15 of the most riveting detective novels that’ll keep you intrigued to the very end

From shocking crime scenes to murder mysteries riddled with twists and turns, some of the best detective novels take readers on a rollercoaster ride, making them anxious to know who the real culprit is.

These gripping stories are mindfully crafted and scattered with clues, intriguing details, enigmas and red herrings galore. They also emphasise on excellent character development, where the protagonists, villains and even side characters are well fleshed out so readers feel an attachment to them and are eager to see what happens next. From shadowy private investigators to cold-blooded serial killers and everyman heroes, good crime fiction and murder mysteries must always offer a slate of fascinating personalities. And of course, these best detective novels need to have a sophisticated, twisty storyline that culminates in a satisfying denouement at the end where all questions are properly answered.

So, what constitutes a solid detective novel? For some, detective stories from the 1920s and 1930s — which are dubbed the Golden Age of Detective Fiction — are regarded as the benchmark of quality. Written by prominent names the likes of Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey, these whodunits are enduringly popular and ingeniously plotted. For other readers, their predilections might date back even earlier to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic books starring Sherlock Holmes, or Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy mysteries. PSA: The latter currently features in The Pale Blue Eye, a Netflix movie that premiered December 23 2022 and is a fictionalised account of Poe’s origin story from army cadet to famous author. You can watch it here.

Here is a list of the best detective novels that promise to get your heart racing with every page turn, all the way to the very end.

(Main image: Jeremy Horvatin/Unsplash; Featured image: Sibel Yıldırım/Unsplash)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur

The best detective novels to add to your reading list now:

This is Fergus Hume’s first novel which was initially published in a newspaper and later in the form of a book. It is a bestselling mystery novel from the Victorian era with various unanticipated turns and twists. The Mystery of a Hansom Cab revolves around an intriguing murder and juxtaposes the pleasant lives of the wealthy and well-connected with the agony of those residing in the slums of the city’s back alleys.

It is said that this book by Hume inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to pen his iconic character Sherlock Holmes and a series of stories based on him.

(Image: Courtesy of The Mystery of Hansom Cab/Amazon)

Published in 1939, The Big Sleep belongs to the hardboiled detective fiction genre about investigator Philip Marlowe, a classic private eye, a fierce individualist and the protagonist of Raymond Chandler’s debut novel as well as further series. Throughout the book, many people betray and blackmail one another, and many secrets are disclosed, which amplifies the complexity of the plot. Chandler’s masterpiece was adapted into a movie twice — 1946 and 1978.

(Image: Courtesy of The Big Sleep/ Amazon)

It is one of Agatha Christie’s most audacious criminal mysteries, and an early and especially outstanding Hercule Poirot adventure that revolutionised the detective novel genre with its infamous twist. The novel introduces a man named Roger Ackroyd who knows a lot. He is aware that the woman he loves had murdered her former spouse and is being blackmailed by someone to kill him too, but he still gets stabbed in the neck after her possible suicide.

(Image: Courtesy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd/Amazon)

This paragon by Sunday Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz is a dark version of a cosy crime novel with a contemporary twist, simultaneously focusing on a parody of the English rural mystery. It is a thoroughly entertaining tale of greed and sleaze in the publishing industry.

The TV adaptation of this bestselling novel was released in February 2022 starring Conleth Hill, Lesley Manville and Tim McMullan.

(Image: Courtesy of Magpie Murders /Amazon)

One of the greatest crime novels of the 20th century, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, can be termed as a novel that breaks into literature from its genre’s pages at times. The story, set in San Francisco, follows detective Sam Spade as he engages in a thrilling pursuit of the perpetrator of a string of murders who is full of deceptions and lies.

The movie adaptation of this novel was released in 1941 with the same title by Warner Bros production, starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Gladys George.

(Image: Courtesy of The Maltese Falcon/Amazon)

Published in 1933, this famous suspenseful thriller by Dorothy L. Sayers, with the dashing and clever Lord Peter Wimsey as the protagonist, is based around a posh London advertising agency. When Pym’s Publicity advertising agency’s executive Victor Dean falls and dies, Peter is prompted to go undercover to look into the incident.

The Los Angeles Times named Sayers as one of the greatest mystery story writers of the twentieth century for writing Murder Must Advertise.

(Image: Courtesy of Murder Must Advertise/Amazon)

7 /15

The Bat

The first instalment of the Harry Hole series by bestselling Norwegian author and musician Jo Nesbo, is set in Australia, where the police sends detective Harry Hole to Sydney to serve as an attaché during their investigation of a young girl living there. Things turn nasty for the case as well as Harry when it is revealed s from the investigation that they are dealing with a serial killer.

(Image: Courtesy of The Bat/Amazon)

The way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle plays with the idea of the paranormal in The Hound Of The Baskervilles makes it the most well-known Sherlock Holmes novel where Dr. Watson and Sherlock are urged to assist the Baskerville family, who are plagued by a long-standing curse. And, in order to beat an opponent who is nearly equal to him, Sherlock must choose between reason and magic while establishing the win of good over evil.

(Image: Courtesy of The Hound Of The Baskervilles/Amazon)

Michael Wiley’s Monument Road is a gloomy tale that is a combination of a murder mystery and a psychological thriller that introduces former death row convict turned private eye Franky Dast.

Franky, who spent eight years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, is now an investigator with the Justice Now Initiative, hoping to assist others who are in a similar predicament.

(Image: Courtesy of Monument Road/Amazon)

A ‘PBS Great American Read Top 100’ by the queen of suspense Agatha Christie follows ten strangers who are invited to an secluded island off the Devon coast in England by a mysterious host, where they all begin to perish one by one.

The TV Mini series adaptation of the novel with the same name was released in 2015 starring Maeve Dermody, Charles Dance and Toby Stephens.

(Image: Courtesy of And Then There Were None/Amazon)

11 /15

Still Life

In this novel, bestselling author Louise Penny presents Monsieur L’Inspecteur Armand Gamache of the series Surete du Quebec, a contemporary Poirot who serves as the main character in this cherished classic crime series. The story takes many folds with a Thanksgiving holiday-related murder involving a body found in the woods that leads Armand to a little community in the Eastern townships, and various secrets unfold thereafter.

(Image: Courtesy of Still Life/Amazon)

Written by Raoul Whitfield, Death in a Bowl is a tale of avarice and treachery against the backdrop of Hollywood in the late 1920s. It features hard-drinking and two-fisted private investigator Ben Jardinn, who is hired by two of the prime suspects to establish their innocence with respect to a murder that occurs in front of twenty thousand witnesses on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl.

(Image: Courtesy of Death in Bowl/ Amazon)

13 /15

Forgive Me

Author of five suspense novels that received critical acclaim, Daniel Palmer narrates a gripping thriller about Angie, a woman who discovers the startling truth about her parents and her background. It challenges her own safety and she has to face the repercussions of her choices.

(Image: Courtesy of Forgive Me/Amazon)

A 2021 Edgar Nominee for Best Novel and Amazon Best Book of the Month in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense — The Missing American is a novel by Kwei Quartey, who was voted as Best Male Author by the National Book Club in 2010. Quartey’s mysteries are set in Ghana, and have consistently and vividly brought to life stories from this part of the African continent. In this novel, he explores the shadowy world of Ghanaian internet scammers.

(Image: Courtesy of The Missing American/Amazon)

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is a renowned story of the Orient Express that stopped as it passed through the hilly Balkans just after midnight owing to a snowdrift. A murderer on board kills a passenger who is an American tycoon. Now detective Hercule who is in the same train has to find the murderer to ensure the safety of other co-passengers as well as himself, in case the killer plans to strike again.

A movie adaptation of the novel was released in 2017 starring Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz and Willem Dafoe.

(Image: Courtesy of Murder on the Orient Express/Amazon)

Never miss an update

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates.

No Thanks
You’re all set

Thank you for your subscription.