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.
A prolific author and his charmingly vivid detective.
A champion of the downtrodden with remarkable sense-driven deductions.
It's a great time to revisit this classic British mystery
E.W. Hornung, author and creator of Raffles the Amateur Cracksman, died 100 years ago this year.
Celebrate 100 years of Agatha Christie's beloved detective with the very best Hercule Poirot mysteries.
By Kara Brand
We already know what; the question is who?
Three vintage detective tales are primed for rediscovery.
Do you have what it takes to solve a seemingly impossible crime?
A new look at an old detective fiction icon.
The Queen of Crime’s first novel was published a century ago this year.
His larger-than-life sleuth left an indelible legacy on crime fiction.
By Orrin Grey
As HBO's gritty new Perry Mason reboot thrills TV viewers, we're revisiting the author who created the legendary mystery series: Erle Stanley Gardner.
These legendary whodunits deserve your attention.
The pioneering novelist gave us murderous butlers, a new school of mystery, and an early version of Batman.
By Olivia Mason