The best books investigation books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about investigations and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Winter Tide

By Ruthanna Emrys,

Book cover of Winter Tide

I was honoured to panel with Emrys at a con a few years ago, where it was clear that she was a cosmic horror expert and had done reams more reading on its context, legacy, influences, and analysis than the rest of us. What she writes with all that scholarship, though, is deeply human, affecting, and emotional. In focusing on the persecuted people of Innsmouth, this book becomes a study of family and connection, and answers in a very different way the traditional cosmic horror questions of 'What is a monster?' and 'How do we decide what should be called monstrous?'  

Who am I?

I wouldn't call myself a cosmic horror expert, but I've read quite a few of the expected authors--Dunsany, Machen, Lovecraft, Blackwood, Howard, etc--and I've written novels and short fiction in the genre and have been asked to panel and talk about it for years at professional events. How can a fictional narrative contain villains so powerful that human beings have no way to understand, let alone resist them? I like exploring that impossibility in my own writing, and I feel compelled to subvert its historical legacy of colonialism and racism where I can. It is not a genre that needs reclaiming but rewriting, and it is rife with possibilities. 

I wrote...

Beneath the Rising

By Premee Mohamed,

Book cover of Beneath the Rising

What is my book about?

Nick Prasad has always enjoyed a quiet life in the shadow of his best friend, child prodigy, and technological genius Joanna ‘Johnny’ Chambers. But all that is about to end. When Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens primal, evil Ancient Ones set on subjugating humanity. From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they will need to trust each other completely to survive…

The Silence of the Lambs

By Thomas Harris,

Book cover of The Silence of the Lambs

FBI Agent-in-training Clarice Starling is pulled into a manhunt to find a serial killer, known only as Buffalo Bill. Her best chance of finding the killer is to consult Hannibal Lecter, who is a former psychiatrist serving multiple life sentences for a series of murders.

While the main protagonist is superbly brought to life in the form of an ambitious Starling, it is Hannibal Lecter who breaks all convention as Clarice’s ‘partner’ in this tense crime thriller. He is calm, precise, clever, and, at times, unnerving, which makes this a compelling classic.

Who am I?

As a crime author and screenwriter, I’m fascinated by the consequences of crime and how it impacts feasible characters. I try to illustrate this obsession by creating realistic stress situations for my characters, then showcasing how it affects their decision-making process. In writing the protagonist for Jack Hanger, I consulted two different psychologists to research the protagonist and to capture the severity of his circumstances in detail. For King of Sorrow, I created an unconventional antagonist, with the aim of showing readers how ambition and greed can corrupt the most rational mind. I believe it is my job to challenge conventions and entertain readers from the opening page.

I wrote...

Jack Hanger

By James Fouche,

Book cover of Jack Hanger

What is my book about?

When a criminal mastermind called Joe Taxi kills his brother, Dave Matters is forced to revisit the gritty Cape Town drug scene. However, he is no longer the ruthless Dave who ran drugs for the Wallace brothers. After a botched drug deal Dave wrestles with bouts of memory loss and an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, to avenge his brother and uncover a mystery, he must abandon the safety of his mundane life. As the anticipation of a mass city riot mounts, Dave inches closer to a climactic confrontation with an old nemesis, as well as the pains from his past.

The Negotiator

By Dee Henderson,

Book cover of The Negotiator

Henderson was the first romantic suspense author I read who nailed the romantic thread without relying on tired cliches to keep the couple apart until the end of the book. Add to that her signature, page-turning suspense that takes Kate O’Malley on a terrifying fight for her life, and a compelling and bold hero, and you have the perfect combination of what I look for in romantic suspense.

Who am I?

As an avid reader growing up, this list of books was influential in not only fostering my love of story, but also for inspiring me to become a writer. These books showed me what makes a page-turning story; from creating a rich setting to developing authentic characters with tension-filled dialogue, to heart-pounding twists and turns. In the end, the readers are taken on a suspenseful journey that will keep them up all night. 

I wrote...

The Catch

By Lisa Harris,

Book cover of The Catch

What is my book about?

After a harrowing attempt on a judge's life at the courthouse, Deputy US Marshals Madison James and Jonas Quinn are tasked with finding a missing woman and an endangered child in connection to the murder of the judge's wife. What seems like a fairly straightforward case becomes hopelessly tangled when the marshals discover that the woman they are searching for is not who they think she is.

Madison and Jonas are forced into a race to find the woman and the child before the men who want her dead discover her location. And in a final showdown that could cost her everything, Madison will come face-to-face with the person who murdered her husband.

Twin Peaks

By Mark Frost,

Book cover of Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier

Essentially two parts of one book, Secret History and The Final Dossier see Mark Frost – co-writer, with the legendary David Lynch, of the equally legendary TV series – returning to the dark, dark woods which cast a baleful shadow on the troubled logging town. The woods are the source of all evil in Twin Peaks: malevolence, mystery, mayhem, murder. In real-life Lynch once described the forest as being “everything those old fairy-tales made you feel”.

Who am I?

I’m an Irish author who lives close to three very different forests: deciduous, planted coniferous, and the planned gardens of a former stately home that once welcomed WB Yeats and several other famous writers. I’ve always loved the woods – it often feels like stepping through a portal into some other, stranger parallel world – and drew huge inspiration from these places for Shiver the Whole Night Through. I wanted the forest to feel like a character, which was sentient and had agency. I incorporated several real-life locations into the fictional Shook Woods…and wrote a lot of the story in the forest, gazing into the dark trees, waiting for them to speak. 

I wrote...

Shiver The Whole Night Through

By Darragh McManus,

Book cover of Shiver The Whole Night Through

What is my book about?

Shiver the Whole Night Through is a YA novel, blending mystery and horror, about a bullied Irish youngster drawn into a dream world of magic, desire, hope, and revenge. After months of harassment and romantic heartbreak, seventeen-year-old Aidan Flood feels ready to end it all. 

But when he learns that local girl Sláine McAuley actually has, he discovers a new sense of purpose and becomes determined to find out what happened to her. Aidan isn’t sure if beautiful Sláine is a ghost, a demon, or the figment of his imagination. The weather is turning colder, an ancient evil has awoken – and it might just be the death of them all.


By Nick Harkaway,

Book cover of Gnomon

Harkaway has serious literary pedigree but is determined to put exactly what he damn well likes in his books. Gnomon is labyrinthine, its characters sizzle with personality and it is set in researched, vibrant worlds that reek of authenticity, from antiquity to modern-day Greece. It’s also, partly, set in a dystopian, ultra-surveillance future (an arch glance at the political developments of recent years) and shamelessly combines mysticism, time-bending, and no shortage of sharks. Its rejection of convention but adherence to good, thoughtful writing is one hell of a ride.

Who am I?

I’m still in love with good sci-fi and fantasy after 30 years, but folk can get most terribly sniffy about it: ‘Lack of character’, ‘leaden exposition’, the list of accusations rolls on (sadly, a chunk of today’s SFF earns it). But. Every so often a work pops up that looks to the unwary book clubber like a ‘proper novel’; beneath its sexy but abstract cover and pared-back blurb lies a world of adventure that’s like LSD in an innocent mug of tea. Some writers just refuse to accept that speculation (about time and/ or space) needs to sacrifice truth. I’ve picked a few books that stand out to me for this reason – debate their merits with gusto, preferably over a good Martini at 2am.

I wrote...

Echo Cycle

By Patrick Edwards,

Book cover of Echo Cycle

What is my book about?

Gladiator meets 1984 in this near-future thriller featuring timeslips, ancient magic, and a disturbingly plausible dystopian Britain. 68 CE: Fleeing disaster, young Winston Monk wakes to find himself trapped in the past, imprisoned by the mad Emperor Nero. The Roman civilization he idolized is anything but civilized, and his escape from a barbaric home has led him somewhere far more dangerous.

2070 CE: As the European Union crumbled, Britain closed its borders, believing they were stronger alone. After decades of hardship, British envoy Lindon Banks joins a diplomatic team to rebuild bridges with the hypermodern European Confederacy. But in Rome, Banks discovers his childhood friend who disappeared without a trace. Monk tells a different story: a tale of Caesars, slavery, and something altogether more sinister. Monk's mysterious emergence sparks the tinderbox of diplomatic relations between Britain and the Confederacy, controlled by shadowy players with links back to the ancient world itself.

Murder at Drury Lane

By Robert Lee Hall,

Book cover of Murder at Drury Lane: Further Adventures of the American Agent in London

Historical setting is the main draw here. Benjamin Franklin is in 1750s London, and the interest comes from the history. Franklin becomes involved in the lively theater scene of the era, and we get to see the sage's particular genius at work. The great joy here comes from all the period details and the delightful descriptions of the theatre world in Georgian England.

Who am I?

I grew up in New York City, practically within walking distance of the Broadway theatre district. My first show was the original production of 1776. Everything grabbed my attention: Ian McKellan in Amadeus, Patrick Stewart in Macbeth, Richard Dreyfuss in Julius Caesar, and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. In high school, I was an eager, if not especially talented, member of the theatre club. I became curious about the whole theatre scene, and what could be a better place for a mystery, where actors, directors, and scene designers are already creating an alternate world.

I wrote...

Death at the Emerald

By R.J. Koreto,

Book cover of Death at the Emerald

What is my book about?

Helen was the most beautiful actress in England, but she mysteriously vanished 30 years ago. An elderly friend commissions Lady France Folkes to find her. Taking on the role of Lady Sherlock, with her loyal maid Mallow as her Watson, Frances immerses herself in the glamorous world of Edwardian theater and London’s latest craze—motion pictures.

As Frances and Mallow make their way through the theaters, they meet colorful figures such as George Bernard Shaw and King Edward VII. Clues lead them to a stunning discovery at a midnight exhumation of a grave with a puzzling epitaph. But the killer remains undeterred and Frances must use all her wits—and her new jiu-jitsu skills—to save herself and find the entrancing Helen.


By Dean Koontz,

Book cover of Elsewhere

Dean Koontz has influenced my writing more than any other author. For decades, his books have been at the top of my reading list. Year after year, he consistently writes top-tier, inventive page-turners. His villains are evil. His heroes and heroines are likable and easy to relate to. He gets that one can’t traverse a frightening world without humor, and by analogy, neither can we. Elsewhere is one of his best in a long time. Equal parts bone-chilling, creepy, nerve-racking, and sinister, balanced by love, compassion, loyalty, and second chances, it doesn’t get better than this. 

Who am I?

Realms of the imagination have always called to me. My father had shelves of Astounding Science Fiction and Galaxy magazines. The covers alone were enough to streak me to far-off worlds, aliens, and spaceships. Here, I discovered Robert E. Howard, creator of sword and sorcery. A walk in the woods was a quest to find pixies in a magic kingdom. And a much-loved babysitter read every Oz book to me, easing me to sleep. With all this to get lost in, it’s a wonder I earned a PhD in psychology. Or not. The mind is a limitless universe. Who knows what we might discover in our dreams?

I wrote...

Shadow House: A Young Adult Dystopian Science Fiction

By A.R. Silverberry,

Book cover of Shadow House: A Young Adult Dystopian Science Fiction

What is my book about?

Elimination. The sentence of New Earth's Supreme Council rings in Johari's ears. Innocence won't spare him, but the House might. With no options left, Johari enters, only to find the guy who set him up cozy with the girl he loves. As if that isn't enough, something is stalking them. 

Shrouded in mystery, the House is a rite few return from. Running for his life, and questioning his heart, Johari is about to learn why.

The Firm

By John Grisham,

Book cover of The Firm

The Firm was published in 2010, but it’s still on my list of all-time favorites. The protagonist is an idealistic young law school graduate who gets dragged into shady dealings and money laundering on Grand Cayman when he accepts a lucrative job at a law firm. Almost immediately, he’s contacted by the FBI, who want to turn him into an undercover agent to help them get the goods on the firm. But the firm has made it plain that both Mitch and his young wife will die if there’s so much of a whiff of a double cross.

This novel was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise, but in my opinion, the book is 10,000 times better.

Who am I?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

I wrote...

In Deep: A Fin Fleming Thriller

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of In Deep: A Fin Fleming Thriller

What is my book about?

Underwater, Fin is a supremely competent young woman. On land, not so much. She has problems in every part of her life, from her scheming ex-husband to her career as chief underwater photographer at the oceanographic institute founded by her mother. She's got very few friends and no love life to speak of. But her troubles really escalate the day of the first accident...


By Tade Thompson,

Book cover of Rosewater

This is an amazing Sci-Fi cyberpunk feeling book. Is it African futurism? I suppose so, but you get swept up in this book so quickly that really its category becomes irrelevant. On one level you could say it’s an alien invasion novel, except the alien arrived before the story started and you’re piecing together clues of this alien mind, what it wants, is it a goody or a baddy, or either. Unpicking it all with us is our last great hope for humanity, Kaaro, the least likely hero and the least willing to be a hero if he can help it. He is a brilliant pair of mirror shades for us to view the scintillating world through. Fantastic book. One of my favourite Sci-Fi reads ever.

Who am I?

I’ve always read Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It’s my comfort place and haven’t we all needed that in the roaring '20s? It took a long while to clock that the books that stuck with me longest were all in that odd space where fantasy and sci-fi collide, (like Helliconia or Fire Upon the Deep or Dune) When I started writing, the ideas just poured out of me but after I realised I’d written a book like those I loved to read.

I wrote...


By Paul L. Arvidson,

Book cover of Dark

What is my book about?

He never wanted to be a hero. But the deep tunnels are a deathtrap for the unwary…

Dun is haunted by savage dreams. Suffocating under the weight of caring for his family, he fears his visions mean he’s a shaman like his missing father. But when the rivers mysteriously empty of fish, he embarks on a dangerous quest to uncover the truth. Dun sets off into unknown territory with two friends, an unfinished map, and a dubious guide. But his search for answers could send him and his companions straight into the jaws of death…This is the intense first tale in the Dark series. If you like unexpected heroes, spectacular settings, and intriguing mysteries, you'll love this.

The Apothecary Rose

By Candace Robb,

Book cover of The Apothecary Rose: The Owen Archer Series - Book One

Set in Medieval York I loved the detail of life in this book. The passion of Lucie Wilton, the apothecary’s wife is apparent and very real. Her anguish at his death and her guilt over her love for Owen Archer, her assistant incite pity and hunger in the reader. It taught me to try and include small details in my own writing and to make my characters come alive as Candace Robb does. I was truly hungry for the next book...and the next...and the next!

Owen Archer became a real fictional hero of mine.

Who am I?

As a great reader from birth, I love books. I am a retired teacher of English literature and love history, particularly the medieval period, inspired by my love of Chaucer. I found my chosen authors entertaining, informative, and able to lead me into my happy place, unaware of my surroundings whilst reading. I read very fast, however, and none of them write fast enough for me so I started to write my own books. Words have the power to move, to excite, to console, to entertain. I hope anyone reading my chosen list will enjoy and may feel like exploring my own books.

I wrote...

A Quenchless Fire: The Second Sherborne Medieval Mystery

By Rosie Lear,

Book cover of A Quenchless Fire: The Second Sherborne Medieval Mystery

What is my book about?

This is the second book in the Matthias Barton Medieval mysteries series, set in Sherborne, Dorset. The young schoolmaster, Matthias Barton, finds himself involved with a seriously injured man and the fire which consumed part of Sherborne Abbey in 1437.

An injured soldier arrives on the scene bringing bad news to his friend, the Coroner, Sir Tobias Delaware. Matthias travels to France to discover the truth behind his message, meanwhile, the frustrated townspeople of Sherborne agitate against the haughty Abbot. Matthias encounters danger in Paris where the death of a young prostitute causes him both pain and shame. His return coincides with the uprising in Sherborne and the terrible wounding of the injured soldier to whom Matthias has offered shelter.

Or, view all 10 books about investigations

New book lists related to investigations

All book lists related to investigations

Bookshelves related to investigations