Murder mystery novels have captivated readers for centuries. With gripping plots, intricate characters, and surprising twists, it’s no wonder they remain a popular genre. In this article, we explore the ten best murder mystery books you should read right now. We’ll delve into classic novels, modern must-reads, diverse voices in the genre, and tips for choosing your next riveting read.
Classic Murder Mystery Novels
When it comes to classic murder mysteries, several authors and series stand out as the best of the best. These novels have withstood the test of time and continue to captivate audiences with their intriguing stories and timeless appeal.
Agatha Christie’s Masterpieces
Agatha Christie, often referred to as the “Queen of Mystery,” is a must-read for any fan of the genre. Her novels are known for their intricate plots, memorable characters, and surprising twists that keep readers guessing until the very end. Christie’s works have been adapted into countless films, TV shows, and stage productions, cementing her legacy as one of the greatest mystery writers of all time.
Two of her most famous works are And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. And Then There Were None tells the story of ten strangers who are invited to a remote island, only to be picked off one by one by an unknown killer. Murder on the Orient Express follows detective Hercule Poirot as he investigates a murder on a luxurious train ride through Europe. Both novels feature ingenious plots and surprising conclusions that showcase Christie’s exceptional talent at crafting a compelling whodunit.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Series
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series is another classic choice for mystery lovers. With the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusty companion Dr. John Watson, these stories have been entertaining readers for generations. Doyle’s writing is known for its attention to detail, logical reasoning, and vivid descriptions of Victorian London.
Start with A Study in Scarlet, the first novel in the series, and work your way through the four novels and 56 short stories that chronicle the adventures of this iconic duo. From solving a murder in a locked room to uncovering a sinister plot involving a stolen treaty, Holmes and Watson are always up for a challenge. Their unique friendship and complementary skills make them one of the most beloved duos in literature.
Raymond Chandler’s Hardboiled Detective Fiction
For fans of hardboiled detective fiction, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely are essential reads. Featuring the cynical, wisecracking detective Philip Marlowe, these novels are known for their gritty atmosphere and razor-sharp dialogue. Chandler’s writing has influenced countless mystery writers and continues to be celebrated for its unique blend of suspense and noir.
In The Big Sleep, Marlowe is hired by a wealthy family to investigate a blackmail scheme involving their daughter. But as he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of deceit and murder that threatens to consume everyone involved. Farewell, My Lovely sees Marlowe investigating the disappearance of a nightclub owner’s wife, which leads him down a dangerous path of corruption and violence.
Chandler’s writing is known for its vivid descriptions of Los Angeles, which serve as a backdrop for Marlowe’s adventures. His sharp wit and cynical worldview add a layer of complexity to the genre, making his novels essential reading for anyone interested in the history of mystery fiction.
Modern Murder Mystery Must-Reads
While classic murder mystery novels are undeniably captivating, many contemporary authors are taking the genre to new heights. Filled with psychological depth, complex characters, and innovative storytelling techniques, these modern murder mystery novels are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Gillian Flynn’s Psychological Thrillers
Gillian Flynn has emerged as a leading voice in psychological thrillers with her bestselling novels Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and Dark Places. Known for her dark, twisted plots and unreliable narrators, Flynn’s books explore the depths of human depravity while maintaining nail-biting suspense. Fans of psychological thrillers should not miss these gripping reads.
In Gone Girl, Flynn tells the story of a marriage gone terribly wrong. When Amy Dunne goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her husband Nick becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. As the investigation unfolds, the reader is taken on a twisted journey through the minds of both Nick and Amy, and the shocking truth behind their marriage is revealed.
Sharp Objects follows journalist Camille Preaker as she returns to her hometown to investigate the murders of two young girls. As she delves deeper into the case, Camille is forced to confront her own troubled past and the dark secrets that her family has been hiding for years.
Dark Places explores the aftermath of a brutal massacre that claimed the lives of Libby Day’s mother and sisters. As Libby tries to uncover the truth about what really happened that night, she is forced to confront her own traumatic past and the role she played in her family’s tragedy.
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad Series
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is a must-read for fans of intricate, character-driven mysteries. Each novel in the series focuses on a different detective from the same squad, allowing readers to explore multiple perspectives and narratives. Start with In the Woods and follow this compelling series that masterfully weaves together suspense, atmosphere, and character development.
In the Woods introduces readers to Detective Rob Ryan, who is investigating the murder of a young girl in the same woods where he himself was found as a child, with no memory of what happened to his two best friends who disappeared that same day. As Ryan struggles to solve the current case, he is forced to confront his own past and the memories he has been suppressing for years.
The subsequent novels in the series continue to explore the lives and cases of the other detectives on the Dublin Murder Squad, including Cassie Maddox, Frank Mackey, and Antoinette Conway. Each book is a standalone mystery, but the interconnectedness of the characters and their personal lives adds an extra layer of depth and complexity to the series as a whole.
Anthony Horowitz’s Clever Whodunits
Anthony Horowitz is known for his clever, innovative whodunits that pay homage to the classic murder mystery genre while bringing a fresh, contemporary twist. The Word is Murder and The Sentence is Death showcase Horowitz’s skill at crafting complex, surprising plots that keep readers guessing until the very end. These novels are perfect for fans of both classic and modern mysteries.
In The Word is Murder, Horowitz himself becomes a character in the book, as he is approached by a disgraced detective to write a book about a murder investigation he is working on. As Horowitz becomes more involved in the case, he realizes that the detective has his own agenda, and the lines between fact and fiction begin to blur.
The Sentence is Death follows detective Daniel Hawthorne as he investigates the murder of a wealthy divorce lawyer. As Hawthorne and his new partner, writer Anthony Horowitz, delve deeper into the case, they uncover a web of secrets and lies that lead them to a shocking conclusion.
Horowitz’s clever plotting and engaging characters make these novels a must-read for any mystery lover.
Diverse Voices in Murder Mystery
As the mystery genre evolves, it’s crucial to recognize and celebrate diverse voices that bring unique perspectives and experiences to their storytelling. By embracing these authors, readers can delve into captivating mysteries that reflect a broader scope of human experiences.
Attica Locke’s Southern Noir
Attica Locke’s novels expertly blend Southern noir with compelling mysteries, showcasing the complexities of race, family, and justice in rural Texas. Her novel Bluebird, Bluebird, which follows Texas Ranger Darren Mathews as he uncovers a small town’s dark secrets, is a riveting exploration of this unique subgenre.
Locke’s writing is deeply rooted in her own experiences growing up in Texas, and she brings a unique perspective to the genre. Her characters are complex and multi-dimensional, and her exploration of the racial tensions that still exist in the South today is both timely and thought-provoking.
Through her writing, Locke shines a light on the often-overlooked experiences of African Americans in rural Texas, and she does so with a deft hand and a keen eye for detail. Her work is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the darker side of the American South.
Sujata Massey’s Perveen Mistry Series
Set in 1920s Bombay, Sujata Massey’s Perveen Mistry series offers a fresh and engaging take on traditional detective fiction. In The Widows of Malabar Hill, we follow Perveen Mistry, India’s first female lawyer, as she becomes entwined in a dangerous mystery. This series offers an intriguing glimpse into India’s history while providing readers with richly developed characters and gripping intrigue.
Massey’s writing is both evocative and immersive, transporting readers to a bygone era while still exploring themes that are relevant today. Her portrayal of Mistry as a strong, independent woman in a male-dominated field is both refreshing and empowering, and her exploration of the social and cultural norms of 1920s India is both fascinating and enlightening.
Through her writing, Massey offers readers a glimpse into a world that is both foreign and familiar, and she does so with a deft hand and a keen eye for detail. Her work is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the intersection of history, culture, and mystery.
Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins Mysteries
Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series takes readers on a journey through post-World War II Los Angeles, as seen through the eyes of African-American private detective Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins. Start with the first novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, and follow Rawlins as he navigates the seedy underbelly of LA, solving crimes and seeking justice, all while grappling with the racial tensions of the era.
Mosley’s writing is both gritty and poetic, painting a vivid picture of a city in transition. His exploration of the racial tensions of the era is both timely and timeless, and his portrayal of Rawlins as a flawed but ultimately heroic figure is both compelling and relatable.
Through his writing, Mosley offers readers a glimpse into a world that is both familiar and foreign, and he does so with a deft hand and a keen eye for detail. His work is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the intersection of history, culture, and mystery.
Tips for Choosing Your Next Murder Mystery Read
With so many incredible murder mystery novels available, it can be difficult to choose the perfect book for your next reading adventure. Here are some tips to help you make the best decision.
Identifying Your Preferred Subgenre
First, consider what type of murder mystery you enjoy the most. Do you prefer classic whodunits, psychological thrillers, hard-boiled detective stories, or something else entirely? Identifying your preferred subgenre can narrow down your choices and lead you to the perfect read.
Exploring Award-Winning Titles
Another way to discover great murder mystery novels is by exploring award-winning titles. Organizations such as the Mystery Writers of America and the Crime Writers’ Association offer annual awards for outstanding work in the genre, providing an excellent resource for discovering exceptional books.
Seeking Recommendations from Fellow Mystery Lovers
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask fellow mystery fans for their favorite books and authors. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or member of an online book club, getting recommendations from those who share your passion for murder mysteries can lead you to your new favorite read.
In conclusion, these ten best murder mystery books have something for every reader, from timeless classics to contemporary thrillers to diverse voices expanding the genre’s horizons. Grab one of these captivating novels today and immerse yourself in the intriguing world of murder mystery storytelling.
What is the most current murder mystery novel?
Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club is a popular new(ish) release that centers around a murder mystery plot. It was released in 2020 and became very popular on social media.
Agatha Christie is arguably the most famous murder mystery writer in literary history and her novels are still enjoyed today worldwide.
What are the best murder mystery novels to read?
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, and One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus are the top books in this genre.