The best classic crime novels

If you're a crime aficionado, these are the classic mysteries and crime novels you need to read.

25/08/2020
2 minutes to read

A motive. A crime. Secrets. Lies. Suspects. The twists and turns. We all know the makings of a good crime novel, but what elevates 'good' to 'classic'? We've listed some of our favourite classic crime books for those looking to get lost in mystery.

If you're looking for suggestions on crime novels that may not yet have been elevated to classic status, have a read of our list of the best crime and detective books and the best crime and thriller books of 2020. 

Malice Aforethought

by Francis Iles

Book cover for 9781509889365

Malice Aforethought is one of the earliest, and finest, examples of the inverted detective story – not a whodunit but a will he get away with it?

Dr Edmund Bickleigh is a seemingly genteel doctor who can no longer tolerate his insufferable wife in the face of his growing passion for the mysterious Madeline Cranmere. He resolves to murder his wife, but will he get caught?

Brighton Rock

by Graham Greene

Book cover for 9781509828029

Set among the seaside amusements and dilapidated boarding houses of Brighton’s pre-war underworld, Brighton Rock is both a gritty thriller and a study of a soul in torment. A classic of modern literature, it maps out the strange border between piety and savagery. 

You can read our introduction to the works of Graham Greene by clicking here.

Classic Locked Room Mysteries

by David Stuart Davies

Book cover for 9781909621374

"How dunnit" rather than "who dunnit", this completely new collection features stories from the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins and G K Chesterton.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

by Edgar Allan Poe

Book cover for 9781509826698

Some of the most exciting and haunting stories ever written, including ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and 'The Fall of the House of Usher', can be found in this collection of Poe's work. These Gothic tales range from the poetic to the mysterious to the darkly comic.

The Best of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle

Book cover for 9781909621992

Showcasing the legendary, unparalleled sleuth at his best this collection is perfect to get lost in.


Follow Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they pit their wits against 'Napoleon of Crime' Professor Moriarty; assist European royalty threatened by disgrace; and solve the mysterious death of a young woman due to be married.

The Tiger in the Smoke

by Margery Allingham

Book cover for 9781509826780

Jack Havoc, jail-breaker and knife artist, is on the loose on the streets of London once again. In the faded squares of shabby houses, in the furtive alleys and darkened pubs, the word is out that the Tiger is back in town, more vicious and cunning than ever.

It falls to private detective Albert Campion to pit his wits against the killer and hunt him down through the city's November smog before it is too late.

The Way Through the Woods

by Colin Dexter

Book cover for 9781909621435

The Way Through the Woods involves a search for a beautiful young Swedish woman who went missing a year earlier.

An anonymous riddle, in the form of a five-stanza poem, is sent to the police and the case is reopened. The police ask The Times for help with the poem, as Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis are put in charge of the new investigation.

The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor

by Cameron McCabe

Book cover for 9781509829811

An extraordinary post-modern detective novel from an author who remained a mystery for decades.

When an aspiring actress is found dead on the cutting-room floor of a London film studio, Cameron McCabe finds himself at the centre of a police investigation.

As more people around him die, McCabe begins to perform his own amateur sleuth-work. But then, abruptly, McCabe’s account ends . . .

Who is Cameron McCabe? And if not McCabe, who is the author of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor?

A Little Local Murder

by Robert Barnard

Book cover for 9781509813216

This classic small-town murder mystery from Robert Barnard has everything you could ask from from a cosy crime novel. 

A radio documentary on the small village of Twytching provokes a fierce rivalry amongst the villagers. Inspector George Parrish is keen to stay out of all the fuss until the murder of one of the villagers and a rash of poison pen letters uncovering secrets about Twytching's leading citizens forces him to get involved.

Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mystery.

A train journey is delayed by thick snow. So when a passenger on the train is found murdered in his bed, it is the perfect opportunity for Agatha Christie's famous detective, Hercule Poirot, to prove his ability and solve the crime using the power of his brain.

In Cold Blood

by Truman Capote

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Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human.

The Long Good-bye

by Phillip Marlowe

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Marlowe befriends a down on his luck war veteran with the scars to prove it. Then he finds out that Terry Lennox has a very wealthy nymphomaniac wife, who he's divorced and re-married and who ends up dead. And now Lennox is on the lam and the cops and a crazy gangster are after Marlowe . . . 

Will he escape and solve the mystery?

Strangers On A Train

by Patricia Highsmith

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Strangers on a Train encounters Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him.

"Some people are better off dead," Bruno remarks, "like your wife and my father, for instance." As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith's perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

The Big Sleep

by Raymond Chandler

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A dying millionaire hires private eye Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, and Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.