The 10 Best Murder Mystery Book Series of All Time

Murder mystery book series have captivated readers for centuries, providing literary entertainment that combines thrilling narratives and intellectual challenges. Over time, these series have undergone substantial developments and diversified into various subgenres. In this article, we explore the 10 best murder mystery book series of all time, delving into each series’ unique features and the evolution of murder mysteries as a genre.

The 10 Best Murder Mystery Book Series of All Time

The Evolution of Murder Mystery Series

From the inception of detective stories in the 1800s to today’s fast-paced, graphic novels, the murder mystery genre has evolved remarkably. To understand our picks for the best series, it’s helpful to grasp the historical context and the changes the genre has experienced over the years.

The Golden Age of Detective Fiction

The 1920s and 1930s are considered the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, marked by classic whodunit stories featuring talented amateur sleuths, intricate plots, and a strong focus on puzzle-solving. The focus during this period was on presenting an intellectual challenge to readers, who enjoyed piecing together clues alongside the protagonists. Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh were some of the period’s most celebrated authors, shaping the genre and laying the groundwork for future murder mystery series.

Agatha Christie, in particular, was a master of the genre, and her influence can still be seen in contemporary murder mysteries. Her famous detective, Hercule Poirot, was a beloved character who appeared in numerous novels and short stories. Christie’s intricate plots and clever twists kept readers guessing until the very end, and her works continue to be popular today.

The Rise of Police Procedurals

As murder mysteries gained popularity, the rise of police procedurals in the mid-20th century introduced a new layer of realism. In these series, protagonists shifted from amateur detectives to professional policemen, and the stories often dove into the inner workings of police departments, focusing on teamwork, modern forensic methods, and the criminal justice system. Authors such as P.D. James and Ed McBain played instrumental roles in the growth and acceptance of the police procedural subgenre.

P.D. James’ famous detective, Adam Dalgliesh, was a chief inspector with the Metropolitan Police in London. Her novels often explored the psychological motivations of both the victims and the suspects, and her attention to detail and authenticity made her a pioneer in the police procedural subgenre.

Modern Murder Mystery Series

Contemporary murder mystery series encompass a broad range of styles, characterized by grittier, darker storylines, with an emphasis on the psychological motivations of characters. In recent decades, authors from regions like Scandinavia and Ireland have contributed to the development of the genre, with series such as Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad standing as prime examples of innovative, modern murder mysteries.

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which includes “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” is a gripping series that explores themes of corruption, violence against women, and the underbelly of Swedish society. The series’ protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, is a complex and fascinating character who has become a modern icon in the world of crime fiction.

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is another standout in the modern murder mystery genre. Set in Ireland, the series follows a different detective in each book, allowing readers to explore different perspectives and personalities. French’s writing is lyrical and atmospheric, and her characters are fully realized and deeply flawed.

Overall, the evolution of the murder mystery genre has been a fascinating one, with each era bringing new ideas, characters, and themes to the table. Whether you prefer classic whodunits or gritty police procedurals, there is a murder mystery series out there for everyone.

Criteria for Choosing the Best Series

With so many outstanding murder mystery series available, we emphasize four primary criteria when selecting the best series. These criteria help provide a comprehensive understanding of why each series is a must-read for any murder mystery aficionado.

Engaging Plotlines

Compelling and unpredictable plotlines are the backbone of any great murder mystery series. The best series intertwine page-turning suspense with intricate puzzles, ensuring that readers remain hooked and invested in the outcome of the story.

For example, in the popular series “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” the plotlines are crafted with intricate details and twists that keep readers guessing until the very end. The series is known for its clever use of misdirection and surprise endings that leave readers eager for more.

Memorable Characters

A memorable protagonist, whether a witty amateur sleuth or dogged detective, can make a murder mystery series truly unforgettable. Equally important are convincing villains and a colorful supporting cast that enrich the narrative and keep readers coming back for more.

In the “Miss Marple” series by Agatha Christie, the title character is a beloved amateur sleuth who uses her sharp wit and keen observation skills to solve crimes in her small English village. Her quirky personality and unique approach to solving mysteries make her a fan favorite.

Unique Settings

The setting and atmosphere of a murder mystery series can transport readers to another world, creating memorable backdrops that enhance the mystery. Whether it’s a remote island, the foggy streets of Victorian London, or the bustling metropolis of modern New York City, a distinctive setting can contribute to a series’ lasting appeal.

The “Sherlock Holmes” series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is known for its vivid descriptions of Victorian London, from the bustling streets to the seedy underbelly of the city. The setting adds a layer of realism to the mysteries and immerses readers in the world of the series.

Literary Quality

While plot and character are crucial components, outstanding murder mystery series also display high levels of literary quality, showcased through thought-provoking themes, sharp wit, and skillful storytelling. Writers who master these elements can take their series to another level.

In the “Tess Monaghan” series by Laura Lippman, the author uses her skillful storytelling to explore complex themes such as identity, family, and justice. The series is also known for its sharp wit and engaging prose, making it a standout in the genre.

By considering these criteria, readers can ensure that they are selecting the best murder mystery series to satisfy their craving for suspense, intrigue, and unforgettable characters.

The Top 10 Murder Mystery Series

Now that we understand the criteria and historical context of these series, let’s delve into the 10 best murder mystery book series of all time. Ranging from classic tales to modern sensations, these series exemplify the finest aspects of the genre.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot Series

Hercule Poirot series

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series stands as one of the most enduring and iconic in detective fiction. The brilliant Belgian detective, with his distinctive mustache and methodical approach to solving crimes, has entertained readers through more than 30 novels and numerous short stories. Christie’s innovative storytelling and engaging plot twists are testaments to her well-deserved title as the “Queen of Crime.”

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Series

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes series Book 1)

First introduced in 1887’s “A Study in Scarlet,” Sherlock Holmes has remained an enduring and beloved figure in detective fiction. With his trusty companion Dr. John Watson by his side, Holmes uses his incredible powers of observation to unravel intricate mysteries in Victorian London across four novels and 56 short stories. Conan Doyle’s descriptive prose and the unforgettable detective duo make this series an essential read for any murder mystery fan.

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy : (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) (The Girl Who Played with Fire) (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) (Millennium Trilogy)

With its dark, intense plot and memorable lead characters, journalist Mikael Blomkvist and punk-hacker Lisbeth Salander, the Millennium Trilogy took the publishing world by storm in the 2000s. The three books – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” – are prime examples of contemporary Swedish crime fiction, tackling dark themes and creating a complex, fascinating world.

Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache Series

The Chief Inspector Gamache Series, Books 4-6: A Rule against Murder, The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Gamache Boxset Book 2)

Set in the quaint, fictional village of Three Pines in Québec, Canada, the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series blends rich character development with engrossing mysteries. Louise Penny’s powerful storytelling and her depiction of Gamache’s thoughtful, human approach to solving crimes make this series a standout among modern murder mystery series.

P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh Series

Inspector Adam Dalgliesh

Featuring Adam Dalgliesh, a thoughtful and introspective Scotland Yard commander, P.D. James’ series brings psychological depth to the police procedural subgenre. With fascinating characters, intricate plots, and a distinctive British atmosphere, this critically acclaimed series is a cornerstone of the police procedural movement.

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad Series

Dublin Murder Squad

Set in modern-day Ireland, the Dublin Murder Squad series is known for its complex, emotionally resonant mysteries and deeply developed characters. Each novel follows a different member of the squad as they navigate the dark underbelly of Dublin, unraveling intricate murder cases. French’s literary skills, atmospheric prose, and psychological insights make this series a standout in contemporary murder mysteries.

Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole Series

Harry Hole

Traversing the chilling landscapes of Norway, Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series immerses readers in the world of the brilliant but deeply flawed detective. Known for its dark, gritty atmosphere, and complex, twisting plots, the Harry Hole series is a prime example of Nordic noir, a subgenre that highlights the bleakness and moral complexity often found in Scandinavian crime fiction.

Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley Series

Inspector Lynley

With a lush, evocative backdrop of modern England, Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series centers on the partnership of Scotland Yard detectives Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers. Known for its deep character development and intricate plots, the series expertly balances traditional detective story elements with contemporary sensibilities.

Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus Series

Inspector Rebus Novels

Set in the vividly depicted streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series is known for its gritty atmosphere, stark realism, and engaging narrative style. Tackling political and social issues alongside nuanced criminal investigations, the series introduces readers to the complex and enigmatic detective John Rebus, whose rough exterior and troubled past add to the series’ depths.

Val McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Series

Tony Hill/Carol Jordan

The partnership of clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan serves as the foundation for Val McDermid’s chilling, suspenseful series. With expertly crafted, emotionally engaging plots and a keen focus on the psychological dynamics between the protagonists and the criminals they pursue, this series is a must-read for fans of intense, dark murder mysteries.

You can find this book here.

In conclusion, these 10 best murder mystery book series of all time cover a wide range of styles, settings, and themes. Each series boasts its own unique elements, ensuring that there’s something for every type of reader among these outstanding works of detective fiction.


Do all mysteries include a murder?

No, not necessarily. Many mysteries revolve around missing people or objects and unexplained events. However, murder mysteries are so popular because death increases the stakes and adds tension to a narrative.

Who popularised the murder mystery genre?

Edgar Allen Poe is often credited with popularising the murder mystery genre with his publication of The Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1844.

Who’s the better murder mystery author – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie?

Both authors offer readers thrilling plots, witty detectives, and twisted villains. Whether you want to follow Miss Marple, Poirot, or Sherlock Holmes, you are not going to be disappointed.

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