Getting wrapped up in a good mystery book is a delightful way to spend some time. ThriftBooks has a large selection of the best mystery books, both new and used, at affordable prices.
What Makes a Good Mystery Book?
While there are many opinions about who the best mystery authors are, most literary critics and writers agree that mystery books should contain at least some of the following elements:
- A great hook. Right from the start, the story should pull you in with just enough information to pique your interest.
- A crime. The crime needs to be compelling enough to drive the conflict for the entire book.
- An atmospheric or unusual setting. The bleak, windswept landscapes of Nordic Noir are a great example.
- A detective. This person can be professional, such as a cop, or an amateur who finds themselves thrown into the situation unexpectedly. It's an extra bonus if the detective has an interesting backstory.
- A criminal. The crime must be solved and the criminal identified.
- Foreshadowing. A good mystery writer can hint at things to come.
- Clues. Every reader likes to follow along and come to their own conclusion. Clues allow you to participate in the mystery.
- Red herrings. These are false clues that point fingers of suspicion at different characters in their turn.
- A satisfying denouement. The big reveal at the end should be believable and wrap up any subplots.
Of course, good mystery books are any mystery books that you enjoy. With so many subgenres of mysteries to choose from there are sure to be mystery stories that appeal to you.
What Are the Mystery Subgenres?
Think of Agatha Christie's books, and you have a good idea of cozy mystery novels. These mysteries typically take place in a confined setting, such as a small village or country house. There is often an amateur sleuth and no explicit violence, sex, or gore. Additional authors known for this style include G.K. Chesterton, Wilkie Collins, and Anna Katharine Green.
If you're already a fan of Raymond Chandler's Detective Philip Marlowe, then you are well familiar with the Hardboiled subgenre. You'll find a tough, professional detective who is often battling his own inner demons as he solves the mystery. Dashiell Hammett is a master of this subgenre. More modern writers include Sue Grafton and Liza Cody.
These mystery novels first appeared on the scene in the 1930s. The subgenre has grown to include a variety of murder mystery books, including Psychological Thrillers and Nordic Noir. Characterized by gritty, troubled characters, dark settings, and an overall pessimistic outlook, this subgenre is very much related to the film noir of the cinema. Authors in this genre include Patricia Highsmith, Stieg Larsson, and Dorothy B. Hughes.
The stakes are high and the action is fast-paced in this subgenre. Politics may play a role and there are many books that crossover into the spy and espionage subgenre. A classic author in this category is Michael Crichton. David Baldacci, James Patterson, and Stephen Coonts also write thriller mystery novels.
Find Your Next Favorite Mystery Novel!
Browse mystery books on ThriftBooks and look for names or titles you recognize. Read the book overview to learn more about the story. Then search for other mysteries that have similar themes. With so many affordable books to choose from, you're bound to find some favorites.