Do you like the anticipation, the brooding aura, and the overwhelming sense of suspense you experience through a book’s pages? There is something about the best-selling murder mystery books that always seems to grab our attention. Throughout history, we have been lucky enough to witness some classics that have completely changed how we perceive and write fiction.
For those who have been looking for the perfect dose of a murder mystery to add to their vast collection or are searching for their ideal introduction to the genre, you’re in for a treat.
Here are some of the best-selling murder mystery books of all time.
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
If you read fiction, you may have heard of Agatha Christie and, for good measure—Behold, the Queen of Crime, crafting masterpieces with her immense talent. The Murder on the Orient Express is arguably her best work. The classic sees the introduction of the iconic detective, Hercule Poirot. The plot includes an ensemble of larger-than-life characters. Poirot and his mystery make the novel nothing less than a timeless gem that is on the lips of every murder mystery fan to this very day.
Gone Girl (2012)
Here is a psychological thriller book that also became the foundation for one of the greatest movies of all time. Gone Girl is a transcendent experience penned by one of the finest authors of our time, Gillian Flynn. The book tells the story of Amy Dunne, who has disappeared, causing a media frenzy. The spotlight falls onto Nick, her husband, who is acting a little too suspiciously. The book has everything: drama, deception, and the various complexities that make a work of murder mystery fiction great.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005)
Everyone remembers the iconic Lisbeth Salander from author Stieg Larsson’s riveting Millennium series. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo narrates the story of investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist alongside the notorious hacker. The two delve into the secrets of the all-powerful Swedish family. Larsson’s talents as an author exude through the pages as audiences journey through an intricate plot and social commentary of the much-loved protagonist, Salander. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is nothing less than an international sensation.
The Da Vinci Code (2003)
The Da Vinci Code is not technically a murder mystery. Still, it brilliantly executes, deriving the same feeling of anticipation, immersion, and plot development experienced in a classic murder mystery book. In the read, we have Professor Robert Langdon alongside the cryptologist Sophie Neveu, who navigates through an intricate web of complexities, unraveling the hidden secrets that have been kept under wraps for centuries.
Brown and his knack for building suspense, deriving historical intrigue, and building tension is what makes the book such a global phenomenon.
Along Came a Spider (1993)
Author James Patterson is widely known for his gripping thrillers and is accredited for introducing audiences to the endearing Detective Alex Cross in his book Along Came a Spider. The book follows Cross as he pursues the investigation of the kidnapping of two children by a sly and elusive criminal. In his fast-paced writing style, Patterson manages to keep the audience engaged, making the book a treat for fans of the genre.
The Big Sleep (1939)
The legendary Raymond Chandler and his hardboiled detective fiction The Big Sleep features Philip Marlowe, paving the way for a new era in the genre of murder mystery fiction. Marlowe navigates through the underbelly of Los Angeles to solve a head-scratching case involving a wealthy family. Chandler and his sharp dialogue, brimming with immersive descriptions paired with Marlowe’s gritty personality, make this one of the best-selling murder mystery books ever.
Still Life (2005)
Still Life is a part of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series set in the charming village of the Three Pines. The plot? A dead artist is found in the woods during the annual Thanksgiving hunt. Chief Inspector Gamache tries to unravel the mystery through the complexities and challenges faced in a tightly-knit community. Penny and his evocative writing and rich portrayal of the characters make for a perfect recipe for some of the sequences seen in murder mystery fiction.
The Hound of the Baskerville (1902)
Did you really think you’d make it through the list without one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s books?
We have the legendary Sherlock Holmes, featured in arguably the most iconic murder mystery in the series weaved together by the author. We see Mr. Holmes and Dr. John Watson rigorously investigating a family curse that involves a supernatural hound on the misty moors of Dartmoor. Doyle and his masterful storytelling make this book such a glaring success. In this book, you will see Holmes at his best, making brilliant deductions and cementing the story as a classic.
Sharp Objects (2006)
Gillian Flynn is back on the list with her gripping psychological thriller Sharp Objects. The book centers around the journalist Camille Preaker. The protagonist returns to her hometown to cover the murder of two young girls. As she continues her investigation, she unravels a mystery that helps her unveil her troubled past. Flynn’s knack for building brooding atmospheres alongside her enchanting storytelling is a critical feature in the story and why it is so loved among the fandom.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)
Michael Connelly is primarily known for his Harry Bosch series. His versatility as an author is most exuded in his book, The Lincoln Lawyer. The story features defense attorney Michael Haller, who takes the stage representing a wealthy client accused of assault. The book blends legal drama with a beautifully grotesque plot in a legal setting. New readers genuinely get to bask in Connelly’s glory with skillful storytelling.
The first book of the Grant County series, Blindsighted, is Karin Slaughter’s very first book in the Grant County series. We see medical examiner Sara Linton alongside her ex-husband, Jeffrey Tolliver, who investigates a brutal murder that has struck fear in the small Georgia town. Slaughter’s gritty writing style and emotionally driven narratives facilitated her success as an author early in her career.
The Snowman (2007)
Here, we have Norweigan author Jo Nesbø, best known for his Harry Hole series, which gained international acclaim. The Snowman sees Detective Harry Hole, who investigates a series of gory murders where the killer leaves a snowman. Nesbø loves constructing atmospheric and dark worlds, immensely influencing the book’s overall feel. The storytelling, character development, and complex plot points are why the fans follow Nesbø’s work.
A Great Reckoning (2016)
Louise Penny is back on the list with A Great Reckoning, a part of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. This is where the character takes on an entirely new role, spearheading the Sûreté Academy. The book features the murder of an eccentric professor with a mysterious map. Penny’s overall ability to blend intricate mysteries alongside profound reflections on humanity resonates beautifully among readers.
This isn’t your conventional murder mystery story; Author Daphne du Maurier weaves a classic tale of psychological intrigue paired with suspense. The protagonist is unnamed, a young bride entangled in mysteries surrounding her husband’s first wife, Rebecca. The atmosphere is haunting in this one, and du Maurier’s exploration of obsession and identity makes Rebecca a riveting masterpiece.
Tell No One (2001)
We have Harlan Coben’s “Tell No One.” The book is a delectable concoction of love, loss, and deception. Dr. David Beck finds out that his wife, who he believed to be murdered years ago, may very well be alive. As he dives deeper into the mystery, he gets tangled in a complex web of danger and conspiracy. Coben’s knack for suspense and twists and turns is particularly prevalent throughout the book.
Deceptive Calm (2023)
Last but certainly not least, we have Deceptive Calm by Patricia Skipper. The book is set in the turbulent backdrop of South Carolina in 1968. Vanessa is a stunning, light-skinned beauty in a Catholic orphanage for Black individuals. After a series of racial traumas, she obtains the identity of a deceased White baby. She begins a new life, acquiring a new name and marrying into one of the wealthiest families in California. However, her charmed life is about to meet a significant obstacle following the birth of her son, who is diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. When Vanessa’s husband finds out the truth about her race, he plots her murder. Patricia’s book is creating all the buzz in the genre and is well on its way to becoming one of the best-selling murder mystery books of all time.
Deceptive Calm is now available on Amazon.