'CORE' Best Lists
- Top 25 Best Mystery Books
- The Top 100 Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Audiobooks
- Best Mystery Books of 2016
- Best Mystery Books of 2015
- Best Mystery Series
- Best Mystery Stand Alones
- Best Modern Mystery Books
- Best Indie Mystery Books
- Best Classic Mystery Books
- Underrated Mystery Books
'ERA' Best Lists
'GENRE' Best Lists
- Best Legal Mystery Books
- Best Police Procedural Books
- Best Mystery Thriller Books
- Best Mystery Suspense Books
- Best Whodunit Mystery Books
- Best True Crime Books
- Best Mystery Thriller Books
- Best Amateur Detective Books
- Best Private Investigator Books
- Best Hard Boiled Mystery Books
- Best Literary Mystery Books
- Best Cozy Mystery Books
- Best Supernatural Mystery Books
- Best Historical Mystery Books
- Best Fantasy Mystery Books
- Best Science Fiction Mystery Books
- Best Romantic Mystery Books
'AUDIENCE' Best Lists
- Best Mystery Books for Women
- Best Mystery Books by Female Authors
- Best Young Adult Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Books for Children
And so to start we go to the women herself, for one of the definitive whodunits, for which Agatha Christie may have the honour of giving a book one of the most offensive titles ever a title that was thankfully changed for later releases to give us And Then There Were None. Title controversies aside, this whodunit is a classic, and one that will have you head-scratching to the very end.
The premise is a familiar one: 10 strangers summoned to a remote island under false pretences, each with a secret, and a killer is picking them off one by one as punishment for their crimes to the tune of an old nursery rhyme about ten little Indians, and it's a race to guess the identity of the killer. Throw in British sensibilities and a unique and interesting cast of characters, and this makes for a powerhouse in the mystery genre.
And Then There Were None is a true technical achievement, executed in fast-paced, devilishly clever style. You may try figuring out this one on your own, but the chances youll get it right are about the same as getting a copy with the original title. A must-read for mystery fans, this is one case youll never peg until the final page - racking up the body count at 10 murders and a suicide; youll be gripped right from the beginning until there were none.
Books in Hercule Poirot Series (41)
Next we come to one of the most famous detectives in fiction; Nero Wolfe is a genius at solving murders, but what draws in readers to the series of whodunits that Nero solves is not just his genius, but his quirky nature. This morbidly obese man never leaves his home and essentially has minions that bring him pieces of evidence which he uses to finger the culprit.
Nero's number one minion and chief man-of-action is Archie Leach; always ready with a wise-crack and on hand to aid and complement his intelligent boss. The pair share a love-hate relationship that dials up the laughs as they try to solve the fun and twistily plotted whodunits, beginning with this first case of the murders of an Italian immigrant and a wealthy college president. This novel is not as much plot-focused as most whodunits, with most of its appeal coming from the quirky characters, sarcasm and bitingly clever word play.
Books in Nero Wolfe Series (46)
Gone Girl is one of the latest and greatest novels that has generated a HUGE amount of hype. This book is everywhere, and its no surprise. Gillian Flynns novel follows the investigation into a womans disappearance, the unravelling of her husbands secrets and the troubled history of their life together as revealed through her diary. Her husband is the obvious suspect in her disappearance, but is everything really what it seems?
Its all slightly annoying and tedious to start as the characters are pretty pathetic and self-centred, but everything changes as the second half of the novel kicks in turns everything on its head and Flynn unleashes her true talent for creating a story that it is impossible not to become completely invested in. Its a subtle whodunit that you may not even realise is a whodunit until youve almost finished it! Its shocking, entertaining, dangerous and deranged; while Gone Girl can be an uneven reading experience at times, its a brilliantly psychotic and messed up novel that everyone is talking about.
Our next novel is an entertaining new crime debut from an upcoming author; Robert Galbraith has brought freshness to a genre that is Okay, okay, I cant keep this up so Ill come clean since most of you probably know already, but Robert Galbraith is not a new author at all, but rather the pseudonym of highly esteemed and much loved Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
Rowling worked hard to get this book out into the world on its own merit though (rather than her superstar author name), so lets give her the same courtesy here. Whilst the novel brings nothing entirely new to the mystery/private investigator/whodunit genres, its still entertaining and works together solidly. Our main character is Cormoran Strike, a wounded war veteran with a troubled past and all those other classic characteristics of a private eye.
Here we see him amidst the investigation of the death of a supermodel, and accompany Strike as he sets out to find who killed the beautiful babe. The Cuckoos Calling is a fantastic whodunit and one of the best new additions to the PI genre in years, try to forget that it was written by a renowned author, and judge it based on the truly intriguing plot, characters and setting.
Books in Cormoran Strike Series (4)
Next Terri Austin brings us a funny and fast-paced mystery with a cast of colourful characters and a quirky plot. This unusual whodunit sees down on her luck waitress Rose Strickland trying to discover whats happened to missing stoner-friend Axton, and find out who the mysterious bad guys following her are. Rose takes on the shadowy baddies using her sass, wits and a Taser in a fun, twisty, page-turning plot that is strongly supported by its wonderful cast of likable characters.
Rose is smart, stubborn, sassy, and beyond loyal to her friends, who are a motley crew of colourful and fun people. The central mystery is well-paced and carefully thought out, the dialogue between Rose and her friends and acquaintances snappy and accurate, and her motivations clear and believable. For an enjoyable whodunit with an odd and eclectic bunch of characters who will keep you reading and guessing all the way to its flip-flopping finale.
A Study in Scarlet introduces the famous, haughty and exceedingly intelligent dick of a detective that is Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr Watson. There is a murder committed, Sherlock Holmes investigates it, and he bashes the police force along the way, brushes off Watson when he turns all gushy with admiration, and solves the case and catches the murderer. Simple, right?
No! Holmes being the pretentious ass that he is gives no explanation of the reasoning behind his choice of culprit, when the story takes a turn into a completely different and seemingly unrelated story about Mormons. Of course, its not entirely unrelated and does pertain to the identity of the murderer, even if it doesnt seem like it at times, and has you checking your page numbers to see if theres something youve missed somewhere. All in all, you cant fault Sherlock Holmes, the series definitely lives up to its status as a classic, this first novel, whilst not the greatest Holmes tale, is a fantastically fun and cerebrally challenging whodunit that perfectly introduces the absolutely wonderful prick that is Sherlock.
Books in Sherlock Holmes Series (9)
This next novel is a delightful mix of psychological thriller and detective mystery/whodunit set in the 1890's that throws into this heady brew a Sherlock Holmes type investigator (Dr. Lazlo Kreizler) and a Hannibal Lector/Jeffrey Dahmer-type serial killer of today. With a healthy dose of historical fiction thrown in for good measure, it gives the book a unique, interesting feel; combining the darkness and grit of a present day "hunt the faceless serial killer" story within the constraints and daily rituals of life in 19th Century New York.
Carr has done a fantastic job creating a sense of place, making New York leap from the page, and the incorporation of several "real life" murderers that were contemporaries of the killer in this novel, adds an extra degree of depth, authenticity and creep factor to this impressive story. Overall the story is well-paced and thought out, and the crime-solving aspects are written with a strong cohesiveness and talent, which make this a must-read for any fan of mystery, whodunits and New York in the 1800s.
Rob Ryan, a detective on the Dublin Murder squad, and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to investigate a murder of a pre-teen girl whose body is found in the same woods where 20 years prior Rob's two best childhood friends disappeared. Are the two crimes connected? The entire story is very satisfying in terms of crime-solving.
It is pleasantly surprising how neatly French wraps up the whole tangled mess (not including one particular piece of the puzzle that apparently infuriated a bunch of readers, but really should keep you coming back for more Tana French's novels). In the Woods is a very strong debut novel.
Although a little too wordy in places, it is still a beautifully written, skilfully constructed mystery, with a multitude of red herrings, that won a whole host of mystery awards on its release including the Barry Award for Best First Novel, Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel, Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. Clearly Tana has written something very special, and you should all just go grab it and read it right now!
Books in Dublin Murder S... Series (6)
Dj Dead is the first book in the Temperance Brennan series, written by real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, more well-known by its TV adaptation Bones. Now, fans of Bones, be aware, this book is nothing like the show (seriously, the only similarity is the name Temperance Brennan), separate the two in your mind and youll be much happier.
Book-Brennan is a tad more believable than TV-Brennan; she has faults like any normal human being and doesn't always make the smart choices, shes more human and less out of touch with reality than her small-screen counterpart (totally not dissing TV-Bren by the way, her kick-ass ways make her altogether more interesting than in the book). Reichs also has a fabulous descriptive style, largely medically-oriented, but still easy enough for us non-medically trained folk to understand.
The crimes Brennan investigates and aims to solve are very violent, very gruesome and oftentimes emotionally disturbing, so be wary (in other words, this book is not for wimps). This is a dark and disturbing whodunit that is probably best for anyone who has never actually seen Bones (it's far too different), but better for people who want to be introduced to an interesting and forensically oriented whodunit series, or can actually separate TV and Book-Brennan in their minds.
Books in Temperance Bren... Series (17)
The Mystery is a classic whodunit, written in 1907 and considered to be one of the finest locked room whodunit stories of its time. A woman is killed in a locked room, and an intelligent journalist sets about solving the case. Gaston Lerouxs own time as a journalist before becoming an author is apparent in his tendency to write in the style of a turn of the century press-release its a unique and interesting style that works well for this tale.
Its also hard not to mark the strong similarities between The Mystery of the Yellow Room and Sherlock Holmes, with a similar crime-solving genius/ confused friend dynamic going on between the two main characters. Also in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, the novel is told from the point of view of the unenlightened friend, who is only given occasional clues as to what his more intelligent companion is thinking. This serves as a handy plot device that keeps the reader in the dark on many important points until the author sees fit to reveal them (its worth noting though that Holmes and Watson are infinitely more charismatic characters than the main characters of this novel). For fans of Sherlock Holmes-style whodunits and period mysteries, The Mystery of the Yellow Room is a definite must-read.
Books in Joseph Rouletab... Series (8)
The Name of the Rose is a book that is often described as a book about everything, though that's not quiiiite right. It's actually about 14th Century religious controversies, heresies and sects, with a tense and gripping medieval whodunit thrown in. I'm gonna be honest here though, if you think `The Da Vinci Code' was "masterful writing", you probably want to save yourself time and effort and read something else. It's not as daunting as many make out, but "Rose" is far from a light read. Eco also deliberately made the first 100 pages a difficult read, but stick with it.
All those obscure politics and odd names do make some sense after a while. The real joy of this novel is its layers of meaning, which is why it's one that can be read and re-read with new discoveries every time, as you accompany Brother William on his journey to follow a trail of evidence, secret symbols and coded manuscripts to uncover the identity of the person who has been murdering monks in gruesome ways that imitate punishments from the Book of the Revelations. It's a novel that contains something for everyone, and is a must read - but only with your brain well and truly in high gear.
Set mostly in Cambridge, England, Case Histories is the story of a private detective who is trying to solve three cold cases (I mean, REALLY cold - the most recent crime is still 10 years old) which all seem to interweave and mix in with his personal life. In theory, the plot is nothing special; some missing persons and murder cases, and the details are revealed as the story develops, meanwhile the detective's personal life is a tangled mess and to make matters even worse, now someone is trying to kill him.
It's pretty standard mystery fare, but what makes this book exceptional is Atkinson's truly masterful writing ability. Her style is not your run-of-the-mill airport paperback, composed of simple prose and dialogue; she has a gorgeous, intimate writing style, that pulls you into the personal stories of the living people in the book, and then nonchalantly throwing in the "crime drama/whodunit" stuff. Kate Atkinson has created a suspenseful and high calibre whodunit that is crisp and character driven, that twists and turns through time and points of view, and is a must-read for any fan of mystery.
Master of mystery Dennis Lehane brings forth yet another master work, as his protagonist Sean Devine is forced into a world of violence as the daughter of his childhood friend is murdered. It's suspected to be someone the pair knew, but did the accused Dave Boyle actually commit the murder? If not, can Sean find the true culprit? This novel is generally classed as a thriller, but it's so much more: it's a diabolically twisty whodunit and a complex exploration of the nature of growing up and the impact of traumatic events in childhood. The tale is sufficiently murky to captive and hook the reader, as you can never be truly sure that what appears to be the truth actually is the truth.
This becomes especially true once the investigation kicks in, the book becomes very hard to put down, like it's been duct-taped to your hands. Lehane creates a perfect and winding trail that can be followed (with some implementation of brainpower) to the solution to the whole crazy mess. Mystic River is a truly outstanding thriller that won Lehane a whole host of mystery literature awards, including the Barry Award for Best Novel (2002), the Anthony Award for Best Novel (2002) and the Dilys Award (2002).
Our next novel sees Jacqueline Winspear bringing us an interesting mix of historical, psychological and mystery writing. It's 1929 and Maisie Dobbs has set up her detective practice and has just received her first case, a seemingly simple case, chasing down an infidelity which leads her down a road to a much deeper, darker mystery.
The writing is spare and somewhat simple in places, which can sometimes be a little off-putting at first. However, once you get into the rhythm of Winspear's sparse style, you'll be completely hooked. The attention to detail regarding the setting, both geographically and historically is fantastic. This first novel isn't fully developed in terms of the mystery aspect, an aspect that is more refined in the later novels in the series, however this is the best place to begin to get the full Maisie Dobbs experience, and it's one you won't want to miss.
Genre-bending author Jasper Fforde creates an unusual and undefinable tale, a book filled to the brim with sci-fi, mystery, humour, fantasy, and fiction. Fforde creates an entire alternate world, in which wars are waged over ideas, and art and literature are the centre of people's daily concerns. It's a world where people can walk right into books, but it takes a turn for the worst when Jane Eyre is kidnapped from her original manuscript, wiping the text from all remaining copies of the books.
Now Literary Detective Thursday Next must find out who has kidnapped the classic heroine, and restore her to her rightful place and page. Fforde has created his world exceedingly well, and it's overflowing with originality and whimsy, inside jokes for fans of Jane Eyre. All in all, it's an entertaining novel that will be especially loved by anyone who enjoys any of the genres that Fforde borrows from.
Books in Nursery Crime Series (3)
One morning in the small village of Glennkill, Ireland, a small flock of sheep wake up to find that their shepherd, George Glenn, has been murdered, with a spade through his guts. Miss Maple, the cleverest of the sheep in Glennkill, decides they should investigate and find his murderer, because even though George was a bit of a peculiar and grouchy old bastard, he was still their shepherd, and who would read "Pamela novels" (romances) to them now? This leads into an interesting week for the residents of Glenkill as the sheep set about trying to solve the murder of their shepherd.
Swann has done a marvellous and hilarious job of layering the multitude of mysteries, and the sheep's personalities shine through in fantastically funny form with perfect comic timing. The truly great thing is that these crime-solving sheep have not really been anthropomorphised they are not sheep who act like humans, they are still very much sheep, which adds an extra layer of obscurity and fun to the mystery. Three Bags Full is a truly inventive and entertaining whodunit with a gloriously original premise.
Books in Sheep Detective ... Series (2)
Humpty Dumpty is an egg. A four-foot tall egg. Hes found dead, having apparently fallen off his wall in the middle of the night. Or was he pushed? During the course of the investigation into whodunit, DI Jack Spratt and DS Mary Mary (who really is quite contrary) encounter three little pigs, the gingerbread man, magic beans, three bags of wool, GeorgioPorgia, and a host of other familiar nursery rhyme characters.
The whole book is full of little in-jokes and cute coincidences, but the key word in the nursery crime series is definitely crime. Fforde tells the story straight its a police procedural with nursery rhyme characters. Theres a CSI team, a medical examiner, forensic evidence, clues and red herrings, unexpected confessions, jealousy, subterfuge, lies, and enough straight-faced satire for any three books. Ffordes writing is hilarious effortlessly so, it would seem but this is so much more than just a comedy, it is also one of the latest and greatest whodunits of recent years, and a truly intriguing mystery.
Books in Thursday Next Series (8)
This the first in the Cat Who series, in which we meet Jim Qwilleran, prize winning newspaper reporter. Jim has had a bit of a rough time over the past few years not much is said as to what the problem was, but he only drinks tomato juice, his wife has left him, and all he can hope for is a job reporting on the art scene for the Daily Fluxion.
There is a mysterious art critic, George BonifieldMountclemens, already commenting on the actual art Jim is expected to work on the human interest side. Things really are about to get interesting for Jim, who through a series of strange encounters finds himself investigating three murders, including that of Mountclemens and the now-deceased critics cat Koko proves to be a very able co-investigator. He may be small, furry and incapable of speech but he speaks volumes.
Jim just has to learn how to understand him. While the novel was originally written and published in the sixties, it has a timeless style and charm that makes it a great read even today. For a light and fluffy cosy whodunit with the added bonus of a cat detective, this is your absolute best choice.
Books in The Cat Who... Series (29)
The Moonstone is a true classic in the mystery genre, often described as the first real detective novel, and the first true whodunit. Through the voices of seven different characters (detectives), the tale of the stolen Moonstone and the attempted discovery of the culprit is recounted. The central mystery is extremely well-plotted and the unravelling of this compelling classic mystery is enhanced by the extremely intriguing and believable characters that relate it.
Collins keeps everything at a strong level of believability, the final solution is one that comes as a surprise to the reader, and yet doesnt come entirely out of nowhere, still fitting entirely within the limits of what has been learnt throughout the course of the story. Its important to note that the book is very long and a little wordy at times, so is not best for those suited to the more fast-paced, thrilling mysteries, however as a largely character-driven story rather than one overly focused on its plot this is the perfect whodunit for those who prefer their mysteries more on the intellectual side, rather than on shock and murder.
The Lying Game by Pretty Little Liars author Sara Shepard is a thrilling and suspenseful whodunit novel that will keep you guessing and thinking until your head is hurting. The story revolves around Emma Becker, a former foster child, who finds out she has a twin sister whom she goes in search of. Its too late however as Emma finds that her long lost sister is now dead murdered and so Emma sets out to try and find the identity of the murderer.
With each clue that is revealed it just widens the pool in this tense and thrilling tale, which is made more complex by the fact that almost everyone had motive to be her killer, and everyone is a suspect. Emmas got her work cut out for her! Sara Shepards writing style may take a little while to get used to, but its totally worth sticking with for this intriguing and at times confusing whodunit that keeps racking up the excitement.
Books in The Lying Game Series (7)
An orphan who is destined for the gallows is rescued by a school for girls that juuuust happens to be an agency on the side (of course!). Her first assignment is to pose as a lady's companion and extract as much information as she can about stolen goods from India, but Mary ends up embroiled in much, much more than she bargained for. The ladies of the house have mysterious comings and goings. Perhaps an illicit love affair or two is in the works? The sexy yet frustratingly arrogant, James Easton, keeps popping up at the worst moments, in wardrobes and broken into warehouses.
Also Mary suspects a young boy is following her about, spying on the spy. Its all very, very mysterious, and Mary is determined to find out who is behind what. During all the shadow shenanigans Mary's own family history begins to come to light and may even have some bearing on the present case. A Spy in the House is a witty Victorian-era young adult whodunit with a feisty heroine and a puzzling plot that will keep you enthralled for eras.
Books in The Agency Series (4)
Twenty-one year old Dev has just been dumped, and tries to ease the pain with a summer spent working at the Joyland carnival, whilst mourning the death of his relationship with his girlfriend. As he works the days as a carnie, his mind becomes occupied with the unsolved murder of a woman killed in the parks Horror House, as well as his growing conviction that her ghost still haunts the ride where she died.
This whodunit/coming of age tale mash-up is a delightful read that is populated by a wonderful cast of sometimes flawed but highly charismatic characters, and the interwoven stories of the murdered girl and a dying boy mixed in with Devs own as he tries to get over his pain and try to discover what happened to the murdered girl is difficult to tear yourself away from. Its not the classic horror that King is best known for, and has a bit more of a young adult feel to it, but nonetheless, Joyland is a quick and easy-to-read whodunit that is perfect fare when youre in the mood for something light yet still mysterious and compelling.
Night film is the disturbingly dark tale of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of the daughter of an iconic, reclusive filmmaker. A genius who gained fame immediately after his first horror film release, Stanislas Cordova has spent his life in exile on his private estate making additional films and only interacting with the (supposedly) lucky ones who receive an invitation.
The plot focuses on that of an investigative journalist who burns his career to ashes after publishing an epose on Stanislas Corova's private life of savage violence and dark secrets. As Scott watches his career tank, he's led on a merry chase that has Scott take on the role of an unwilling investigator, both to save his career and expose the dark secrets hidden by Cordova.
Night Film is a highly detailed and meticulously constructed novel, a little overambitious at times and sometimes longwinded but the story is filled with enough intrigue and dark mystery to satisfy your appetite for a slice of sinister whodunit.
The Little friend is a gorgeously detailed and deeply unnerving story of a little boy found murdered, hanging from a tree on Mothers Day. Twelve years later the murder is still unsolved and his sister Harriet sets out to try and find out who killed her brother. Harriet is a firecracker, completely herself and yet completely relatable. The rest of the characters are sharply drawn, as well, except when theyre meaningfully fuzzy. Tartt gets a little flowery with her language at times, but it doesnt ever feel unnecessarily so.
The story is dangerous, so much so that it creates a constant sense of tension, it draws you in and keeps you seated; itll make you want to keep reading to find out what happens but also fearing the repercussions of continuing on this path. All in all, Donna Tartts The Little Friend is a beautifully written, deep, dark and gorgeous novel; ambitious, gothic and unsettling, not as viscerally affecting as Tartts other big novel (The Secret History), but it leaves you with a lot to think about.
Now its only appropriate to end where we began, with the ever-amazing Agatha Christie, and one of her greatest novels: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Its the fourth in Christies famous Poirot series, in which rumours are spreading that a woman in a small village has poisoned her husband. The truth becomes further obscured when another victims turns up, but not for long as Poirot is on the case! Its a masterfully written story, and I can guarantee you this, if youve never read this book before, youll never guess who the murderer is!
When this book was originally published, the ending shocked so many people because it was the first ending of its kind in fact many people were very offended by its ending (Christie truly was a bit of a hell raiser when she started out, a true visionary of literature). Do yourself a favour, if you enjoy whodunits, mystery or even just reading in any way, shape or form go and read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, you wont regret it.
Our Version of the List
At a Glance
- 1 And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
- 2 Fer-de-Lance (Rex Stout)
- 3 Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
- 4 The Cuckoo's Calling (Robert Galbraith)
- 5 Diners, Dives & Dead Ends (Terri L. Austin)
- 6 A Study in Scarlet (Arthur Conan Doyle)
- 7 The Alienist (Caleb Carr)
- 8 In the Woods (Tana French)
- 9 Deja Dead: A Novel (Kathy Reichs)
- 10 The Mystery Of The Yellow Room: Extraordinary...
- 11 The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
- 12 Case Histories: A Novel (Kate Atkinson)
- 13 Mystic River (Dennis Lehane)
- 14 Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel (Jacq...
- 15 The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel (Jaspe...
- 16 Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story (Leo...
- 17 The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime (Jasper Ff...
- 18 The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Lilian Jack...
- 19 The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)
- 20 The Lying Game (Sara Shepard)
- 21 The Agency 1: A Spy in the House (Y.S. Lee)
- 22 Joyland (Stephen King)
- 23 Night Film: A Novel (Marisha Pessl)
- 24 The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)
- 25 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot...
Publicly Ranked Version of the List25 items >>
- Joyland (Stephen King)
- Fer-de-Lance (Rex Stout)