Since his dramatic entrance into the literary world in 1887, Sherlock Holmes continues to grow in stature and popularity. In a comic book universe of heroes who rely on super powers to beat the bad guys, Sherlock Holmes depends on his mind and powers of analysis. A few similar detectives preceded him and many followed, but Holmes stands in the rock solid center. Here are 50 books that Sherlock lovers may love.
#1 – The Complete Holmes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
First, if you haven’t read all the Holmes novels and short stories, The Complete Sherlock Holmes contains the four novels and 66 short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that gave life to the most original and imitated detective of all time. As Holmes himself would say, in a “singular” stroke of good fortune, many excellent novels were later written starring the sleuth, using Doyle’s crisp, often exclamatory style.
Watson recounts Holmes’ investigation into a series of strange murders in London’s theatre district at the end of the 19th century. It also includes the first meeting between Holmes and Doctor Moore Agar, whose “dramatic introduction to Holmes” was one that Watson, in “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”, wrote that he “may some day recount.”
Nicholas Meyer (1993)
Freud helps Holmes kick his cocaine addiction and then helps the detective stop a criminal about to launch a war involving all of Europe. Analysis and adventure and answers to some age-old questions about the master detective!
Loren D. Estlema
Loren D. Estleman
The world thought Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriority, killed the great detective. When Holmes reappears two years later, he recounts to Watson his travels to India and Tibet, confronting what might be his greatest challenge.
Holmes had a vast network of criminals and underground lowlifes who kept him apprised of what was going on in the London that most folks never saw. This “biography” blends what is known about the great detective with life at the time to reveal a lot of questions about the world’s greatest fictional detective.
Mike Ashley, Editor, Michael Moorcock
Holmes’ reputation was built on his powers of observation and deduction. This psychologist and journalist, using 21st century neuroscience and psychology, studies Holmes’s unique methods of mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction. In doing so, Konnikova reveals how the world’s most keen-eyed detective can serve as a guide to upgrading your mind.
Edgar Allan Poe
#14 – Pudd’nhead Wilson
A classic mystery including switched identities, a horrible crime and a tense courtroom scene — and the first time fingerprinting was used to solve a crime.
#15 – Hercule Poirot Series
In popularity, Poirot is right up there with Holmes. Small, balding, with a waxed mustache, he is a perfectionist who reminds everyone of the importance of “little grey cells.” He is also, in his words, “the greatest mind in Europe.” He loves elegance, beauty, and precision, and stars in 33 novels and 54 short stories as well as dozens of film and TV series adaptations.
#16 – Miss Marple
Jane Marple is an elderly spinster who lives in a small village and acts as a consulting detective. Miss Marple solves difficult crimes with shrewd intelligence and knowledge of the dark side of human nature. She appears in 12 novels and 20 short stories.
#17 – Inspector Maigret
Maigret is commissioner of the Paris “Brigade Criminelle.” He is modeled, in part, after Chief Inspector Marcel Guillaume, said to be the greatest French detective of his day and who was a long-time friend of Simenon. The Maigret canon includes 75 novels and 28 short stories. He’s been brought to life in TV series around the world. He has been portrayed by French, British, Irish, Austrian, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese and Russian actors.
#18 – Nero Wolfe Series
The corpulent expert on African violets rarely leaves his New York City brownstone apartment, instead sending his young, athletic partner Archie Goodwin to work the streets. Wolfe, the original armchair detective, finds criminals with Holmesian mental prowess and acuity.
#19 – Travis McGee Series
John D. MacDonald
Operating from his custom-made 52-foot houseboat, The Busted Flush, the Florida-based detective was huge in the 70s and 80s and deserves a comeback. McGee’s “Watson” is Meyer, a world-renowned economist who plays foil to McGee. Meyer also gives MacDonald a chance to talk about economics and ecology and make them interesting. MacDonald was decades ahead of his time in opposing developers and and his warnings about the effects of ecological destruction are coming true.
#20 – The Father Brown Stories
Father Brown, a short, frumpy priest, is the complete opposite of the tall, lean Holmes. His method of solving crime is intuitive rather than deductive. The Father Brown stories have been made into movies in both Europe and the U.S. and a BBC television series.
Dorothy L. Sayers
Sayers wrote several novels and short stories featuring Peter Wimsey, an English dilettante who solves mysteries for his own amusement. He’s intelligent and athletic. In addition to criminology, Wimsey collects incunabula. He’s an expert on food, wine, male fashion, and classical music. He excels at the piano, including Bach’s works for keyboard instruments. One of his cars is a 12-cylinder 1927 Daimler four-seater.
Brother Cadfael is one of most worldly monks ever created in fiction. He was a soldier in the crusades, a sailor and traveler who has had several lovers. He became a monk and a herbalist to heal men after a life of killing men. He’s a bit of a rebel monk who frequently clashes with the religious establishment as he solves mysteries.
#23 – Perry Mason
Erle Stanley Gardner
Perry Mason was probably the most successful fictional lawyers of all time. He is the subject of 82 novels and became one of TV’s longest running series of its kind, starring Raymond Burr. Mason, a lawyer, often accepts clients on a whim based on his curiosity about their problem. At times, when necessary, finances investigations cases himself. When he died in 1970, Gardner was the 20th century’s bestselling author.
#24 – The Thin Man
Hammett was the daddy of the hard-boiled detective. Nick Charles, the narrator, is a former detective, now a lumberman. He has a sense of humor, is tough and intelligent. He discovers clues, arranges them, makes deductions, and solves the murders. He then summarizes the whole solution for his admiring wife, Nora. All the tough, wise-cracking 20th century urban detectives owe their existence to Hammett.
#25 – The Lew Archer Series
Lew Archer is the prototype for the LA detective in this series that combines the whodunit with the psychological thriller. Screenwriter William Goldman, who adapted Macdonald’s stories to film, called MacDonald’s works “the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American.”
#26 – The Big Sleep
Chandler’s ground-breaking first novel was published in 1939. In addition to his short stories, Chandler published seven novels. All but Playback have been made into motion pictures, some several times. Chandler considered by many to be a founder, along with Dashiell Hammett, of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, along with Hammett’s Sam Spade, is considered by many to be the prototype of the 20th century “private detective. Both characters were played by Humphrey Bogart, the quintessential Marlowe.
#27 – The Spenser Series
Robert B. Parker
Set in the author’s city of Boston, the novels are well-written, fast-moving, intelligent and witty. Spenser’s partner, Hawke, a tough-but-tender street-smart African American. Parker is credited by many of reviving the detective novel. There are 40 novels in the Spenser series.
#28 – Jesse Stone Series
Robert B. Parker
Stone is a troubled former LAPD detective, who starts a new career as a police chief in a small New England town. Several of the books were made into CBS movies starring Tom Selleck.
#29 – Presumed Innocent
#30 – Genevieve Lenard Series
Dr Genevieve Lenard is an insurance investigator and internationally renowned expert in nonverbal communication. She is also autistic, trying to cope in a world of social manners and the vagaries of spoken language which are often at odds with the honesty of body language. The cases revolve around stolen or fraudulent art works. A brilliant series with one of the most unique detectives in modern fiction.
“Temp” Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who investigates human remains at crime scenes where the flesh is too degraded for a coroner to obtain evidence. These include victims of arson, mutilation, or are in advanced decomposition. Tempe is a divorced, recovering alcoholic with a daughter in college.
#32 – Stephanie Plum Series
Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter. To learn the tricks and demands of the career, the author spent much time shadowing bond enforcement agents. The first novel, One for the Money was made into a movie, released in 2012.
#33 – Alphabet Series
In this incredibly popular series, author Grafton gives life to female private investigator Kinsey Millhone who lives in Santa Teresa, California. Each book moves through a letter in the alphabet, beginning with “A” Is For Alibi. The novels have been published in 28 countries and in 26 languages.
#34 – Stone Barrington Series
Barrington is a a former NYPD detective turned lawyer who is with a prestigious law firm and handles cases with which the firm does not wish to be publicly associated. Barrington mixes work with plenty of women, travel and fine dining. Stone, like the author, is also an experienced pilot and frequent references are made to his aircraft.
#35 – Fallen
When a beautiful prostitute is dumped onto the Walk of Fame, FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in to solve one of their most baffling cases yet. Baldwin is a practicing physician with doctoral degrees in both medicine and psychology, a great combination when it comes to fiction. The highly acclaimed Fallen was followed by Judgment, also featuring Spenser and Cassidy.
#36 – Alex Cross Series
Cross is a forensic psychologist based in Washington, DC. He’s a widower-detective-father who often fights against threatening villains—and criminals—who wish to kill him and others. Throughout the series he’s trying to solve the difficult cases while attempting to mend his relationship with his family and stay alive.
Alexander McCall Smith
The agency, located in Gaborone, capital of Botswana, was founded by a Motswana woman, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the agency’s main detective. The episodic novels are as much about the adventures and foibles of different characters as they are about solving mysteries. The series is in the subgenre of anthropological detective fiction, in which the culture of its characters plays a major role in the story. The books have been turned into shows for radio, TV and the internet.
#38 – The Harry Bosch Series
LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is named after the Dutch artist of fantastic religious/apocalyptic/erotic images. A Vietnam veteran who served as a “tunnel rat,” Bosch is haunted, broken, moody and brilliant. He is brought to life in the Amazon TV series, “Bosch,” starring Titus Welliver.
#39 – The Cat Who. . . Series
Lilian Jackson Braun
After a terrible marriage and near fatal descent into alcoholism, James Qwilleran inherents a huge fortune and with the help of his two Siamese cats, investigates things that aren’t his business. There are 29 books in this popular series.
#40 – Joe Gunther Series
Joe Gunther has been a police officer for 30 years. The widower is a Korean War veteran living in Brattleboro, Vermont. There are 26 novels in the series. Mayor describes Joe Gunther as “a pretty static individual” because he wants Joe to be the foil to the sometimes quite restless people around him.
#41 – Cliff Janeway Series
What happens when an ex-cop becomes a Denver bookseller? Murders, mysteries and books. If you love the world of rare books and smart whodunits, Dunning is an author who writes a page-turner within a page-turner as he leads the reader through the world of rare volumes and smart crime.
#42 – Shane Scully Series
Stephen J. Cannell
Shane is a street-smart LAPD detective who doesn’t always let the rules dictate his desire to catch the criminals. He follows his instincts and often puts his life on the line. He’s an orphan who had a rough childhood but gradually gets his life together with his wife Alexa and his relationship with his teenage son from an affair long ago.
#43 – Dave Gurney Series
Gurney is the most decorated homicide detective in NYPD history. Now retired, he’s moved with his wife to rural upstate New York. Gurney is restless and plagued by memories of cases and his own personal demons. The novels are tense, moody and psychologically — and emotionally –riveting.
#44 – Richard Jury Series
Jury is a handsome but melancholic and moody Scotland Yard detective. He’s assisted in his cases by Melrose Plant, a British aristocrat who has given up his titles, and his sergeant, Alfred Wiggins, a hypochondriac. He’s kind and attractive to women, but really unlucky in love.
#45 – Gabriel Allon Series
Gabriel is the main character in Silva’s thriller and espionage series that focuses on Israeli intelligence. He has a team under him and their employer is referred to just as the Office. An art restorer, he begins his new career when he is recruited as an assassin to eliminate the 12 members of the Black September Movement.
#46 – Matt Scudder Series
A recovering alcoholic ex-cop now working as an unlicensed private investigator, Matt Scudder is one of the most fully realized characters in modern detective fiction. A Walk Among the Tombstones was made into a critically acclaimed film in 2014 starring Liam Neeson.
#47 – Bernie Rhodenbarr Series
One of the best living mystery writers in America, Block created one of the most memorable “detectives” with Bernie Rhodenbarr, a New York City-based thief who excels in lock picking and breaking and entering, and who is addicted to the thrill it provides. Bernie’s burglary operations are usually well-planned and tidily executed, During the course of some burglaries Bernie finds a dead body, and has to solve the murder to clear his name. His investigative techniques are unique and often (of course) illegal.
Lincoln Rhyme was once a brilliant criminologist, a genius in the field of forensics — until an accident left him a quadriplegic with major physical and emotional scars. The first in the series, The Bone Collector, became an acclaimed film in 1999 starring Denzel Washington.
The series is set in New Mexico with two Navajo police officers. The series contains realistic characters, great plotting and a fascinating — and accurate — look into Southwest Native American history and culture.
Faye’s debut novel was Dust and Shadow, starring Sherlock Holmes. The Gods of Gotham introduces Timothy Wilde: a close observer, romantic, and one of the first and best copper stars in the 19th Century New York City. The series has been lauded by critics and readers alike for its writing, characters the the origins of the most famous law enforcement organization in the world.