Nothing beats the satisfaction of reading a good mystery: following trails alongside the protagonist, trying to solve the clues before they do, and finally seeing everything neatly fall together in the end.
That’s probably why the mystery genre is one of the bestselling genres in fiction, especially in the UK: Data shows that crime novels sold more than general and literary fiction in 2017.
The Best Mystery Authors
Below are 14 of the best mystery authors, along with suggested titles for a proper introduction to their work.
1. Robert Galbraith
Bestselling author J.K. Rowling writes her now famous Cormoran Strike mystery novels under this pen name.
Must-read title: The Silkworm
This second book in the Cormoran Strike series follows detective Cormoran Strike as he tries to find out what happened to novelist Owen Quine, who has gone missing. As he investigates, he unearths a manuscript that may leave many people wanting him silenced.
2. Dashiell Hammett
The New York Times dubbed Dashiell Hammett and screenwriter as a leader in the “hard-boiled school” of mystery novels.
Must-read title: The Maltese Falcon
This story follows Sam Spade, who works for Miss Wonderley on an assignment to find her sister, who has run away to elope. Instead, he finds himself on a search for the gem-laden Maltese Falcon, and becomes not just the hunter but also the hunted.
3. Steig Larsson
Swedish journalist Steig Larsson is the author of The Millennium Trilogy, a crime novel series published after his sudden death, beginning in 2005.
Must-read title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
This bestseller combines elements of murder, love, financial problems, and family ties, with disgraced journalist Mikael Blomvist and tattooed hacker Lisbeth Salander trying to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance 40 years ago.
4. Mark Haddon
English novelist and illustrator Mark Haddon writes novels, poetry, radio drama, screenplays, and children’s literature. He has also won several awards, including the Whitbread Award, Guardian Prize, a Commonwealth Writers Prize, and the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award.
Must-read title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Haddon’s bestseller follows an unusual main character, Christopher John Francis Boone, who uses Sherlock Holmes as his model to find the culprit behind the mysterious killing of Wellington, his neighbor’s dog.
5. Patricia Highsmith
A writer known for psychological thrillers, Patricia Highsmith’s first novel, Strangers on a Train, was also made into a film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock. Many other thrillers that Highsmith wrote also followed that path and became popular films.
Must-read title: The Talented Mr. Ripley
This psychological thriller follows Tom Ripley, who has trouble making a living in New York and turns to swindling to survive. Tycoon Herbert Greenleaf then approaches him with a request to bring home Greenleaf’s son Dickie. Ripley becomes obsessed with living Dickie’s life and ends up murdering Dickie and assuming his identity.
6. Gillian Flynn
All of American writer Gillian Flynn’s three published novels have been adapted for television or film, with Flynn herself writing the adaptations for Sharp Objects, made into an HBO limited series, and the 2014 film for Gone Girl.
Must-read title: Gone Girl
Nick and Amy seem to have everything together, but on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy suddenly goes missing. Everyone suspects Nick, but as the investigation goes into full blast, you will discover neither Amy nor Nick was who everyone thought they were.
7. John LeCarré
British espionage novelist David John Moore Cornwell, who used to work for the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service, goes by the pen name John LeCarré.
Must-read title: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
This story follows Alec Leamas, who intends to end his career in British intelligence, but gets swept back in when his master sends him straight into East German intelligence to lure the enemy to downfall.
8. P.D. James
Phyllis Dorothy James, who was also a Baroness, is a well-known writer of crime and police mysteries starring the fictional Adam Dalgliesh.
Must-read title: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories
Two of the stories in this book feature Adam Dalgliesh, whose godfather asks him to relook into a notorious murder to ease his mind about an inheritance. The stories are described as ingeniously plotted while being playful, with the author’s humor showing up in the narrative.
9. James M. Cain
Despite his dislike of labels, James M. Cain was always closely associated with the hardboiled detective genre. He wrote several crime novels that were adapted into successful films.
Must-read title: The Postman Always Rings Twice
This psychological thriller comes with a healthy dose of violence and sexuality, which led to it being banned in Boston at the time it was published. But since then, it has made its way to Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels.
10. Raymond Chandler
Having made his debut in the pulp magazine Black Mask, Raymond Chandler moved on to write more mystery novels, as well as film adaptations.
Must-read title: The Big Sleep
Set in Los Angeles, this crime novel has spawned two film adaptations. The book introduces us to detective Philip Marlowe, hired by General Sternwood to deal with his blackmailer, Arthur Geiger, the local bookseller.
11. Agatha Christie
Legendary writer Agatha Christie gave readers two iconic detectives in the fictional characters of Hercule Poirot of Murder on the Orient Express, and Miss Marple, the amateur detective who first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage.
Must-read title: And Then There Were None
The sheer volume of books that Agatha Christie has written, with Poirot appearing in more than 50 mystery novels and Miss Marple in 12, makes it difficult to pick just one must-read title.
Christie’s And Then There Were None, which uses completely different character, tells the tale of 10 strangers who are guests on a private island, and one by one they are mysteriously killed.
12. Dorothy Sayers
This classic mystery writer also created an iconic detective in the person of Lord Peter Wimsey. Dorothy Sayers was known as a poet and English crime writer, and also for studying modern and classical languages.
Must-read Title: Whose Body?
This first title in the Lord Wimsey series will help you get to know this unique character, whose first murder case revolves around the strange corpse left in the tub with a pair of gold pince-nez, and which had obviously been shaved after being murdered.
13. Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes is one iconic figure that comes to mind when we think of mysteries, so we can’t complete this list without paying tribute to his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.
Must-read title: The Hound of the Baskervilles
This novella is a great introduction to the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. It traces the mystery of Charles Baskerville’s death, possibly linked to the legend of a giant demonic hound said to haunt the mires of Dartmoor as part of a curse.
14. Wilkie Collins
Classic author Wilkie Collins was known for writing his stories in weekly serials, with one chapter published each week in the newspaper. He is the early master of mysteries, and known as the pioneer of detective fiction.
Must-read title: The Moonstone
This mystery novel was dubbed as the first modern English detective novel. Collins writes from the point of view of several key people in the story, so readers will find themselves dumbfounded as to what really happened to the Moonstone, the priceless diamond that suddenly disappeared from Rachel’s wardrobe.
Great Mystery Writers
If you’re a newbie to the mystery genre, these authors are sure to offer you a thrilling introduction that will have you channeling your inner detective.
For more book and author recommendations, be sure to check out our list of 100 books to read before you die so you can start working on that TBR list.
Do you have a favorite mystery author? Share your top picks in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- 15 of the Best Romance Authors to Add to Your Library
- 25 Best Mystery Books That Will Keep You Guessing
- The 10 Best Stephen King Books to Read This Fall
- 8 Books Becoming Movies in 2020: What to Read Before it Hits the Screen
- Developmental Editing: What to Look For and How to Find the Right Editor - September 20, 2020
- How to Write a Mystery: 9 Tips for an Exciting Page-Turner - September 20, 2020
- Transitive and Intransitive Verbs: Definitions, Uses, and Examples - September 19, 2020