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Top 50 Crime Novels

Stylist's picks of the essential whodunnits

From the classic whodunnits of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers to the hard boiled school, we love crime fiction and we know you do too. Here are fifty classic crime novels - vote for your favourite and let us know why in the comments section below or on Twitter @stylistmagazine

  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)

    The Big Sleep by Raymond Ch…

    This complex crime novel is the first in… More details

    The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)

    The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)

    This complex crime novel is the first in Chandler's acclaimed series about private detective Philip Marlowe.

  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

    The Moonstone by Wilkie Col…

    Considered to be the first detective book in the… More details

    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

    Considered to be the first detective book in the English language, this details the complex case of a stolen diamond.

  • The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre (1963)

    The Spy Who Came In From Th…

    Hailed by some as the best spy novel of all time,… More details

    The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre (1963)

    The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre (1963)

    Hailed by some as the best spy novel of all time, this is a landmark tale of British Cold War espionage.

  • The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (1951)

    The Daughter of Time by Jos…

    Alan Grant investigates a mystery involving King… More details

    The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (1951)

    The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (1951)

    Alan Grant investigates a mystery involving King Richard III in the Scottish author's final book.

  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)

    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd…

    Starring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, this… More details

    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)

    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)

    Starring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, this novel blazed the path for twist endings in crime fiction.

  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet (1930)

    The Maltese Falcon by Dashi…

    This novel features main character Sam Spade, one… More details

    The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet (1930)

    The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet (1930)

    This novel features main character Sam Spade, one of the first in the 'hard-boiled' detective genre.

  • The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell (2006)

    The Water's Lovely by Ruth …

    Two sets of sisters share a renovated house where… More details

    The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell (2006)

    The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell (2006)

    Two sets of sisters share a renovated house where a murder took place in this stand-out Rendell mystery.

  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers (1935)

    Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sa…

    Featuring aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey… More details

    Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers (1935)

    Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers (1935)

    Featuring aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey this yarn combines classic poison messages and malicious pranks.

  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (1938)

    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurie…

    A chiller which sees a girl reminisce about her… More details

    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (1938)

    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (1938)

    A chiller which sees a girl reminisce about her past, this made Du Maurier one of the world's most popular authors.

  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)

    The Name of the Rose by Umb…

    Set in the walls of an Italian monastery, this… More details

    The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)

    The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)

    Set in the walls of an Italian monastery, this historical murder mystery is Eco's first and most famous work of fiction.

  • A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (1950)

    A Murder is Announced by Ag…

    Miss Marple solves a series of grisly murders in… More details

    A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (1950)

    A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (1950)

    Miss Marple solves a series of grisly murders in a quintissentially sleepy English village where all sorts of horror lurks beneath the surface...

  • Mystery Man by Colin Bateman (2009)

    Mystery Man by Colin Batema…

    Can crime fiction be funny? It can in the hands… More details

    Mystery Man by Colin Bateman (2009)

    Mystery Man by Colin Bateman (2009)

    Can crime fiction be funny? It can in the hands of Colin Batemen, who in Mystery Man gives us a private eye who fals into problem-solving quite by accident when he inherits the cases of the detective agency next door to his Belfast bookshop, No Alibis...

  • Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (2010)

    Blacklands by Belinda Bauer…

    Blacklands is an astonishingly accomplished debut… More details

    Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (2010)

    Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (2010)

    Blacklands is an astonishingly accomplished debut novel, featuring a fascinating battle of wills between a convicted murderer and a 12 year old boy named Steven. Steven is determined to find out if Arnold Avery was responsible for the disappearance of a member of his family, and isn't afraid to put himself in the gravest danger to get to the truth.

  • Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen (1993)

    Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen…

    More details

    Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen (1993)

    Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen (1993)

  • Tell No One by Harlan Coben (2001)

    Tell No One by Harlan Coben…

    An amazing twist of a book by a brilliant author.… More details

    Tell No One by Harlan Coben (2001)

    Tell No One by Harlan Coben (2001)

    An amazing twist of a book by a brilliant author. Actually can’t put it down once you start.

  • Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen (1997)

    Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen (…

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    Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen (1997)

    Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen (1997)

  • Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman (1992)

    Divorcing Jack by Colin Bat…

    More details

    Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman (1992)

    Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman (1992)

  • The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett (1931)

    The Glass Key by Dashiell H…

    Dashiell Hammett was one of the foremost writers… More details

    The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett (1931)

    The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett (1931)

    Dashiell Hammett was one of the foremost writers of so-called 'hardboiled' detective fiction in America and is regarded as one of the greatest mystery writers of all time. His 1931 novel, The Glass Key, follows Ned Beaumont in his investigations into the murder of a local senator's son and is a slick, stylish example of the genre.

  • An Expensive Place To Die by Len Deighton (1967)

    An Expensive Place To Die b…

    Taking its title from an Oscar Wilde quote, this… More details

    An Expensive Place To Die by Len Deighton (1967)

    An Expensive Place To Die by Len Deighton (1967)

    Taking its title from an Oscar Wilde quote, this classic detective story from Len Deighton follows an unnamed narrator through a tangled web of international espionage and double-crossing.

  • The Leper Of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters (1981)

    The Leper Of Saint Giles by…

    Sir Derek Jacobi brought the quietly courageous… More details

    The Leper Of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters (1981)

    The Leper Of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters (1981)

    Sir Derek Jacobi brought the quietly courageous detective monk Cadfael to live on television, but the Ellis Peters books are just as compelling.

  • The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (1987)

    The Black Dahlia by James E…

    Easily one of the most iconic of the school of… More details

    The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (1987)

    The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (1987)

    Easily one of the most iconic of the school of hard-boiled detective novels, James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia was inspired by the true story of the murder of Elizabeth Short. The book was the first in Ellroy's famous L.A. Quartet - a series of dark, gritty stories set in Los Angeles in the '40s and '50s.

  • Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (1938)

    Brighton Rock by Graham Gre…

    This bleak, gritty thriller was most recently… More details

    Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (1938)

    Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (1938)

    This bleak, gritty thriller was most recently adapted for the big screen by Rowan Joffe, but the original book contains as much menace and suspense as any movie.

  • Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen (1985)

    Tourist Season by Carl Hiaa…

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    Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen (1985)

    Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen (1985)

  • Inspector Ghote Hunts the Peacock by H.R.F. Keating (1969)

    Inspector Ghote Hunts the P…

    The tenacious Inspector Ghote is one of the most… More details

    Inspector Ghote Hunts the Peacock by H.R.F. Keating (1969)

    Inspector Ghote Hunts the Peacock by H.R.F. Keating (1969)

    The tenacious Inspector Ghote is one of the most attractive detectives in crime fiction, thanks to his self-effacing manner and quiet courage. H. R. F. Keating's Ghote novels also give the reader a fascinating insight into everyday life - and crime - in India's teeming metropolis, Mumbai.

  • The Hard Way by Lee Child (2006)

    The Hard Way by Lee Child (…

    More details

    The Hard Way by Lee Child (2006)

    The Hard Way by Lee Child (2006)

  • The Monster of Florence by Magdalen Naab (1996)

    The Monster of Florence by …

    Based on a real-life serial killer, the haunting… More details

    The Monster of Florence by Magdalen Naab (1996)

    The Monster of Florence by Magdalen Naab (1996)

    Based on a real-life serial killer, the haunting ending will stay with you forever.

  • The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

    The Talented Mr Ripley by P…

    Patricia Highsmith's novel was famously adapted… More details

    The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

    The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

    Patricia Highsmith's novel was famously adapted into a movie starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon as the Mr Ripley of the title. This disturbing, compelling tale contains glamour and gore in equal measure.

  • The Murder Room by PD James (2004)

    The Murder Room by PD James…

    More details

    The Murder Room by PD James (2004)

    The Murder Room by PD James (2004)

  • A Quiet Flame by Phillip Kerr (2008)

    A Quiet Flame by Phillip Ke…

    Set in Berlin pre and post WW2, anti-hero Gunther… More details

    A Quiet Flame by Phillip Kerr (2008)

    A Quiet Flame by Phillip Kerr (2008)

    Set in Berlin pre and post WW2, anti-hero Gunther is like an acerbic Jack Bauer – and wonderful for it.

  • Over my Dead Body by Rex Stout (1940)

    Over my Dead Body by Rex St…

    Over My Dead Body is the seventh of Rex Stout's… More details

    Over my Dead Body by Rex Stout (1940)

    Over my Dead Body by Rex Stout (1940)

    Over My Dead Body is the seventh of Rex Stout's novels featuring the gargantuan - and orchid-obsessed - detective, Nero Wolfe. As the story unfolds (stolen diamonds and a fencing academy feature) we start to learn more about Wolfe's mysterious past, before he installed himself and his household in his New York brownstone.

  • The 39 Steps by John Buchan (1915)

    The 39 Steps by John Buchan…

    One of the original - and best - adventure… More details

    The 39 Steps by John Buchan (1915)

    The 39 Steps by John Buchan (1915)

    One of the original - and best - adventure thrillers, John Buchan's 39 Steps introduces us to the intrepid Richard Hannay, a man caught up in circumstances that affect more than his own destiny, but the security of the entire nation during WW1.

  • The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham (1938)

    The Fashion in Shrouds by M…

    Margery Allingham's Campion novels were highly… More details

    The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham (1938)

    The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham (1938)

    Margery Allingham's Campion novels were highly regarded as literature, as well as being addictive whodunnits. The Fashion in Shrouds is a perfect period piece, bringing in a glamorous London couture house, an unpleasant aviator and all the false glitter of the bright young things.

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1901)

    The Hound of the Baskervill…

    Arthur Conan Doyle gave us one of the most… More details

    The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1901)

    The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1901)

    Arthur Conan Doyle gave us one of the most enduring mysteries in literature with the third of his Sherlock Holmes novels. Featuring a demonic glowing hellhound roaming the moors of Devon and a family curse, it stands up to re-reading and still thrills with its eerie atmosphere.

  • A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (1986)

    A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barba…

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    A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (1986)

    A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (1986)

  • Spook Country by William Gibson (2007)

    Spook Country by William Gi…

    This political thriller was lauded for the way it… More details

    Spook Country by William Gibson (2007)

    Spook Country by William Gibson (2007)

    This political thriller was lauded for the way it captured the zeitgeist of post-9/11 America. Featuring a trio of central characters from very different backgrounds, it deals with themes including cyberspace, technology and virtual worlds.

  • The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (1944)

    The Mask of Dimitrios by Er…

    More details

    The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (1944)

    The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (1944)

  • Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh (1952)

    Last Seen Wearing by Hillar…

    More details

    Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh (1952)

    Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh (1952)

  • The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)

    The Day of the Jackal by Fr…

    More details

    The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)

    The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)

  • The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey (1982)

    The False Inspector Dew by …

    The False Inspector Dew is a critically acclaimed… More details

    The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey (1982)

    The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey (1982)

    The False Inspector Dew is a critically acclaimed humorous crime novel set in the '20s. Alma Webster devises a plan with her dentist love to murder his wife aboard the ocean liner Mauretania, which involves him assuming the identity of Inspector Walter Dew. Clever and funny, this is a hugely entertaining read with an ending you won't predict.

  • The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1948)

    The Franchise Affair by Jos…

    More details

    The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1948)

    The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1948)

  • The Long Good-bye by Raymond Chandler (1953)

    The Long Good-bye by Raymon…

    More details

    The Long Good-bye by Raymond Chandler (1953)

    The Long Good-bye by Raymond Chandler (1953)

  • The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934)

    The Nine Tailors by Dorothy…

    Dorothy L. Sayers' aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter… More details

    The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934)

    The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934)

    Dorothy L. Sayers' aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey investigates a 20 yeard old mystery involving a stolen emerald necklace - and picks up some useful knowledge about bell ringing along the way.

  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (1934)

    The Postman Always Rings Tw…

    Despite being just 100 pages long, The Postman… More details

    The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (1934)

    The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (1934)

    Despite being just 100 pages long, The Postman Always Rings Twice is regarded as one of the most important crime novels of the 20th century and features the iconic femme fatale Cora, who conspires with her lover to murder her husband.

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1859)

    The Woman in White by Wilki…

    Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White was serialized… More details

    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1859)

    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1859)

    Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White was serialized between 1859 and 1869 and is widely considered to be one of the first ever detective novels with the book's hero, Walter Hartright, using many of the investigative techniques we tend to associate with later sleuths. Fans of 20th century crime fiction will find this gives a fascinating insight into the origins of the genre.

  • A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (1953)

    A Kiss Before Dying by Ira …

    More details

    A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (1953)

    A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (1953)

  • Cop Hater by Ed McBain (1956)

    Cop Hater by Ed McBain (1956)

    More details

    Cop Hater by Ed McBain (1956)

    Cop Hater by Ed McBain (1956)

  • From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming (1957)

    From Russia With Love by Ia…

    Ian Fleming's 1957 novel, From Russia With Love,… More details

    From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming (1957)

    From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming (1957)

    Ian Fleming's 1957 novel, From Russia With Love, was the fifth in his James Bond series and finds the legendary spy attempting to avert an act of terrorism, smuggle a decoding device out of Turkey and handle a beautiful Russian double agent - of course.

  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (1943)

    The Lady in the Lake by Ray…

    Raymond Chandler is regarded by many as the… More details

    The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (1943)

    The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (1943)

    Raymond Chandler is regarded by many as the greatest noir writer and The Lady in the Lake is one of his best novels. Chandler's famously laconic private eye Philip Marlowe is transported from his usual L.A. stomping ground to a small mountain town outside the city, where he has to untangle a fantastically complicated web of murder and mistaken identity - all while protecting his own reputation.

  • Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley (1913)

    Trent's Last Case by E.C. B…

    Trent's Last Case earned its place in detective… More details

    Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley (1913)

    Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley (1913)

    Trent's Last Case earned its place in detective fiction history because it was the earliest send-up of the genre, featuring as it does a detective who draws all the wrong conclusions and falls in love with a suspect.

  • They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie (1951)

    They Came to Baghdad by Aga…

    Some of Agatha Christie's best mystery novels… More details

    They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie (1951)

    They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie (1951)

    Some of Agatha Christie's best mystery novels don't actually feature Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. The protagonist of They Came to Baghdad is the intrepid Victoria Jones - an ordinary London typist who finds herself caught up in an international crisis. Using MacGyver-style ingenuity, Victoria plays an instrumental part in foiling the evil plans of a power-crazed fascist group.

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