5 must-read detective series

I love a good book series. It’s a perfect way to get lost in a story, because you know you can stay in the universe for a long time, but you can still take breaks between the books when needed. In this post I want to talk about detective series specifically.

The great thing about detective series is that the main mystery is usually contained to one book, but you still get to follow the same characters and get to know them over time. That means I can read one book and know I don’t have to continue at once, the characters will still be there when I pick it up again. And they are perfect for fall reading!

5 must read detective series

Here are awesome detective series I love and that I think you will love as well!

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Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes - Five must read detective seriesDetective team: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson
Number of books: 9 (4 novels and 5 short story collections)

This is the first one of my classics. Sherlock Holmes has gotten a lot of attention in media the last years and for good reason. Tv-shows like Sherlock and Elementary build on the genius of the book series and the books are well worth a read. Sherlock Holmes is not the first fictional detective ever, but he is the one that is best known, and a lot of the newer detective series are inspired by him. A lot of that has to do with the character of Sherlock Holmes, he was for sure the most eccentric detective at the time. He relies on his logical reasoning and observation to solve cases.

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”


My reading tips:

  • For this classic start with the beginning; A Study in Scarlet* is a solid book.
  • If you like the more scary crime novels 
    The Hound of the Baskervilles
    * is one of the creepiest books I’ve everBBC Sherlock read. Granted I first read it when I was 11, which I do not recommend.

Adaptations worth watching:

  • BBC’s Sherlock is a good show to watch, great actors and exciting directing. It’s also not that long, so you won’t have to set aside a lot of time.
  • A huge favorite of mine is Elementary. It’s a fun and interesting show with a female Watson and in general more diversity and a larger cast than BBC’s Sherlock.


Hercule Poirot / Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

Hercule Poirot - Five must read detective seriesDetective team: Hercule Poirot and Colonel Hastings / Miss Marple
Number of books: 45 Hercule Poirot / 14 Miss Marple

Yes, I know its a bit of cheating to include both Poirot and Miss Marple, but I can’t help myself: They are both awesome. Miss Marple was my first detective series (if you exclude the unfortunate Baskervilles incident) and for that it holds a special place in my heart. Miss Marple might seem like a sweet old lady, but she is sharp and not afraid to see the evil in the world.

“At my time of life, one knows that the worst is usually true.” — Miss Marple

Hercule Poirot is a fun detective to read about, together with his partner Captain Hastings, he solves all kinds of cases. While Sherlock Holmes relies on his deductive skills, Poirot is all about his little gray cells. He doesn’t go for forensic evidence or science, but solves cases with his brainpower.

“It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within–not without.” — Hercule Poirot

Agatha Christie has a great eye for detail and crafting a mystery. A lot of the tropes and building blocks of today’s crime fiction is of her making. It is really fun to go back to read the origin of the genre and see where is all started.


My reading tips:

For Miss Marple

  • The Body in the Library* is just a well crafted mystery. Miss Marple doesn’t enter the novel until the halfway point, but there is so much fun to be had until then as well.

Hercule Poirot have a lot of great books:And Then There Were None - 5 must read detective series

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles* is the first Hercule Poirot novel and it’s a great introduction to him and his style. It also introduces Captain Hastings as a narrator, which is something a lot of the later books pick up.
  • Murder on the Orient Express* is a true classic. Just a well crafted story around a locked room mystery, a man is found dead in his sleeping compartment, but how could anyone have entered?
  • In Five Little Pigs* Poirot has to solve a 16 year old murder. It’s a true test to his claim that he can solve crimes just by his little grey cells and no physical evidence. We get to hear the story from five different perspectives and it’s really interesting to figure out the truths, misrememberings and outright lies in the tales.

Agatha Christie has also written some stand alone novels that are not about her main detectives including my favorite book of hers: And Then There Were None*. This is the ultimate mystery: 10 people are trapped on an island when they begin getting killed one by one, and they have to figure out who the murderer is.

Adaptations worth watching:

  • And Then There Were None* was recently adapted into a mini series and it’s amazing. Watch the trailer here –And Then There Were None mini series you won’t regret it. The cast includes people like Charles Dance, Toby Stevens, Aidan Turner and Miranda Richardson. If you watch one thing from this list, let it be this one.
  • The 1974 movie of Murder on the Orient Express is a great watch. Poirot is played by Albert Finney and the cast includes well known actors as Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman (who won an oscar for her role), Sean Connery and Vanessa Redgrave.
  • I grew up watching Agatha Christie’s Poirot which aired from 1989 to 2013. David Suchet played Poirot for 13 seasons, and he does a great job. This one has a lot of great episodes as it covers almost all of the books, and features plenty of actors that have gone on to do great things later. If you pick only one episode I would go for Five Little Pigs from 2003, it’s haunting and features great acting.
  • Miss Marple with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple ran from 1984 to 1992. It’s a good series covering all the books.


Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike - 5 must read detective seriesDetective team: Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott
Number of books: 3

Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling and this detective series is a new discovery for me. The first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was one of my summer picks, and I’ve really enjoyed it! It’s a return to classic crime stories and Rowling’s writing style fits the genre very well. Cormoran is a good antihero, and I enjoy watching him solve cases. But for me the true standout in this series is his assistant Robin. She is clever, organized and just a good person trying her best. The way she approaches detective work and Cormoran’s hard edges is admirable and fun to follow as she gets better at both. I’m really curious to discover more about her!

“There are always loose ends in real life.” — Cormoran Strike


My reading tips:

I’ve only read the first two and I love them both. That waiting list at the library is very long for the third one! But start with The Cuckoo’s Calling* to get to know the characters, since this is a new series it’s easy to follow along.

Adaptations worth watching:

No adaptations as of right now, but a series is in development with Tom Burke as Cormoran Strike. I can’t wait!


Adam Dalgliesh mysteries by PD James

PD James - 5 must read detective seriesDetective: Adam Dalgliesh with various partners
Number of books: 14

Adam Dalgliesh is an interesting character, who writes poetry and solves murders. Great combination, right? He’s very private and keeps to himself outside of work. PD James writes complicated and intricate mysteries that often comes down to people; motives, feelings and relationships.

“It’s easy to get a reputation for wisdom. It’s only necessary to live long, speak little and do less.”


My reading tips:

The Black Tower* and The Lighthouse* – I love closed room mysteries or any time you have a limited pool of suspects that you meet early on. And the Black Tower and The Lighthouse shows my preference, they both take Dalgliesh out of his own environment to a smaller community with specific characters and suspects.

Adaptations worth watching:

The tv adaptation stars Roy Marsden and is a well made show. It doesn’t follow the books completely, but the characters and suspense is the same. And personally that’s the most important for me.


The Inspector Lynley Mysteries by Elizabeth George

Inspector Lynley by Elizabeth George - 5 must read detective seriesDetective team: Inspector Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers
Number of books: 19

The Inspector Lynley Mysteries offers an interesting look into a modern British society that is still based on old traditions. Thomas Lynley is the Lord Asherton, brought up in privilege, while Barbara Havers comes from a working-class family. They clash and come together in interesting ways, all the while solving carefully plotted mysteries. This is also a detective series that involves the characters and their lives into the mysteries themselves more than most. It makes it more interesting, but also more heartbreaking. We meet friends, family and lovers of the main characters as they face their own struggles.

“There are no easy answers, there’s only living through the questions.”


My reading tips:

Start at the beginning: A Great Deliverance* is a great debut novel and it sets the tone of the series really well. Elizabeth George has a special style of writing, and her books are a bit brutal. However A Great Deliverance is a good example of the rest of the series and you can figure out if it’s to your liking.

Adaptations worth watching:

The Inspector Lynley Mysteries ran from 2001 to 2008 and stars Nathaniel Parker and Sharon Small. This is a great show.  Nathaniel Parker and Sharon Small are great together and provides the frame for good mysteries.


I’m linking up with ModernMrsDarcy this week, lots of great book posts there. So these are my favorite detective series. What are yours? I would love to discover some more reading material!


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  • I’m a big fan of the Cormoran Strike series and I just started the Inspector Lynley books and am enjoying those. And I just love the BBC Sherlock adaptations!

    Since you mentioned that you like getting to know the personal lives of the characters, two other detective/mystery series that I adore and wanted to pass along in case you’ve missed them are –
    the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny (the first one is not her best so don’t give up!) and the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series by Deborah Crombie. T

  • Great lists, I love a good British mystery. I’m adding the Inspector Lynley series to my list based on your recommendation, and I will look for the JK Rowling one too. A series you didn’t mention that I’ve enjoyed is the Brother Caddael mysteries by Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter). Those were also made into a BBC Television series starring Derek Jacobi in the 1980s I think. I enjoy your blog!

  • Agatha Christie and Robert Galbrait are favorites of mine, I’m currently reading the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes books and it’s taking me forever, but I love Doyle’s writing style, it’s so engaging and I’m really enjoying it, even if it’s a ginormous book 😀
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  • Ooh, I love Agatha Christie’s books, as well as the Cormoran Strike series (I’m an inveterate Harry Potter fan, though, so that’s pretty much a foregone conclusion).

    Have you read Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming series? DI Fleming lives in rural Scotland with her sheep farming husband and two children, who are preteens in the first book and off at university by the most recent one. One of the things I love about the series is that, although each book introduces us to new characters and mysteries, we also see into Marjory’s personal life and how her children sometimes struggle with their mum’s unpredictable and long hours.
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    • Oh me too! As soon as I heard JK Rowling had written crime novels I knew I had to read them 🙂

      I’ve never heard about that, but it sounds really interesting. I’m putting it on my to read list for sure. I like crime novels that includes some of the personal life of the detectives so I feel some personal connection to them. Besides when I was putting together this list I realized it was mostly men, so I need some new detective leading ladies 🙂