It may be hard to believe, but detective stories as we know them have only existed for a couple hundred years. Detectives, both professionals like Hercule Poirot and amateurs like Nancy Drew, are now among the most celebrated and enduring figures in Western literature. Today, there are mystery novels to suit everyone’s tastes, and each one features its own unique, unforgettable investigator.
The detective novels on this list star snoops (licensed and unlicensed) from both sides of the Atlantic and from all walks of life. Many are dealing with unresolved personal issues that make it even more difficult to keep their head in the game. And yet, their devotion to truth is resolute. It just goes to show that, in the world of fictional detectives as well as in real life, your age, race, and gender are secondary to how you respond to injustice.
Joe Ide's "IQ" series of mystery novels stars Isaac Quintabe and Juanell Dodson, two amateur detectives with no certifications but plenty of brains and bravery. They will need every ounce of intelligence and experience they have accumulated during their long partnership if they are to capture a prolific serial killer without ending up on his hitlist—especially since circumstances beyond their control have separated these two partners-in-crimefighting.
As an archaeologist, Nora Kelly is used to finding ancient objects, and Corrie Swanson, an FBI agent, is used to dealing with dead bodies. Yet both are shocked when they find the tortured and mummified remains of an unknown man who was buried with a fortune in Spanish gold. As horrified as they are, this is only the first of many grim discoveries that will take Kelly and Swanson down a road more dangerous than they can possibly imagine.
A Fatal Lie is the latest in Charles Todd's series of detective novels, "Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries." The good inspector travels from Scotland Yard to a Welsh village left reeling after the discovery of an anonymous corpse. Identifying the victim proves a challenge that, in some ways, bears little fruit: Rutledge still has no idea who killed the man or why... or if Rutledge himself might be the next victim.
As a Black private eye in 1960s California, Easy Rawlins has had to work harder than most to establish his career and gain clients. His practice is finally prospering when a strange new client threatens to bring it all crashing down: a traumatized Vietnam vet asks Rawlins to find his missing girlfriend—and to figure out if he killed a man in an isolated orange grove. Part of Walter Mosley's "Easy Rawlins" series, the newly released Blood Grove is sure to please old fans and entice new ones.
Blink of an Eye features a case so baffling that it requires three investigators to solve it. After a pop star disappears in the middle of a show, investigator Kendra Michaels, ex-bodyguard Jessie Mercado, and mercenary Adam Lynch team up to find her before it's too late. Their investigation is hampered by clashing personalities and a growing death toll. Can Michaels, Lynch, and Mercado get it together before the missing pop star pays the price?
When Detective Harney is assigned to investigate a drive-by shooting, some elements within Chicago law enforcement believe the case is a simple one and that Harney should wrap it up ASAP. Harney, however, has not spent all these years on the force just to leave a job half-done. He is determined to find the real truth about the shooting, no matter the personal cost. The Red Book, the latest offering from superstar mystery suspense writer James Patterson and David Ellis, is available from March 29.
Part of Jonathan Kellerman's long-running "Alex Delaware" series, Serpentine finds psychologist Delaware and his best friend, LAPD Detective Milo Sturgis, digging into their toughest case yet. Many detectives have tried and failed to solve the bizarre, brutal death of a woman whose daughter now insists Sturgis and Delaware crack the case once and for all. Will this brilliant duo be the ones to bring a clever killer to justice? Or are they, too, destined to die mysteriously?
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Eileen Gonzalez is a freelance writer from Connecticut. She has a Master’s degree in communications and years of experience writing about pop culture. She contributes to Book Riot and Foreword Reviews, and she occasionally tweets at @eileen2thestars.