Best Detective Books

Instructor: Kimberly Elliott

Kimberly teaches college humanities and has a master's degree in humanities.

Private eye, gumshoe, investigator: All are terms for non-badge-wearing men and women who seek justice by rooting out the truth. The detective story is a popular genre of fiction that encompasses the cozy and the hard-boiled variety. Read on for more information on some of the best detective books ever written.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Probably the most well-known detective, Sherlock Holmes was first introduced in 1887 in a novel titled A Study in Scarlet, but didn't receive wide popularity until the 1892 release of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This compilation of twelve short stories centers on the quintessential detective from London, England, known for his observation skills and deductive reasoning. Tagging along with him is his ever-present sidekick, Doctor Watson, who serves not only as a companion to Holmes but also as a literary stand-in for readers. As Holmes explains things to Watson, he also explains things to his audience.

To learn more about Sherlock Holmes and his many sleuthing adventures, check out's lesson on the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This video lesson explores several of Holmes's cases from this short story compilation and ends with a quiz to measure understanding.

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

Published in 1939, this classic hard-boiled detective novel introduced us to private eye Philip Marlowe. Marlowe is uncompromising and acerbic in his profession but honest and philosophical in his life. In this inaugural tale, Marlowe is hired by the eccentric General Sternwood to find and put an end to a man who has been blackmailing Sternwood's wayward daughter. Marlowe becomes wrapped up in more than he bargained for, though, and finds himself in the underbelly of the pornography, gambling, and the criminal worlds.

To go along with reading this lurid tale of murder and deception, offers a lesson on The Big Sleep. This lesson provides a summary and deeper analysis of the major themes in this classic detective story, followed up by a quiz to assess understanding.

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

Written in 1939, And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie's most popular novels. The story takes place on a secluded island where ten strangers are brought together by a mysterious other and, one by one, begin dying in the most horrific ways. This story is unique because there is no one detective in the book. Instead, each of the characters, in turn, tries to unravel the mystery, much as the reader tries to figure everything out as the story proceeds. As characters are killed off, so too are the main suspects, and the reader is treated to a deliciously baffling case of whodunit. has a number of lessons about And Then There Were None that would go along nicely with its reading, including:

Each of these lessons focus on a different component of the story and each are followed up by a quiz to measure your understanding of these essential story elements.

For More Information

There are a number of other lessons available on that hone in on detective fiction, the mystery genre, and mystery fiction. All would be great choices for readers and aspiring writers alike.

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