22 Captivating Detective Books You Won’t Want to Put Down
Detective books are such a fun genre of books to read and we have gathered 20 captivating books you will not want to put down. Whether you love classic detective stories or new detectives, we have a little bit for everyone on this list.
I love female detectives for their different points of view. The one thing these all have in common is that they keep me guessing until the very end. No matter how many detective books I read, I can never seem to figure it all out.
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Best Detective Novels of 2023
Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Vera Wong lives above her tea shop in Chinatown in San Francisco. When she finds a dead body in the shop, she calls the police immediately but also makes sure to clean up a bit, use a sharpie to trace the body, and take the flash drive out of the man’s dead hand. She is sure that she can do a better job of finding the murderer than the police.
She comes up with a plan to find the killer and finds four suspects who she grows to care for. I absolutely loved this book from our ultimate list of beach reads 2023. It is a perfect book to go on our list of Books Like a Man Called Ove and fiction books about tea. Sutanto does a brilliant job with her characters who you cannot help loving, flaws and all.
Contemporary Fiction Detective Books
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
Easily one of the most unique premises I’ve read recently for a mystery, this mystery-comedy mash-up was so enjoyable! Finlay Donovan is struggling to pay her bills on her meager book advance, so when someone mistakes her for a hired hitman and offers her 50k, she almost considers doing the job.
Until someone else beats her to it and she’s left to deal with the body. Soon her nanny-turned-sidekick is helping her literally bury the body. Can Finlay figure out who might be framing her before she ends up in big trouble?
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
I was utterly charmed by this unique murder mystery! The premise is great – a detective duo has been given a stack of correspondence (text and emails) and asked to read through and determine who was murdered, why, and who was wrongly accused.
Of course we readers get to come along for the ride – reading their post-it notes or texts to each other as they try to solve the mystery. I was desperately trying to solve it along with them but I was stumped!
The ending was truly shocking and the many twists and turns had me flying through the story. I read part of it and listened to part. Both formats make for a wonderful experience! This is one I’ll be recommending this pick from the ultimate list of mystery books for years to come!
The Dry by Jane Harper
One of the best debut mysteries I’ve read in recent years, Harper spun quite the web. Set in an old farming town in the Australian Outback, The Dry was actually two mysteries in one.
When an old friend of Agent Falk ends up committing a double murder and homicide, he ends up in the town he hoped to never visit again. As he stays to investigate the current murder, memories and old enemies come out of the woodwork as he recalls what happened 20 years ago when he and his father were driven out of town.
The Word is Murder (Hawthorne #1) by Anthony Horowitz
Diana Cowper enters a funeral parlor to plan her own funeral and is found dead a few hours later. Daniel Hawthorne is a disgraced detective who needs a ghostwriter to document his life. He chooses Anthony Horowitz for this task.
As Hawthorne investigates Cowper’s death, Horowitz is drawn into the life of the strange and temperamental detective’s life. This is one of the detective books where the brilliant detective may be hiding some dark secrets of his own.
Marple: Twelve New Mysteries by Various Authors
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series was my first introduction to mysteries. I was thrilled to see some of my current favorite mystery writers take a stab at all-new Miss Marple stories.
Lucy Foley, Ruth Ware, and Leigh Bardugo are just a few of the dozen writers who wrote a short story for this compilation. I thought it was very well done and as full-cast audiobooks go, it was wonderful too. Dame Agatha would be proud of this classic retelling!
Thrilling Detective Novels
One Little Secret by Cate Holahan
Finally! A thriller that actually thrilled me! One Little Secret is a who-dun-it murder mystery about 3 couples who sublet a house in the Hamptons for a week. When one of them turns up dead, it’s up to Detective Watkins to figure out who did it.
There were secrets unveiled on almost every page, but the last 50 or so had me gasping out loud repeatedly. I totally did not see the ending coming. If you are looking for a great thriller, look no further!! This is perfect for fans of The Silent Patient and Woman in the Window.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
February 2021 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
Oh boy, was this a creepy story! I wish I had chosen to read it during the wintertime instead of the summer because seeing snow while reading it would have made it that much creepier.
With dead bodies piling up, and a blizzard keeping the guests of the fancy sanatorium-turned-hotel stuck inside, will Elin be able to solve the mystery before she becomes a victim herself? This is such a great blizzard book for mystery book lovers!
Love Thrillers? We created The Ultimate List of Best Thriller Books carefully divided by sub-genre. These will definitely keep you on your toes.
Historical Fiction Detective Books
The Scottish Ladies’ Detective Agency by Lydia Travers
This is a delightful detective novel set in Scotland about two women who decide to start a detective agency in 1911. While no one takes them seriously at first, they soon have their first client and case – to stop a jewel thief who repeatedly hits up house parties.
I loved this cozy mystery. It was the perfect story to escape into during a rough week. I look forward to the next book in this detective series.
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Sherry Thomas delivers a masterful new take on Sherlock Holmes with this mystery series featuring a lady detective using Sherlock as an alias.
The series set-up on this one lays the groundwork for why Charlotte Holmes left home, became a detective, and met Mrs. Watson. And, of course, there is a mystery about numerous deaths to be solved as well.
I loved the layer of deception Charlotte needs to have to keep her identity a mystery in an era where women weren’t valued for their minds. This is one of the detective books where there is some social commentary as well.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
This one is for all the Sherlock fans out there. It takes place after the classic canon ends with the introduction of the retired Holmes and his new neighbor – Mary Russell. I adore this detective series, as does my dad who is a mystery reader exclusively.
When an American Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, Holmes and his protege are called to help Scotland Yard with the case. This is one of my favorite detective books.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This is a classic and a must-read on our list of detective books. It’s one of those books that unless you know the ending, you would never guess it. So well-devised, this book is a definite favorite and it all takes place on a train in the middle of a snowy tundra.
Will you be able to guess who the murderer is before the famed Hercules Poirot?
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
As a book blogger, I find pride in reading across genres. I have pretty eclectic taste so it’s rare to find a well-known author I haven’t dabbled in. A friend of mine insisted that I read this book when he discovered I had never read a Chabon book. I can honestly say that I would NEVER have picked this book on my own.
A failed Israel leading to the Jewish state being formed in the wilds of Alaska? A Yiddish police force solving murders before their state reverts back to US occupancy? No thanks… but instead… I enjoyed it! It’s grittier than my normal picks, but I love the subtle details, the little bits of world-building about the area and the faux history.
Want The Best FREE Reading Log Printable? Check out our post along with great tips on how to use them.
YA Detective Novels
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
I really enjoyed the first book in the Charlotte Holmes Trilogy. I’ve mentioned before that I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. This story was different from the others because it takes place in modern times and the central characters are the teenage descendants of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. I love detective books that take a different look at a favorite character.
The adolescent angle leaves room for error in Holmes’ deductive reasoning skills. Watson is also a more fleshed-out character that has deductive reasoning skills of his own. The novel wraps up nicely and the characters solve the mystery leaving enough open ends to allow for a sequel.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
This is the first book in the Flavia De Luce series. This 11-year-old aspiring chemist is a wonderful heroine. I love her- she is smart and precocious. This is a great mystery book that does not have violence.
It is 1950 and Flavia has a love of poisons. When she finds a man taking his last breath in a cucumber patch, she is not scared at all, rather, she delights in solving the mystery. The rest of this detective series is on my list of books to read. We also included this mystery book as a great mystery on our Book Lists for 13-Year-Olds and in our favorite books by Canadian Authors.
The Best Detective Series
Still Life by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1)
The first in the series of Chief Inspector Gamache. I fell in LOVE with the Inspector, the town of Three Pines, and its residents. Louise Penny CAN WRITE.
The mystery was great (and I didn’t solve it) but what got me the most was Penny’s writing style and reflections on the human psyche. This first Louise Penny book has the detective searching a piece of art for clues.
This is one of the best detective books and detective series I have ever read. You will fall in love with Three Pines and the people who live there. The wonderful community in this series is the best of what feel-good novels should be. Be sure to check out Louise Penny Books in Order: Complete Guide to Inspector Gamache
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Cormoran Strike is a private investigator on the verge of failure when a client walks through the door with an amazing story.
He is the brother of the recently deceased Lulu Landry, a famous supermodel.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
I have read so many of the mystery books in this series that I have lost count. If you are a die-hard mystery lover this series may be too tame for you.
But, if you are new to the mystery genre or like a lighter read, these books are amazing. Precious Ramotswe is so hilariously self-assured you cannot help but to love her.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
I read this cozy mystery in one day. Maisie Dobbs is not your typical PI and she is the most unusual detective in this list of detective books. For a start, she is a woman working as a PI in 1929.
She is smart, thoughtful, and fun to read. This book will hit just the right spot if you are looking for mystery books or feel-good books to read. I cannot wait to read more books in the series.
The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I am a HUGE detective story lover and no one does detective stories better than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes’ ability to solve crime is fascinating.
His observations are astute and I can never, ever guess who committed the crime. Again, love all the various adaptions of this series, but Sherlock on the BBC is my absolute favorite. This is the epitome of detective books.
The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves
Are you a fan of Ann Cleeves, mystery authoress extraordinaire? There is a reason Ann Cleeves has been writing crime fiction since 1986 and has won awards for her detective books. She is a master at her craft. And while Vera Stanhope is new to me in the past three years, she has been a character in Cleeve’s books since 1999!
This series has also been made into a television show. Vera Stanhope is on her way home one stormy night when she finds a baby in an abandoned car. The car is near her estranged family’s house. In order to find the baby’s mom, she must to the family home. Cleeves is an excellent writer and this book does not disappoint!
The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth Salander is not technically a detective but she sure is a bada** investigator. She is able to use her unparalleled computer hacking skills to find information on anybody, anywhere.
Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has a libel conviction. He is hired to investigate a disappearance from 40 years ago and convinces Lisbeth to help him in his investigation. These two make the most unusual pairing in this list of detective books. If you have not read this book series, they are fantastic.