The 21 Greatest Mystery Books to Read Now

Greatest Mystery Books

Mystery writing reached a peak in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of those books are considered classics today. In some cases, they were among the very first mystery novels ever written. In other instances, they represented significant refinements of techniques that had been introduced earlier.

The best mystery writers have continued to produce great novels up to the present day. Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and Michael Connelly are four of the best contemporary authors in this genre.

But what are the greatest mystery books ever written? Today we have 30 answers to that question!

The 21 Greatest Mystery Books Ever Written

21. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins (1868)

Wilkie Collins was the first writer to develop a coherent, self-contained mystery novel in which all of the clues were presented within the story. This classic features both a surprising twist and a surprising solution.

20. The Mystery of Marie Roget – Edgar Allan Poe (1842)

Edgar Allan Poe’s only detective story is an early example of a fictional mystery that is based on a real-life crime. The case of Mary Rogers (the “Beautiful Cigar Girl”) had captured America’s attention in 1842 and Poe used it as the basis for this short novel.

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19. The Thirty-Nine Steps – John Buchan (1915)

John Buchan’s first novel introduced two important conventions to the thriller genre: the hero who becomes deeply involved in international intrigue and the chase across Britain. Richard Hannay, the protagonist of 39 Steps, has been copied many times by other authors but never equaled.

18. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle (1901)

The most famous Sherlock Holmes story was also one of the first to be written. Conan Doyle introduced a new villain in this tale, a demented aristocrat who hopes to use ancient rituals and a family curse to summon the spirit of his dead ancestor.

17. The Dead Zone – Stephen King (1979)

The first novel by Stephen King to make it onto any sort of list like this, The Dead Zone is unique among his works for its focus on psychic ability as well as the supernatural. Johnny Smith is an average man, who suddenly becomes able to see into people’s pasts or futures with frightening clarity. He uses those skills in an attempt to prevent a future crime that he has seen in visions.

16. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee (1960)

Harper Lee’s masterpiece presents a series of events that take place in a small Alabama town during the Depression Era. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, lawyer Atticus Finch agrees to defend an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. His children learn important lessons from their father as he defends his client and attempts to live according to the moral code set forth by Jesus Christ.

15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier (1938)

Rebecca is not a typical mystery book by any means but it is a great read for fans of the genre because it straddles several lines between detective fiction and romance novels. The story begins with the death of the narrator’s husband – who was also the wealthy and domineering owner of Manderley, a large estate. We soon learn that his first wife Rebecca was overwhelmed by his personality and behavior before her death under mysterious circumstances.

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14. The Firm – John Grisham (1991)

John Grisham’s legal thrillers are among the most popular in the world today but he had to break through with this book. You’ll see why once you read it! Mitch McDeere is an ambitious young lawyer who joins a Memphis law firm that might be linked to organized crime. The FBI wants Mitch to help them implicate some people inside the Justice Department but he risks everything when he discovers shocking secrets about himself in the process.

13. A Time To Kill – John Grisham (1989)

The first novel by John Grisham to really grab Hollywood’s attention, A Time To Kill tells the story of a small-town criminal defense attorney who agrees to defend two white supremacists accused of raping and killing a little black girl. It is based on an actual event that took place in Mississippi during the 1980s.

12. The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger (1951)

One of the most highly acclaimed novels of all time but also one that polarizes readers to this day. Holden Caulfield is almost unique among protagonists in popular literature because he seems like a real person rather than a character or exaggerated stereotype. He has his own way of seeing the world and you can either appreciate that or be offended by it.

11. The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells (1898)

H.G. Wells wrote this thrilling tale about an alien invasion just a few decades after Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which may have inspired him to explore some of those themes himself. In any case, The War of the Worlds remains one of the great science fiction books in history – even if it wasn’t technically written as such!

10. Carrie – Stephen King (1974)

Stephen King is frequently criticized for writing overly long books but he had yet to reach his full length at the time that Carrie was published. This story follows a lonely high school girl who discovers that she has telekinetic powers, which she uses to take revenge on bullies in her school.

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9. Angels & Demons – Dan Brown (2000)

No list of best-selling books is ever complete without at least one title by Dan Brown. I was tempted to put The Da Vinci Code here but Angels & Demons is arguably a better choice for this particular list because it’s not quite as convoluted nor full of the religious fervor that some readers find annoying about Brown’s works.

8. On The Road – Jack Kerouac (1957)

Published when he was only 24 years old, On the Road is considered by many to be the definitive work of “Beat Generation” literature. It follows two friends across the country in an attempt to discover the meaning of life. The book itself was largely improvised and the author’s inspiration included jazz music, poetry, drugs, and alcohol.

7. Green Eggs And Ham – Dr. Seuss (1960)

Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel wrote dozens of silly children’s books but this is his most famous one by far. It follows a character named Sam I Am who tries to convince another man to eat green eggs and ham with increasing frequency over the course of a few quick pages. Whoever hasn’t read this in school yet should at least check it out now!

6. Where The Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein (1974)

This one isn’t quite as well known outside of the United States but it’s basically Shel Silverstein’s most famous work. It features the illustrations that made him famous as well as poems, short stories, and drawings. The title poem is one of the reasons I was so interested in reading this book but there are treasures to be discovered throughout its pages.

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5. The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkien (1937)

Many people assume this is just a children’s book but they’re wrong! It takes place between The Return Of The King and The Fellowship Of The Ring, making it something of an unofficial prequel to Lord Of The Rings. Even though it’s much shorter than the other works in The Lord Of The Rings series, it still contains plenty of well-developed characters and an epic story.

4. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (1997)

Who hasn’t heard about this one? It was such a huge hit that it made J.K. Rowling the first author to ever become a billionaire. If you haven’t read this yet then you really should! Personally, I read the whole thing in French but there are so many great translations out there that I’m sure at least one will satisfy your needs

3. Watership Down – Richard Adams (1972)

This book is unlike any other on this list. It’s a much darker story that follows a community of rabbits trying to find a new safe home. There are some very adult themes throughout the book and it has been described as “a philosophical novel disguised as a children’s adventure.”

2. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (1937)

Many people assume this is just a children’s book but they’re wrong! It takes place between The Return Of The King and The Fellowship Of The Ring, making it something of an unofficial prequel to Lord Of The Rings. Even though it’s much shorter than the other works in The Lord Of The Rings series, it still contains plenty of well-developed characters and an epic story.

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1. The Cat In The Hat – Dr. Seuss (1957)

This is the only book on the list that I’ve never read but it looks like one of the best choices you could possibly make for a child’s first foray into reading. If nothing else, at least pick up this book and read it to your kids! It features

Final Thoughts

If you have a good book that I missed, please comment it below. It wouldn’t surprise me if I left out a few because there are simply so many to choose from! If you enjoyed the list, share it with your friends and family on Facebook by clicking here now.

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