This 4-novel series, written by Arthur Conan Doyle, follows the life and work of Sherlock Holmes, a scatty, super-intelligent, and innovative detective, and his friend and sideman Dr. Watson.
Each book follows a different case, more mind-boggling and gripping than the last. Not only have readers fallen in love with Conan Doyle’s fantastic story-telling capabilities, but they have been captivated by his protagonist who identifies meticulous detail, thinks outside the box, and has a fantastically charming wit that shines through during dark and twisted investigations.
The books detail each investigation from start to finish and include personal, criminal, violent, or emotional sub-plots that run alongside.
It has been speculated that Holmes likely suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, which allows him to think in different ways and fuels his struggle with relationships, both romantic and platonic.
Conan Doyle’s writing is so brilliantly diverse; intertwining crime, relationship details, violence, and speculation and relying on complex psychology throughout.
Sherlock Holmes has been a character adored by many, but some struggle to grasp Sherlock’s personality and cannot fathom how he thinks and processes. This has been both a blessing and a curse for Doyle in terms of the reception of his novels, as the protagonist’s unusual approach toward detective work has both intrigued and repelled readers.
If you haven’t yet read any of the famous Sherlock Holmes series, you’re missing out. The work is innovative, suspenseful, and filled with enjoyable nuances – there’s a reason why it’s so popular!
Whether you’ve already read the series or whether you’re ready to dip your toe in the world of detective fiction, here are 20 of the best detective books you should consider reading.
Hercule Poirot Series by Agatha Christie
Christie creates a heroic, smart, Belgian detective in her Poirot series. Similar to Doyle’s protagonist, Poirot thinks unlike many other detectives and can solve mysteries that others have spent years failing to do.
The Hercule Poirot series encapsulates his entire life in England, delves into his psychology, uncovers fascinating truths about the cases he deals with, and tackles pertinent themes such as immigration, mental illness, crime, violence, and death.
Enola Holmes by Nancy Springer
This Doyle-esque series follows the often-forgotten tale of Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister, Enola. Enola Holmes has recently been transformed into a film series starring Millie Bobby Brown and has raked in new readers.
These books convey the thrill and suspense of detective work from a fresh feminist angle, detailing the restriction imposed on women during the late nineteenth century. Brilliantly written and providing an additional perspective on Doyle’s original protagonist, these books make fantastic sequels to the Sherlock Holmes series.
Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers
This is the first book in the iconic Peter Wimsey mystery series written by one of the most brilliant female crime writers of her time.
Whose Body follows detective Wimsey who investigates a naked dead body that mysteriously appears in a bath. This case barely begins before a notable financier disappears. Wimsey is convinced the two are linked but must uncover the truth to solve the case.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe
This harrowing story based on real crimes is one of Edgar Allen Poe’s most notable short stories. It follows Auguste Dupin who dedicates his time to solving the brutal and violent murders of two women.
Set in the darker side of Paris, The Murders in the Rue Morgue are fast-paced, short, and easy to read for those who lack the patience for longer novels.
Often noted as one of the first works that paved the way for the creation of the detective fiction genre, this emblematic story is worth the read.
Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye
If you enjoyed Doyle’s sarcastic, endearing, and frightfully intelligent character, Dr. Watson in the originals, you’ll love this recommendation.
Dust and Shadow is a retelling of the famous real-life serial killer Jack the Ripper, who killed 5 women brutally. Faye’s story interpolates the brilliant mind of Sherlock Holmes, narrated by Dr. Watson as they track this Victorian serial killer without the aid of modern forensics.
It’s a fantastic concept, with a balanced blend of real, terrifying events and fictional genius – perfect for Sherlock Holmes fans.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr. Jekyll is a skilled scientist with a fantastic reputation but what many don’t realize is that Jekyll is experimenting with dark science and can transform into his evil alter ego, Mr. Hyde who commits evil crimes and accepts no responsibility.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an innovative take on science, reality, crime, and psychology. It has a gothic/horror feel to it and unleashes the prospect that there could be two sides to everyone.
The Nero Wolfe Series by Rex Stout
Fer-de-Lance is the first novel in this epic 74-text series, which includes 33 novels and 41 novellas. The series follows fat, eccentric, and hyper-intelligent detective Nero Wolfe and his right-hand man Archie Goodwin as they solve New York’s impossible crimes during the 1950s.
The books have inspired several versions of television adaptations, which have drawn even more readers to the originals. Blending comedy, mystery, suspense, and thrill together in one huge story, Rex Stout brings something new to the line of detective fiction novels that preceded his work. He is a fantastic writer with a deserving reputation.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This recommendation has a slightly different flavor, following Doyle’s characters into the modern era. Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, descendants of Doyle’s originals, find themselves at the same boarding school.
A Study in Charlotte, which is an obvious adaptation of A Study in Scarlet, Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, kickstarts with a murder. When a fellow student is murdered, the pair find themselves at the forefront of the list of suspects. Just like their ancestors did, the two must now work together to solve the case and prove they are not the ones responsible
The Sweetness at the Bottom of Pie by Alan Bradley
The first in the 10-book series following Flavia de Luce, The Sweetness at the Bottom of Pie introduces the young girl, who takes an interest in dark, twisted things.
As strange things begin unraveling before her, Flavia does not react like any other young girl, she is inspired by disease and death which takes her on an unexpected path.
Jackaby by William Ritter
This detective novel interpolates the supernatural as it uncovers the unexplainable serial murders in nineteenth-century New England. This is the first of 4 gothic tales that follow investigator Jackaby and his assistant Abigail Rook as they find who is responsible for these mysterious deaths.
Jackaby is a brilliant, multi-genre that takes the classic detective tale and puts a supernatural spin on it. Highly enjoyable for many readers.
Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
Pietr the Latvian is the first in Simenon’s detective series that follows Jules Maigret. Maigret has become one of the most famous literary detectives of all time and is at the center of around 100 of his detective stories.
This novel follows an exhausting search for the highly dangerous criminal, Pietr the Latvian which sends Maigret on a hunt, following his crimes around Europe.
The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver
The Bone Collector is the beginning of Deaver’s 15-book series that follows forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme, the best in his field.
With a new killer on the loose, Rhyme is forced to follow a long and confusing set of clues to uncover who is responsible and how they’ve been carrying out these brutal attacks. But as things get more personal, Rhyme must unleash secrets about the history of New York City, even at the expense of himself or close ones.
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
The literary giant Anthony Horowitz brings his own spin on Sherlock Holmes in The House of Silk. It follows the same characters, continuing their same characterizations and wit, through even more thrilling cases.
Art dealer Edmund Carstairs visits Holmes and Watson for some help. He claims to have been followed to England from America by a wanted criminal in a mysterious flat cap. The story of burglary, threat, and violence is a fantastic contribution to the original series and is worth the read for any Sherlock fan.
The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald
When high-profile millionaire Ralph Sampson gets kidnapped, Lew Archer must uncover more about his private life and relationships to figure out who is responsible.
A fantastically satirical narrative mocking wealthy lifestyles, The Moving Target interpolates greed, sex, love, family disorder, and crime all in one fiery novel.
The Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
This brilliant novel follows Charles Lenox, a typical Victorian gentleman that enjoys the finer things in life. However, when one of his friends calls asking for help, Lenox cannot disappoint. He is challenged with the mystery of a suspected suicide – although that’s not what the evidence suggests.
Sent on a journey to uncover the truth, Lenox must delve into a different world of poisons, affairs, and motives. The Beautiful Blue Death has the same gritty feel to the Sherlock mysteries, following a similar, but perhaps less specialized character.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
One of the most famous English Victorian novelists Wilkie Collins wrote (arguably) the first full-length detective novel in history. The Moonstone follows the story of a precious jewel that is stolen from Rachel Verinder on the night of her birthday.
This is the ultimate whodunit novel, following suspects, uncovering evidence, and discovering the truth behind the crime.
Frozen Secrets by W.S. Greer
Following the work of homicide detective Jarrod Granger, this book deals with the investigation of a mysterious serial killer, who meticulously stabs his victims 19 times and cuts out their tongues.
As victims fall and more evidence unearths, the lives of the detectives involved become complicated and throw the investigation into turmoil. Frozen Secrets is a complex, mysterious novel jam-packed with secrecy and violence.
The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
The Innocence of Father Brown tells the story of a Catholic priest who fulfills detective work and solves mysteries. Favoring the use of observation and innovative insight, Father Brown contributes to unsolved cases in unique ways, unable to access forensic evidence.
Following the classic style of most detective stories, this series sheds new light on the work of standard investigators and may even make you laugh too.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The first in the series to feature the iconic detective Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep is an unforgettable detective novel that follows multiple complex cases across different timelines.
From the brilliant mind of Raymond Chandler, you can’t be disappointed by this book.
The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman
New York Times best-seller The Bullet that Missed is a brilliant choice if you enjoy the thrill of detective stories mixed with a more light-hearted, witty narration.
This book is the third in Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series, which has received a plethora of positive reviews since its release. This novel explores the psychology behind murder and sends the reader on a journey of detective exploration.
These books are among the best detective fiction novels ever written and are bound to get your blood pumping if you enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes novel series. With a wide array of suggestions, covering all genres and sub-genres, there’s no doubt that you’ll find something you love on this list.
Bonus: The bestselling detective books of all time
1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)
2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)
3. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)
4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)
5. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
6. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005)
8. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (1987)
9. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)
10. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)
11. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown (2000)
12. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988)
13. The Murder of the Maharajah by H.R.F. Keating (1979)
14. The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler (1949)
15. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)
16. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934)
17. The Alienist by Caleb Carr (1994)
18. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013)
19. The Adventures of Auguste Dupin by Edgar Allan Poe (1841)
20. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (1922)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best film/series adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes books?
It all depends on preference – what you as a viewer want to see – but the most famous portrayals of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s investigations are the BBC’s Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman or the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.
Are Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson homosexual?
This has been widely speculated and at times, is touched on in the novels, however, the books do not overtly claim the two to be romantically involved. Some of the fanfiction or adaptations of the novels have centered their stories around this however, so if you’re interested in this area, there are texts out there to explore.
In what order should I read the Sherlock Holmes novel series?
Start with the 4 novels: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear. Then if you’re craving more, you can read the 56 short stories also attached. These are separated into 5 collections: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
Are the Sherlock Holmes novels worth reading?
These are some of the most innovative and interesting novels within the detective fiction genre if not ever. They are highly rated and have been classics since their publication.
Why are there so many works in the Sherlock Holmes series?
Doyle received a huge amount of pressure to keep writing books, hence why there are so many in the series.
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