There’s nothing like curling up with a good “whodunit” – a suspenseful and fascinating mystery that doesn’t get solved until the very end. It’s got to have great characters, well-hidden clues, and a heart-pounding pace to keep readers on edge. Many page turners have been written over the years, so you may be wondering which are generally considered the best murder mystery books of all time.
Mystery novels often blend riddles, puzzles, and other tricks that a central figure is forced to figure out. These stories test the reader’s own detective skills and attention to detail, and one study even found that reading fiction for fun can improve language skills. Researchers from Concordia University in Canada say doing so boosted a reader’s scores on language tests.
Even better, another study found that reading books in groups, rather than alone, can enhance creativity. That’s right, researchers say inviting a few friends over while you enjoy a good book is better for your brain. Also, pick up a great murder mystery novel and you might notice your screen time go down. In fact, one study found that most people prefer reading an old-fashioned paperback book rather than a digital version.
With so many thrilling tales to choose from, how do you know where to start? To save you some time, StudyFinds checked with 10 expert websites to come up with our list of the best murder mystery books of all time. Tell us which one you’re going to read next in the comments section.
The List: Best Murder Mystery Books of All Time, Per Experts
1. “And then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
This one tops Goodread’s and Shortform’s lists of the best murder mystery novels ever written. Originally published in 1939, it’s the top-selling book in history for the genre. “Amongst all of her works, none has a story quite as impeccably crafted as And Then There Were None, which explains why it is the best selling mystery book of all time,” writes Reedsy. “The story follows ten people who are brought together, for various reasons, to an empty mansion on an island. … As the days unfold in accordance with the lyrics of a nursery rhyme, each invitee is forced to face the music (literally) and bear the consequences of their troubling pasts, as death will come for them one by one.”
“When looking for the best murder mystery novels, And Then There Were None should definitely be at the top of your list! … This book is one of her most famous and most beloved,” notes Bona Fide Bookworm.
“Coming in at number one, this novel is widely considered the best mystery novel ever written by many readers,” states Seminole Gulf Railway. “A true masterpiece. This book will give you chills unlike any you’ve experienced from modern-day suspense novels.”
2. “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown
This fast-paced thriller mystery has it all: a gruesome murder in a famous locale and a trail of clues steeped in esoteric symbolism. Since it was published in 2003, it’s sold more than 80 million copies and it inspired a hit film.
“Mesmerizing from the get-go, Dan Brown’s tale begins with a curator who’s been murdered inside the Louvre,” writes Reader’s Digest. “Near the body, a mysterious cipher is found. Enter Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who follows the clues with the hopes of uncovering a secret thousands of years in the making. The fast-paced story will have you furiously flipping pages.
“If you are a fan of riddles, then this book and its sequels are just the books for you,” notes Self Publishing Resources. “Lured to Paris, Robert Langdon is given riddles and clues that have to do with famous artists Leonardo Da Vinci. When you think Langdon has it figured out, you realize that he is already falling behind.”
“Dan Brown knows how to write up a riddle — just read The Da Vinci Code and you’ll see,” writes Reedsy. It calls it a “Shockingly satisfying to read, and it will no doubt leave you wanting to travel to France’s capital just to retrace Langdon’s steps.”
3. “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie
“This is such an interesting and mysterious novel,” writes Seminole Gulf Railway. “The way Poirot was able to piece it together was brilliant. Your heart will be pounding as you wait to discover who the culprit was. It’s truly unexpected. How the middle of the book merges into the last bits of the story is mesmerizing.”
“The famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift just after midnight, and by morning time the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett is dead in his compartment. He’s been stabbed a dozen times, his door is locked from the inside, and because they’re isolated by the storm the murderer must be one of his fellow passengers. Luckily, Hercule Poirot is on the train and on the case! Can he find the murderer from among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies? And can he find the killer before the murderer decides to strike again? This is one of the most popular murder mystery books of all time,” writes Bona Fide Bookworm.
4. “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler
The plot seems simple, with a wealthy woman hiring an investigator, the now famous Phillip Marlowe, to learn who is blackmailing her, but it’s more complicated than that. Since it was published in 1939, it’s been one of the most popular murder mysteries ever.
“The Big Sleep kicks off with a dying millionaire who hires the gumshoe to deal with a blackmailer. It’s at turns sexy, moody and pulpy and features the quintessential broody PI,” writes Reader’s Digest.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than The Big Sleep, the detective novel Time magazine named one of the 100 best novels of all time,” writes Parade. “Paris’s newspaper Le Monde agreed, even if no one can make sense of the plot, including Chandler himself.”
“Raymond Chandler is known for his character-driven novels, and The Big Sleep is a perfect example,” states Self Publishing Resources. “When you think that you understand a character, you realize that you do not, and just when you feel that a character’s arc is over with, it is not. Like people in real life, the characters this author creates and throws into simple storylines make the story interesting because they are never flat or one-dimensional. Often twisted and always interesting, Chandler’s characters are what makes his stories genuinely great.”
5. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
While nearly any of the murder mysteries involving Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes could have made this list, this novel features the unexpected reappearance of the famous detective as well as what appear to be deadly supernatural forces. The sinister tale is a real page turner.
“If you’re a fan of detective fiction, this is one book you don’t want to miss,” writes Bona Fide Bookworm. “When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead, his face distorted with terror, Sherlock Holmes and Watson are called in to investigate. Was this a killing by the legendary, supernatural Hound of the Baskervilles—a beast with blazing eyes and dripping jaws?”
“The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the best mystery books ever written; it’s certainly one of the most-read books of all time,” notes Reedsy. “Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes, presumed dead, returns to the land of the living to shed light on the petrifying death of his friend, Charles Baskerville.”
“Widely regarded as one of the best mystery novels in existence, this is the story of Sherlock Holmes, doing what Holmes does best,” gushes Self Publishing Resources. “Holmes is trying to solve the case of who murdered his friend, Charles Baskerville. Everyone else has decided that death can be nothing but of supernatural causes, but, true to Sherlock Holmes fashion, he refuses to consider anything but a logical answer.”
You might also be interested in:
- Best Murder Mystery Movies
- Best True Crime Podcasts
- Best Science Fiction Books
- Best Stephen King Books of All Time
- Bona Fide Bookworm
- Seminole Gulf Railway
- Good Reads
- Famous Authors
- Reader’s Digest
- Book Riot
- Self Publishing Resources
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.