A detective is first on scene to a brutal murder, the victim’s body discovered in a darkened alleyway…
A private investigator is employed by a woman to locate her friend, now missing for more than a week…
A new DNA test reveals a killer may still be at large, thrusting a rookie police officer into a cold case mystery that will have ramifications beyond her own precinct…
I’ve always loved mystery novels, ever since picking up my first Famous Five book when I was about six years old and then quickly working my way through my grandad’s bookshelves teeming with mystery fiction as I grew older. In fact, he and I were still swapping books up until his last birthday, at the grand age of 102.
I try to make myself read the first few pages of a new mystery book slowly, sinking into the setting and atmosphere, trying to remember all the details because, surely, there’s an early clue in here? Surely there’s a way that I’ll figure out the person behind the crime before the big reveal near the end?
Often, I can’t and instead I lose myself amongst the red herrings and dead ends that the intrepid investigator (professional or otherwise) meets as, one by one, the clues are collated until a motive is uncovered and – at last! – the murderer, thief, or con artist – is unmasked and brought to justice.
Let’s delve into the mystery genre and see what we uncover, shall we?
What’s the difference between mystery and crime?
The consensus by critics of the crime fiction genre is that for a story to be a mystery, it should be less about the struggle between good and evil and instead lead the reader through the available clues to discover who committed the crime.
Mystery books don’t often get us involved with a threat to the protagonist. Instead, we follow the lead character as they try to work out the motive behind the crime before unmasking the culprit – often in the last chapters.
In crime fiction, we’re often shown who the bad guy is early on, and so we become witnesses to that good/evil struggle as the protagonist and the villain pit their wits against each other. We become emotionally involved in the race against a ticking clock.
There are many classic mystery books to choose from that continue to fascinate readers today. Some don’t age as well as others – particularly where racism and bigotry are concerned – and yet others are spoken of fondly and re-read time and time again.
These are the books that pass from generation to generation, yellowing pages curling at the corners, spines cracked and cover artwork fading, or reprinted by publishers in the knowledge that these mysteries will appeal to new readers and continue to sell hundreds of copies, if not thousands, every year.
I have a few of those faded and well-thumbed mystery books on my shelves, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite classic mystery reads with you here.
Everyone has their favourite mystery books.
You know the ones.
The book that the first time you read it you couldn’t put it down, and then afterwards wished you could read it again without knowing the ending.
These are the mystery books that stay with us through the years, the memory returning to us at unexpected moments. The books that stay on the bookshelf, no matter what.
I’ve been reading mystery books since an early age, often rummaging through my grandparents’ bookshelves on rainy days or escaping to the school library during break times to see what I could discover.
So today, I thought I’d share with you my favourite mystery books.
My top mystery books of all time.