Whether you’re a fan of science fiction books, joke books, or haven’t yet indulged in some of the classics you know you should’ve read by now — your quarantine reading list is probably growing by the day. Reading is one of the best ways you can spend your leisure time as your vocabulary grows, mind settles and you can relax your eyes while not looking at a screen. We fully support the burgeoning book worms digging their way through some of the best novels available, and we want to give you a few more to peruse today. The genre? Mystery.
There’s nothing quite like a dark, stormy night outside while you’re cuddled up on the couch with a classic mystery novel — delving deep into a thrilling, intriguing narrative that you can’t wait to finish. There’s a reason Agatha Christie is one of the best-selling authors in history. To help you pass the time during quarantine, we’ve gathered our favorite mystery novels across a variety of sub-genres including medical mystery, espionage fiction, murder mystery and more.
Let’s take a journey through some of the best mystery books of past and present day.
The Maltese Falcon
BEST MYSTERY OVERALL
Dashiell Hammett, the author, struggled with numerous painful ailments throughout his vagabond life but still managed to publish a fantastic mystery novel, and one that largely deems him the father of detective mystery fiction. A valuable falcon statue gets stolen and the story centers around Sam Spade, a character that appears in his other works, and whether he can recover it. The ensuing drama centers around him trying to get back the jewel-studded statue for Miss Wonderley, a woman who originally hires him to find her eloped sister, and avoiding the Fat Man at all costs. It’s a classic hunter/hunted narrative that you’ll be intrigued by until the very end. The book has since been made into four different movies — so be sure to catch at least one of them after reading.
Best For: Historical mystery, conflicting main character, film adaptations.
Murder on the Orient Express
BEST CRIME NOVEL
Agatha Christie is a classic in the mystery genre for a reason — she’s written so many of the best mystery books in history. Her books are as thrilling as they are beautifully written, as this one that sparked her rise to fame is one to add to your list. It’s one of the most widely read mystery novels of all time and has been made into a major motion picture starring Kenneth Branagh. When a passenger, Samuel Edward Ratchett, is found dead in his compartment on the Orient Express, a mystery ensues about which of the fellow passengers did it. He was stabbed 12 times with his door locked from the inside, thickening the plot even more. Detective Hercule Poirot is challenged with finding the murderer among the numerous dead man’s enemies/ passengers before they strike again. If you’re a fan of mystery but have not read this classic yet, it’s time.
Best For: Must-read mystery, thrilling story, not too lengthy, fast-paced.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Follow the unconventional partnership of Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist who needs a win, and Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed and pierced hacker who team up to solve the unsolved disappearance of Harriet Vanger – a member of Sweden’s elite. This book contains everything you want in a good mystery novel — a powerfully flawed central relationship, murder, dirty family history, crime, love and all types of financial complications.
Best For: Modern mystery book, dual-gender exploration, film adaptations.
BEST DETECTIVE FICTION
This novel, from New York Times best-selling author Louise Penny, centers around Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Québec as he attempts to solve a mysterious death in a rural village outside of Montreal. Jane Neal was beloved in her community in Three Pines and was found dead in the woods. A tragic hunting accident? That’s what the locals have concluded, but Gamache is not so sure. He senses foul play and follows the trail to figure out what happened.
Best For: Detective mystery, small-town community, singular character development.
Ed McBain, the author of this police procedural mystery, broke ground on the genre by making the police real people who aren’t good nor bad, but all shades of grey. Who’s side you’re on, and who deserves your sympathy, will be a constant internal question throughout reading. This particular story is a solid mystery read and the story of a blackmailer, Sy Kramer, found dead and the detectives who have to solve the crime before the murderer strikes again. The suspects? A politician’s wife/ former pornography star, a soda tycoon business man or the payer of a small fortune with a big secret. It’s a speedy story with an old-time gangster movie feel. Steve Carella, the main character in this novel also stars in his other 87th precinct books so if you end up enjoying the world through his eyes, there are more.
Best For: Police, exploration of psyche, complicated characters, human qualities.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
BEST ESPIONAGE FICTION
Perhaps one of the most famous spy novels of all time fits well within this category and had to earn this spot. John le Carré is a famous author in this spy fiction realm, and for good reason. This story follows his recurring character George Smiley as he attempts to carry on with his duties after his “Control” man is dead, and young Turks who forced him out continue to run the Circus. This book is dense and can be confusing, so read it slowly with no shame so you don’t miss important details. A shocking revelation paves the path for him to avoid retirement and catch the Soviet mole who has penetrated and betrayed the highest level of British Intelligence. He’s only got his wits and a small loyal team, can he pull it off?
Best Mystery Book For: George Smiley, spy novel classics, singular character development, film adaptations.
The Silent Patient
Into medical thrillers? You’ve got to check this one out. Alicia Berenson goes from having a perfect life to shooting her husband five times in the face, and never speaking again. She’s a famous painter, and this incident shoots her into notoriety and the value of her art skyrockets. She refuses to talk or give any sort of explanation, which turns the domestic tragedy into a widespread mystery that encapsulates the universal imagination. Amidst all of the ruckus she’s hidden away at a mental institution where Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, is determined to get her to talk and find out what happened. The quest for the truth takes him down his own twisting path of self revelation of his intentions and threatens to take over his life if he’s not careful.
Best For: Medical mysteries, psychotherapy, suspense, obsession, female psyche.
The Berlin Crossing
BEST HISTORICAL MYSTERY
If you love thrillers that combine a classic mystery with world history, then this is one of the best mystery books to crack open during quarantine. Michael Ritter’s life is in shambles, and he’s trying to put the pieces back together. His wife has thrown him out, he’s been fired from his school teacher position for being a socialist and as a former member of the Party he’s trying to reconcile the leftovers of the State that shaped his worldview. Then, his mother becomes terminally ill and he returns home to care for her. Her dying wish is for him to see an evangelical priest who is the only person with truthful revelations from his past. His journey to find him, and the truth, is compelling, filled with struggle, rebuilding and love.
Best For: Historical narrative, post-WW2, family secrets, socialism, self-exploration.
Anatomy of a Murder
BEST COURTROOM MYSTERY
Who doesn’t love a good mystery based on a real case? Anatomy of a Murder is based on a real case encountered by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, who goes by the pen name Robert Traver a.k.a the author of this volume. It’s a bit of a one-hit wonder in terms of his archives, but it’s a winner nonetheless. It’s a classic story of a man supposedly falsely accused of murder, and two lawyers who are trying to put together the pieces in order to prove his innocence. Can they do it? This lengthy novel will take you on a fast-paced journey you won’t be able to put down.
Best For: Courtroom drama, legal narrative, murder mystery, based on a true story.
And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie, the queen of mystery, deserves two slots on this list. This novel was one of the best-selling ones, at about 100 million copies sold, and she’s been noted saying it was the hardest one for her to write. She created the concept of the closed-room mystery with works like this one, where there’s a murder and all of the suspects are trapped in a locked space — like a house, room or in the case of another famous work of hers, train.
In this particular story 10 people, each with something to hide, are invited to an isolated mansion on an island by a host who never shows up. All they’ve got left are their dark pasts, secrets and each other. One by one they reveal why they might be there, and one by one they pass away. Will anyone survive? Who’s the killer? Are they dying at the hand of someone else or something else? You’ll want to dial into this one.
Best For: Giant mansion stories, murder mystery, dark secrets, multi-character journeys.