Even if you love reading mysteries, it sometimes takes a while to figure out what exactly it is you’re looking for. At one end are mysteries that are light on violence and often humorous in approach. These look back to what is sometimes called the ‘golden age’ of mystery writing between the world wars, when reading mysteries was a form of escapism, rather than a confrontation with the horrors of crime. At the other end, are gritty, violent books where the gory details can be hard to read. One easy way to find books you like is by identifying an author and reading lots of books by them. At Five Books, we also keep a running list of the best mysteries of the year. Some of the authors we like that have been recommended on Five Books include:
Birnam Wood: A Novel
by Eleanor Catton & Saskia Maarleveld (narrator)
All the Sinners Bleed
by S.A. Cosby
Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers
by Jesse Q. Sutanto and narrated by Eunice Wong
The Secret Hours
by Mick Herron
I Have Some Questions for You
by Rebecca Makkai and narrated by Julia Whelan and JD Jackson
It’s a lot of fun listening to mystery books or crime novels as audiobooks, with good narrators adding suspense and enjoyment to the reading experience. Editors at AudioFile magazine, who specialize in reviewing audiobooks, pick out the best ones of 2023, good books made even better by being read aloud by a skilled narrator.
In the Golden Age of mystery between the two World Wars, writers loved to devise fiendish plots where seemingly impossible crimes were committed. Tom Mead, author of two ‘locked-room’ mysteries set in the 1930s, introduces us to some of his favourite books in the genre, from the Golden Age itself to books written in more recent decades that pay tribute to its traditions.
Throughout the year, as new books are published and the shortlists for prizes are announced, we keep an eye on the mysteries we think might be gripping or fun to read. Here’s our list of the best mysteries of 2023 (so far), put together by Five Books editor, Sophie Roell.
The crime book genre is massive and caters to all sorts of tastes, but once you find a detective or main character you love, there are few pleasures greater than reading the entire series. British journalist Stig Abell, author of Death Under a Little Sky, picks some of the best classic crime, books he’s read over and over again.
Crime writers are often mild-mannered individuals who have learned to delve into the deepest, darkest recesses of their imagination to create their books, says the bestselling author Mark Edwards. Here, he recommends five of the best contemporary mysteries that will keep you guessing right to the final page.
With so many works of detective fiction coming out each year, which books stand the test of time? Here, bestselling British author Jeffrey Archer talks us through some of his favourites, the books he found completely unputdownable and made him want to read everything the author had written.
When it comes to whodunnits, the latest ones aren’t always the best. Veteran crime writer Simon Brett talks us through some of his all-time favourites, of which the most recent was published nearly four decades ago.
The best murder mysteries set up their stories like a game between the reader and the writer, says Stuart Turton, bestselling author and lifelong mystery fan. Here he highlights five of his favourites, in which detectives make miraculous deductions, or doggedly chase clues until they meet with satisfying solutions.
The Detective Stories of Edgar Allan Poe: Three Tales Featuring C. Auguste Dupin
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Mystery of the Yellow Room
by Gaston Leroux
The Third Bullet and Other Stories
by John Dickson Carr
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938)
by Agatha Christie
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
by Ross and Shika Mackenzie (translators) & Soji Shimada
Partly as a response to the horrors of World War I, the 1920s and 30s saw a surge in the writing of whodunnits, a period often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of mystery writing. Here, Martin Edwards, one of the leading experts on the genre, picks out some key works, with a special focus on ‘locked room’ mysteries.
The best mystery books are completely unputdownable and addictive, the entertainment they provide more portable than watching TV and so much more satisfying than looking at your phone. Bestselling author David Baldacci, one of the masters of the genre and a passionate advocate for literacy and reading, talks us through some of the best mystery books ever written—as well as the contemporary authors he most admires.