Top Darker Murder Mystery Novels List of Recommended Mysteries

Top Murder Mystery Novels
List of Recommended Series and Dark Mysteries
by Patti Wood

Kate Atkinson -If you have not read her work start with behind the Scenes at the Museum and go from there.Her novels are wonderful, but often very slow hard reads. The detective novels are the Jackson Brodie novels. In When Will there be Good News -Atkinson writes about truly horrific matters, often involving violence against women, but she brings such remarkable tonal range to her material—four revolving narrators alternate between biting humor and somber reflection—you are  struck not by the mayhem being described but by the incredible narrative richness. Human Croquet (1997).  It’s not an easy novel, but goodness it is good. There is one passage where a character who was adopted as a baby by an older couple is discussed that says, they were an old couple who only knew about gin and canasta so they taught him both. She describes the character’s little quirks of body language so very well. The four Jackson Brodie novels have been adapted by other writers for the BBC under the series titled Case Histories, featuring Jason Isaacs as Brodie. I have read everything she has ever written. I love her work.
Defiantly one of the best murder mystery series in modern fiction.

Elizabeth George – Her Inspector Linley Mysteries are so well written. Linley’s partner Barbra Havers is one of the most interesting, vulnerable and authentic mystery character I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know in fiction. If you read all her novels you will get the painful delight of seeing how she handles a moral dilemma in case involving her neighbor and the neighbor’s daughter. I loved traveling the arch of her character. She is one of those fictional characters that feel like a family member, a troubled family member, but family.

Henning Mankell - I loved all his dark, disturbing and prose filled novels. Wallender has an interesting relationship with his father and his daughter that was fascinating to follow throughout the series and the best of the books is actually told from his daughter’s perspective. There are 13 books in the Wallander series and he also has other excellent novels. The BBC version of the novels was dark as well.

Tana French - The best of her novels is “The Secret Place” A year after the brutal murder of a young man at a posh school for girls, the case remains unsolved. Then 16-year-old Holly Mackey approaches Detective Stephen Moran with a tantalizing clue. French brilliantly and plausibly channels the craziness of youth and shared bonds of friends. Her other books are ok, but this one was special.

Peter Hoeg- I have only read this Danish author ‘s work “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” - After young Isaiah Christiansen falls from a snow-covered roof in present-day Copenhagen, something about his lone rooftop tracks--and the fact that the boy had a fear of heights--obsesses Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, a woman who had befriended him. Smilla is 37, unmarried, and, like Isaiah, part of Denmark's small Eskimo/Greenlander community. She is also a minor Danish authority on the properties and classification of ice. Smilla is never less than believable in her contradictions--caustic, caring, thoughtful, impulsive, determined and above all, rebellious. The best translation of a book I have every read the translator Nunnally won an award for best translation.

Dennis McFarland - A Face at the Window, Wow!  What a book. It’s deep, disturbing a ghost story, a page turner, but also a sophisticated bit of literature. I loved how it got me inside the head of an intelligent and troubled man. In that respect it reminded me of another good read from years ago, Presumed Innocent (a book that again was much better than the movie.) "One Monday morning about a year and a half ago, in late autumn, I woke with a vague awareness of a long dullish instrument of some kind, maybe the butt-end of a medieval halberd, being alternately inserted and withdrawn at the small of my back." The best modern ghost story I have ever read. Read this and then read Frankenstein, which is the best horror book of all time, and is written by a 17 year old girl.

Steig Larson –“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. I read the other Larson novels and found them to disturbing, and for a gal that’s read well over a 1,000 murder mysteries that saying a lot. 

Paula Hawkins – I loved The Girl on the Train. But, not because it was an especially well written novel. I enjoyed it because I found the journey of the Girl and the story so addictive and so sad and disturbing. More than any mystery novel I have read in the last five years this one was the most thought provoking, (The other is, “Her Husband’s Secret.”) I wanted my friends and family to read it so I could talk to them about what this character did and what they thought about the effect of her choices.

Michael Chabon- I just love his work. He is such an incredible writer. “The Yiddish Policemen Union” draws on the obscure historical fact that Alaska was proposed by FDR to become the postwar Jewish homeland, Chabon constructs a nightmarish world in frigid Sitka, where black humor is a kind of life-supporting antifreeze and where a browbeaten detective, Meyer Landsman, must stave off Armageddon. In delectable prose seasoned with all manner of Yiddish wordplay, the novel combines satire, homage, metaphor, and genuine suspense.

Patti Wood, MA - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at