The Best Detective Books You Must Read: Updated 2020

book on desk
by CJ McDaniel // April 14  

Most of us have grown up with our noses shoved inside good detective novels. There are many greats to choose from, from Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie books. The world of crime and the heroes (and sometimes anti-heroes) who take out society’s garbage using their wit and supreme intellect enchant each of us in one way or another. Even if you’ve never read a detective novel before, surely you’ve seen these stories on the big screen, as these stories contain some of the greatest characters ever created.

What Did These Detective Books Do To Qualify For This List

Any time you are ranking the best of something the results are usually somewhat subjective but we have did our best to come up with a list the readers of the detective genre will truly like. To come up with this list we took into account:

  • quantity and quality of user reviews
  • sales data
  • public perception
  • opinions of readers of this genres
  • commercial success
  • and of course personal opinion

Take a look at the best Detective Books you can read right now:

Best Detective Books


Here are the best detective books by the experts:

1) Detective by Arthur Hailey

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: A death row confession propels a homicide detective into an investigation that will tear Miami apart in #1 New York Times–bestselling author Arthur Hailey’s electrifying thriller

Detective-Sergeant Malcolm Ainslie, a former Catholic priest, is about to start his vacation when a call comes in from death row. Before serial killer Elroy Doil is taken to the electric chair, he wants to make a full confession to the cop who put him away. To close the books on additional murder cases in which Doil is a suspect, Ainslie drives four hundred miles to Florida State Prison.

Although Doil confesses to ten other homicides, he insists that he didn’t commit the crime for which he will be executed the following day: the grisly slaying of a city commissioner and his wife. In his search for the real killer, Ainslie will discover that the upper levels of Miami’s government—including some of his closest colleagues—are more corrupt and dangerous than he ever imagined.


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2) Vanishing Girls: A totally heart-stopping crime thriller (Detective Josie Quinn Book 1) by Lisa Regan

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: When Isabelle Coleman, a blonde, beautiful young girl goes missing, everyone from the small town of Denton joins the search. They can find no trace of the town’s darling, but Detective Josie Quinn finds another girl they didn’t even know was missing.

Mute and unresponsive, it’s clear this mysterious girl has been damaged beyond repair. All Josie can get from her is the name of a third girl and a flash of a neon tongue piercing that matches Isabelle’s.

The race is on to find Isabelle alive, and Josie fears there may be other girls in terrible danger. When the trail leads her to a cold case labelled a hoax by authorities, Josie begins to wonder is there anyone left she can trust?


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3) Retribution: A Psychic Detective Kate Pierce Crime Thriller Book 1 (Psychic Detective Kate Pierce Crime Thriller Series) by C.M. Sutter

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: The violent drug-related murders of two prominent attorneys have the homicide division of the Chicago Police Department scrambling for answers, but without clues, a motive, or a suspect, not even the FBI can track down the killer.

With the media demanding an arrest and at their wits’ end, the Chicago Police Department makes an urgent call to the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office in hopes of bringing in Kate Pierce, a psychic detective, on the case. A reluctant Kate agrees only when word comes that Jesse McCord, a new friend and top-notch Chicago homicide detective, has gone missing.
Partnered with Detective Henry Johnson of Chicago’s homicide division, Kate goes on the hunt for the killer, armed with clues from her revealing dreams—and her dogged determination. As they inch closer to locating Jesse and learning the identity of the suspect, they realize the killer may be much closer than they think.


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4) The Last Detective: A Novel (An Elvis Cole Novel Book 9) by Robert Crais

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: With his acclaimed bestsellers, Hostage (a New York Times Notable Book) and Demolition Angel, Robert Crais drew raves for his unstoppable pacing, edgy characterizations, and cinematic prose. Now, in The Last Detective, Crais returns to his signature character, Los Angeles private investigator Elvis Cole, in a masterful page-turner that probes the meaning of family and the burdens of the past.

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5) The Templar Detective (The Templar Detective Thrillers Book 1) by J. Robert Kennedy

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: When wounded Templar knight Sir Marcus de Rancourt receives word that his sister is dying, he returns to a home he hasn’t seen in twenty years, only to find his sister dead, and her children orphaned. Sir Marcus decides to take on the greatest challenge of his life and remain behind to raise the children, his loyal sergeant and squires insisting on joining him to work the land at his side

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6) His Hand In the Storm: Gray James Detective Murder Mystery and Suspense (Chief Inspector Gray James Detective Murder Mystery Series Book 1) by Ritu Sethi

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: From the prize-winning author comes a psychological, page-turning mystery with all the elements one needs on a rainy night: a complex murder, a noble yet haunted detective, and an evocative setting to sink into.

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7) Hide and Seek (A Detective Al Harris Cold Case Book 1) by Rob Costa

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: What Would You Do If The Stalker You Thought Had Disappeared Was Suddenly Back?

Fifteen years ago Mary Anne Cromway was stalked by a violent psychopath that police were never able to identify. As the stalker became more obsessive and threatening, her boyfriend Bobby went missing. The town assumed that troublemaking Bobby had been playing a trick and had decided to run away when he got in too deep—or that Mary Anne was behind all of it herself. They were especially suspicious when the stalker disappeared right after Bobby did.
Fifteen years later, Mary Anne receives another note from her stalker. She knew exactly who to go to for help.


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8) Her Final Confession: An absolutely addictive crime fiction novel (Detective Josie Quinn Book 4) by Lisa Regan

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: Watching her friend dragged away in handcuffs, Josie couldn’t believe for one second that Gretchen had killed that poor boy. Confession or not, someone else was involved. She would find out who…

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9) Going Underground: British Detective (Jonathan Roper investigates Book 1) by Michael Leese

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: Sir James Taylor is a billionaire and philanthropist. He’s also a man with dark secrets. He’s vanished after stepping out of his Rolls Royce in the heart of London and Scotland Yard is in trouble.

There are no traces. No witnesses. No ransom. Nothing.
With pressure from all sides the Met must send for Jonathan Roper and Brian Hooley. What they uncover is going to make a lot of important people very unhappy.


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10) Miami Burn (Titus South Florida Mystery Thriller Series Book 1) by John D. Patten

  • Best Detective BooksBOOK SUMMARY: Titus came to Miami to kill a man. Plain and simple. Fresh off a prison stint for a crime he didn’t commit and out for blood.

But when a wealthy socialite begs Titus to track down her missing daughter, he dives head first into a seedy Miami underworld of lowlife thugs, celebrity wannabes, and women as beautiful as they are deadly. Titus soon finds himself up against an organized crime boss, a crooked politician, and a hard-nosed Miami detective. Nobody, it seems, wants the girl found, but Titus doesn’t scare easy. Armed with two fists and razor-sharp wit, Titus unravels a mystery deeper, darker, and more twisted than a simple missing girl.


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Best Detective Movies

If you enjoyed the best detective books, why stop there? Take a look at our list of best detective movies and witness these marvelous films from the big screen.


819owGCnXaL._AC_UL436_Starring: Titus Welliver , Jamie Hector , Amy Aquino , et al.
Directed by: Jim McKay , Kevin Dowling , Ernest Dickerson , et al.

Movie Summary: Based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling novels, Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver), an LAPD homicide detective, stands trial for the fatal shooting of a serial murder suspect — just as a cold case involving the remains of a missing boy forces Bosch to confront his past. As daring recruit, Julia Brasher (Annie Wersching), catches his eye, and departmental politics heat up, Bosch will pursue justice at all costs.

Movie Reviews: 

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2)Into Thin Air

71jx4ksmNML._AC_UL436_Starring: Ellen Burstyn , Robert Prosky and Sam Robards
Directed by: Roger Young

Movie Summary: Ellen Burstyn stars as the Canadian mother of a college student who vanishes mysteriously while driving back to school in the states. After having no luck from the police, she hires a private detective (Robert Prosky) to help her. Their tenacious pursuit of clues uncovers the grim details of her sons fate, leading to a shocking climax.

Movie Reviews: 


81ZE2aEDURL._AC_UL436_Starring: Patrick FitzSymons , Ian McElhinney , Martin McCann , et al.
Directed by: Michael McDowell

Movie Summary: This is the fascinating true life story of one of Ireland’s most famous unsolved murders. It is the tale of how an innocent man was found guilty but insane of the brutal homicide of a young woman from a very prominent family. Told in superb period detail, Scapegoat contains a combustible mix of sex, class, bogus respectability and dark domestic secrets.

Movie Reviews: 

4)The Suspicions Of Mr. Whicher: The Murder At Road Hill House

81mhT6mIsVL._AC_UL436_Starring: Paddy Considine , Peter Capaldi , Alexandra Roach , et al.
Directed by: James Hawes

Movie Summary: Inspector Jack Whicher is part of the newly formed Scotland Yard detective department and travels to Rode, Wiltshire, to investigate a murder at a country house. With no material evidence and only an inept local police force to help, he faces the unenviable task of solving a case in which members of the grieving family are the main suspects.

Movie Reviews: 

5)Crooked House

91Z7sNPWUWL._AC_UL436_Starring: Glenn Close , Christina Hendricks , Gillian Anderson , et al.
Directed by: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Movie Summary: In Agatha Christie’s most twisted tale, a spy-turned-private-detective is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark  family secrets.

Movie Reviews: 

Best Detective Audio Books

Now that you’ve seen our list of the best detective books and movies, I’m sure you’ll be interested in trying out more of the best detective books in audio!

1)The Good Detective by John McMahon, Jon Lindstrom, et al.


Book Summary: Detective P.T. Marsh was a rising star on the police force of Mason Falls, Georgia – until his wife and young son died in an accident. Since that night, he’s lost the ability to see the line between smart moves and disastrous decisions. Such as when he agrees to help out a woman by confronting her abusive boyfriend.

When the next morning he gets called to the scene of his newest murder case, he is stunned to arrive at the house of the very man he beat up the night before. He could swear the guy was alive when he left, but can he be sure? What’s certain is that his fingerprints are all over the crime scene.

Book Reviews:

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2)Freedom’s Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror by Charles Lane, Jonathan Yen, et al.


Book Summary: After the first political assassination carried out by the Klan, Washington power brokers looked for help in breaking the growing movement. They found it in Hiram C. Whitley. He became head of the Secret Service, which had previously focused on catching counterfeiters and was at the time the government’s only intelligence organization. Whitley and his agents led the covert war against the nascent KKK and were the first to use undercover work in mass crime – what we now call terrorism – investigations.

Book Reviews:

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3)The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, Lisette Lecat, et al.


Book Summary: Mma “Precious” Ramotswe sets up a detective agency in Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, making her the only female detective in the country. At first, cases are hard to come by. But eventually, troubled people come to Precious with a variety of concerns. Potentially philandering husbands, seemingly schizophrenic doctors, and a missing boy who may have been killed by witch doctors all compel Precious to roam about in her tiny van, searching for clues.

Book Reviews:

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4)The Feral Detective: A Novel by Jonathan Lethem, Zosia Mamet, et al.


Book Summary: Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help. A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. Reluctantly, he agrees to help. The unlikely pair navigates the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and finds Arabella is in serious trouble – caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end.

Book Reviews:

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5)Murder in Park Lane: The Detective Lavender Mysteries, Book 5 by Karen Charlton, Michael Page, et al.


Book Summary: The deceased is David MacAdam, an Essex businessman with expensive tastes. As Lavender and Constable Ned Woods travel between London and Chelmsford seeking to understand MacAdam’s final hours and unearth the grisly truth, they uncover a tangled web of deceit behind his stylish facade. The unusual circumstances of MacAdam’s death are nothing compared to the shady nature of his life, and it seems the house on Park Lane is at the heart of a dark conspiracy.

Book Reviews:

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What do you think about our list of best detective books? If you have another genre that you prefer to read we have probably compiled a list of our favorites for that genre too. So if you are looking for something other than the best detective books you can find other genres here.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!