Everyone loves a good mystery. Detective novels may not be as popular today as they were decades ago (no thanks to society’s current obsession with vampires, zombies, werewolves, and wizards), but they are still quite popular. Most people have read or will read at least one detective novel in their lifetime.
Many great detective novels have been published throughout history. The following books made our Best Detective Novels of All Time list based on the achievements of the detectives in the stories. If you’re looking for a great detective story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, consider one of these books:
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie): Considered one of Christie’s best stories, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” offered all you needed in a good detective story: a murder, a hero, and a fine plot laid out in teasingly built prose. Like most of Christie’s earlier works, Hercules Poirot is the star of this novel. The bald, incredibly intelligent, but irresolutely egocentric detective retires to the Village of King’s abbot where he hopes to spend his time cultivating marrows. However, the murder of the wealthy Roger Ackroyd forces him to do what he does best, solve mysteries. And what a mystery this book is.
- The Long Goodbye (Raymond Chandler): Truth be told, almost every detective novel written by Chandler is a fantastic read. However, considering that this book went on to receive a Best Novel Edgar Award, and that Chandler considered it his finest book, “The Long Goodbye” slightly edges others. It featured Philip Marlowe, a private investigator who goes wherever unsolved crime leads him, even if it meant venturing into dangerous neighborhoods.
- Devil in a Blue Dress (Walter Mosley): Written by Walter Mosley, “Devil in a Blue Dress” is a hardboiled mystery novel. It is listed among the Mystery Writers Association top 100 crime novels of all time. It also won the Shamus Award for best First P.I novel. At the center of the book is Ezekiel Rawlins, who works as laborer during the day and moonlights as a detective at night. Rawlins also featured in a number of other best selling mystery novels also written by Mosley.
- A Taste for Death (P.D James): Dalgliesh is a police officer first and a poet second, or is it the other way around? Whichever, there is no denying that in writing the mysteries involving Adam Dalgliesh, P.D James created one of the most loved detectives in the crime genre. All of her books have been adapted to radio and TV. Gripping from start to finish, “A Taste for Death” puts Adam Dalgliesh in one of the most complex cases of his career. Two bodies have been discovered in a church with their throats slashed. It is up to Dalgliesh to discover who is responsible.
- Killing Floor (Lee Child): Jack Reacher is not what you would call your ordinary detective. Raised by the army, Reacher is a retired major who spent thirteen years a member of the U.S. military police. He has an incredible appetite for mathematics, shrewd deductions skills, and in-depth technical and fighting skills. All of which make him a formidable detective when crime comes his way. Lee Child introduced the character in 1997 with the debut novel “Killing Floor,” which went on to win the Barry Award and Anthony Award for best first novel. Since then, Child has written over a dozen Reacher novels, all of which have featured memorable plot lines.
- The Hounds of Baskerville (Arthur Conan Doyle): When people think great detectives, Sherlock Holmes is rarely far behind. In fact, he probably should be heading this list. And it is easy to see why. Despite being published in the nineteenth century, the stories still hold up well. Holmes’ deductive skills, wit, and sharpness pulse with impressive life from the pages. “The Hounds of Baskerville” was the third of the four novels written by Doyle. In it, Holmes, alongside his trust assistant Dr. Watson, attempt to uncover a case where a family is seemingly afflicted with a supernatural curse.
- A is for Alibi (Sue Grafton): Most of the greatest detectives are flawed in some fundamental way. Sherlock Holmes is cold, Poirot is self-centered, and Jack Reacher is a recluse. But Kinsey Millhone does not come with any specific flaw. She embraces life and all its quirky flaws with uncontrolled passion. At heart a warm bubbling heroine, Millhone is a bounty hunter who solves crimes the good old-fashioned way: by paying attention and looking for things out of the ordinary. Sue Grafton’s first book won over readers with its witty prose, brief chapters, and vibrant plot.
- A Murder is Announced (Agatha Christie): Christie’s Miss Jane Marple character is the antithesis of Hercules Poirot (a character from her other book mentioned earlier in this list, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”). The elderly spinster didn’t travel around much, had a tendency to gossip, and dabbled in amateur detective work when the opportunity presented itself. In “A Murder is Announced,” the residents of the village are invited to witness a murder in a country house. It is finely staged—a masked man appears, the lights go off, a shot is fired, and then the lights return to reveal the masked man lying dead. A Murder is Announced was only one of 12 Miss Marple stories, but it clearly stands out as one of the best.
What famous detective novels would you add to our list? Comment below!