23 Best Detective Novels of All Time

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  • March 1, 2024
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  • 8 min read


The world of detective fiction is expansive, filled with mystery, intrigue, and the insatiable quest for justice. It’s a genre that has captivated readers for over a century. It offers a window into the complexity of human nature and the brilliance required to unravel it.

Among the myriad stories, some stand out for their ingenious plotting of unforgettable characters. The Ghostwriting Founder will give you the 15 best detective novels in this guide.

1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)

Agatha Christie, the uncontested Queen of Mystery, offers up what is arguably one of the best detective novels ever penned with Murder on the Orient Express. The story features her most beloved protagonist, Hercule Poirot, who finds himself amidst a captivating murder mystery aboard the luxurious Orient Express train.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)

No list of detective novels could be complete without mentioning Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his most celebrated hero, Sherlock Holmes. The Hound of the Baskervilles stands out among Holmes’s adventures. It combines mystery and horror as Holmes investigates the legend of a monstrous dog that haunts the Baskerville family.

3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930)

Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon introduces readers to Sam Spade, a private detective thrown into a web of deceit, theft, and Murder over a priceless statuette. Hammett’s gritty portrayal of San Francisco and his tight, crisp prose have made this novel a cornerstone of the hard-boiled detective genre.

4. In the Woods by Tana French

Tana French made a stunning debut with In the Woods, a novel that intertwines the mystery of a contemporary murder with the protagonist’s haunted past. Set in Ireland, French’s vivid character development and eloquent prose delve deep into the psyche of her detectives, making this novel not just a mystery to be solved but an exploration of memory and loss.

5. The Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny

Louise Penny’s series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is a masterclass in character-driven detective fiction. Set in the fictional village of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada, Penny’s novels are as much about the charm and secrets of the small community as they are about the crimes that disrupt it.

6. The Adventure of The Western Star by Agatha Christie (Short story)

Another Christie creation, The Adventure of The Western Star, features Hercule Poirot in a shorter format. This story, part of a collection, involves the theft of a precious diamond, showcasing Christie’s ability to pack suspense and a compelling mystery into a brief narrative.

7. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor by Agatha Christie (Short story)

In The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor, Christie demonstrates her knack for blending a supernatural element with logical deduction as Poirot investigates what seems to be a case of haunting leading to death. It’s a classic example of how Christie masterfully plays with expectations in this short story writing.

8. The Adventure of The Cheap Flat by Agatha Christie (Short story)

This story is a wonderful example of Christie’s skill in creating puzzling scenarios out of seemingly mundane situations. Hercule Poirot’s investigation into why a luxurious flat is being rented for an astonishingly low price leads to a thrilling espionage uncover.

9. The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge by Agatha Christie (Short story)

Poirot finds himself in a gripping family drama turned murder mystery in The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge. Christie excels at depicting the human emotions and secrets at the heart of a crime, all unraveled by Poirot’s keen observation and intellect.

10. The Adventure of The Yellow Face by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Short story)

Sherlock Holmes’s adventures beautifully showcase Conan Doyle’s storytelling prowess. In The Adventure of The Yellow Face, Holmes tackles a case filled with racial prejudices and personal secrets, making it a compelling mystery and a narrative ahead of its time.

11. The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Short story)

This story takes Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson out of London to unravel a duplicitous employment scheme. It’s a thrilling ride highlighting Conan Doyle’s ability to craft a tightly plotted mystery with unexpected twists.

12. The Adventure of the “Gloria Scott” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Short story)

The Adventure of the “Gloria Scott” is notable for giving readers a glimpse into Sherlock Holmes’s early foray into detective work. It’s a tale of betrayal and Murder on the high seas that stands out for its backstory on Holmes’s development as a detective.

13. The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Short story)

In The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, readers are treated to a mix of historical mystery and treasure hunt. Holmes’s logical deduction leads to discovering a family’s ancient secret. It showcases Conan Doyle’s skill in merging the past with the present.

14. The Adventure of the Reigate Squires by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Short story)

This story finds Holmes recuperating in the countryside, only to be drawn into a case involving petty thefts and Murder. It’s a tale demonstrating Holmes’s inability to resist the lure of a good mystery, even when he’s supposed to be resting.

15. The Adventure of the Crooked Man by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Short story)

The Adventure of the Crooked Man delves into the themes of love, betrayal, and the impact of a lifetime of secrets. It is a powerful reminder of the human stories behind every case that Holmes and Watson undertake.

16. The Adventure of the Resident Patient by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (short story)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s illustrious Sherlock Holmes takes center stage in The Adventure of the Resident Patient. This short story reveals Holmes’s precise deduction skills as he investigates the peculiar situation of a clinic owner plagued by fear and anxiety.

17. The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (short story)

Sherlock Homes delivers yet another masterclass in detective work in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter. This story is particularly notable because it introduces Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother and equally talented detective. Their combined talents offer readers a double dose of detective brilliance.

18. The Adventure of the Naval Treaty by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (short story)

In The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, Holmes embarks on solving an international crisis involving a stolen treaty between England and Italy. With its blend of political intrigue, this story showcases the level of skill and creativity Doyle brought to the detective genre.

19. The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (short story)

Arguably one of the best detective novels, The Final Problem reveals the thrilling and legendary confrontation between Sherlock Holmes and his archnemesis, Professor Moriarty. This story heightens the stakes like never before, heading toward a cliffhanger ending that shocks readers.

20. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020)

Lucy Foley’s The Guest List skillfully blends the classic style of a whodunit with a contemporary setting – an isolated island off the Irish coast. The narrative unfolds from multiple perspectives. It heightens suspense as the guests grapple with their secrets and relationships.

21. The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado (2020)

Isabella Maldonado introduces a new hero in modern detective fiction with the indomitable FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera in The Cipher. This novel takes readers on a rollercoaster ride, packed with encrypted messages, dark web intrigue, and a notorious serial killer. Maldonado’s background in law enforcement enhances the novel’s authenticity, making it one of the best detective novels with a contemporary fiction setting.

22. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (2013)

What distinguishes Kimberly McCreight’s Reconstructing Amelia is its seamless blend of detective and domestic noir genres. The story’s driving force is not an experienced detective but a grieving mother determined to uncover the truth about her daughter’s death, labeled as a suicide.

23. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (2013)

Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls breaks new ground in the detective genre by infusing it with science fiction and horror elements. It tells the story of a time-traveling serial killer and the girl who survives to track him down.


Words can barely do justice to the stunning narratives and the intricate webs of deception skillfully woven by the authors of these detective novels. These 23 best detective novels present an impressive blend of traditional and modern narratives. They demonstrate the genre’s vast capabilities and enduring appeal, serving as a comprehensive literary fiction guide for readers.

If you’re intrigued by human psychology or mystery, these novels are a must-read for you.

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