Detectives & Murderers: The 100 Best True Crime Books of All Time

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True crime novels take us readers on a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase, allowing us to slip into the role of the investigating detective on our sofa at home. In our best list, we present 100 detective stories that no fan of the genre should miss. We hope you enjoy our selection!

1st place: Arthur Conan Doyle – The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles
England in the late 19th century. Century: The Baskerville family seems to be the victim of a demonic curse. Legend has it that a supernatural hound roams a nearby moor, savagely mauling one family member after another. As fear of the mystical monster grows in the region, world-famous master detective Sherlock Holmes sets about the task of putting an end to the superstitious haunting with earthly evidence.

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” is one of the best-known cases of the equally popular and famous investigator. Just as we have come to expect from Arthur Conan Doyle, this novel, published in 1902, captivates us with its inner complexity, its thrilling suspense, and, of course, the ingenious genius of the exceptional detective. A significant entry in the prestigious list of world literature, which still seems timeless-good today.

2nd place: Agatha Christie – Alibi: A Case for Poirot

Alibi: A Case for Poirot (Hercule Poirot)
Works such as Alibi: A Case for Poirot have enabled Agatha Christie to establish herself once and for all in the ranks of exceptional international authors. The book, which was first published in 1926, deals with an excitingly staged case, which we readers relive through the eyes of the detective, Hercule Poirot. The story, told from the first-person point of view, centers on the mysterious death of wealthy widow Mrs. Ferrars. The lady who died suddenly was suspected of killing her own husband. When Roger Ackroyd begins to express his doubts about the alleged suicide, he too loses his life. But who is behind this dastardly crime?

“Alibi” captivates with its classic makeup. Accordingly, the most diverse characters are presented, all of whom come into question for the dastardly murders. The hunt for the actual culprit is like a literary feast and will provide you with many enjoyable hours of reading.

3rd place: Mario Puzo – The Godfather

The Godfather
The “Godfather” series, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, has been one of the absolute milestones of cinema history for several decades. What many people quickly forget is that the thrilling story of the Corleone family is based on a no less successful novel. And in fact, the book manages to shed even more light on some of the narrative threads of the Mafia’s history. We get deep insights into the minds and motivations of the protagonists and enjoy some detailed sequences that did not make it into the screen adaptation. The story of the criminal rise of Michael Corleone is captivating from the first page, the unscrupulous machinations of the Mafia are as chilling as they are fascinating. Mario Puzo succeeds in describing his settings, dialogues, and characters in an inimitably vivid way.

4th place: Stieg Larsson – Blindsight

Infatuation: The Millennium Trilogy 1 - Novel
After journalist Mikael Blomkvist publishes a momentous article accusing billionaire businessman Wennerström of some serious economic crimes, he soon faces a conviction for libel. When the investigative writer is released from prison, the former entrepreneur Vanger turns to the protagonist. He offers him an enormous sum of money to unravel a decades-old secret.

When it was first published in 2005, “Blinded” already made big headlines. This grippingly staged work of fiction has so far been read by more than 30 million people, won two major literary prizes, and was also made into a Hollywood film starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

5th place: Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca

Rebecca
The life of the nameless first-person narrator finally seems to take a turn for the better. The protagonist, who comes from a humble background, meets the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter during a stay on the Côte d’Azur. The two fall head over heels in love and soon get to celebrate their engagement. Arriving at the spouse’s lavish country estate, however, the lovers’ happiness quickly begins to crumble. Not only do the servants of the house make the protagonist’s everyday life hell, but the ghost of Maxim’s deceased first wife Rebecca also seems to be wreaking havoc in the magnificent villa. When Rebecca’s long-lost body is discovered, Maxim finds himself in the crosshairs of the investigators.

Daphne du Maurier succeeded in combining many different stylistic elements in her novel. According to this ranking, the book is peppered with horror, romance, and crime thriller interludes, making “Rebecca” a sure bet for all readers who like to lose themselves in complex, suspenseful stories.

6th place: Philip Marlowe – The Big Sleep

The great sleep (Philip Marlowe)
“The Big Sleep” should appeal to all crime-savvy readers among you who like complex character constellations. The first case of the detective Philip Marlowe is bursting with the most diverse actors, who only reveal their true intentions in the later sections of the story. The starting point of the story is the call for help from the infirm General Sternwood, who hires the investigator to solve some blackmail attempts. In the course of the novel, Philip Marlowe finally spins an exciting literary web of various unforeseen moments, which present the investigating detective with ever new puzzles.

The exciting case and the author’s fluent writing style ensure that “The Big Sleep” rightly ranks among the great classics of literary history.

7th place: Patricia Highsmiths – Two Strangers on a Train

Two Strangers on a Train (detebe)
The subject matter of “Two Strangers on a Train” is familiar to many people thanks to the world-famous film adaptation of “The Stranger on the Train” by Alfred Hitchcock. So it is not surprising that fans of the classic film will also love the novel of the strip. The book by the American author Patricia Highsmith tells the case of two strangers who meet on the New York-Texas train and from then on plan a conspiracy with serious consequences. The author’s first novel impressively proves that virtues such as morality and innocence are extremely elastic concepts.

8th place: Umberto Eco – The Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose
“The Name of the Rose” saw the literary light of day in 1980 and is considered one of the most famous crime novels of the entire century. The first work by the Italian author Umberto Eco immediately became a highly acclaimed worldwide success and takes us, readers, back to the dark Middle Ages. At the beginning of the 14. At the beginning of the 14th century, a monastery in the north of Italy is haunted by a mysterious series of murders. The monk William of Baskerville, together with his pupil Adson, tries to get to the bottom of a large-scale conspiracy.

Umberto Eco succeeded in transporting a contemporary detective story into a medieval setting without losing the historical authenticity of the story. The successful combination of genres and the author’s unique writing style, which lives above all from his countless cross-references, make “The Name of the Rose” a literary masterpiece without equal.

9th place: Thomas Harris – Red Dragon

Red Dragon: Thriller (Hannibal Lecter, Volume 2)
In the U.S. state of Florida, nothing is the same anymore. A cruel murderer has been wreaking havoc in the region for some time, and so far ten people have fallen victim to the killer. The insane perpetrator is obsessed with the idea that he is the embodiment of the famous art motif “The Red Dragon” by William Blakes. In order to track down the cold-blooded killer, those responsible decide on a daring venture: The former mass murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter is supposed to delve into the killer’s psyche with the help of his own empirical data and anticipate the madman’s next steps. The first appearance of the iconic cannibal presents itself at the highest literary level. The story combines analytical methods with the personal, emotional levels of the protagonists and offers you a successful crime thriller in pure culture.

10th place: Dennis Lehane – Mystic River

Mystic River (detebe)
“Mystic River” was also published in this country under the title “Spur der Wölfe” and tells the story of the three childhood friends Sean, Jimmy, and Dave. Over the years, however, the trio loses sight of each other before being reunited under tragic circumstances. After the body of Jimmy’s daughter Katie is discovered, Sean, now working as a cop, is tasked with solving the murder. However, the investigator soon faces a moral conflict, as his longtime companion Dave moves into the crosshairs of officials.

Dennis Lehane’s impressively directed novel was to garner numerous awards upon its publication in 2001. In addition, Hollywood adapted the material of the literary model in the context of a film of the same name. The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, won two Oscars.

11th place: Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl: The Perfect Victim

Gone Girl - The Perfect Victim: Novel (Highbrow)
When Nick wants to celebrate the fifth wedding anniversary with his wife Amy, there is no trace of the missus. After Amy does not reappear in the subsequent period, Nick himself comes under suspicion of having murdered his wife in cold blood and then buried her. Statements from Amy’s entourage indicating that the missing woman was afraid of her husband fuel investigators’ assumptions. However, the desperate suspect maintains his innocence. When Nick finally receives some mysterious phone calls, the situation comes to a dramatic head.

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn is simply brilliant. The novel cleverly shows what diabolical abysses slumber within the human soul.

12th place: Lee Child – Delusions of grandeur

Delusions of grandeur: a Jack Reacher novel (The Jack Reacher Novels, Volume 1)
After serving in the U.S. military for some three decades, Jack Reacher, a veteran, enjoys his regained civil liberty. However, the new phase of the protagonist’s life is soon to take an unexpected turn. Out of the blue, Jack is arrested and charged with murder. The accusation: he is supposed to have shot a man in cold blood in a secluded warehouse. In order to convince the authorities of his own innocence, the title character devotes himself to the task of tracking down the real murderer. In his search for the culprit, Jack soon becomes entangled in a tangled web of criminal associations that seek the agent’s life.

The first appearance of the title character, who would later be the focus of countless other novels, stands out from comparable spin-offs of the crime genre because of its otherness. Accordingly, the protagonist investigates in an extremely unorthodox manner and not infrequently acts morally questionable.

13th place: Wilkie Collins – The Woman in White

The Woman in White: Novel (Fischer Klassik)
“The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins promises suspense from the first chapter to the last. The classic of crime literature, which was first published in 1860, is about the unusual career of the art teacher Walter Hartright. The latter slips into the role of a persistent detective on his own initiative, as he wants to uncover a large-scale conspiracy.

The narrative style of the novel was far ahead of its own time. Thus, we do not live through the story through the eyes of an omniscient narrator but draw our own conclusions on the basis of the numerous reports and letters, which are depicted in detail within the book. “The Woman in White” is captivating not least because of its numerous literary subtleties, which, when put together, provide a complex insight into the human psyche.

14th place: Scott Turow – For lack of evidence

For Lack of Evidence by Scott Turow
If you liked the film adaptation of the same name starring Harrison Ford, you will also enjoy reading the literary version of the Hollywood movie. After a high-ranking prosecutor is treacherously murdered, the justice system begins to falter. Rusty Sabich is entrusted by his superior with the task of combing through the murky evidence and convicting the real killer. However, the protagonist himself soon becomes the focus of the investigators.

An accomplished judicial thriller that doesn’t shy away from ruthlessly exposing the flaws in the U.S. legal system.

15th place: John le Carré – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: Novel (A George Smiley Novel, Volume 3)
Unbelievable, but true: According to his own statements, John le Carré wrote his best work “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” in just five weeks. The novel, published in 1964, centers on Alec Leamas, who lives in West Berlin as the head of a branch of the British Secret Service. After the protagonist moves to the GDR as an alleged traitor in a daring action, he learns what horrors the protracted East-West conflict actually holds in store for him.

The novel scores with its gripping suspense curve. Dramatic moments, unexpected twists, and a gripping showdown ensured that the British author’s “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” made it onto the list of significant world authors.

16th place: Martin Cruz Smith – Gorki Park

Gorki Park: Thriller
For the next place in today’s selection, we stay in the Cold War era but move from divided Germany to Moscow. In 1980, three corpses are discovered in the Russian capital’s titular Gorky Park. However, at first, it is completely unclear who the murdered persons are in detail. Arkadi Renko, a renowned investigator, takes on the case. The chief inspector soon meets the enigmatic beauty Irina, who throws the protagonist’s emotional and professional world into chaos.

Gorki Park” is a fascinating work of art that gets by without any exuberant serial murders. The contrasting clash of East and West gives us an authentic insight into the spirit of the times.

17th place: James M. Cain – The letter carrier always rings twice

The letter carrier always rings twice
Frank Chambers is faced with the shards of his life. As a penniless good-for-nothing, the title character wanders aimlessly through the countryside before finally ending up in a Californian diner run by the married couple Papadakis and Cora. While Cora soon has her eye on the rumrunner, Papadakis follows Frank’s goings-on with suspicion from the start. To get rid of the jealous husband, Cora and Frank devise an insidious plan.

The novel by James M. Cain, set at the time of the Great Depression, shows in a depressing way what people are willing to do to satisfy their own cravings.

18th place: Robert Louis Stevenson – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” became in the course of time the literary symbol of the doppelganger motive. At the center of the world-famous classic is thus the split personality of the doctor Dr. Hyde. Jekyll. By ingesting an elixir, the doctor transforms himself every night into the diabolical Mr. Hyde, who terrifies the streets of Victorian London with his atrocities. Soon Dr. Jekyll has no control over the monster he himself has created. An absolute milestone in literary history that was to have a decisive influence on many subsequent works.

19th place: John Grisham – The Jury

The Jury: Novel
After his young daughter is bestially abused, Carl judges his daughter’s abuser in vigilante justice. Within the ensuing trial, the jury in charge faces some profound moral conflicts. How to classify the crime of the traumatized perpetrator?

John Grisham’s book is especially appealing because of its inner complexity, which inspires with its profound complexity. The bestseller from 1989 was to be brought to the big screen a few years later with a highly decorated cast.

20th place: Caleb Carr – The Encirclement

The Encirclement: The Novel to the Netflix Series
In 1896, the field of psychoanalysis is still in its infancy. For this reason, the remarks of psychiatrist Dr. Kreisler is not always well received in his environment. But when an unknown killer in New York begins bestially mutilating countless children, the investigators learn that the doctor’s unorthodox methods may yet yield important insights. A gritty novel that will teach you to shudder with its unsparing storytelling.

Ranked 21-100 of the best true crime books:

Place: Novel: Author: Link to the book:
21. And then there was none Agatha Christie
22. In My Heaven Alice Sebold
23. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
24. The Beekeeper Sue Monk Kidd
25. Rendezvous with a murderer Nora Roberts
26. The Lion’s Game Nelson DeMille
27. Mercy Jussi Adler-Olsen
28. They see you Harlan Coben
29. Child 44 Tom Rob Smith
30. Once is not once Janet Evanovich
31. Dead men do not lie Kathy Reichs
32. The worship Dean R. Koontz
33. Illuminati Dan Brown
34. Spring, summer, autumn and death Stephen King
35. Cupid Jilliane Hoffman
36. Silence of the Lambs Thomas Harris
37. The Odessa File Frederick Forsyth
38. The file John Grisham
39. Bet Dick Francis and Felix Francis
40. The murderer in me Jim Thompson
41. Not a word Harlan Coben
42. Grave Green Tana French
43. Murder on the Orient Express Agatha Christie
44. The Birdman Mo Hayder
45. For all are to blame Louise Penny
46. The Needle Ken Follett
47. The game of time Jeffrey Archer
48. The Bourne Identity Robert Ludlum
49. The Surgeon Tess Gerritsen
50. The shadow of the wind Carlos Ruiz Zafón
51. Memory Man David Baldacci
52. The Third Twin Ken Follett
53. The secret history Donna Tartt
54. The grave in the forest Harlan Coben
55. The murders of Pye Hall Anthony Horowitz
56. The company John Grisham
57. Snakes in paradise Mary Higgins Clark
58. Silenced Karin Slaughter
59. In cold blood Truman Capote
60. Cry Baby – Sharp Cuts Gillian Flynn
61. Mr. Mercedes Stephen King
62. Queen, King, Ace, Spy John le Carré
63. The call of the cuckoo Joanne K. Rowling
64. City of the Dead: Claire DeWitt investigates Sara Gran
65. Breath of Death Arnaldur Indriðason
66. The Bone Hunter Jeffery Deaver
67. Shutter Island Dennis Lehane
68. Project Orphan Gregg Hurwitz
69. Dark Places Gillian Flynn
70. Black Echo Michael Connelly
71. The Thief Fuminori Nakamura
72. American Psycho Bret Easton Ellis
73. Night of the Ravens Ann Cleeves
74. Guilt and Atonement Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky
75. Tomorrow kids there will be something James Patterson
76. Fury Chelsea Cain
77. One game too many P. D. James
78. The Poet Michael Connelly
79. Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins
80. The man who loved dogs Leonardo Padura
81. Venetian finale Donna Leon
82. Factotum Charles Bukowski
83. Blacker than death Tami Hoag
84. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
85. Fire of retribution C. J. Sansom
86. A place for eternity Val McDermid
87. A place to die Carol O’Connell
88. No sign of life Harlan Coben
89. The client John Grisham
90. Perfume Patrick Süskind
91. The President David Baldacci
92. The Crucifix Killer Chris Carter
93. Fight Club Chuck Palahniuk
94. For pure shall be thy soul Faye Kellerman
95. For all are to blame Louise Penny
96. Inspector Jury sleeps out Martha Grimes
97. The numbers of the dead Linda Castillo
98. The Blind Murderer Margaret Atwood
99. The Green Mile Stephen King
100. No country for old men Cormac McCarthy

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