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6 French Mystery and Thriller Novels to Broaden Your Horizons

Forget the striking architecture and delicious croissants—dive into the wonders of French mysteries and thrillers.

french mystery thriller novels
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  • Photo Credit: "The Frozen Dead" by Bernard Minier

Need something fresh for your TBR list? Turn your sights to the remarkable literary exports of France. The country has a long history of gripping crime fiction, and we've collected the very best translated works for you here. Whether you lean more towards classic antiheroes of mystery or prefer a dark and gruesome thriller, everything you're looking for is just below. Here are six French mysteries and thrillers!

The Confessions of Arsene Lupin

The Confessions of Arsene Lupin

By Maurice Leblanc

Arsène Lupin is the world's most cunning thief—and a gentleman, to boot. His brilliant criminal mind can nab riches from even the stickiest of situations, and he's not above the occasional good deed, so long as there's reward money on the table. Baroness Repstein has vanished from Paris, and her husband's jewels have gone with her. French detectives have been left in her dust all over Europe, but Lupin has the skill to outwit both the police and criminals.

how's the pain?

How's the Pain?

By Pascal Garnier

Both heart-poundingly thrilling and blackly comedic, this novel is a must-read. Simon has spent his whole life in the business of death. But now it's time for the assassin to retire. The aging killer just has one more job on the coast, and to complete it, he's going to need a driver. Enter deadbeat 21-year-old Bernard. He's never caught a glimpse of the sea, and the opportunity is too much to pass up.

this poison will remain

This Poison Will Remain

By Fred Vargas

Commissaire Adamsberg is hailed back to Paris—and, unexpectedly, Nîmes—when three old men are found dead as a result of spider bites. Recluse spiders are known for their sneaky strikes, but what are the chances three would fall to their venom so rapidly? When a pensioner gives Adamsberg a tip that two of the deceased grew up in the same orphanage, The Mercy, the case starts to reek of foul play.

The two old men were once a part of a violent group of young boys called the "band of recluses." However, the third victim wasn't a member, and the venom dosage doesn't add up. But as more and more member of the old gang start to die by venom, Adamsberg toes closer to a long-hidden tragedy.

bed of nails

Bed of Nails

By Antonin Varenne

John Nichols is called upon to identify the body of an old friend, and it's not long before he's tangled up in the chaos of Alan Musgrave's life. After the man bled to death in the middle of his own S&M stage show, John should have expected nothing less. But now police lieutenant Guérin is saying that the suicide was a murder, and as a well of police abuse is uncovered, time is running out to connect the dots in a series of recent suicides linked to John's past.

the frozen dead

The Frozen Dead

By Bernard Minier

Tucked away in the French Pyrenees is the small town of Saint-Martin-de-Comminges, a quiet locale full of harsh winters and not much else. Until the calm is shattered by the discovery of the flayed and headless corpse of a horse dangling from the edge of an icy cliff.

That same day, young psychiatrist Diane Berg starts her first job just a few miles away at a high-security asylum for the criminally insane. She's unsettled by the director's unorthodox methods, but tips over into a panic when she realizes that someone seems to be smuggling out drugs from the facility at night.

Charming city cop Commandant Martin Servaz is a little miffed to have been called to the scene of an animal murder, but he can't deny the crime is disturbing. And when the DNA of a notorious asylum—a brilliant former prosecutor locked away for the rape and murder of multiple women—is found on the horse, the whole situation gets a whole lot worse. A few days later, the first human is slaughtered.



By Pierre Lemaitre

You've heard of detectives doing it by the book, but what about the killer? Commandant Camille Verhœven's life couldn't be better—he's in a wonderful marriage with a baby on the way. But his little slice of perfect is disrupted when he's brought on to a shockingly brutal murder case. Verhœven and his team uncover a vital clue: each of the killer's murders pay homage to a classic crime novel. The papers have dubbed the killer The Novelist, and with the public eye honed in on the manhunt, Verhœven finds himself in a very personal battle of wits which only one can win.