The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time

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

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

    This book is a comprehensive collection of all 56 short stories and four novels centered around the brilliant detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his loyal friend, Dr. John Watson. Set in late 19th and early 20th century London, the stories follow Holmes as he uses his exceptional deductive reasoning and astute observation skills to solve a variety of complex and intriguing mysteries. From murder and theft to espionage and the supernatural, no case is too challenging for this iconic detective.

  • 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 Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

    This collection brings together all of the author's most famous works, including poems, short stories, and novellas. Known for his macabre and gothic storytelling, the author's works are filled with themes of death, love lost, and human frailty. Notable inclusions are the haunting poem "The Raven," the chilling stories "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher," and his only complete novel, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym."

  • 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 He decides to apply his investigative skills to delve into the mystery, using historical documents and records as his clues.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.

  • Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

    A gripping legal thriller, this novel follows the story of a chief deputy prosecutor who finds himself accused of the brutal murder of his colleague, with whom he had a passionate extramarital affair. As the evidence against him mounts, he struggles to prove his innocence while uncovering corruption and deceit within the very system he once served. The story is a riveting exploration of the complexities of the legal system, human nature, and the concept of presumed innocence.

  • 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 Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

    "The Moonstone" is a detective novel that revolves around a large, valuable yellow diamond that was stolen from an Indian temple and is now in England. The diamond is bequeathed to a young woman on her eighteenth birthday, but is stolen that same night. The novel follows the investigation of the theft, which is complicated by a series of confusing events and false leads. The resolution involves the unraveling of a tangled web of deception, crime, and colonial guilt.

  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

    In this classic detective novel, a private investigator is hired by a wealthy family to resolve a blackmail issue involving the younger daughter. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of deceit, murder, and organized crime. The detective's investigation is further complicated by his growing attraction to the older daughter, adding a layer of personal involvement to an already complex case. The novel is renowned for its gritty depiction of 1930s Los Angeles and its sharp, witty dialogue.

  • 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.

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

    In this classic mystery novel, ten strangers are invited to a secluded mansion on a private island by a mysterious host who is nowhere to be found. As the guests begin to die one by one, mirroring a creepy nursery rhyme that hangs in each of their rooms, they realize that the killer is among them. As suspicion and fear escalate, they must uncover the murderer before no one remains.

  • Anatomy Of A Murder by Robert Traver

    In this gripping courtroom drama, a small-town lawyer takes on the defense of a lieutenant accused of murdering a local innkeeper, who allegedly raped his wife. The novel delves into the intricacies of legal procedure and the moral complexities surrounding a case that captivates the entire community. As the trial unfolds, the lawyer faces a battle of wits against a formidable prosecutor, while grappling with the challenges of evidence, the volatility of witnesses, and the elusive nature of truth. The story is a masterful blend of suspense, ethical quandaries, and the meticulous detail of the law, culminating in a climactic verdict that leaves readers pondering the fine line between justice and the law.

  • 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 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.

  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

    This novel is a thrilling tale of passion, murder, and betrayal. The story revolves around a drifter who becomes involved in an adulterous affair with a married woman. Together, they plot to kill her older husband for the insurance money. However, their plan spirals out of control, leading to unexpected consequences and a shocking conclusion. The narrative explores themes of lust, greed, and the destructive power of obsession.

  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo

    The book revolves around the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone. When the don's youngest son, Michael, reluctantly joins the mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay, he is drawn deeper into the family business. The narrative follows the Corleone family's struggle to hold onto power in a rapidly changing world, as well as Michael's transformation from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Witness For The Prosecution by Agatha Christie

    In this classic courtroom drama, a young, charming man stands accused of murdering a wealthy older woman who had become infatuated with him and made him her heir. The case against him seems ironclad until his wife, who was expected to be his alibi, shockingly agrees to testify for the prosecution. As the trial unfolds, a series of twists and turns reveal the complexities of human relationships and the surprising truths that lie beneath the surface of the evidence, culminating in an unexpected and dramatic conclusion that challenges the perceptions of guilt and innocence.

  • The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

    "The Day of the Jackal" is a suspenseful thriller that revolves around an unnamed and highly skilled professional assassin who is hired by a French dissident paramilitary organization to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. The novel intricately details the meticulous preparations of the assassin, his many disguises, and his method of operation, while also depicting the desperate efforts of the French police to uncover his identity and prevent the assassination, leading to a tense cat-and-mouse chase across Europe.

  • Farewell, My Lovely: A Novel by Raymond Chandler

    In this noir detective novel, a private investigator is hired to find a former lover of a recently released convict. His investigation leads him into a web of corruption and crime in Los Angeles, involving a missing nightclub owner, a wealthy widow, and a stolen jade necklace. As he delves deeper into the case, he must navigate through a world of deceit, violence, and betrayal, while trying to stay alive.

  • The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

    Set on the eve of World War I, the novel follows an ordinary man who becomes entangled in a dangerous plot after a mysterious stranger shows up at his apartment, claiming to be a spy. When the stranger is murdered, the protagonist is falsely accused and becomes a fugitive, fleeing to the Scottish highlands. He must unravel a conspiracy of international espionage and prevent a political assassination to clear his name.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Eye Of The Needle by Ken Follett

    Set during World War II, the novel revolves around a ruthless German spy known as 'The Needle' due to his preference for a stiletto as his killing tool. His mission is to uncover the Allies' invasion plans and relay them to Hitler, potentially changing the course of the war. However, his plans are threatened when he becomes stranded on an isolated island with a young, lonely woman and her disabled husband, leading to a tense game of cat and mouse.

  • Rumpole Of The Bailey by John Mortimer

    The book is a witty and engaging collection of stories that follow the professional and personal life of an aging London barrister known for his sharp wit, love of poetry, and a penchant for cheap cigars and claret. The protagonist, with his keen sense of justice and a disdain for authority, takes on a variety of cases in the Old Bailey, defending an eclectic mix of clients often against the odds. His shrewd observations and unorthodox methods often lead to unexpected outcomes, revealing the idiosyncrasies and ironies of the British legal system. Through his trials and tribulations, both in court and at home, the narrative paints a rich portrait of a man dedicated to his craft, navigating the complexities of law and life with humor and resilience.

  • Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

    A former FBI profiler, who is renowned for capturing a notorious serial killer, is lured out of retirement to track down a new killer who has a taste for families. The new killer, dubbed "The Tooth Fairy", is a complex character with a troubled past that leads him to commit his heinous crimes. As the profiler delves deeper into the investigation, he is forced to confront his own demons and the manipulative games of the serial killer he previously captured, who is now behind bars.

  • The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers

    In this mystery novel, a car accident strands a detective in a small English village during New Year's Eve. He is roped into participating in a nine-hour bell-ringing marathon at the local church. Weeks later, a disfigured body is discovered in a grave, leading to a complex investigation involving stolen emeralds, a decades-old robbery, and a lethal "curse" tied to the tolling of the church bells. The detective must unravel the intricate puzzle to reveal the killer's identity.

  • Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald

    In this witty and fast-paced mystery, an investigative reporter with a knack for attracting trouble finds himself embroiled in a complex case when he's approached by a wealthy businessman who mistakenly assumes he's a drifter and offers him a large sum of money to commit a murder. The reporter, sensing a story, adopts various disguises and false identities to unravel the truth behind the proposition. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he encounters a colorful cast of characters and navigates a series of twists and turns, all while maintaining his sharp humor and irreverent attitude towards authority. The novel combines elements of satire, suspense, and classic detective fiction, creating a unique and engaging reading experience.

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

    In this espionage thriller, a semi-retired British intelligence officer is tasked with uncovering a Soviet mole within the highest ranks of the British Secret Service. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he uncovers a web of betrayal and deceit that reaches far beyond the mole, threatening the very fabric of the British intelligence community. The novel is a masterful blend of suspense, intrigue, and complex characterization that explores themes of loyalty, identity, and the murky world of international espionage.

  • The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

    This detective novel follows a retired private investigator, Nick Charles, who, while on a Christmas vacation in New York with his wife Nora, becomes embroiled in a murder investigation. The case involves a former client of his, Clyde Wynant, who has mysteriously disappeared after his secretary was found dead. As the investigation unfolds, Nick and Nora navigate a complex web of deceit, lies, and family drama, all while maintaining their witty banter and high-society lifestyle.

  • 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.

  • Trent's Last Case by E. C. Bentley

    In this classic detective novel, the story follows the intelligent and resourceful amateur sleuth, Philip Trent, as he investigates the puzzling murder of a wealthy financier. Initially deemed an open-and-shut case, Trent delves deeper, uncovering a complex web of deceit, love, and betrayal. His sharp wit and keen observation lead him through a series of twists and turns, but his final conclusion is dramatically mistaken. In a surprising twist, Trent falls in love, which ultimately leads to a profound personal transformation and the unexpected resolution of the case, challenging the very nature of detective work and the fallibility of logical deduction.

  • 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.

  • Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

    In the heart of Moscow, three corpses found in Gorky Park lead a dedicated Soviet police investigator on a complex and dangerous trail that entangles him in the web of the KGB and the FBI. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a chilling conspiracy and faces moral dilemmas that challenge his very principles and integrity. The investigation becomes a personal quest for truth that takes him far beyond the park's snowy borders, testing his resolve and putting his life at risk in the shadowy intersections of international espionage and political intrigue.

  • Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers

    In this classic detective novel, a mystery writer is accused of poisoning his former lover with arsenic-laced pralines, leading to a high-stakes trial that seems certain to end in a guilty verdict. However, an aristocratic amateur sleuth, intrigued by the case and convinced of the writer's innocence, sets out to uncover the truth. With the help of his keen intellect and a small circle of friends, he delves into the victim's complex personal life, uncovering a web of relationships and motives. Through a series of clever deductions and a bit of undercover work, the detective not only saves the accused from the gallows but also stumbles upon an unexpected romantic entanglement of his own.

  • Dance Hall Of The Dead by Tony Hillerman

    In this mystery novel, two Native American boys disappear, leading a seasoned Navajo Tribal Police lieutenant to investigate their fate amidst the sacred Zuni and Navajo lands. The search for the truth takes him deep into the religious and cultural traditions of the Southwestern tribes, where he uncovers a complex web of ancient rituals, personal vendettas, and secrets that are as old as the arid landscape itself. As the lieutenant delves further into the case, he must navigate the delicate balance between upholding the law and respecting tribal customs, all while racing against time to solve the crime before the killer strikes again.

  • The Hot Rock by Donald E. Westlake

    "The Hot Rock" is a thrilling heist novel that follows the misadventures of a group of criminals as they attempt to steal a valuable gem known as the Balabomo Emerald. Led by the clever and resourceful Dortmunder, the team encounters numerous obstacles and setbacks, including double-crossing partners, a persistent detective, and a series of comical mishaps. With a blend of humor, suspense, and unexpected twists, the book takes readers on a wild ride through the world of high-stakes theft and the eccentric characters that inhabit it.

  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

    In this hard-boiled detective novel, a private investigator is hired by a newspaper publisher in a corrupt western town to uncover the truth behind the murder of a local worker. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he finds himself embroiled in a chaotic war between rival gangs, corrupt police, and greedy industrialists. The detective uses his cunning and manipulation to turn these factions against each other, leading to a bloody and violent resolution.

  • The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

    This classic mystery novel revolves around a spinster aunt who rents a country house for the summer along with her niece and nephew, only to find themselves entangled in a series of eerie events. The discovery of a dead body at the bottom of the house's circular staircase kicks off a complex whodunit, involving hidden rooms, secret passages, and a shadowy figure whose presence suggests that the house holds many secrets. As the protagonist takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery, she encounters a web of deceit and danger, leading to a surprising resolution that ties together the strange occurrences that have disrupted their peaceful retreat.

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

    A renowned Belgian detective finds himself embroiled in a complex murder case aboard the luxurious Orient Express train. The victim is a wealthy American businessman with numerous enemies, and the train's diverse passenger list includes individuals of varying nationalities and backgrounds, each with their own secrets. As the train is halted due to a snowdrift, the detective must race against time to solve the murder before the train reaches its destination and the murderer has a chance to escape.

  • The Firm by John Grisham

    The book centers on a young, ambitious attorney who is seduced into joining a prestigious law firm with a dark secret. Lured by the promise of wealth and status, he and his wife become entangled in a world of luxury that quickly turns into a nightmare. As he discovers the firm's involvement in illegal activities and its ruthless methods of ensuring loyalty and silence, he becomes a target himself. With the FBI pressuring him to help expose the firm's criminal dealings, he must navigate a treacherous path to outwit his employers, protect his family, and escape with his life.

  • The Ipcress File by Len Deighton

    The novel is a cold war espionage thriller that follows an unnamed British intelligence agent who is tasked with investigating the mysterious disappearances of prominent scientists. As he delves deeper into the case, he finds himself entangled in a complex web of intrigue, betrayal, and brainwashing. Set against the backdrop of the 1960s, the protagonist navigates the shadowy corridors of international espionage, dealing with cryptic codes, high-stakes negotiations, and the ever-present threat of a global conflict. With its gritty realism and intricate plot, the story offers a gripping look into the world of spies and the psychological toll of undercover operations.

  • Laura by Vera Caspary

    The novel revolves around the investigation into the murder of a beautiful and successful advertising executive, whose charm and elegance have captivated many men. As the detective delves into her life, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the victim, piecing together her complex relationships and the events leading up to her death. Through a series of twists and character revelations, the story explores themes of obsession, identity, and the facades people construct in their lives. The detective's journey through the victim's world blurs the lines between professional duty and personal fixation, leading to a surprising resolution that challenges his initial perceptions.

  • I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane

    In this hard-boiled detective novel, a gritty and vengeful private investigator seeks justice for the murder of his best friend, who was killed by a .45 to the stomach. The protagonist navigates a seedy underworld of crime and corruption, encountering seductive femme fatales and ruthless criminals along the way. His relentless pursuit of the truth leads to a shocking revelation and a climactic confrontation, where personal codes of honor and the blurred lines between right and wrong come to a head. The novel is known for its tough-guy dialogue, violent action, and the detective's uncompromising moral compass.

  • The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö

    In this gripping crime novel, a mass shooting on a bus in Stockholm leaves eight people dead, including a police officer. Inspector Martin Beck and his team are assigned to solve the case, but as they delve deeper, they uncover a complex web of corruption and deceit within the police force. With time running out, Beck must navigate through a labyrinth of clues and personal vendettas to catch the laughing policeman responsible for this heinous act.

  • Bank Shot by Donald E. Westlake

    In this comedic crime caper, a motley crew of thieves concocts an audacious plan to steal a bank. Rather than attempting a traditional heist, they decide to literally take the entire bank with them by hijacking a mobile home that serves as a temporary bank branch. The ringleader, a clever and somewhat luckless criminal, leads his eccentric team through a series of misadventures and close calls as they try to outwit the authorities and pull off what they hope will be a lucrative, if not entirely well-thought-out, crime. The novel is a blend of humor and suspense, delivering a story where the heist itself becomes as unpredictable as the characters attempting it.

  • The Third Man by Graham Greene

    Set in post-World War II Vienna, the story revolves around an American writer who arrives in the city to discover that his childhood friend, whom he had planned to meet, has recently died in a mysterious accident. As he delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding his friend's death, he uncovers a web of intrigue involving black market dealings, corrupt officials, and a complex moral landscape. The writer's investigation leads him to question loyalty, morality, and the ambiguous nature of friendship in a city divided by occupation and rife with espionage and criminality.

  • The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

    "The Killer Inside Me" is a chilling psychological thriller that delves into the mind of a sociopathic sheriff in a small Texas town. The seemingly respectable lawman hides a dark secret, as he is also a cold-blooded killer. The narrative unfolds from his perspective, revealing his disturbing thought processes and his ability to manipulate those around him, all while maintaining his façade of respectability. The book explores themes of duality, deception, and the depths of human depravity.

  • 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.

  • A Is For Alibi by Sue Grafton

    In this gripping detective novel, a female private investigator takes on a complex case involving the murder of a prominent divorce lawyer, eight years after the crime. Hired by the convicted wife, who insists on her innocence, the investigator delves into a tangled web of deceit, adultery, and hidden motives. As she uncovers the secrets of the victim's personal and professional life, she must also navigate the dangers that arise when the trail leads her to confront the real murderer, who is determined to remain in the shadows. With sharp wit and keen observation, the protagonist works to solve the puzzle, one letter of the alphabet at a time.

  • The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders

    In this gripping crime novel, a seasoned New York City detective is on the brink of retirement when he's drawn into a challenging and high-stakes investigation. The city is terrorized by a series of brutal murders, each victim found with a small, mysterious token left by the killer. As the detective delves deeper into the case, he must navigate a complex web of clues and confront his own personal demons, all while racing against time to stop the methodical murderer before they strike again. The novel combines a gritty police procedural with psychological depth, exploring the nature of obsession and the cost of justice.

  • A Thief Of Time by Tony Hillerman

    In this gripping mystery novel set in the American Southwest, two Navajo Tribal Police officers investigate a series of puzzling crimes linked to the illegal excavation and theft of Native American artifacts. As they delve deeper into the case, they encounter a cast of characters with conflicting interests, including anthropologists, collectors, and looters. The officers must navigate a landscape steeped in history and spiritual significance while racing against time to solve the crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice, all while contending with the personal and cultural challenges that arise during their quest.

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    This true crime novel tells the story of the brutal 1959 murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two of their children in Holcomb, Kansas. The narrative follows the investigation led by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation that ultimately leads to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers. The book explores the circumstances surrounding this horrific crime and the effects it had on the community and the people involved.

  • Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

    The book is a classic thriller that follows the story of an unnamed British sportsman who embarks on a daring attempt to assassinate a European dictator prior to World War II. After being caught and tortured, he escapes back to England, but his ordeal is far from over. Pursued by enemy agents who want to finish the job they started, he must use his wits and survival skills to evade capture. The protagonist goes to ground in the English countryside, engaging in a deadly game of cat and mouse with his relentless pursuers, as he grapples with his own moral convictions and the consequences of his actions.

  • Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers

    When a copywriter at an advertising agency suspiciously dies in a fall, a private detective goes undercover to investigate the circumstances. He discovers a world of drugs, blackmail, and deceit hidden behind the agency's seemingly ordinary facade. As he delves deeper, he must unravel a web of secrets and lies to solve the murder, all while maintaining his cover and navigating the competitive world of advertising.

  • Smiley's People by John le Carré

    In this espionage thriller, a retired British intelligence officer, known for his bespectacled and unassuming demeanor, is called back into action when one of his former assets, a Soviet general, is found murdered. The investigation leads him across Europe, rekindling old rivalries and uncovering a complex web of betrayal and deception. As he delves deeper into the case, he must confront his own past and a formidable Soviet spymaster, ultimately leading to a high-stakes game of intelligence and counterintelligence, where the stakes are not just personal, but have far-reaching implications for the security of the West.

  • The Lady In The Lake by Raymond Chandler

    In this classic hard-boiled detective novel, a wisecracking private investigator is hired to find the missing wife of a wealthy businessman, only to become embroiled in a complex web of deceit, corruption, and murder. As he delves deeper into the case, he encounters a cast of shady characters and uncovers a trail of betrayal that leads him to a remote mountain lake, where the discovery of a body threatens to expose the dark secrets of a seemingly tranquil town. With sharp dialogue and a gritty portrayal of 1940s Los Angeles, the detective navigates through the twists and turns of the investigation, determined to solve the mystery of the lady in the lake.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Set in the racially charged South during the Depression, the novel follows a young girl and her older brother as they navigate their small town's societal norms and prejudices. Their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, forcing the children to confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice. The story explores themes of morality, innocence, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of the young protagonists.

  • Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene

    The book is a satirical espionage novel set in pre-revolutionary Cuba, where a hapless vacuum cleaner salesman is recruited by British intelligence to serve as their operative in Havana. Despite his lack of experience and qualifications, he fabricates intelligence reports to appease his superiors, inadvertently triggering a cascade of increasingly absurd and dangerous events. As the line between fiction and reality blurs, the protagonist finds himself entangled in a web of deception and political intrigue that satirizes the absurdities of the Cold War era and the follies of intelligence agencies.

  • The Mystery Of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

    The unfinished novel revolves around the titular character, Edwin Drood, who mysteriously disappears amid a backdrop of jealousy, opium dreams, and a love triangle. The story is set in the provincial town of Cloisterham and follows Drood, his uncle John Jasper, and their entangled relationships with Rosa Bud, Drood's fiancée, and the siblings Helena and Neville Landless. With themes of betrayal, unrequited love, and the dark underbelly of Victorian society, the narrative builds towards Drood's disappearance, which leads to suspicion and an unresolved whodunit due to the author's death before the novel's completion.

  • Wobble To Death by Peter Lovesey

    Set in Victorian London, the book is a thrilling murder mystery centered around a grueling six-day endurance race known as a "wobble." As competitors push their limits in this test of stamina, the event takes a sinister turn when one of the contestants is found dead under suspicious circumstances. A determined and astute detective takes on the case, delving into the competitive world of pedestrianism—a popular sport of the era. Amidst the spectacle and drama of the race, the detective must unravel a web of deceit, rivalry, and ambition to uncover the truth behind the athlete's untimely demise, revealing the darker side of Victorian sportsmanship and obsession.

  • Ashenden, Or, The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham

    The book is a collection of loosely connected stories based on the author's own experiences as a member of British Intelligence during World War I. It follows the protagonist, a writer turned spy named Ashenden, as he undertakes various espionage tasks across Europe and Russia. Through a series of character-driven vignettes, the narrative delves into the morally ambiguous world of espionage, exploring themes of loyalty, deceit, and the human cost of intelligence work. The protagonist's interactions with a diverse cast of characters, from fellow spies to enemy agents, reveal the complexities and psychological nuances of the shadowy world of wartime espionage.

  • The Seven Per Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

    The book is a pastiche of the famous detective genre, presenting itself as a lost manuscript by Dr. John H. Watson, which recounts an adventure where the legendary sleuth, grappling with a cocaine addiction, is taken by Watson to see Sigmund Freud in Vienna. During the course of his treatment, the detective becomes involved in a thrilling case that involves an international kidnapping and a sinister criminal mastermind. The story cleverly weaves together the realms of detective fiction and historical figures, offering a unique mystery that explores the intersection of psychology, addiction, and crime-solving.

  • The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout

    In this classic detective novel, the brilliant and eccentric private investigator Nero Wolfe, along with his sharp-witted assistant Archie Goodwin, is hired by a wealthy woman to disprove the FBI's unfounded harassment against her. She believes the agency is targeting her because she distributed copies of a book critical of the FBI. As Wolfe and Goodwin delve into the case, they navigate a complex web of surveillance, intimidation, and murder, all while outsmarting the persistent scrutiny of the formidable J. Edgar Hoover's agents. The story is a clever dance of wits and strategy, showcasing the detective's ingenuity in solving a case that reaches far beyond a simple doorbell ring.

  • Stick by Elmore Leonard

    The book is a crime novel that follows the story of Ernest "Stick" Stickley, Jr., an ex-con who, after being released from prison, tries to leave his criminal past behind and make a legitimate living in Florida. However, Stick quickly finds himself entangled in the seedy underworld of drug dealers, con artists, and hit men. As he navigates this dangerous terrain, Stick must use his wits and street smarts to outmaneuver those who want him dead, while also attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter and build a better future. The novel is known for its sharp dialogue, dark humor, and vivid portrayal of the Miami crime scene.

  • The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carré

    The novel revolves around a young English actress who is recruited by Israeli intelligence to infiltrate a Palestinian terrorist organization. As she becomes more deeply involved in her role, she is torn between her sympathies for the Palestinians' cause and her loyalty to the Israelis who have manipulated her into the dangerous assignment. The story explores themes of identity, loyalty, and the moral complexities of espionage, set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The protagonist's journey is fraught with emotional and ethical dilemmas, leading to a gripping narrative that blurs the lines between love, betrayal, and the harsh realities of international espionage.

  • Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

    "Brighton Rock" is a thrilling crime novel set in 1930s Brighton, revolving around the life of a young gangster, who is involved in a series of violent acts and murders. The narrative also explores the themes of Catholicism, morality, and the nature of sin, as the protagonist struggles with his religious beliefs and the guilt of his actions. The story is further complicated by the involvement of a naive young woman who falls in love with the gangster, unaware of his dark side.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker

    This classic horror novel tells the story of Count Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The narrative is composed of journal entries, letters, and telegrams written by the novel's protagonists, providing different perspectives on the gruesome events unfolding. The book touches on themes of sexuality, gender roles, and the clash of modern science with traditional superstition.

  • 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.

  • The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

    In this classic British detective novel, a poet on holiday in Oxford stumbles upon a woman's body in a toyshop at night, only to find the shop has vanished by morning. Teaming up with an eccentric literature professor, the poet embarks on a whimsical and cerebral quest to solve the mystery, navigating a labyrinth of literary references, quirky characters, and puzzling clues. The story combines elements of farce and traditional whodunit, leading to a climactic chase and an unexpected twist, all set against the backdrop of the historic university town.

  • A Time To Kill by John Grisham

    In a racially charged courtroom drama set in the Deep South, a young, white attorney takes on a controversial case defending a black father who takes the law into his own hands after his ten-year-old daughter is brutally assaulted by two white men. As the lawyer struggles against personal threats, social outrage, and political pressure, the town is torn apart by violence and prejudice, forcing its inhabitants to confront their own beliefs about justice, equality, and retribution. The narrative weaves through themes of racial tension, legal ethics, and the quest for vengeance, culminating in a tense and morally complex trial that puts the entire community's values on trial.

  • Last Seen Wearing ... by Hillary Waugh

    In this gripping police procedural, a young college girl vanishes without a trace, leaving behind a campus riddled with secrets and a police force grasping at straws. As the investigation unfolds, the meticulous and relentless detective in charge must sift through a myriad of misleading clues, false leads, and dead ends. With the pressure mounting and the public's anxiety at a fever pitch, the detective's dogged pursuit of the truth leads to a chilling and unexpected conclusion, showcasing the tenacity required in the search for justice when all that remains of a victim is the memory of what they were last seen wearing.

  • Little Caesar by W. R. Burnett

    The book is a gritty tale of the rise and fall of a small-time hoodlum who becomes a powerful gangster in the criminal underworld. Set in the Prohibition era, it follows the ambitious and ruthless protagonist as he climbs the ranks of organized crime, driven by a desire for power and recognition. His journey is marked by violence, betrayal, and the harsh realities of gang life. As he achieves his goals, he becomes increasingly isolated and paranoid, ultimately leading to his downfall. The novel is a stark exploration of the American Dream gone awry, illustrating the cost of unchecked ambition and the inevitable consequences of a life of crime.

  • The Friends Of Eddie Coyle by George V.Higgins

    The novel delves into the gritty underworld of Boston's organized crime scene through the eyes of Eddie Coyle, a small-time gunrunner and career criminal facing the prospect of a long prison sentence. As he navigates the treacherous waters of loyalty and betrayal, Eddie becomes entangled with a variety of dangerous characters, including bank robbers, hitmen, and corrupt law enforcement. Desperate to avoid jail time, he contemplates becoming an informant, a decision that forces him to weigh the value of his friendships against his own survival. The narrative unfolds with sharp dialogue and a realistic portrayal of the bleak lives of those on the fringes of the criminal world.

  • Clouds Of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers

    In this classic detective novel, an aristocratic family is embroiled in scandal when the Duke of Denver is accused of murdering his sister's fiancé. His brother, an amateur sleuth with a sharp intellect and keen eye for detail, takes on the case to clear the family name. As he delves into the mystery, he navigates a web of societal expectations, hidden motives, and damning evidence, employing his wit and resourcefulness to unravel the truth. Set against the backdrop of the English countryside and London's foggy streets, the story combines elements of a traditional whodunit with the intricacies of early 20th-century high society, leading to a courtroom climax where family secrets and unexpected revelations come to light.

  • From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

    In this thrilling spy novel, British secret agent James Bond is targeted by a Russian intelligence group, who lures him into a trap using a beautiful cipher clerk as bait. The plot thickens as Bond falls for the clerk and must navigate a series of dangerous encounters with Russian operatives, including a deadly face-off with a sadistic killer. The story is a blend of action, suspense, and romance, set against the backdrop of the Cold War.

  • 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.

  • Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert

    In this classic British mystery, a solicitor's office becomes the unlikely scene of a perplexing crime when a dead body is discovered in a deed box, leading to an investigation that delves into the intricate and secretive world of legal work. The novel combines wit with a meticulously plotted whodunit, as the charming and astute Inspector Hazelrigg, along with his team and a young, eager solicitor, untangle a web of deceit, embezzlement, and office politics to uncover the murderer among a cast of sharply drawn characters, each with motives and opportunities. The story is renowned for its clever twists, legal authenticity, and the delightful interplay of suspense and humor.

  • The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

    The book revolves around a solicitor named Robert Blair who is called upon to defend two women, Marion Sharpe and her mother, accused of kidnapping a teenage girl named Betty Kane. Betty claims she was held captive and forced to work as a servant at the Sharpes' home, The Franchise. However, as Blair delves deeper into the case, he uncovers inconsistencies in Betty's story and begins to suspect that there is more to the accusation than meets the eye. Set in postwar England, the narrative weaves through twists and turns as Blair seeks to prove the innocence of the Sharpes in a society eager to find scandal and guilt.

  • Crocodile On The Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

    In this Victorian-era adventure, a strong-willed and intelligent young woman with a passion for Egyptology embarks on a journey to Egypt, where she encounters mystery and romance. Accompanied by a captivating cast of characters, including a dashing archaeologist, she finds herself entangled in a thrilling whodunit involving an ancient mummy rumored to be walking the night. As she applies her keen mind to unravel the enigma, she must navigate the complexities of societal expectations and her own burgeoning independence, all while staying one step ahead of the seemingly supernatural threat that lurks in the shadows of the excavated ruins.

  • Shroud For A Nightingale by P. D. James

    In this gripping mystery, the peaceful routine of a nursing school is shattered by the sudden, violent death of a student during a demonstration, followed by another mysterious fatality. An astute detective is called in to unravel the complex web of secrets, lies, and hidden relationships within the institution. As the investigation unfolds, the detective delves into the lives of the staff and students, uncovering motives rooted in jealousy, revenge, and hidden pasts, all while navigating the intricacies of the medical world and the shadows of human nature. The search for truth becomes a perilous journey that challenges the detective's skills and endangers lives, culminating in a tense and unexpected resolution.

  • 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.

  • Chinaman's Chance by Ross Thomas

    The novel revolves around the intricate and dangerous world of political intrigue, where a former professional gambler turned political fixer is enlisted to investigate the mysterious death of a Chinese immigrant. Set against the backdrop of the 1970s, the story unfolds as the protagonist navigates through a web of corruption, power struggles, and racial tensions, uncovering a complex conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of American politics. With sharp wit and a keen eye for detail, the narrative delves into the dark underbelly of society, exposing the often murky interplay between crime, business, and government.

  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

    "The Secret Agent" is a dark political satire set in London in the late 19th century, revolving around a secret agent who is also a shopkeeper, his anarchist friends, and his family. The story unfolds as the agent is coerced by his foreign employers to orchestrate a bombing in a bid to provoke a political response, but the plan goes disastrously wrong, leading to tragic consequences and a deep exploration of themes such as anarchism, espionage, terrorism, and betrayal.

  • The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald

    In this gripping mystery novel, a hard-boiled detective is awakened late one night by an ex-girlfriend who entrusts him with a large sum of money, asking him to safeguard it in case of her untimely demise. When she is found dead under suspicious circumstances, the detective is propelled into a complex investigation that leads him through a web of deceit, drug smuggling, and murder. As he delves deeper into the case, he must navigate the treacherous waters of a small Florida town, where everyone seems to have something to hide, and the truth is as murky as the swamplands that surround it. Determined to honor the last wishes of his former lover, he relentlessly pursues justice, no matter how dreadful the cost may be.

  • The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

    The novel centers around a savvy political fixer who finds himself embroiled in a complex web of betrayal, corruption, and murder. As he navigates the gritty underworld of a corrupt city, he must use his wits and toughness to protect his boss's political interests, solve a friend's murder, and untangle his own complicated love affair. The story is a classic example of hard-boiled crime fiction, showcasing a world where loyalty is scarce and everyone has an angle to play.

  • A Judgement In Stone by Ruth Rendell

    "A Judgement In Stone" is a gripping psychological thriller that unravels the tragic events surrounding the murder of the wealthy Coverdale family. As the investigation unfolds, the true motives and dark secrets of the family's housekeeper, Eunice, are gradually revealed, leading to a shocking climax. With its intricate plot and complex characters, the book explores themes of class divide, social isolation, and the destructive power of secrets.

  • Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

    In this classic mystery, a young man is coached to impersonate Brat Farrar, the long-lost heir to a fortune, who supposedly perished years ago. The imposter is welcomed into the family with open arms, but as he grows more comfortable in his new identity, he begins to encounter a web of deceit, secrets, and a looming sense of danger. The family's complex dynamics and the true circumstances of the missing heir's fate unravel as the protagonist is faced with moral dilemmas and the risk of being exposed, leading to a dramatic and unexpected resolution.

  • The Chill by Ross Macdonald

    In "The Chill," a private investigator named Lew Archer is hired by a wealthy family to find their missing son, who disappeared during a camping trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As Archer delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of secrets, lies, and betrayals that stretches back years. With each new revelation, Archer must navigate the treacherous waters of a dysfunctional family and a small town filled with corruption and violence, all while trying to bring the missing son home safely.

  • 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.

  • The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh

    The book is a gritty, darkly humorous novel that delves into the lives of a group of Los Angeles police officers who regularly meet in MacArthur Park after hours to decompress from the stresses of their job. These informal gatherings, known as "choir practice," serve as a backdrop for the exploration of the officers' personal and professional challenges, revealing the psychological toll that policing takes on them. The narrative weaves together various incidents, from the mundane to the tragic, painting a complex picture of the men behind the badges as they grapple with the moral ambiguities and emotional burdens of law enforcement.

  • God Save The Mark by Donald E. Westlake

    The book is a comedic crime caper centered around a perpetually gullible man who finds himself the unexpected heir to a large sum of money. His naivety makes him a magnet for con artists and criminals, leading him into a series of misadventures as he navigates a world filled with deceit and danger. Despite his susceptibility to being duped, he must learn to outwit the schemers who are after his inheritance, all the while questioning the legitimacy of his windfall and the intentions of those around him. The story combines humor with suspense, creating a satirical look at the lengths to which people will go for wealth.

  • Home Sweet Homicide by Craig Rice

    In "Home Sweet Homicide," readers are introduced to the charming but chaotic Carstairs family, consisting of a widowed mystery writer mother and her three resourceful children. When a real murder occurs in their neighborhood, the children seize the opportunity to solve the case, hoping to attract publicity that might boost their mother's book sales. As they cleverly piece together the clues, their amateur sleuthing not only brings them closer to uncovering the murderer but also draws the attention of the handsome detective on the case. The novel combines elements of humor and suspense, delivering a delightful mix of family dynamics and whodunit intrigue.

  • 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.

  • Prizzi's Honor by Richard Condon

    The book revolves around Charley Partanna, a hitman for the Prizzi family, one of the most powerful crime syndicates in America. Charley's life becomes complicated when he falls in love with Irene Walker, a beautiful freelance assassin. Unbeknownst to him, Irene is also involved in swindling the Prizzis. As their romance deepens, Charley is torn between his loyalty to the family and his feelings for Irene, leading to a treacherous game of deceit, power, and honor that could cost him everything he holds dear.

  • The Steam Pig by James McClure

    In this gripping crime novel, a tenacious detective navigates the complex social and racial landscape of 1970s South Africa to solve a perplexing murder case. The story begins when a body is discovered inside a clay pig sculpture, leading the detective on a trail through the seedy underbelly of the city. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he encounters a diverse cast of characters and uncovers a web of deceit and corruption. The detective's sharp instincts and unwavering commitment to justice drive him to unravel the mystery, despite the challenges posed by the apartheid-era setting.

  • Time and Again by Jack Finney

    Time and Again is a science fiction novel that follows Simon Morley, a young advertising artist living in New York City, who is recruited by a secret government project to travel back in time to the year 1882. The novel explores themes of nostalgia, love, and the complexity of time travel, as Simon falls in love with a woman from the past and must decide whether to stay in the 19th century or return to his own time.

  • Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

    The book revolves around a young couple, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, who move into an old New York City apartment building with a sinister reputation. Eager to start a family, Rosemary becomes pregnant under mysterious circumstances. As she becomes increasingly isolated and ill, she discovers that her husband and their eccentric neighbors have malevolent plans for her unborn child, which are tied to a diabolical pact with supernatural forces. Her paranoia and fear escalate as she uncovers the truth about a conspiracy that involves the birth of the Antichrist, leading to a chilling realization about the fate of her baby.

  • A Morbid Taste For Bones by Ellis Peters

    In this historical mystery, set in the 12th century, a Welsh Benedictine monk with a talent for solving puzzles is dispatched with his fellow monks to a small village in Wales to acquire the relics of a saint for their abbey. Upon arrival, they encounter resistance from the local community, who revere the saint and oppose the removal of the holy relics. When the leading opponent to the monks' mission is found dead, the monk must employ his deductive skills to unravel the truth behind the murder, ensuring justice is served and the sanctity of the saint is preserved. The story weaves together elements of faith, tradition, and the pursuit of piety with the intrigue of a classic whodunit.

About this list

Mystery Writers of America, 100 Books

Not to be outdone by the British Crime Writers' Association - Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time, the Mystery Writers of America came up with their list five years later.

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