissive attitudes of the local law enforcement. The narrative is a blend of dark comedy, philosophical inquiry, and mystery, with a strong underlying commentary on animal rights and environmentalism.

  • Wife Of The Gods by Kwei Quartey

    In a small village in Ghana, a young woman's body is found in a sacred forest, sparking an investigation led by Detective Inspector Darko Dawson. As he delves into the case, Darko uncovers a web of secrets and corruption that reaches high into the country's political elite. Along the way, he must confront his own personal demons and navigate the complexities of his culture and beliefs. With vivid descriptions of Ghanaian life and a gripping plot, "Wife Of The Gods" is a compelling crime novel that explores themes of tradition, power, and the clash between modernity and ancient customs.

  • Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

    "Bury Your Dead" is a gripping mystery novel that intertwines three separate storylines. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is haunted by a previous case gone wrong while he investigates a murder in Quebec City. Simultaneously, a historian delves into the history of the city, unearthing secrets that could change its perception forever. As the two narratives unfold, the past and present collide, revealing shocking truths and forcing Gamache to confront his own demons.

  • Faithful Place by Tana French

    "Faithful Place" is a gripping psychological thriller that follows the story of Frank Mackey, a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad. When a suitcase belonging to his long-lost girlfriend from twenty years ago is discovered in an abandoned house, Frank is forced to confront his painful past and the secrets that tore him apart from his family and the love of his life. As he delves deeper into the mystery, Frank becomes entangled in a web of lies, betrayal, and murder, ultimately leading him to question his own identity and the choices he has made.

  • The Plotters by Un-su Kim

    "The Plotters" is a gripping novel set in a dystopian world where assassins are hired to eliminate targets chosen by a secret organization. Reseng, a highly skilled and detached killer, finds himself caught in a web of conspiracy and betrayal when his latest target turns out to be someone he knows. As he delves deeper into the mysterious workings of the organization, Reseng must confront his own past and question the morality of his profession. With its dark humor and unpredictable twists, this book explores themes of identity, loyalty, and the consequences of one's actions.

  • The Sound Of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

    "The Sound Of Things Falling" is a thought-provoking novel that delves into the complex and haunting aftermath of the drug trade in Colombia. Set against the backdrop of a turbulent country, the story follows the lives of two men whose paths intertwine in unexpected ways. Through vivid storytelling and poignant reflections, the book explores themes of memory, guilt, and the lasting impact of violence on individuals and society.

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    This thrilling novel revolves around the sudden disappearance of a woman on her fifth wedding anniversary. As the investigation unfolds, all evidence points to her husband as the prime suspect. However, the story takes a twist as the wife's diary entries reveal a darker side to their seemingly perfect marriage. The narrative alternates between the husband's present-day perspective and the wife's diary entries, leaving readers in suspense about what truly happened. The book explores themes of deceit, media influence, and the complexities of marriage.

  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich

    A teenage boy navigates the complexities of life after his mother is brutally attacked on their reservation in North Dakota. As the legal system fails to bring justice due to jurisdictional issues, the boy takes matters into his own hands. The novel explores themes of tribal law, justice, and the transition into adulthood, all set against the backdrop of Native American culture and history.

  • Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

    In this gripping crime thriller, a former detective turned press officer is haunted by a cold case from 14 years ago, the unsolved abduction of a young girl. As he navigates the complex world of police bureaucracy and media pressure, he becomes entangled in a web of secrets and corruption that threatens to unravel his career and personal life. With meticulous attention to detail and a deep exploration of the human psyche, this novel delves into the complexities of crime, guilt, and the lengths one will go to protect their reputation.

  • Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

    "Ordinary Grace" is a coming-of-age novel set in a small Minnesota town in the 1960s. The story follows Frank, a thirteen-year-old boy, as he navigates the complexities of family, friendship, and the harsh realities of life and death. When a series of tragic events befall the community, Frank is forced to confront the fragility of life and the power of forgiveness, ultimately learning valuable lessons about love, loss, and the importance of cherishing ordinary moments.

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

    In a seemingly idyllic beachside town, three women's lives become entangled when their children start kindergarten. As the school year progresses, secrets, lies, and betrayals slowly unravel, leading to a shocking incident that will change their lives forever. With a mix of humor, suspense, and poignant moments, this gripping novel explores the complexities of motherhood, friendship, and the consequences of keeping secrets.

  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

    "Everything I Never Told You" is a gripping and emotionally charged novel that delves into the complexities of a Chinese-American family living in 1970s Ohio. When their daughter Lydia goes missing and is later found dead, the Lee family is shattered by grief and forced to confront their own secrets and insecurities. As they navigate through their individual struggles, the novel explores themes of identity, race, and the pressures of societal expectations, painting a poignant portrait of a family on the brink of collapse.

  • Land Of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall

    In this gripping thriller, a homicide detective named Elouise "Lou" Norton is determined to solve the mysterious murder of a teenage girl in South Los Angeles. As she delves deeper into the case, Lou uncovers a web of secrets and corruption that reaches far beyond the crime scene. With her own troubled past haunting her, Lou must navigate through the dangerous underbelly of the city to uncover the truth and bring the killer to justice.

  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

    "The Sympathizer" is a gripping spy novel set during the Vietnam War. The protagonist is a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who is a communist double agent. After the Fall of Saigon, he moves to America with other South Vietnamese refugees and struggles to reconcile his dual loyalties as he continues to spy on his fellow countrymen in exile. The novel explores themes of identity, war, and politics, while providing a unique perspective on the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

    "Bluebird, Bluebird" follows the story of Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger who finds himself caught in a small East Texas town plagued by racial tensions and unsolved murders. When two bodies are discovered, one black and one white, Darren is determined to uncover the truth behind these racially charged crimes. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he uncovers a web of secrets, corruption, and long-buried truths that threaten to tear the town apart. In a gripping and atmospheric narrative, the book explores themes of race, justice, and identity while unraveling a complex mystery.

  • Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

    In "Hollywood Homicide," a former actress turned amateur sleuth finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation when her friend, a rising starlet, is found dead. With her dreams of becoming a detective reignited, she navigates the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to uncover the truth, facing off against a cast of eccentric characters and discovering that fame can be deadly.

  • My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

    In this darkly comedic novel, a nurse named Korede finds herself repeatedly cleaning up after her sister Ayoola, who has a disturbing habit of killing her boyfriends. As Ayoola's murderous tendencies escalate, Korede is torn between her loyalty to her sister and her growing concern for the next potential victim. As secrets unravel and tensions rise, the sisters' bond is put to the ultimate test, leading to a gripping and unexpected conclusion.

  • The Widows Of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

    Set in 1920s Bombay, "The Widows of Malabar Hill" follows Perveen Mistry, the city's first female lawyer, as she navigates a complex case involving the inheritance of three widows. When a wealthy Muslim man dies, leaving behind a vast estate, Perveen becomes entangled in a web of deceit, family secrets, and cultural traditions. As she unravels the truth, Perveen must confront her own personal demons and challenge societal norms to seek justice for the widows.

  • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

    In a small town, a Korean immigrant family runs a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) facility, offering hope to desperate parents seeking treatment for their children's autism. However, tragedy strikes when a mysterious explosion occurs at the facility, killing two people. As the community reels from the incident, the subsequent trial uncovers a web of secrets and lies, revealing the complex relationships between the families involved and the lengths they would go to protect their loved ones. Told from multiple perspectives, "Miracle Creek" explores themes of sacrifice, forgiveness, and the lengths people will go to find redemption in the face of tragedy.

  • The Need by Helen Phillips

    "The Need" by Helen Phillips is a gripping psychological thriller that explores the unsettling experiences of Molly, a paleobotanist and mother of two young children. As she balances her career and family life, strange occurrences begin to unfold, blurring the lines between reality and imagination. Molly becomes increasingly convinced that she is being watched and her children are in danger. With an eerie blend of suspense and introspection, the novel delves into themes of motherhood, identity, and the primal instincts that drive us.

  • The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

    "The Other Americans" by Laila Lalami is a compelling and intricate novel that explores the interconnected lives of a diverse group of characters living in a small California town. When a Moroccan immigrant is killed in a hit-and-run accident, the incident sets off a chain of events that uncover hidden secrets, racial tensions, and the complexities of identity in America. Through multiple perspectives, Lalami skillfully delves into themes of love, loss, and the search for belonging, ultimately painting a vivid portrait of contemporary American life.

  • The Turn Of The Key by Ruth Ware

    In "The Turn of the Key" by Ruth Ware, a young woman named Rowan Caine takes a job as a live-in nanny at a luxurious smart home in the Scottish Highlands. However, the seemingly perfect opportunity quickly turns into a nightmare as Rowan discovers the dark secrets hidden within the house and the tragic events that have unfolded in the past. As strange occurrences escalate and tensions rise, Rowan becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation, desperately trying to prove her innocence and uncover the truth before it's too late.

  • Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

    "Your House Will Pay" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that explores themes of race, family, and forgiveness. Set in Los Angeles, the story follows two families, one African American and one Korean American, whose lives become intertwined after a shocking act of violence. As tensions rise and secrets are revealed, the characters are forced to confront their past and grapple with the consequences of their actions. Through its powerful storytelling and complex characters, the book offers a profound examination of the lingering effects of historical injustices and the potential for redemption.

  • Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

    In this gripping crime novel, a former getaway driver turned mechanic, named Beauregard "Bug" Montage, is tempted to return to his criminal past when faced with mounting financial struggles. As he struggles to provide for his family and keep his auto shop afloat, Bug finds himself drawn back into the dangerous world of high-stakes heists. With a blend of adrenaline-fueled action and poignant family dynamics, this book delves into themes of race, identity, and the consequences of one's choices.

  • Djinn Patrol On The Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

    Set in a sprawling slum in India, this novel follows nine-year-old Jai and his friends as they embark on a quest to find a missing classmate. As children in their community continue to disappear, Jai takes it upon himself to become a detective, determined to uncover the truth. Faced with poverty, corruption, and a society that disregards their plight, Jai and his friends navigate the complexities of their surroundings while grappling with their own fears and dreams. Through their eyes, the book explores themes of innocence, resilience, and the harsh realities of life in a marginalized community.

  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    In "Mexican Gothic," a young woman named Noemí travels to a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside to rescue her cousin who has seemingly fallen under the spell of her new husband. As Noemí delves deeper into the eerie and unsettling atmosphere of the house, she uncovers dark family secrets and confronts a malevolent force that threatens their lives. Blending elements of gothic horror and Mexican folklore, this atmospheric tale explores themes of colonialism, racism, and female empowerment in a captivating and chilling narrative.

  • When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

    "When No One Is Watching" is a gripping thriller that takes place in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. Sydney, a young Black woman, becomes increasingly suspicious of the changes happening around her as her neighbors mysteriously disappear. Teaming up with her new white neighbor, Theo, they uncover a dark conspiracy that threatens to upend the community and their lives. As Sydney and Theo dig deeper, they must navigate a web of lies, secrets, and hidden agendas, while also confronting their own personal demons. This thought-provoking novel explores themes of race, identity, and the insidious nature of systemic oppression, keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the shocking conclusion.

  • Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

    "Winter Counts" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The story follows Virgil Wounded Horse, a local enforcer who takes justice into his own hands when the legal system fails his community. When his nephew becomes entangled in the dangerous world of drug trafficking, Virgil embarks on a mission to protect his family and seek retribution. Through its powerful narrative and exploration of Native American culture, the book sheds light on the complexities of modern-day reservation life and the struggle for justice in an unjust world.

  • Survivor’s Guilt by Robyn Gigl

    "Survivor's Guilt" follows the gripping journey of a defense attorney named Lily Forrester, who becomes haunted by a traumatic event from her past. Faced with the guilt of surviving a tragic accident that claimed the lives of her best friend and a young girl, Lily's life takes a dark turn as she grapples with the consequences of her actions. As she delves deeper into the truth surrounding the accident, Lily must confront her own demons and fight for redemption, all while navigating the complex world of the legal system. This suspenseful and emotionally charged novel explores themes of guilt, forgiveness, and the lengths one will go to seek justice and find peace.

About this list

Time, 100 Books

With a panel of celebrated authors—Megan Abbott, Harlan Coben, S.A. Cosby, Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Rachel Howzell Hall, and Sujata Massey—TIME presents the most gripping, twist-filled, satisfying, and influential mystery and thriller books, in chronological order beginning in the 1800s.

Added 6 months ago.

How Good is this List?

This list has a weight of 72%. To learn more about what this means please visit the Rankings page.

Here is a list of what is decreasing the importance of this list:

  • List: only covers a few specific genres

If you think this is incorrect please e-mail us at contact@thegreatestbooks.org.