The 43 Best Mystery Books To Read Now

From Arthur Conan Doyle’s classics to Tana French’s contemporary novels, there’s sure to be something up your alley.

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A selection of mystery books.
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There’s hardly anything more satisfying than settling in with a page-turning novel. Maybe you like a cozy mystery, without too much violence — in that case, the ice cream shop mystery A Deadly Inside Scoop is for you. Or maybe you’re looking for a book that tackles a serious political issue, in which case we recommend A Beautiful Place to Die, set in apartheid-era South Africa. Or maybe you just want to cuddle up with a classic. This list has plenty of those, too.

The detective novel originated in England, when detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot came onto the scene in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Then, in the Golden Age of Crime in the 1920s and 1930s, women writers like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers reigned supreme. In the decades that followed, the genre expanded to encompass a more diverse and global range of authors and readers: Writers like Sajayit Ray in India, Yukito Ayatsuji in Japan, and others took inspiration from Holmes, Poirot, and more, and made the mystery their own.

Now, the genre has expanded even further: There are riffs on the classics, heart-pounding thrillers, literary mysteries, and more. Writers of all backgrounds and nationalities write mysteries, as this list demonstrates. No matter what kind of mystery reader you are, there’s plenty for you here.

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The Moonstone

If you love mystery novels, there’s a good chance you’ve read classics from the early 20th century, when Agatha Christie reigned as the Queen of Crime. But the crime novel was actually created in the 1860s by Victorian sensation novelist Wilkie Collins. One of his most celebrated works, The Moonstone, revolves around the theft of an impossibly valuable jewel and features a quirky, brilliant detective character who influenced Christie when she created Hercule Poirot. The Moonstone isn’t only worth reading as a history lesson, though: It’s by turns suspenseful, funny, and surprisingly critical of the British Empire for a novel written in the Victorian era.


A Study in Scarlet

Mystery lovers are no doubt familiar with the world’s most famous detective. Sherlock Holmes has appeared in countless film adaptations, perhaps most memorably in two television series, the first starring Jeremy Brett and the second, Benedict Cumberbatch. But there’s nothing quite like reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s original novels and stories, which depict Holmes in all his brilliant and maddening genius. Though The Hound of the Baskervilles is better known, the best place to start is A Study in Scarlet, the novel that first introduced Holmes to the world.


The Murder on the Orient Express

Sherlock Holmes may be the most famous detective in the world, but Hercule Poirot is probably a close second. Though he appears in 33 novels, his finest hour comes in Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie’s most famous novel. The novel takes place, as its title suggests, on the famous luxury train, which gets snowed in on a journey west. After a dead body is discovered, Poirot must solve the mystery of what happened before the train gets moving again and the travelers disperse.


The Poisoned Chocolates Case

Like Christie, Anthony Berkeley wrote during what we now consider the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction”: the 1920s and 1930s. The “Golden Age” was dominated by British writers, many of whom cultivated exactly the sort of dry wit that’s on display in The Poisoned Chocolates Case. This novel would now be considered a “cozy mystery”: There’s no violence on the page, just a clever, funny group of amateur detectives trying to solve a murder.


Gaudy Night

Dorothy L. Sayers, one of the masters of the Golden Age, is considered a “Queen of Crime” along with Christie. Her masterpiece is Gaudy Night — the culmination of her series featuring amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey and detective novelist Harriet Vane. In Gaudy Night, which takes place in Oxford, Lord Peter and Harriet must balance two important tasks: solving a murder and figuring out whether they should get married.


The Eight of Swords

John Dickson Carr was an American writer, but he lived in England for 20 years, and his Gideon Fell series — of which The Eight of Swords is a part — features an English detective. Delightfully, though, Carr blends British and American crime motifs in this novel by introducing a pack of American gangsters (along with a potential poltergeist) to the English countryside house where a murder has taken place.


The Maltese Falcon

While Christie, Sayers, and others were dominating British crime writing in the 1920s and 1930s, authors like Dashiell Hammett were developing a uniquely American style of hardboiled noir. Classic film fans will be familiar with The Maltese Falcon and its private eye hero Sam Spade from the 1941 film, in which Spade is played by Humphrey Bogart. But the famous tale first began as a novel, written by Hammett in stylish third-person prose that keeps the reader in the dark about what Spade is thinking.


The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler is the second master of hardboiled noir, along with Hammett — and, like Hammett, Chandler also saw his novels adapted into films. The Big Sleep was even adapted into a movie featuring the same leading man as The Maltese Falcon, Humphrey Bogart. This time, Bogart plays a private investigator named Philip Marlowe, who’s hired to investigate a blackmailing case involving two beautiful sisters in Los Angeles. The film adaptation of The Big Sleep is famously incomprehensible, and the novel isn’t much easier to follow, but plot isn’t the point: Chandler’s novel is all about vibes. As long as you’re on its wavelength, you’ll have a great time.


The Listening House

Fans of classic mystery novels have probably heard of Hammett and Chandler — but not of Mabel Seeley, even though she was also a bestselling author in the 1930s and 1940s. Fortunately, Penguin has recently reissued two of her novels, The Listening House and The Chuckling Fingers. Although set in the 1930s, The Listening House feels like it could have been written today: It’s wry, sexy, dark, and insightful about how women cope with the constant threat of violence. It didn’t get adapted into a film at the time, but there’s no reason that can’t happen now — and in the meantime, it’s a treat for mystery readers.


Green for Danger

Christianna Brand, another Brit, was a prolific mystery and children’s book author. Though she’s not as well-known now as Christie, her novels are just as thrilling. Green for Danger takes place at a rural English hospital, where a nurse has been murdered after confessing that a patient’s death while under anesthesia wasn’t accidental. Brand’s regular detective character, the amusingly named Inspector Cockrill, appears on the scene to investigate... only to be confronted with another murder. The novel was also adapted into an acclaimed film in 1946.


The Moving Toyshop

Over the years, lots of mysteries have been set in Oxford, including Gaudy Night, which appeared earlier on this list. Something about the city — be it the historic buildings, the old-fashioned customs, or the academic rivalries — seems to inspire mystery writers. In The Moving Toyshop, Edmund Crispin deploys multiple Oxford mystery tropes to great effect: His recurring detective, Gervase Fen, is an English professor at the university, and the main character of this novel is a poet and alum who stumbles upon a dead body on a nostalgic visit back to the city.


The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time is the most acclaimed novel by celebrated Scottish mystery writer Josephine Tey, and it’s hardly standard mystery fare. Instead of investigating a normal murder, detective Alan Grant (a recurring Tey character) begins to investigate Richard III’s crimes — which famously involve arranging the murder of his two young nephews — while he’s stuck in bed with a broken leg. Soon, he becomes obsessed with the case, and increasingly convinced that the historical record has it all wrong.


A Rage in Harlem

While British writers continued to hone the craft of detective fiction, Black American writer Chester Himes was publishing groundbreaking stories and novels, many featuring the sensationally named Black police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones. The first in this series, A Rage in Harlem, revolves around a man who’s trying to raise enough money to marry his sweetheart... only to wind up falling in with a conman. The novel is full of noir twists, turns, and double-crosses; like The Big Sleep, the plot doesn’t totally make sense. But logic matters less than atmosphere.


The Expendable Man

Dorothy B. Hughes is another female mystery author who’s less well-known now than she was in the 1940s, when she was a popular writer whose books were adapted into films on several occasions. (The best known of these is In a Lonely Place, starring — you guessed it — Humphrey Bogart.) She published The Expendable Man in 1963, after taking a 10-year break. Her final novel is an unsettling and provocative mystery about a young doctor who picks up a hitchhiker on a drive from Los Angeles to New Mexico. When the girl later turns up dead, the doctor’s life turns upside-down.


An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

P. D. James was one of the late 20th century’s most popular crime novelists, and it’s tempting to recommend one of her beloved Adam Dagliesh novels or her dystopian classic Children of Men. But An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is both riveting as a novel and historically noteworthy: It features a female private investigator, Cordelia Gray, which was highly unusual when it was published in 1972 — and still relatively rare today. The novel follows Cordelia as she investigates her first case, an apparent death by suicide that she believes was actually murder.


The Westing Game

A lot of the novels on this list are dark, as you’d expect from a genre that relies heavily on murder. But there’s no more pleasurable mystery novel out there than Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, a beloved children’s classic that’s clever enough to bewitch adults, too. The novel revolves around the will of Samuel W. Westing, a reclusive billionaire who named 16 heirs to his fortune. The heirs, who are all invited to live in Westing’s high-rise, are paired up into eight groups and then tasked with solving the game Westing has designed for them. The prize? His billions.


Complete Adventures of Feluda Vol. 1

Satyajit Ray is now remembered best as the master filmmaker behind dramas like Pather Panchali, but he was also a writer — and a mystery fan. He created the now-beloved Indian investigator character, Feluda, as a riff on Sherlock Holmes (Feluda’s sidekick, Topshe, bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Watson). This volume includes half of Ray’s Feluda stories, and Penguin has arranged them in chronological order, which lets readers observe how Ray developed Feluda’s investigatory skills over time.


The Decagon House Murders

Japanese mystery novelist Yukito Ayatsuji borrowed from the beloved Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None to construct the set-up for The Decagon House Murders. The novel follows a group of college students who travel to a deserted island where a series of brutal murders occurred several months before... only to find themselves getting murdered one by one, just like the characters in Christie’s novel. The book inspired a wave of similar crime fiction in Japan and has even been turned into a manga.


Devil in a Blue Dress

Walter Mosley is one of the most prolific and decorated crime novelists working in America today. He’s written dozens of novels, along with plays, screenplays, and works of nonfiction, and he’s won everything from the Edgar Award to the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Devil in a Blue Dress was his first novel, and it became an instant classic. Set in the postwar 1940s, it features Mosley’s recurring detective Easy Rawlins, who’s a classic noir P.I. on almost every level — bitter, fed up with the world, too clever for his own good — except that he’s also Black.


Blanche on the Lam

Like Devil in a Blue Dress, Blanche on the Lam introduced readers to a detective character who’d appear in many more novels. Blanche White, Barbara Neely’s heroine, isn’t yet a professional detective in Blanche on the Lam: She’s on the run, and to keep a low profile, she gets a job as a domestic worker. When a murder occurs in the house where she works, and people begin to suspect her, she has to solve the mystery herself to clear her name. And who better to solve a crime than a maid? As Neely told The Boston Herald, “A cleaning person is not noticed. Blanche’s invisibility allows her to overhear all kinds of things. Nobody is concerned about talking in front of their vacuum cleaner.”


What a Woman’s Gotta Do

Evelyn Coleman is perhaps best known for her work in children’s and young adult literature, most notably her American Girl books. But she’s also written novels for adults, including her debut, the sensational mystery What a Woman’s Gotta Do. Originally published in 1999, it tells the story of Patricia Conley, a Black journalist who’s stood up at the altar — only to discover that her husband-to-be may have been murdered before the wedding. Patricia sets out to investigate her fiancé’s disappearance, which soon leads her to an underground eugenics conspiracy.


The Intuitionist

If one thing unites two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead’s novels, it’s his ability to work comfortably in any genre. The Intuitionist, his first novel, hints at his penchant for genre-bending: It’s not only a mystery, or a vaguely historical (or possibly dystopian?) novel, but also an allegory about race. Set in a city that strongly resembles New York, it revolves around Lila Mae, the first Black elevator operator, who sets out to solve a mystery and instead uncovers a conspiracy that challenges everything she believes.



Welsh novelist Sarah Waters is equally known for her clever plots, her vivid evocation of Victorian-era London, and her erotic writing about lesbian characters — all of which appear in her most beloved novel, Fingersmith. The novel follows Sue Trinder, a working-class orphan who’s sent to work as the maid for a rich heiress, Maud Lilly — and collect information about her for her boss, a conman who hopes to marry Maud and steal her money. Instead, a romance blossoms between Sue and Maud. If this plot sounds familiar to you but you haven’t read the novel, that may be because it was adapted by Park Chan-wook into the popular Korean film The Handmaiden.


Death of a Red Heroine

Author Qiu Xiaolong was born in China in the 1950s and immigrated to the United States after the Tianamen Square protests in 1989. In Death of a Red Heroine, the first installment of his series featuring Inspector Chen Cao, he both mounts a critique of China’s Communist regime and crafts a cracking mystery. The story revolves around the mysterious death of a “national model worker” — a crime that reveals cracks in China’s political system that may prove dangerous for Inspector Chen to explore.


Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2019, and her magnum opus, the 900-page The Books of Jacob, was recently translated into English. If that sounds too intimidating, though, there’s a much more accessible way to try out her work: the mystery novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Don’t be intimidated by Tokarczuk’s Nobel Prize: Though this novel is definitely quirky, it’s also an old-fashioned whodunit. The main character, Janina, is an older woman living a remote Polish village where one person gets murdered after the next. She insists to the police that she knows who’s committing the murders, but no one wants to listen to her, even though she may have the answer to the mystery.


A Beautiful Place to Die

Malla Nunn, who was born in Swaziland and later moved to Australia, travels back in time to the earliest days of South Africa’s apartheid era in her debut mystery novel. Her protagonist, the English detective Emmanuel Cooper, is brought in to investigate the murder of an Afrikaner police officer, only to quickly run up against law enforcement’s political and racist machinations. In this satisfying novel, Nunn deftly weaves together social commentary, suspenseful plotting, and old-fashioned fish-out-of-water detective fiction tropes.


The Black Minutes

In The Black Minutes, Mexican writer Martín Solares blends a mystery plot with an exploration of troubled, buried history. In the novel, a police officer stumbles into an investigation of some cold case murders after a young journalist who was writing about them turns up dead. On a broader level, though, The Black Minutes is about the corruption of institutions in Mexico. As NPR’s review put it, Solares “makes the paranoia-inducing duplicity of Chinatown seem picayune. Nobody can be trusted in Paracuan: not any of the police, not any of the politicians.”


Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran

Sara Gran, a novelist and screenwriter, has written three novels featuring her distinctive and impossibly winning detective Claire DeWitt. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, the first in the series, is the best place to start: The novel introduces readers to Claire, her world, and Gran’s style. Claire resembles a kind of grown-up Harriet the Spy, who’s made investigating a profession as an adult. In this novel, she travels to New Orleans to investigate the murder of a DA who has links to her own past.


The Ice Cream Girls, Dorothy Koomson

Dorothy Koomson is one of, if not the, bestselling Black authors in the United Kingdom. She’s a fan favorite for a good reason: Her books, which have been compared to Jodi Picoult’s, are smart, suspenseful, and emotionally insightful. The Ice Cream Girls is perhaps her most popular novel. It follows two teenagers — one white, one Black — who find themselves at the center of a media frenzy after they witness the death of their schoolteacher. Decades later, after they’ve both moved on with their lives, one of them decides she wants to relive the past... but some things are better forgotten.


Broken Harbor, Tana French

Current readers of mystery novels have no doubt encountered the work of Tana French. Several of her Dublin Murder Squad novels, along with her standalone book The Wych Elm, are worthy of inclusion on this list, but Broken Harbor — which offers a critical view of Dublin’s police force — is her strongest effort to date. As Detective Mick Kennedy investigates a murder that took place on one of Ireland’s many property developments that were abandoned post-2008, he’s forced to reckon with the prospect that the institution he works for may not be as morally pure as he thought.


The Sound of Things Falling, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, trans. Anne McLean

If you like more literary mysteries, The Sound of Things Falling is the book for you. Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Colombia’s most celebrated living writer, uses some of the traditional trappings of a mystery novel to explore Colombia’s corrupt and violent history. The story follows a law professor named Antonio as he tries to piece together the truth about a friend’s murder, which still haunts him three decades later.


Murder at Cape Three Points, Kwei Quartey

Kwei Quartey had a long career as a doctor before deciding to become a full-time writer. The change paid off: The novels in his Darko Dawson series, which take place in Ghana, are smart, suspenseful, and politically astute. In Murder at Cape Three Points, the third installment in the series, Dawson investigates the double murder of a rich couple were killed in a particularly theatrical and gruesome manner. Soon, it begins to look like everyone from real estate and oil companies to the government had an interest in the couple’s business... and therefore might have had a motive to kill them.


Easy Motion Tourist, Leye Adenle

Leye Adenle vividly depicts Lagos in Easy Motion Tourist, the first installment in his series focusing on Amaka, a vigilante operative with a conscience. This novel, though, doesn’t begin with her: It begins with Guy Collins, a British journalist who isn’t equipped to handle Lagos’ underworld, and desperately needs Amaka’s help once he finds himself accidentally enmeshed in the fallout of a ritual killing. Together, they attempt to piece together the mystery... all while a romance blooms under the surface.


Out of Bounds, Val McDermid

Val McDermid is a force in Scottish literature. She’s published 36 books — mostly mysteries, but also non-fiction and children’s books. Out of Bounds was her 30th, and it features one of her recurring characters, a female detective named Karen Pirie. In the wake of a personal tragedy, Karen becomes fixated on solving a cold case. After a drunk driver’s DNA comes back positive for a rape and murder, the department begins to dust off a long-cold investigation. There’s just one problem... the crime took place 20 years ago, and the driver is 17.


Six Four, Hideo Yokoyama, trans. Jonathan Lloyd-Davies

Six Four was an instant sensation when it was published in Japan in 2012: It sold a million copies in its first week in stores. (Evidently, nobody wanted to have the ending of the novel’s sensational premise spoiled for them.) It follows the kidnapping of a 7-year-old girl, who vanishes from Tokyo, never to be seen again — at least, that’s what everyone thinks, until 14 years later, when the case rears its head again.


Bluebird, Bluebird, Attica Locke

Although you may not know it, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Attica Locke’s work: She’s written and produced hit TV shows including Empire, When They See Us, and Little Fires Everywhere. Her command of story is also fully on display in her own novels, including the Edgar Award-winning Bluebird, Bluebird. Set in East Texas, it tells the story of a Black Texas Ranger who gets pulled into investigating the murders of a Black lawyer from Chicago and a white woman in a small town.


The Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries, another Edgar Award winner, is set in London. It follows Clare Cassidy, an English teacher at a school where nothing much unusual happens... until another teacher winds up dead. Author Elly Griffiths cleverly weaves together Clare’s interest in the fictional Gothic writer R. M. Holland — who’s somehow also entangled with the murder — and the investigation into the crime, effortlessly fusing classic 19th century novels and more recent page-turners.


Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Deepa Anappara

Deepa Anappara’s work as a journalist influenced her first novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, which was partially inspired by the real-life disappearances of young people in India. This novel maintains a sense of emotional urgency and realism while also sucking the reader into a gripping and suspenseful plot. It follows 9-year-old Jai and his friends, who decide to start investigating the disappearance of a classmate... and then more missing persons cases, as more children start to vanish.


A Deadly Inside Scoop, Abby Collette

If you’re looking for a modern cozy mystery, look no further than A Deadly Inside Scoop. Heroine Bronwyn “Win” Crewse has set out to take over — and totally overhaul — her family’s ice cream parlor, but the task is proving to be more difficult than she anticipated. Everything gets more complicated when a dead body shows up outside the shop the day of her grand opening. Now she has to juggle running a store and solving a murder.


And Now She’s Gone, Rachel Howzell Hall

Rachel Howzell Hall takes a cue from Los Angeles noir writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in And Now She’s Gone, a mystery set in South Los Angeles — but this time, the PI is a Black woman investigating a missing woman. PI Gray Sykes’ investigation leads her to the foster care system, uncovers domestic violence, and forces her to question whether she should be investigating the case at all.


Speaking of Summer, Kalisha Buckhanon

Like Rachel Howzell Hall, Kalisha Buckhanon uses mystery genre plot devices to explore bigger ideas about 21st century America. In Speaking of Summer, protagonist Autumn Spencer’s twin sister vanishes without a trace. Autumn has to investigate the disappearance herself as her mental state begins to fray — and as she’s getting into a relationship with her sister’s now-ex-boyfriend, making everything even more complicated.


When You Look Like Us, Pamela N. Harris

When You Look Like Us is another novel that deals with a missing sister. Where Speaking of Summer focused largely on its protagonist’s internal state, though, in this novel author Pamela N. Harris not only paints a rich portrait of the Ducts (the Newport News, Virginia, neighborhood where the novel takes place), but also sends the reader on a heart-pounding journey along with Jay, a high school junior determined to find his missing sister.


Blacktop Wasteland, S. A. Cosby

If you’ve seen even a handful a mystery or thriller films, you’re probably familiar with stories about retired criminals going back to their old ways for “one last job...” That’s the basis for S. A. Crosby’s Blacktop Wasteland. Beauregard “Bug” Montage was once a legendary getaway driver. Now, he’s a mechanic, with a stable life and loving family. But he’s in financial trouble and the temptation of one last big score is hard to resist...

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