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Top 20 Must-read Classic Mystery Novels You'll Regret Missing

The Top 20 Must-read Classic Mystery Novels
Everyone loves a good mystery. A page turner that will keep you guessing till the end, not willing to put the book down, is something all book lovers crave. Buzzle lists the best classic mystery novels of all time, and some more which are just as popular.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Mysterious Reincarnations!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had to reincarnate Sherlock Holmes in 'The Empty House', after killing him off previously, due to a tremendous uproar by the readers, who refused to accept the fact that Holmes could be dead!
Murder, suspense, chases, guns, thrills, chills, high-speed chases, edge-of-the-seat action, drama, betrayal, a love triangle, death―these are all the elements of a good mystery book; stories of crime that make us lie awake at night wondering who could have done it. Any engaging mystery or thriller must be realistic and fast-paced. The plot must be such that it makes the reader believe that something like that can also happen in real life. Pace is important because nobody wants to read a murder or crime mystery where the story just goes on and on, stretched to the point where the reader doesn't want to read the book anymore.
The writers who created the classic mystery novels mentioned below, have become just as popular among the readers; you will find some names repeated in the following paragraphs. Most of these old classics are suitable for kids too, but parents must read the gist of the story first, before letting their children read it. Also, the old language used in some books may be difficult for kids to grasp. Listed below are some famous fiction novels that have been loved by many for years. Some of these stories have been taken from real-life events, and many of them have also been turned into movies. (The list is not in any specific order of ranking.)
The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Author ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About The Book
Nobody can ever forget the deductive Sherlock Holmes and his trusty friend Dr. Watson. Extremely adept at the power of deduction, he solves the most difficult of crimes quite easily. The stories are narrated by Watson and tell of the various adventures that him and Holmes face together.
These classic books have made the pair of Holmes and Watson legendary, and till date, nobody has been able to quite recreate that magic. This may easily be the most popular mystery book series ever.
The Maltese Falcon
Author ― Dashiell Hammett

About The Book
The book follows Sam Spade throughout his adventure in trying to discover the real intent behind the importance of a black falcon figurine. When Sam is hired by a lady to follow a man who supposedly eloped with her sister, he senses that there is something shady about her. When his partner Miles Archer gets killed, a series of dangerous events follow.
This book shows that there are many dangerous people lurking around, and no one can say just how deep a supposedly harmless situation goes. Looks can be deceiving, and so can a little black statue of a bird!
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Author ― Edgar Allan Poe

About The Book
This book is a collection of some of the popular thriller and mystery stories written by Poe. These include "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Cask of Amontillado", and "The Masque of the Red Death".
All these stories deal with death, guilt, atonement, and the human psyche. All these stories were written at different points of time and then compiled to make this book.
The Daughter of Time
Author ― Josephine Tey

About The Book
This story takes the reader back in time through the curiosity of the protagonist Alan Grant, an officer of the Scotland Yard. When he lands up in hospital with a broken leg, the notion of having nothing to do brings about boredom. That is when a friend suggests that he read up historical mysteries and try to solve them, to keep himself occupied.
He becomes particularly interested with King Henry III, and sets out to uncover the truth behind his label as a "cruel-hearted murderer". A very interesting read for history and mystery enthusiasts.
Presumed Innocent
Author ― Scott Turow

About The Book
This murder mystery thriller revolves around the gruesome death of an ambitious prosecutor, Carolyn Polhemus. When she is found dead in her apartment, various theories come up as to what may have happened. Her colleague, Rusty Sabich, is asked to take up her case.
However, what no one knows is that Carolyn and Rusty share a dark history, something that can destroy his career for good. The book shows how everything is accepted in the corridors of power, and how nobody is really what they seem.
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Author ― John le Carré

About The Book
This story is set at the time of the Cold War in the 1960s. Conditions of war prevail in Germany, and a double agent is finally discovered and tried for treason. The story follows Alec Leamas' treacherous journey in his efforts to defect a suspected double agent named Mundt, and keep him from getting killed. The mystery of who is really on whose side is slowly unraveled in the story.
The Moonstone
Author ― Wilkie Collins

About The Book
This mystery is a classic whodunnit. It involves a large diamond, a theft, and a good mystery. When Rachel Verinder receives the moonstone as a gift for her eighteenth birthday, little does she know of its history. Her uncle has brought it back from India, where he has been stationed, being in the army.
There are many religious sentiments attached to that diamond, and there are people who are desperately looking for it. All hell breaks loose when the diamond gets stolen, and all Rachel wants is to find the thief and retrieve her precious gift.
The Big Sleep
Author ― Raymond Chandler

About The Book
This classic mystery has it all; blackmail, murder, infidelity, drugs, and guns! It is also the introduction of detective Philip Marlowe. He is hired by General Sternwood to look into the man who is blackmailing his daughter, but Marlowe finds that there is more to that story than meets the eye.
Soon, there is a murder and more blackmail, and some controversial photos to add to it. The plot soon becomes a complicated web of double crosses and cheating; but will Marlowe be able to find out who the murderer is, and what his/her real motives are?
Rebecca
Author ― Daphne du Maurier

About The Book
A very well-written book, narrated by the leading character of the book, whose name is never revealed. She is an inexperienced and introvert young woman in her youth when on a trip to Monte Carlo, she meets the handsome and brooding widower Max De Winter. Completely besotted by him, she begins to spend more time with him. They get married within a fortnight of meeting, and he takes her back to his home, the majestic estate of Manderley.
However, the house is not quite what it seems, and the presence of its previous owner and Max's dead wife, Rebecca, still lingers. It almost consumes his new wife, to the point that she starts believing that Max never got over Rebecca. But then, there is a revelation and the entire truth comes out; and after that, Rebecca's hold over Manderley is destroyed.
And Then There Were None
Author ― Agatha Christie

About The Book
This book went through three name changes, initially being called "Ten Little Niggers" in the U.K., and "Ten Little Indians" in the U.S., before finally being named "And Then There Were None". The book is based on the poem "Ten Little Indians". Ten people, who have been responsible for the deaths of some people but were never punished, are tricked into coming to Soldier Island.
Once there, they are played a message saying they are there to pay for their sins. They all die deaths similar to those in the poem, but the killer is unknown. Were there actually eleven people on that island, or was the killer one among them?
Gaudy Night
Author ― Dorothy L. Sayers

About The Book
To start off, the word 'gaudy' in the title is derived from an Old French word 'gaudie', which means enjoying. A college gaudy is a get-together of all the alumni. Harriet Vane is invited to join the gaudy celebrations of Shrewsbury College, Oxford, she is initially hesitant to relive the past.
However, soon, the academic atmosphere in the college is disrupted when someone starts pulling dangerous pranks on the girls, displaying vile and crude graffiti on the walls, and making effigies that are scary and offensive, Harriet is called to investigate. She is nearly killed in the process of finding the killer, but is eventually successful.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Author ― Agatha Christie

About The Book
The story stars the famous Hercule Poirot as sharp as ever. In the village of King's Abbot, a widow named Mrs. Ferrars is murdered, and Dr. James Sheppard begins to look into her death. Her to-be-husband, a widower named Roger Ackroyd, invites Sheppard to his house to tell him the truth about Ferrars, and how she was being blackmailed.
However, soon after Sheppard leaves, Ackroyd too is murdered, and so Poirot is convinced to take up the case. All the people living in the Ackroyd home are suspects, and soon motives of debts, money, and inheritance begin to crop up. Poirot manages to find the killer as always, but the ending is not quite what you'd expect.
Farewell My Lovely
Author ― Raymond Chandler

About The Book
Philip Marlowe is back, this time looking into the killing of a club manager. Moose Malloy comes to the club, agitated and explosive, looking for his girlfriend Velma. On not finding her, he shoots the manager in a fit of rage and escapes.
Marlowe begins investigating, deciding that the only way to find Malloy is to first find Velma. He soon finds many other people that are connected to her, and discovers that she is using a secret identity. When he confronts her, Malloy turns up and she shoots him, killing him. She flees, but is soon caught, and her involvement in a major robbery is revealed.
The IPCRESS Files
Author ― Len Deighton

About The Book
This story involves mind control, the brainwashing that was given to those involved in the war. The main highlight of the novel is the program IPCRESS (Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex under Stress).
The unnamed protagonist is an ex-military intelligence guy, who has since retired and is living the life of a civilian. He joins WOOC - (P), which is also an intelligence unit. However, its full form has never been provided in the book. The plot follows his experiences at WOOC - (P) and the IPCRESS technique that is used there.
Last Seen Wearing ...
Author ― Hillary Waugh

About The Book
This book is believed to be taken from the real-life disappearance of 18-year-old college student Paula Jean Welden. When 18-year-old Marilyn Lowell Mitchell goes missing from her college, the police are summoned to find her. Frank Ford, the police chief, is in charge of the search.
Marilyn has left her diary in her room, and the sheer genius and smart thinking of the police and Ford's persistent efforts to find out who killed her finally lead them to the perpetrator. Though not a very complicated tale, the intricate and methodical working of the police that is described in the book has garnered a lot of praises.
The Name of The Rose
Author ― Umberto Eco

About The Book
This book was originally published in Italian, named Il nome della rosa. In the story, the protagonists Franciscan friar William and Adso visit a monastery in Italy to attend a theology debate and discussion. However, their trip soon turns grim as one of the monks commits suicide, followed by the deaths of more. The two are asked to look into the mystery, and uncover many clues in the process.
Rogue Male
Author ― Geoffrey Household

About The Book
This book involves politics, high-speed chases, and a misunderstanding. A sportsman, who is a shooter, decides to stalk a dictator and shoot him. He convinces himself a great deal that he only means to follow him for the love of the game, not to actually shoot him.
However, he is seen by the dictator's guards and captured and tortured. He manages to escape and goes into hiding, where he gets a chance to think about the whole incident, and whether his intentions were what he wanted them to be. He now has to escape his pursuers and get them off his back for good, but can he?
The Long Goodbye
Author ― Raymond Chandler

About The Book
Philip Marlowe is back in action with this book. When his friend Terry Lennox shows up at his door one night asking for a ride to the airport, Marlowe warns him not to divulge why he is running. He soon finds out that Terry's wife was murdered, and soon the news of Terry's suicide reaches him. Meanwhile, he is also investigating the disappearance of writer Roger Wade.
Wade and his wife Eileen ask Marlowe to help Roger with his drinking problem. One day, after a visit to the Wade household, Marlowe hears that Roger is dead, and Marlowe is a person of interest. That is when he begins to piece the mystery together, and the answer is not what the reader expects.
The Franchise Affair
Author ― Josephine Tey

About The Book
Robert Blair is a lawyer who is called to represent the Sharpe women―Marion and her mother. They have been charged with kidnapping, beating, and imprisoning Betty Kane, an orphan girl. Although they deny it, several people believe that the two women are guilty. They even go to the point of burning the women's house down.
Blair is quite sure that they are innocent, so he digs a little deeper into Betty's past and uncovers some facts that can easily get people to doubt her story. However, the truth finally comes out, and it is not what anyone expected.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Author ― James M. Cain

About The Book
The narrator of this story is also the lead male character, Frank Chambers. He is a transient who stops at a diner one day, and then takes up a job there. He quickly falls for the gorgeous Cora, who is the owner's wife. The owner, Nick Papadakis, is an elder guy that Cora does not love. Having dreams of owning the diner and making it famous, Cora and Frank decide to kill Nick. They fail once, and the second time, only Cora is caught.
Frank denies any involvement in Nick's death. However, she is soon released and makes up with Frank, but is killed in a car accident. Since Frank is driving, he is charged with killing Cora and sent to be executed, before which he narrates all this in the book.
And Some More
Book Name : The Day of The Jackal
Author : Frederick Forsyth

Book Name : Anatomy of a Murder
Author : Robert Traver

Book Name: The Silence of The Lambs
Author : Thomas Harris

Book Name: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Author : Stieg Larsson

Book Name: The Thirty Nine Steps
Author : John Buchan

Book Name: Eye of the Needle
Author : Ken Folet

Book Name: Red Dragon
Author : Thomas Harris

Book Name: The Nine Tailors
Author : Dorothy L. Sayers

Book Name: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Author : John le Carré

Book Name: The Thin Man
Author : Dashiell Hammett

Book Name: The Woman In White
Author : Wilkie Collins

Book Name: Double Indemnity
Author : James M. Cain

Book Name : Strong Poison
Author : Dorothy L. Sayers

Book Name : The Circular Staircase
Author : Mary Roberts Rinehart

Book Name: Murder On the Orient Express
Author : Agatha Christie

Book Name: The Firm John
Author : Grisham

Book Name: The Third Man
Author : Graham Green

Book Name: The Killer Inside Me
Author : Jim Thompson

Book Name: Where Are The Children?
Author : Mary Higgins Clark

Book Name : Murder Must Advertise
Author : Dorothy L. Sayers
These were some classic and unforgettable mystery books of all time. However, if there are any that you would like to add to the list, then feel free to add the names in the comment section.