American Mystery Authors
Arthur & George, Julian Barnes
This novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker in 2005, is a delightful retelling of a real-life mystery (the “Great Wyrley Outrages”) that Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle actually solved at the turn of the 20th century! And a luminous book (what else would you expect from Barnes?) to boot.
The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
Setting aside its women problems (rampant amongst the hardboiled detective novel), there’s no denying that this is a thrilling, complex classic worthy of inclusion on any list. Plus, it’s where we meet Philip Marlowe for the very first time.
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
This might just be the greatest hardboiled detective novel ever published in this country. Yes, still. Immensely influential, immensely entertaining, and excellently written, it is both a rollicking example of the genre and transcendent of the same.
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
A thrilling classic from the grand dame of mystery. It was tempting to choose And Then There Were None, which still stands as the best-selling mystery novel of all time, but Orient is not only better but also features the detective Hercule Poirot, Christie’s most famous creation and the only fictional character to have gotten an obituary in The New York Times.
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, P.D. James
A kick-ass lady detective in the ‘70s? Yes, please.
The Complete Auguste Dupin Stories, Edgar Allan Poe
That’s right, you sleuth: this is not a novel, but you’re going to have to allow me this one cheat on Poe’s account. After all, Poe basically invented the genre, and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue, ” in which Dupin first appears, is widely considered the first-ever detective story, and influenced all that came after. And besides, Arthur Conan Doyle basically took Dupin and his unnamed confidante, slapped pretty names on them, dropped them off in London, and created the largest detective franchise of all time. Plus: these stories are amazing.
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
In this mystery-cum-Gothic romance, a young woman marries an older man only to be plunged into the swirling secrets surrounding his first wife’s demise. Another classic of every genre.