I love private investigator books. They’re almost always in a series, so you can really get to know the character. PIs usually take the cases that others can’t or won’t solve, so there’s the interesting and/or dangerous element added. And they usually will, at the very least, bend the law when necessary. So high stakes, interesting characters, good mysteries, and sometimes you get private detective books that are also filled with thrills perfect for thriller fans. So many reading wins!
Joe Ide welcomes readers to the diverse community of East Long Beach where IQ (Isaiah Quintabe) takes on cases for whatever the client can afford to pay him—be it food, chickens, whatever. But since that doesn’t reliably pay the rent, he also has to find clients with cash, and those cases certainly will bring trouble. IQ has a reluctant friend and partner named Dodson, which sure does rhyme with Watson. That’s because Ide grew up a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and it shows in this series, which is like a modern-day, gritty version.
If you like found family, want to spend some time in Chicago, and follow an ex-cop turned PI, here’s your series! Cass Raines left the police department after a frightening incident. Now she owns and manages an apartment complex and takes on cases as a PI. When her literal father figure, a priest, is murdered and she finds the police are not doing all that is needed to solve the crime, she takes on the case. This is a great murder mystery PI series with some thrilling scenes.
Let’s meet a pair of private detectives, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, out in Los Angeles, California. Their current case: A prominent restaurateur is accused of murdering his wife. Not only does he swear he’s innocent, but his defense attorney wants these PIs to prove that an LA police detective tampered with evidence that is making his client look guilty. So either the husband did it? An overzealous detective falsified evidence to close the case? Or someone else is getting away with murder?...
Staying in L.A., but getting to know the Korean communities, here’s an amateur sleuth who works her way through the process of becoming a licensed PI in this modern noir trilogy. Juniper Song is a mid-twenties Korean-American who is fixated on Philip Marlowe, which kind of makes her perfect to start digging when her friend suspects his father is having an affair and asks for Song’s help. Sarcastic and relentless, seeing the darkness in the world and people, Song makes a perfect noir heroine and PI.
If you’re looking for a short story and want to travel to Vancouver, BC, meet private investigator Dave Wakeland. He’s working on the case of a missing screenwriter who was working on a lowbrow sitcom until he turned up dead. Convinced of foul play, Wakeland is going to have to figure out if a secret life or writing research got him killed...
In this story set in South Africa, we follow former cop Zatopek "Zed" van Heerden, who has seven days to figure out who tortured antique dealer Johannes Jacobus Smit. But this is a thriller, so you know it’s going to be difficult to solve, starting with the fact that Johannes Jacobus Smit is not who his ID says he is. So who is he, and why does working on this case lead to secrets for other countries' security services?
Carol Higgins Clark
So, if you didn’t already know, Mary Higgins Clark's daughter did grow up to be a mystery writer. And here’s her PI series that follows Regan Reilly, a private investigator based in Los Angeles, California. Except she’s spending this Fourth of July holiday at the Hamptons, and that’s where her recent client needs her. A country star needs a bodyguard for her concert since she’s been receiving frightening notes, and maybe that fiddle claiming to be cursed if ever taken out of Ireland really should not have been removed...
Vietnam veteran Darwin Minor isn’t so much a PI, but he is an accident reconstructor, which is similar, as he sifts through wreckages to find out what happened—especially if it was for insurance fraud. Now he has a bunch of high-speed car accidents on California highways to figure out. They all appear to be fraudulent wrecks, but with the passengers dead, it makes no sense...
What to Read Next
Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor and Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.