The Greatest "Mystery, Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 264 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Mystery

The Mystery genre is a category of books that typically involves a crime, puzzle, or enigma that needs to be solved by the protagonist or a group of characters. These books often feature suspenseful and thrilling plotlines, with unexpected twists and turns that keep readers engaged and guessing until the very end. Mystery novels can range from cozy mysteries, which are lighter and more lighthearted, to hard-boiled detective stories, which are darker and more gritty. Overall, the Mystery genre is a popular and diverse category of books that appeals to readers who enjoy solving puzzles and uncovering secrets.

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  1. 1. 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.

  2. 2. 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.

  3. 3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The novel is a haunting tale of three friends, who grow up together at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they mature, they discover a dark secret about their school and the purpose of their existence, which is to become organ donors for the rest of society. The story is a profound exploration of what it means to be human, the morality of scientific innovation, and the heartbreaking reality of love and loss.

  4. 4. 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.

  5. 5. 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.

  6. 6. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

    This thriller novel follows symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptographer Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The murder leads them to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, revealing a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years. The mystery involves a conspiracy within the Catholic Church and threatens to overturn the foundations of Christianity.

  7. 7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K Rowling

    In the sixth installment of the series, the protagonist returns for his sixth year at a magical school, where he excels in potions class with the help of an old textbook once belonging to the mysterious "Half-Blood Prince". As he delves deeper into his enemy's past through private lessons with the headmaster, he learns more about the Dark wizard's history and his own destiny. Amidst this, the school is no longer the safe haven it once was, and danger lurks within the castle walls. The year ends with a devastating loss, setting the stage for the final showdown.

  8. 8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K Rowling

    In the fifth installment of this iconic series, the young wizard Harry Potter returns for his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, only to discover that much of the wizarding world, including the Ministry of Magic, is in denial about the teenager's recent encounter with the evil Lord Voldemort. Harry is also beset by disturbing dreams while the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been stationed at Hogwarts to protect the school, and Harry's budding abilities as a wizard are put to the test. Meanwhile, a secret society, the Order of the Phoenix, is working to fight Voldemort and his followers, and Harry's role in the coming conflict is becoming ever more significant.

  9. 9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

    This novel follows a 15-year-old boy with autism as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbor's dog. Along the way, he uncovers other secrets about his family and must navigate the world using his unique perspective and abilities. The book offers an insightful look into the mind of a character with autism, highlighting his struggles and triumphs in a compelling and empathetic way.

  10. 10. 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.

  11. 11. 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.

  12. 12. 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.

  13. 13. 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.

  14. 14. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

    Set in the late 16th century Ottoman Empire, this novel explores the conflict between East and West, tradition and innovation, through the lens of miniaturist painters. When a renowned artist is murdered, his colleagues must solve the mystery while grappling with the changes in their art brought about by the western Renaissance. This complex narrative intertwines love, art, religion, and power, offering a deep exploration of the struggles between old and new.

  15. 15. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

    The novel is a complex and multi-layered narrative that revolves around a young man who comes across a manuscript written by a blind man about a documentary that doesn't appear to exist. The documentary is about a family who moves into a house that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside, with shifting walls and hallways that lead to impossible spaces. The novel is known for its experimental layout, with some pages containing only a few words and others filled with footnotes, different fonts, and sideways text, reflecting the disorienting and labyrinthine nature of the house itself.

  16. 16. 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.

  17. 17. 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.

  18. 18. 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.

  19. 19. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

    "The New York Trilogy" is a collection of three detective stories that explore the nature of identity and the search for meaning. The stories are set in New York City and feature various characters, including a detective, a writer, and a professor, who are all engaged in their own personal quests. These quests often involve elements of mystery, existentialism, and introspection, and the stories are interconnected in various ways, creating a complex and thought-provoking narrative.

  20. 20. 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.

  21. 21. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

    "Hawksmoor" is a novel that alternates between the 18th century and the 1980s, focusing on two characters both named Nicholas Dyer and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Dyer, an architect in the 18th century, constructs seven churches in London, each with a dark and sinister secret. In the 1980s, Hawksmoor, a detective, investigates a series of murders that occur in the same churches. The narrative explores themes of history, time, architecture, and supernatural elements, creating an eerie and atmospheric tale.

  22. 22. London Fields by Martin Amis

    The novel is a darkly comic, murder mystery set in London at the end of the 20th century. The story follows three main characters: a terminally ill American writer, a petty criminal, and a beautiful but doomed woman who predicts her own murder but not the murderer. The narrative is filled with satirical social commentary, exploring themes of love, lust, greed, and deception.

  23. 23. 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.

  24. 24. 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.

  25. 25. 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.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download