The Ultimate List of Mystery Books
The ultimate list of mystery books features dozens of our favorite mysteries divided by sub-genres.
We’ve got female spies, detective mysteries, mystery series, historical fiction mystery novels, and more from our favorite authors.
Many of the lists below link to bigger lists on the topic, so feel free to click around to find more books in the category of your choice.
As always, we hope to hear which mystery books you are planning to read and which ones we might be missing from the list!
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Best Mystery Books of 2023
The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
Name a more unique mystery writer than Janice Hallett. You can’t because her mystery books are unlike any I’ve ever read before.
It’s not just the incredible mysteries that keep you on your toes – it’s HOW the stories are told.
The Twyford Code is laid out as a collection of audio file transcripts that you need to decipher to find the treasure. The ending BLEW MY MIND. The genius of Hallett to lay it out like that… I’m in awe of this pick from our list of ultimate beach reads 2023.
Best Mystery Books of 2022
The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
February 2022 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I adored this mystery set during the 11 days of Agatha Christie’s disappearance. It’s told from the perspective of Christie’s husband’s mistress and it is utterly absorbing.
There are layers of mystery throughout, with a side of love story. It’s actually a hotel novel because the majority of the book takes place at a small hotel.
I never felt I would be able to sympathize with a mistress but I was cheering for her by the end. If you love mystery books, this is a must-read.
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 Maid by Nita Prose
January 2022 Good Morning America Pick
Molly works as a maid in a grand hotel and gets joy from leaving things orderly and pristine. Molly struggles with reading social cues and has had even more trouble since her gran can no longer help.
When Molly finds a dead body in a room at the hotel, she becomes a prime suspect and will need all her friends to help her.
I loved the description of this book and I hoped it would live up to my expectations. I did that and more. I loved every minute of this feel-good book from the ultimate list of mystery books and closed the last page smiling. Definitely add this one to books for book clubs to read.
You’ll find these on our list of the best books of 2022!
Best Mystery Book Series
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
Dan Brown found a way to incorporate symbolism and brilliant riddles into this modern-day mystery. The plot does not slow for a minute from the first page to the last. This is one of our favorite mystery books.
It is the first in the Robert Langdon series and my favorite as well. This story revolves around an Illuminati plot against the Catholic Church. The Tom Hanks-led Netflix book adaptation is worth a watch!
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
There are so many things about this book that I loved. The book starts when Matthew Venn attends the funeral of his estranged father. When a murdered man is washed up on the beach, Matthew is brought back into the community that he left years before.
The characters are rich, real, flawed, and likable. The story is driven by the characters who make the story compelling and unpredictable. I did not predict “who Dun it” which is always a huge bonus for me when I am reading mystery books.
The Dry by Jane Harper
One of the best debut mystery books 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.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
The first is the Stephanie Plum series (which is currently 29 books deep!) this story lays the groundwork for Stephanie’s new career as a bounty hunter.
I love the female empowerment of this series because Stephanie is a total badass. Her first job is to go after a crooked cop who happens to have deflowered her at 16 and then told the town all about it.
Dark Academia Mystery Books
They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
At a prestigious private school in New England, a group of kids known as “The Players” rule the school. They get top grades, get into the best schools, and rule the social scene.
But when one of the girls in the group is murdered, her best friend Jill begins to investigate who the real murderer is and just how dark their privileged world really is. As books about secret societies go, this one will definitely make you think and is a must-read from mystery books.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
December 2022 Read with Jenna Book Pick
Richard is one of a select group of six students who have been hand-picked to work under the guidance of a classics teacher named Julian Morrow. Richard is narrating the story and he begins by telling about the death of one of the students named Bunny.
As the story progresses, it is clear that this secret society of students rides the line of morality. The strained friendships and sexual tensions continue to push the edge until Bunny is killed.
This is one of the mystery books that was deeply disturbing and difficult to read. It certainly earns its place on our list of dark academia books.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Hello Dark Academia. Centered around Devon and Chiamaka, the only black students at an elite private school, this is one wild thriller.
After being chosen by prefects on the first day of their senior year, Devon and Chiamaka quickly become the targets of the mysterious Aces – a dangerous gossip girl-type character out to ruin their lives.
I was on pins and needles as this thriller unraveled, addressing systemic racism in private institutions in the process. If you love dark academia or mystery books, you need to put this dark academia novel on your TBR list.
Love books like these? We do too! That’s why we created a list of our favorite dark academia books!
Mystery Books about Family
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh
March 2022 Good Morning America Book Club Pick
I was swept away by this marvelous story. Emma and Leo’s love story seems to be one of romantic legend. They have a charming daughter, Emma has just beaten cancer, and they have a wonderful life.
But soon Leo is discovering secrets from Emma’s past that don’t add up to the life Emma has described to him all these years. As readers, we see Leo trying to uncover who his wife really is and Emma trying to prevent him from doing just that.
This mystery book was not what I was expecting but I can’t stop thinking about it. The twists and turns had me second-guessing so much of what I had read. It’s a story of love, strength, mystery, and secrets.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I adore this gothic story when I read it on vacation a few years back. A young biographer is called to help a reclusive author of 12 books tell the story of her life.
In the process, she learns there is a thirteenth tale after all. It’s a gothic romance, a mystery, and a story about family ties all in one. Although it is a long one from mystery books, I absolutely adore it. It’s the perfect book to snuggle up with on a snowy day.
Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
Where to begin with this thrilling story? I loved just about everything in this A-to-Z mystery. The dark, twisted plot of Dead Letters begins when Ava returns hometown her family’s failing vineyard to deal with the death of her twin, Zelda, in a barn fire.
The story immediately launches into a few mysteries. First, and the most easily solved, why did Ava flee the family vineyard for Paris 2 years ago? Second, is Zelda really dead? This is one mystery book you won’t want to miss.
Mystery Thriller Books
Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr
Buckle up for a stunning story in Lisa Barr’s newest book, Woman on Fire. Jules, an ambitious investigative journalist, is working on a story about a piece of art that was stolen by the Nazis during WWII.
But she’s not the only one looking to track down Woman on Fire. Margaux, a gallerist and art thief, also wants to get her hands on the painting.
As we learn the origins of the painting and the many hands it switched to over the years, we also discover the dark underbelly of the art world.
I was ENTHRALLED with this novel about art. I’ll be putting this pick from mystery books on every must-read list we do this year. It was thrilling and informative. Buy it now, and thank me later.
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 from mystery books and is a must-read if you love Emily Henry books.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Recently made into an HBO mini-series, this story is another dark one from the writer of Gone Girl. This was a psychological thriller and mystery book in one, and it was fabulous! I’ve recommended this story to so many people — it’s so much better than Gone Girl.
When 2 girls are found murdered in her dingy old town, a reporter is sent to investigate. In the process, she digs up some old wounds and resurrects family drama.
Love Thrillers? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Thriller Books!
Mystery Books about Spies
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
While the main portion of this story features 3 code breakers at Bletchley during WWII, one of the main characters is dating Prince Philip. You know, the same Prince Philip who eventually marries the queen?
It’s a dual-timeline story and one of those storylines is set against the backdrop of Philip’s wedding to QE2. Plus it’s a Kate Quinn royal novel, so the writing and story are both top-notch. This choice from mystery books about WWII is a must-read.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
The thing I love about Susan Elia MacNeal is that she doesn’t make the females in her series meek. She puts them center stage in the middle of the war; solving mysteries, spying, fighting, and the like.
The women in this historical fiction series are tough cookies who don’t need a man’s protection. I adored the whipsmart Maggie Hope who is at the center of this female spy series. I’m only a few books into these mystery books. but I love each one.
For more books like these, check out our list of female spy books.
Female Detective Books
The Last Party (DS Morgan #1) by Clare Mackintosh
This is by far the best mystery I have read in a long time. One party, one body, and everyone had a reason for wanting him dead. This is a brilliant well thought-out mystery that reminds me of Agatha Christie or the movie clue- because everyone had motive and opportunity.
The answer is brilliant and kept me guessing until the last page- and I was still left with my mouth agape!!! This is a must-read from our list of mystery books and a great pick from our list of summer reads 2023!
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 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 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 mystery books.
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.
Detective Book Series
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.
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.
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 is one of the best mystery books I have ever read. Be sure to check out Louise Penny Books in Order: Complete Guide to Inspector Gamache
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. If you are just getting into reading mystery books, start with this one!
Celebrity Book Club Mysteries
Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
February 2022 GMA Book Club Pick
WHAT A MYSTERY! The Violin Conspiracy opens with a man’s 14 million-dollar Stradivarius violin being stolen and the drama doesn’t let up.
Ray McMillian is a young black musical prodigy who just so happens to have inherited his grandpa’s busted-up fiddle – which turns out to be a rare violin built by one of the greats. But when the origins of the violin come into question along with Ray’s claim to the instrument, the plot keeps thickening.
Truly the story was a gripping page-turner I could not put down. Slocumb’s ability to weave a multi-faceted tale was astounding. When it comes to novels about music, this is a must-read mystery book!
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
I raved about this book when I read it earlier this month! Well-chosen, Reese! The story of a stepmother and her daughter as they try to find the girl’s father after his abrupt departure. This is a powerful book about motherhood.
This mystery has so much heart as you see Hannah bond with and try to protect her new stepdaughter, Bailey. I did not see the ending of this book coming, but absolutely adored it. This is one of the mystery books that will keep you turning the page.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
June 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
Real talk. I’ve just read THE thriller
The murder sets the scene and then we get the story in flashbacks without knowing who is murdered until the end. I’ve become very picky about mystery books recently and this one is hands down my favorite of the year so far. It also made our best of 2020 list!
For more books like these, check out the list of our favorite celebrity book club picks.
Historical Fiction Mystery Books
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This is a classic and a must-read on our list of mystery 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?
Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes
This book takes place at Oxford University in the 1980s when a socialite is murdered. Ursula Flowerbutton, an English country girl, is trying to investigate the murder for the college paper while trying to befriend the glamorous crowd.
It’s a comedic spoof and the outfit descriptions alone had me giggling. I hope it becomes a series of mystery books because I am totally in to read more of Flowerbutton and her Sloane Ranger friends. The secret societies and prestigious school make this one of our lighter dark academia books.
Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price
This Pride and Prejudice retelling is actually a murder mystery! In this version of the story, Mr. Bennett is a barrister and Lizzie is desperate to prove herself and be the first female barrister.
But while she offers to help Mr. Bingley find the real culprit of the murder he’s been accused of, she ends up butting heads with her rival, Mr. Darcy of Pemberley and Associates.
This delightful take on the classic story was refreshing and fun. I look forward to reading the rest of the retellings in this series and hope they are mystery books like this one.
Love Historical Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Historical Fiction!
Mysteries Set in Britain
The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett
This cozy murder mystery was an absolute treat. I loved
Together they figure out who was behind the murder at Windsor Castle during one of the Queen’s Dine-and-Stays. This pick from books about Queen Elizabeth II is perfect for fans of Maggie Hope, Maise Dobbs, and the Royal Family.
The Royal Secret by Lucinda Riley
I love guilty pleasure royal romances, but this is so much more! Part romance, part mystery, this book has something for everyone and is an amazing beach read.
A young journalist is given a mystery to uncover after an old actor passes away, but her investigation quickly turns deadly. I felt all the feelings on this one. There were a couple of times when I was truly angry at the author, but in the end, I really enjoyed this mystery book about royalty!
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
A young girl is abandoned on a ship headed to Australia. When she arrives, the only thing in her possession is a suitcase with some clothes and a book of fairy tales. The dock master and his wife adopt Nell and tell her the story of her arrival in Australia on her 21st birthday. She goes back to England on a quest to find her lost identity.
Unsuccessful, her granddaughter later takes up the search and tried to assemble the pieces of her grandmother’s mystery and unlock the secrets of her past. I adored this novel which is not only a family saga but is also a best pick from mystery books. We love Kate Morton so much that we even have all her books ranked!
We’ve got a full list of British mystery books if you are looking for more books like these!
Mystery Books for Book Clubs
The Lost Vintage by Anne Mah
This mystery book feels like a warm hug. A little bit of historical fiction, a little bit of mystery, and a little bit of romance. It was so lovely to read at sunset with a glass of wine.
The writing, the story, the whole thing made this book a no-brainer for our feel-good books list and our fiction books about wine.
Kate is working to become a certified wine expert and the only thing standing in her way are the Burgundy wines at her family’s estate (and her first love who lives nearby).
While dealing out the basement filled with generations of belongings, Kate starts to learn about her family during the WWII occupation. Of all the WWII books, this is the one we recommend the most and we have never had anyone not love it.
Where the Crawdads Sing Deluxe Edition by Dehlia Owens
September 2018 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I will admit when I saw the description of this mystery book, I was not sold. A trusted individual, who has never steered me wrong in the past, gave me an advanced copy so, I took the leap. And wow, am I glad I did. I read this book and then recommended it to everyone I knew. It has that spark, that special something that makes it extra. It is no surprise that we chose this as our favorite of 2018.
We have an entire post dedicated to this book and how to host a book club around it!
For more books like these, check out our list of 13 books like Where the Crawdads Sing
Love book club books? We do too! That’s why we created a list of our favorite book club books.
Mystery Books about Books
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Marie Benedict is the master of bringing women back to life in her historical fiction novels. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is my favorite to date and I found it hard to put down.
In December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days. She re-emerged as mysteriously as she disappeared and more questions than answers persist.
Benedict does a wonderful job of building the mystery and using her brilliant imagination and bringing us into the world of Agatha Christie. This mystery book is the perfect blend of historical fiction and mystery rolled into one!
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloane
While this story was not what I was expecting, it was so fun and quirky that I loved it. Clay gets a job in a bookstore that has a strange clientele coming at very strange hours.
What is even weirder are the books that they check out rather than buy. I loved the mysterious parts of the book and the character development. This is one of my favorite books about bookstores!
The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson
Miranda’s uncle dies leaving her a failing bookstore and a scavenger hunt of clues to decipher. What she learns over the course of her summer tracking down clues and trying to save the bookstore will turn her whole world on its head.
I guessed the ending fairly early on, but this mystery book is all about the journey. You can see our interview with Amy here.
For more books like these, check out our list of Books like Harry Potter for kids.
Middle-Grade Mysteries for Adults
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is one of the middle-grade mystery books that all adults should read. It’s about a group of extremely gifted children who are sent to spy on an evil organization.
This is the first book in a series that is geared toward older middle-grade kids. It was funny and interesting and extremely clever.
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
We like to listen to books as a family when we are in the car together or doing a puzzle. The standout book for me this month was Winterhouse. It’s such a fun hotel novel!
This middle-grade mystery was as enthralling to me as it was to my boys. I loved the slight bits of magic in the story and the captivating setting of an expansive ski hotel on a snowy mountain at Christmas time. If you love a cozy mystery book, pick this one up!
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.