In this article, we look at great crime fiction. We reviewed the most reputable sites to cultivate our list: The Telegraph, The Guardian, and Goodreads. In no particular order, here are the top 25 crime books of all time.
1. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
Who can resist Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on one of their most extraordinary cases ever to challenge them? Rumors of a legendary hound that haunts the Baskerville family lead them to ask Holmes and Watson to protect Sir Charles Baskerville’s only heir. It is on the moors surrounding the Baskerville mansion they come face to face with a terrifying evil.
2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd set Agatha Christie up as a bestselling whodunit author. It’s about a widow who commits suicide and who was having a secret affair with wealthy Roger Ackroyd. When Ackroyd is found murdered in his locked study, Hercule Poirot is called in to solve the case. And he has plenty of guilty suspects crawling around the place.
3. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Corleones are the first family of the American mafia, and The Godfather details their powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor. Allegiance to the family as well as greed and power fuel every decision made. An epic story of crime and betrayal, this book uncovers the underbelly of the mafia’s violent subculture and places the reader right in the middle.
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Harriet Vanger, a young woman from a wealthy Swedish family, disappears in mysterious circumstances. Forty years later, her uncle hires Michael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander to uncover the truth of what happened. Blomkvist, a crusading journalist, and Salander, a 24-year-old tattooed and pierced hacker genius, discover a line of iniquity running through the Vanger family and astonishing corruption in Swedish industrialism.
5. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Maxim de Winter, a dashing widower, sweeps a young lady’s maid off her feet and takes her home to his massive country estate. It is there she realizes just how much a part his late wife still plays in life at the estate. She is a lingering evil that threatens to destroy the couple’s new marriage from beyond the grave.
6. The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold
Susie Salmon, the teenage victim of a gruesome murder, describes what happened the day she was murdered, but she’s in heaven watching her family struggle with the aftermath of not knowing what actually happened to her. So what the readers know, the family doesn’t, which makes this a tense read that Sebold covers with amazing and compelling grace.
7. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The first in the Philip Marlowe series, The Big Sleep introduces Marlowe, a private eye and an educated, heroic, streetwise, rugged individualist that epitomizes the hard-boiled detective. Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood to deal with the blackmailer of his young daughter Carmen. This is just the tip of the iceberg uncovered by Marlowe’s investigation.
8. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Highsmith introduces two passengers on the same train: Guy Haines, a successful architect amid a divorce, and Charles Anthony Bruno, a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. Bruno wants his father dead, and he suggests that Haines’ wife should be too. He says, “Some people are better off dead, like your wife and my father, for instance.”
9. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Brother William is brought in to investigate the monks of a wealthy Italian abbey suspected of heresy. Seven bizarre deaths occur, and Brother William turns his sights to a murder investigation. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and finds out “the most interesting things happen at night.”
10. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
The first in the Hannibal Lecter series, Red Dragon introduces Will Graham, the greatest FBI profiler, who still has physical and mental scars from capturing Hannibal Lecter, which threw him into early retirement. He comes out of retirement to help the FBI find The Tooth Fairy serial killer and ends up turning to Hannibal Lector for help.
11. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
Twenty-five years after something terrible happened to one of three young friends, the boys are now men. Sean is a homicide detective, Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store, and Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay. When Jimmy’s daughter is murdered, Sean is the lead investigator. Jimmy wants to return to his criminal ways to solve the case, and Dave somehow comes home with blood all over him the night Jimmy’s daughter died.
12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy, the beautiful perfect wife, disappears. Nick, who is husband-of-the-year material, is suddenly evasive. But as you get further into the machinations behind Amy’s disappearance, you discover no one is who you thought they were. In fact, is someone really a killer?
13. Killing Floor by Lee Child
The Goodreads description is too good to pass up:
“Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he’s arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Jack knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone. not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.”
14. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Walter Hartright stumbles upon a mysterious woman dressed all in white on a moonlit London road and becomes embroiled in the sinister machinations of Sir Percival Glyde and his “charming” friend Count Fosco. The Woman in White asks questions of what is identity and insanity as it plays along the corridors of English country homes and the madhouse.
15. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
How can you have a best crime book list without several from Agatha Christie? We couldn’t. Summoned to a private island off the coast of Devon, ten curious strangers gather at the request of an eccentric millionaire not one of them knows. One by one, they are all murdered, but who could the murderer be?
- What Do All of These Books Have In Common?