Georges Simenon was a Belgian writer in the 1900s. Possibly the most published author of the twentieth century, Simenon went to Paris after obtaining work with a newspaper, intending to become a successful writer.
Between 1923 and 1933, he published 200 works using 16 different pseudonyms. This soon made him a millionaire and allowed him the reputation to keep writing.
He published Pietr-le-Letton (The Strange Case of Peter the Lett) in 1929, in which he first introduced the Parisian police officer, Jules Maigret, who would become the subject of 83 more detective novels.
All in all, he wrote around 425 books, including 136 psychological novels, detective books, and short stories. In addition, he also wrote three autobiographical pieces, the last of which he wrote after his only daughter committed suicide.
His life was filled with twists, turns, tragedy, and success and these elements are most definitely shared within his literary work. He was known for producing novels quickly, often writing complete books in under a week, which proved positive for his bank balance but negative for his reputation.
He was open and honest about his relationships with women and in one interview admitted that he lost his virginity at the age of twelve and had slept with over a thousand women within his lifetime. During his first seven years of writing, he published what he called “spicy stories” like A Girl Who Learned A Thing or Two, among other genres such as adventure, westerns, and mysteries.
His books became the basis for several feature films, have been translated into over 50 languages, and have sold over 800 million copies across the globe.
His literary works, especially the stories of Jules Maigret continue to be loved and enjoyed today, as shown by the recent new translation of The New Investigations of Inspector Maigret, which was published in 2022.
His best-sellers include The Misty Harbor, Death Threats, and The Snow Was Dirty.
This Italian author was late starting, writing his first novel at the age of 70. Nevertheless, he went on to write a series of novels following Inspector Montalbano, set in the fictional Italian town of Vigata.
The Montalbano Mysteries handled various crimes, ranging in size and severity, all set within the Sicilian-esque Italian setting, inspired by his hometown in Sicily. His novels displayed the changing nature of Italy and featured high-profile figures like George W. Bush, with the Italian mafia and the influence of the Vatican remaining in the background.
Often known as the ultimate detective fiction writer, Agatha Christie wrote the Miss Marple series and the Poirot series, which both follow detectives on their mission to solve murders and other criminal investigations.
She began writing whilst also working as a nurse during World War I. Her first book was part of her Poirot series, which was immediately received positively and has continued to gain popularity, especially with the film adaptations entitled Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet.
The relevance of her novels is still obvious, with the recent release of Death on the Nile in February 2022, which stars Kenneth Branagh and Armie Hammer.
She recently became the best-selling author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and William Shakespeare. She wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short stories and became an inspiration to many contemporary crime-related stories such as the popular Knives Out films starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas.
Even 47 years after her death, Christie’s novels continue to entertain and inspire. If you’re a mystery and crime fiction fan and haven’t yet indulged in these novels, we recommend that you do!
Known for writing psychological thrillers and crime fiction, Patricia Highsmith is one of the most notable American novelists in history.
Her stories often toyed with the line between good and evil and guilt and innocence. She wrote Strangers on a Train in 1950, which soon after became a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The Talented Mr. Ripley was written 5 years after in 1955 but wasn’t made into a movie until 1999. However, the film, which featured Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, was an immediate success and remains a classic over approximately 70 years after the story was first published.
This British author was best known for creating The Mysteries of Aurelio Zen, the character that drives 11 crime novels set in the romantic Italian landscape.
Taking a lead from his own experience, Dibdin frequently exposed his protagonist’s emotional strain, uncommon for crime fiction novels which typically concentrate on fast-paced action and mystery.
This British writer is famous for inventing Sherlock Holmes. The Sherlock Holmes collection includes 4 novels and 56 short stories which follow the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in their mission to solve mysteries around London.
These stories have been adapted into motion pictures numerous times, the most famous of which features Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
This French novelist is the recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. Throughout over 40 books, the writer has unveiled his fascination with the human experience and covered topics such as memory, identity, guilt, and oblivion almost always using the landscape of beautiful Paris as his stage.
His bestsellers include Dora Bruder, Missing Person, and In the Cafe of Lost Youth. He has been decorated with awards for autofiction and crime fiction, blending historical fiction with autobiography and adventure.
Born into poverty as an illegitimate child in London, Edgar Wallace rose to fame writing murder mysteries, whodunit mysteries, and crime stories. With a journalistic background as a war correspondent during the Second Boer War, Wallace’s novels often take an investigative approach.
He famously invented King Kong and wrote hundreds of novels and short stories including these best-sellers: The Four Just Men, The Devil Man, and The Daffodil Mystery.
American writer Rex Stout was particularly noted for his detective fiction. He wrote 33 novels and around 40 novellas about the detective Nero Woolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin.
He received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award in 1959 and was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
Fer-de-Lance, Some Buried Caesar, and Over My Dead Body are some of his books in this collection.
This author was originally an American science fiction editor before writing mystery novels. He used the pseudonyms John Evans, Alexander Blade, Lawrence Chandler, Lee Francis, and Ivar Jorgensen, so many of his works come under these names.
His best-selling novels include Halo for Satan, The Taste of Ashes, and Halo in Brass.
Known for his short stories, poetry, and novels, McIlveney used his Scottish roots to create crime fiction in the landscape of the Glaswegian 1970s.
He is the author of the award-winning Laidlaw trilogy and coined the term ‘tartan noir’, which was used to describe Scottish crime fiction.
Argentine novelist Claudia Piñeiro wrote a variety of novels such as Elena Knows, All Yours, and A Little Luck, which have all become best-selling crime and mystery novels in Argentina.
She has written 45 books and continues to write novels, but now works as a television scriptwriter and even dips into journalism.
Baantjer was a Dutch detective fiction writer. Using inspiration from his time working as a police officer, Baantjer’s novels are accurate, realistic, and gripping.
As an inspector himself, he wrote the Inspector DeKok series, part of his wide range of detective novels.
After losing his job during the Great Depression, Raymond Chandler became one of the world’s most well-known American-British authors.
Known for his contribution to detective fiction, Chandler wrote best-sellers such as The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and The High Window. He famously created private detective Philip Marlowe and is also well-known as a screenwriter for many movies.
Born in Dublin, Brady was the author of the acclaimed Matt Minogue mystery novel series. With a fairly mundane background working as a bank official and teacher, Brady’s jump to mystery writing was unexpected but refreshing.
Known for his dark but humorous novels Low Heights, The Islanders, and The Panda Theory, Pascal Garnier was a novelist, short story writer, painter, and children’s author. He wrote some of his novels in the mountainous region of the Ardèche, writing about secrecy within provincial towns.
British crime novelist Nicolas Freeling was well known for his Van Der Valk series. The protagonist has influenced the production of several versions of the accompanying television series, which were popular in the 1970s, revived in the early 1990s, and again in 2020.
His famous novels include Love in Amsterdam, Double-Barrel, and The King of the Rainy Country.
Swedish author and translator Maj Sjöwell is famous for her novels about detective Martin Beck. The 10-book series was written between 1965 and 1975 and is widely recognized as some of the most influential crime and detective fiction ever written.
Books in this series include Roseanna, The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, and The Terrorists.
Known for his Inspector Morse series, Dexter was an English crime writer whose novels have been adapted into a television series. Often dubbed as a ‘must-read’ for crime fiction fans, the Inspector Morse series follows the feisty, poetry-loving inspector on his quest to solve mysteries.
Awarded the Gold Dagger and the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger, he wrote novels that were widely loved across the British nation and internationally.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Margaret Maron spent much of her life between Italy and the U.S. She is known for her gripping mystery novels, particularly her Sigrid Harald and Deborah Knott series.
The novel series is made up of 9 books and follows homicide detective Sigrid Harald as she uncovers the secrets of the criminal cases she’s tasked with, while simultaneously providing an insight into the obstacles of being a woman in the male-dominated profession.
Her novels often include complex female characters and explore domestic abuse, racial prejudice, and the implications of stress.
Known for writing crime thrillers and mysteries between the first and second wars, Dorothy Sayers was an English writer, famous for her novel series following Lord Peter Wimsey.
Even though she was writing a little earlier than most of the names on this list, Sayers’ novels continue to impress readers every year. Her best books include Whose Body?, Gaudy Night, and Strong Poison.
Mystery novels have long been loved by fans across the world, whether it’s the ultimate fictional detectives like Sherlock Holmes or the more niche mysteries, the genre has entertained readers for decades. This list should have provided you with a spectrum of reading material if you enjoy crime or mystery fiction.
Mystery Books FAQ
What are the different types of mystery fiction?
Classic or traditional mystery, crime, detective fiction, noirs, cozy mysteries, and capers are all examples of mystery subgenres.
How do you structure a mystery novel?
A typical mystery book is structured with five components: the characters, the setting, the plot, the problem, and the solution.
How would you describe mystery fiction?
Mystery fiction is any book in which an event, usually a serious crime or murder, remains a mystery until the end. The plot will encapsulate the full investigation of the problem, including potential suspects, finding evidence, problems that may occur on the way, and then eventually, identifying the criminal.
What is the most popular mystery novel?
Agatha Christie has long been known as the highest-selling author of mystery novels, with her Poirot and Miss Marple series gaining worldwide popularity, especially with the production of the television and film series that followed.
Why is mystery fiction so popular?
Many readers find mystery fiction gripping and they usually include interesting characters which can draw readers into a series of novels. Mystery books can also be very satisfying to read because you’re almost always guaranteed the answer at the end.
What are the most popular myster book sub-genres?
-Traditional Detective Mysteries
-Hard-Boiled Detective Mysteries
-Amateur Sleuth Mysteries
Bonus: 20 Most Popular Mystery Books to Read
1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)
2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)
3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005)
5. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)
6. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)
7. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)
8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
9. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988)
10. The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty (2012)
11. The Alienist by Caleb Carr (1994)
12. The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King (2009)
13. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (1987)
14. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
15. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (2006)
16. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013)
17. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (2007)
18. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)
19. The Daemon by Daniel Suarez (2006)
20. The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (1936)
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