There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a great mystery or thriller. A compelling whodunit lets you forget your own problems, transporting you into a world of intrigue where anything and everything can be a clue. That’s exactly what we need from books right now, and fortunately we can find exactly that without leaving our homes or spending any money. Here are classic mysteries and thrillers you can download for free right now at Project Gutenberg.
(Some of our recommendations for classic sci-fi, fantasy, and horror works you can download for free also double as great mysteries and thrillers. Make sure to check them out too.)
The Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes will be solving mysteries as long as they keep making movies and TV shows. But we never tire of going back to where the famed detective’s career started. All four Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are free to download. That includes A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear. And when you finish them you can read all of Doyle’s short story collections about the brilliant detective.
The works of Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is one of the true titans of the genre, and enough of her works are available in the public domain to fill plenty of free time with murder and intrigue. That includes her first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced the brilliant detective Hercules Poirot to the world. You can also download her short story collection Poirot Investigates, and her novels The Secret Adversary, The Murder on the Links, and The Man in the Brown Suit.
Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy L. Sayers is another literary giant whose work still looms large in the annals of mystery stories. But only her first work has made its way into the public domain so far. Fortunately, it’s one of her best: 1923’s Whose Body?, featuring the debut of amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, who’d go on to continued his detective work in a long series of novels and short stories.
The Clue of the Twisted Candle by Edgar Wallace
You would need a very long quarantine just to work your way through Edgar Wallace’s bibliography. The English writer’s prolific career included multiple series and hundreds of published works. You have to start somewhere, though, and we recommend his 1918 novel The Clue of the Twisted Candle. It’s about a famous mystery writer accused of murder, so it’s basically the genre’s version of Inception. Then you can continue with Wallace’s other public domain works, including The Daffodil Mystery and The Angel of Terror.
Trent’s Last Case by E. C. Bentley
Trent’s Last Case by E.C. Bentley was actually Trent’s first case. The novel, first published in 1913, introduced amateur detective Philip Trent, a character whom the author wanted to render more human (and more humorous) than super literary sleuths like Sherlock Holmes. The whodunit and its central character are almost a parody of the genre; Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers both expressed high praise for it. Two decades later, Bentley also wrote a followup novel, Trent’s Own Case, along with some Trent short stories.
The works of G. K. Chesterton
If you’re looking for mystery stories with a religious bent, you can download many of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown series. From 1910 to 1936, Chesterton wrote 53 short stories about the amateur priest detective. Not all of them are available, but enough are to let you get to know the portly Catholic cleric with a keen sense of human nature. And when you’re done, lots of Chesterton’s other works are also free to download. That includes his collection of eight connected detective stories, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Considered by many to be “the godfather of the classic English detective story,” Wilkie Collin’s 1868 novel The Moonstone created many of the “rules” of the genre. Told through a series of documents, it unravels the mystery of a stolen, massive Indian diamond a young English woman inherited on her eighteenth birthday. The author’s contemporaries called it maybe the best mystery novel ever written, and it’s a must-read for fans of the genre. As is Collin’s 1859 mystery novel The Woman in White, which you can also download.
The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green
The writing of American poet and author Anna Katherine Green directly influenced fellow detective novelist Agatha Christie. It all started with Green’s first novel, The Leavenworth Case, in which detective Ebenezer Gryce investigates the murder of a wealthy merchant. Anna Katherine Green’s books made her popular during her career, but not many remember her works today. You can rectify this by checking out a lot more of her work too.
The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
A.A. Milne is best remembered for creating Winnie-the-Pooh, but the English author also wrote one whodunit, The Red House Mystery. And it’s a good one. The 1992 novel is a classic murder mystery: after the black sheep of the Ablett family is found dead during a house party, an amateur sleuth, with the help from his very own Watson-like assistant, must solve the case. It’s a far cry from the getting lost in the Hundred Acre Wood, but it’s one of the many great classic mysteries we want to get lost in right now.
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