Classic mystery novels are typically defined as being published prior to 1990. Focusing mainly on detective narratives, these tales often center around murder, disappearances, theft, or other crimes and circumstances that can be investigated. A broader category containing several of its own subgenres, classic mysteries can span from clever procedurals to delightful cozies.
Of course, classic doesn’t refer merely to an older body of work. Dubbing a novel—or author—a classic typically implies the work was foundational or otherwise essential to the genre. Heavyhitters like Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are frequent pillars of the classic mystery genre, but there are plenty of other novels and short stories with less immediate name recognition that were seminal works.
Here are some great places to start for new and mystery lovers alike.
And don’t forget to peruse the stories below for all the best in classic mystery fiction.
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The award-winning crime writer breathes new life into a beloved character.
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Freeman Wills Crofts, master of the mundane.
They attained this status for a reason.
Was it delusion, or something deeper?
A classic eccentric.
George Orwell had some choice words for this 1939 crime novel.
Great reads that'll keep you flipping pages all year long.
Essential reading for mystery bibliophiles.