The best books containing satisfying mysteries

Tim Major Author Of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Defaced Men
By Tim Major

Who am I?

Since I was a child I’ve been drawn to mystery plots, because I love the sense of there being an agreement between author and reader, which leads to an ability to play with expectations. My most recent books have been Sherlock Holmes novels in the style of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle tales, though I’ve also written mysteries set on an isolated island and even on Mars! With each new story, I’ve found the act of plotting deeply satisfying. Of course, the next best thing to writing my own stories is reading another author’s novel that has a satisfying mystery, with a solution that in retrospect seems totally fair, but that I didn’t see coming.


I wrote...

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Defaced Men

By Tim Major,

Book cover of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Defaced Men

What is my book about?

A white-haired, bearded client arrives at Baker Street and is recognized immediately by Sherlock Holmes. This client is being threatened by someone unknown to him through curious means: doctored lecture slides. This is Eadweard Muybridge, pioneer of animal and human locomotion photographs, who presents his motion-study animations to interested parties through his zoopraxiscope device. 

When Holmes and Watson attend one of Muybridge’s lectures they find disturbing alterations to his slides. As they investigate further, they discover murder and conspiracy with the fledgling arts of photography and cinema at its heart…

The books I picked & why

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The Devil and the Dark Water

By Stuart Turton,

Book cover of The Devil and the Dark Water

Why this book?

My favorite modern mysteries bring new elements to the genre, and Stuart Turton’s debut, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was an eye-opener, mixing a time-loop SF concept with a classic murder mystery. The Devil and the Dark Water appears less startling at first, but, as they say, still waters run deep... In 1634, the ‘world’s greatest detective’ is being transported by boat to Amsterdam to be executed. Given that he’s under lock and key, how can he solve the terrifying and impossible series of crimes that occur during the voyage? Finding out is a hell of a journey for the reader.

The Devil and the Dark Water

By Stuart Turton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Devil and the Dark Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'If you read one book this year, make sure it's this one' Daily Mail CHOSEN AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN, SUNDAY TIMES, DAILY MAIL, FINANCIAL TIMES, DAILY EXPRESS AND i PAPER WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG READERS AWARD FOR FICTION SELECTED FOR THE BBC TWO BOOK CLUB BETWEEN THE COVERS AND THE RADIO 2 JO WHILEY BOOK CLUB An impossible murder A remarkable detective duo A demon who may or may not exist It's 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world's greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he…


The Red House Mystery

By A.A. Milne,

Book cover of The Red House Mystery

Why this book?

A classic murder mystery from an unlikely author. Until recently I knew nothing about Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne’s single mystery novel—and now I feel it’s a great shame he didn’t write more. The Red House Mystery is an archetypal murder mystery set in a country house and featuring a large cast, and there’s a wonderful locked-room puzzle at its center. Like many great mystery stories, it’s as much concerned with the rules of the genre as its characters, and it managed to wrongfoot me again and again, to my delight.

The Red House Mystery

By A.A. Milne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Red House Mystery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Red House Mystery (1922) is a detective novel by A.A. Milne. Known more for his series of Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poems for children, Milne also wrote novels and plays for adults, including this successful whodunnit. The Red House Mystery, Milne's only detective novel, was highly successful upon publication and is noted for its use of an amateur sleuth as well as its intricate, puzzle-like plot. Despite earning the ire of Raymond Chandler, Milne's novel was reprinted in the U.S. and in Britain numerous times.

At his house in the English countryside, Mark Ablett hosts a small party of diverse…


The Glass Hotel

By Emily St. John Mandel,

Book cover of The Glass Hotel

Why this book?

Some mysteries are related more to character than plot, and sometimes figuring out ‘whodunnit’ is only half of the solution. Emily St. John Mandel’s terrific novel begins with a clear mystery setup: somebody has graffitied the words ‘Why don't you swallow broken glass’ onto the window of a hotel, triggering a series of events that have profound effects on a disparate group of people. The joy of reading this book is seeing how far away from this initial incident we can stray, whilst still retaining a desire to unravel the cause and effect.

The Glass Hotel

By Emily St. John Mandel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Glass Hotel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • From the bestselling author of Station Eleven and Sea of Tranquility, an exhilarating novel set at the glittering intersection of two seemingly disparate events—the exposure of a massive criminal enterprise and the mysterious disappearance of a woman from a ship at sea.

“The perfect novel ... Freshly mysterious.” —The Washington Post

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby's glass wall: Why don’t you swallow broken glass. High above Manhattan, a…


The Honjin Murders

By Seishi Yokomizo,

Book cover of The Honjin Murders

Why this book?

This 1946 Japanese novel is a classic locked-room mystery concerned with fair play within the rules of the genre. The rural setting and flurry of elaborate clues are what sets it apart, and the detective Kosuke Kindaichi is truly memorable, as is the devious solution. The work of author Seishi Yokomizo has only recently begun to be translated for English-speaking readers, but I hope more will appear soon.

The Honjin Murders

By Seishi Yokomizo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Honjin Murders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour - it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions about the Ichiyanagis around the village.

Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi family are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music - death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the…


Piranesi

By Susanna Clarke,

Book cover of Piranesi

Why this book?

Susanna Clarke’s 2021 novel is unlike any other book on my list—actually, it’s unlike any other book, period. Piranesi’s life consists of his wanderings around the vast House, a desolate series of interconnecting chambers filled with colossal statues. In his journal entries we learn that he’s convinced that somebody else shares this alien space, but he knows nothing about why either of them are there. The novel mixes Robinson Crusoe-esque exploration with a complex and surprisingly tangible mystery, and by the time readers reach the conclusion they may well be tempted to reread the entire novel to appreciate events with fresh understanding.

Piranesi

By Susanna Clarke,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Piranesi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2021 Women's Prize for Fiction
A SUNDAY TIMES & NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The spectacular new novel from the bestselling author of JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL, 'one of our greatest living authors' NEW YORK MAGAZINE
__________________________________
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has.

In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend,…


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