Genre Guide: Mystery

Key Titles

And Then There Were None

by Agatha Christie

Ten people are lured to a private island by invitations from a mysterious host, and terror mounts when guests die one by one.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

by Arthur Conan Doyle

When Sir Charles Baskerville is murdered, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are bought in to investigate the legend of a supernatural beast that has been haunting the Baskerville family for decades.

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett

First his partner is murdered while working on a case for a beautiful client, then the client also turns up dead. Next comes a lucrative offer for the return of an elusive falcon statuette, and Private Detective Sam Spade must unravel the whole messy affair.

The Moonstone

by Wilkie Collins

A sinister revenge plot, theft, and murder all factor in to this classic tale about a jewel believed to bring ill luck. On the very night Rachel Verrinder receives the moonstone—really an extremely valuable diamond—it is stolen. Sergeant Cuff, a famous London detective, takes the case and uncovers a number of plots in his determination to unmask the culprit. Commonly considered the first English detective novel, this 1868 work from the master of sensation fiction is generally accepted as his masterpiece, with The Woman in White coming in a close second.

The Thirty-Nine Steps

by James Buchan

In 1914 Britain, as Europe is close to the start of WWI, Richard Hannay is living a quiet life in London when he helps an American traveler who reveals a possible spy ring with anarchist leanings. When that man and many others wind up dead, Hannay’s life takes a hair-raising turn as he tries to solve a baffling mystery: What are the thirty-nine steps?

Amateur Sleuth

Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben
Mickey Bolitar Mysteries #1

Manhattan sports agent Myron Bolitar doubles as a private detective when his newest high-profile client receives a mysterious manila envelope connecting an old friend to a murder. When others, seemingly unconnected, start receiving similar envelopes, Bolitar must untangle an elaborate web of secrets and lies.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries #10

Wimsey is an engaging and amusing character, a gentleman detective who stumbles on cases ranging from a corpse wearing a pince-nez in the bathtub to intrigues in the Foreign Office. In this most beloved tale from the series, Lord Peter investigates a series of malicious and potentially deadly pranks at Oxford College at the request of his friend Harriet Vane.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Flavia de Luce Series #1

This award-winning book introduces the unforgettable Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old aspiring chemist and amateur sleuth. When her father is the main suspect after a man is murdered on their English countryside mansion, Flavia goes into action.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

In this new book series from the same creator as the television series and the movie, Veronica Mars returns to California and Mars Investigations. When a girl disappears during a spring break party, Veronica hopes to quickly earn some much needed cash and solve the case without incident. Things take a dangerous turn, however, into an underworld of drugs and organized crime.

Detective/P.I. Mystery

General Detective/P.I.

Dog on It

by Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie Mysteries #1
Bernie, a nice-guy, down-on-his-luck detective and Chet, his loyal canine sidekick, take on the case of a missing teenage girl in hopes of resolving their ongoing money problems.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

by Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot Mysteries #3
In one of Christie's most controversial novels, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot travels to a small English village and investigates a murder mystery involving a gossipy spinster, a local doctor, and a wide range of suspects with varying motives and mysterious relationships. The novel is widely famed for its ending plot twist.

Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot Mysteries #8
After a man is killed on the Orient Express en route from Istanbul to London, private detective Hercule Poirot investigates. There are many conflicting clues, and every passenger and even some of the staff appear to be suspects.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #1
Mma Precious Ramotswe, the first female private investigator in Botswanna, is slowly bulding a detective agency along with her assistant, Mma Grace Makutsi. Cases range from women suspecting their husbands of cheating to witchdoctors, theft, kidnapping, and murder. Mma Ramotswe’s gentle manner, high moral character, and trusty detective manual help guide the agency’s success.

The Spellman Files

by Lisa Lutz
Spellman Files #1
Isabel "Izzy" Spellman is a 28-year-old private eye working for her eccentric family's investigation firm. Looking to get out of the family business, she agrees to take one more job—a 15-year-old missing persons case. But things get complicated when someone close to Izzy also goes missing.


The Big Sleep

by Raymond Chandler
Philip Marlowe Mysteries #1
The gruff, heavy drinking Philip Marlowe has become one of the most celebrated fictional detectives of all time. In his debut appearance, Marlowe is hired by a wealthy old man whose daughter is being blackmailed. As Marlowe unravels the blackmail plot, one clue leads to others and he finds himself in the city’s underworld of booze, violence, pornography, and murder.

The Monkey's Raincoat

by Robert Crais
Elvis Cole/Joe Pike Mysteries #1
Los Angeles private detective Elvis Cole is a tough, ex-Army Ranger with a smart mouth and an unpredictable ex-Marine for a partner. When he's hired to investigate a missing husband, Cole figures the case will be routine, but then things go from bad to worse when murder and kidnapping lead into Hollywood’s seamy and bizarre underworld.

The Thin Man

by Dashiell Hammet
Hard-drinking Private Detective Nick Charles and his wealthy socialite wife Nora are drawn into the murder investigation of a mysterious and eccentric patriarch found dead in someone else's clothing. Although more humorous and lighter in tone than Hammet's other work, readers seeking more of the the hardbitten edge found in his Sam Spade books won't be disappointed.

"General" Mystery Novels

Before the Poison

by Peter Robinson
This award-winning novel set in the Yorkshire countryside features Chris Lowndes, a British film composer and recent widower who purchases an isolated house that happens to be the site of a sensational murder several decades earlier. After learning that the murderer was a WWII nurse who was eventually hanged for killing her husband, Chris becomes obsessed with learning more.

The Cold Dish

by Craig Johnson
Walt Longmire Mysteries #1
After decades of peace between the white and Native American communities of early American Wyoming, a young man is found dead. A few years before he and some friends were convicted of assaulting a young Cheyenne girl with limited mental capabilities. When local Sheriff Walt Longmire, his deputy Victoria Moretti, and friend Henry Standing Bear begin to investigate whether someone sought revenge, they find a multitude of suspects.

The Cutting Season

by Attica Locke
Caren Gray has mixed feelings about managing the sprawling plantation where she grew up and where her ancestors were once slaves. But when an immigrant sugar cane worker is found dead on the edge of Belle Vie, she can no longer suppress her misgivings and decides to investigate. As centuries-old secrets rise up from the past, Caren begins to fear that her nine-year-old daughter may know more about the murder than she’s telling.

Iron Lake

by William Kent Krueger
Cork O'Connor Mysteries #1
Part Irish, part Native American, Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor puts aside his grudge against the small Minnesota town that rejected him as a sheriff to investigate a sinister conspiracy responsible for the murder of the local judge. This is the first in a series of book that sometimes mixes Native American mysticism with vividly written suspense.

Open Season

by C.J. Box
Joe Pickett Mysteries #1
When a local hunting guide is found dead in Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s own back yard, there is also live evidence of an endangered species thought to be extinct. If this news gets out, it might destroy the chances of big oil investing billions of dollars to the area. Pickett has always been a man who won’t take bribes or look the other way, but now his career is in jeopardy and his family in mortal danger.

Ordinary Grace

by William Kent Krueger
This meditative standalone novel centers on a middle-aged man looking back on a series of tragic, mysterious deaths that occurred in his hometown when he was a young teen. What emerges is a complex web of secrets, rumors, and betrayals that left his religious family and their small 1961 Minnesota community changed forever.

Historical Mystery

The Alienist

by Caleb Carr
Set in New York City in 1896, Theodore Roosevelt, then New York City police commissioner, assembles a team of amateur detectives to investigate a series of gruesome murders, using new methods including fingerprinting, psychology, and profiling.

The Cater Street Hangman

by Anne Perry
Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Mysteries #1
After the gruesome murders of several young women in the streets of Victorian-era London, the wealthy Ellison family comes under scrutiny when a victim is one of their own housemaids. Inspector Thomas Pitt leads the investigation and stops by to question the family because (1) one of them might be keeping a secret and (2) he has more than a passing fancy for their more unconventional daughter Charlotte.

The Eye of the Red Tsar

by Sam Eastland
Inspector Pekkala #1
Pekkala, a Finnish-born detective who remained loyal to the Russian crown and was exiled by the Bolsheviks to Siberia for his allegiance, is freed from imprisonment in order to investigate the massacre of the Romanovs.

The Gods of Gotham

by Lyndsay Faye
In 1845, having lost everything in a raging fire, Timothy Wilde joins the newly formed NYPD and walks 16-hour beats in one of the poorest slums of the city. One night a small girl needs help and later claims to know that dozens of bodies have been buried in the local forest, causing Timothy to wonder if he’s made of the right stuff to be a detective.

An Instance of the Fingerpost

by Iain Pears
In Restoration-era Oxford, Charles II has just been restored to the throne, religious persecution lingers, and a new set of philosophers and scientists challenge current religious and political thought. In this acclaimed novel centered around the murder of Robert Grove, fictional characters are added to a cast of historical figures to create an intricately plotted historical mystery told from multiple perspectives.

Mistress of the Art of Death

by Ariana Franklin
Adelia Aguilar Series #1
In this criminal investigations drama set in the twelfth century, a brilliant forensic pathologist risks denunciation as a witch to pursue her career. When four Catholic children are murdered in Cambridge and local suspicion against Jews threaten King Henry II’s tax revenue, he hires Adelia to investigate. Also part of the mix is Sir Walter Rowley, tax collector, suspect, and Adelia’s unexpected ally.

The Name of the Rose

by Umberto Eco
While Franciscan friar William of Baskerville is attending a theological event at a Benedictine abbey in Northern Italy, a suspicious suicide takes place. After more deaths occur, it becomes clear that this is a case of murder, and Brother William and his novice are asked by the abbot to investigate. This is a detailed literary mystery that has become a modern classic.

A Test of Wills

by Charles Todd
Inspector Rutledge Mysteries #1
Still suffering from shell shock after his experiences fighting in WWI, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge returns to work only to face a difficult case involving the murder of a decorated war hero and an ex-soldier traumatized by battle.

Medical Mystery

The Surgeon

by Tess Gerritsen
Rizzoli & Isles #1
If you haven’t yet read the books that are the basis for Rizzoli & Isles, you’ll probably want to begin with The Surgeon. In this first of the series, trauma surgeon Catherine Cordell is terrorized by a serial killer in Boston who is using the same MO as a killer who attacked her during her internship years in Savannah. Determined to end the cycle, she works with Detective Jane Rizzoli to solve the crime.

Police Procedural

The Black Dahlia

by James Ellroy
L.A. Quartet #1
Based on a real-life unsolved 1947 murder, this gritty, hardboiled mystery follows the investigation of two former prizefighters turned cops into the murder of a young woman found mutilated in a vacant Los Angeles lot.

The Black Echo

by Michael Connelly
Harry Bosch Mysteries #1
Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is a Vietnam veteran, a loner, and a rule-breaking LAPD homicide detective. Harry immediately suspects something is a bit off about his latest overdose case, and when he discovers the body belongs to a former comrade, he is determined to find the truth. With the help of an attractive FBI agent, his investigation uncovers a twisty case of murder, bank robbery, heroin, diamonds, and betrayal that leads him all the way back to Saigon.

The Bone Collector

by Jeffrey Deaver
Lincoln Rhyme Mysteries #1
Once the nation's foremost criminologists and the ex-head of NYPD forensics, quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme abandons his forced retirement and joins forces with rookie cop Amelia Sachs to track down a vicious serial killer.

Dark of the Moon

by John Sandford
Virgil Flowers Mysteries #1
Virgil Flowers, an investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is sent to the tightly-knit town of Bluestem on a case. There, he must investigate the murders of a man burned to death in his home and a doctor and his wife, unaware that he is tracking a killer who may be targeting Virgil as his next victim.

Gorky Park

by Martin Cruz Smith
Arkady Renko #1
In late Soviet-era Moscow, Chief Homicide Investigator Arkady Renko's triple murder investigation is hampered by the looming presence of the KGB and his own romantic feelings for a Siberian dissident with a questionable past.

In the Woods

by Tana French
Dublin Murder Squad #1
Twenty years after witnessing the violent disappearances of two companions from their small Dublin suburb, detective Rob Ryan investigates another murder in the same wooded area as that long-ago crime. The eerily similar case forces him to piece together his own traumatic memories.

Rules of Prey

by John Sandford
Prey Series #1
When a serial killer goes on a rampage in the Twin Cities, taunting police every step of the way, Lieutenant Lucas Davenport is determined to do whatever it takes to catch the killer.