30 outstanding detective series from around the world (2024)

30 outstanding detective series from around the world (1)

Here you’ll find my (admittedly incomplete) guide to the most outstanding detective series set in countries all across the world. It’s a work in progress. Expect to see more added here from time to time.

Below I’ve listed 30 outstanding detective series set outside the United States. You’ll find entries listed by country, arranged in alphabetical order. And each country name is followed by the name most closely associated with the series.

This post was updated on April 9, 2024.

Botswana: #1 Ladies Detective Agency

Alexander McCall Smith immerses the reader in the laid-back civility of Botswana through the continuing exploits of Mma Precious Ramotswe in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, providing a fascinating vantage-point on the only former colony in sub-Saharan Africa to have avoided military coups or civil war. I’ve reviewed a great many of these fine little novels. The most recent was #18, The House of Unexpected Sisters. My review is at The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is on the case.

Central Europe: Yalta Boulevard

Most of Olen Steinhauer’s novels are about espionage (and they’re very good). However, he has also written five remarkable novels in the so-called Yalta Boulevard Cycle. The books follow a small group of police officers in the capital city of an unnamed Eastern European country through more than 40 years under Communism. Each is set largely in a single decade, from the 1940s through the 80s. I reviewed all five novels at Olen Steinhauer’s brilliant Yalta Boulevard cycle set in Eastern Europe.

China: Inspector Chen Cao

With thirteen books in print as of 2024, Qiu Xiaolong‘s series of novels about Inspector Chen Cao and his Special Investigations Squad in the Shanghai Police Bureau paints a vivid picture of a city, and a country, in transition in the 1990s. Deng Xiaoping’s reforms had begun more than a decade earlier. The changes were not yet visible on the surface, but in social relations and the people’s expectations the new reality continued to shock. Inspector Chen has to weave a path ever so carefully between the demands of the Party and his own quest for justice.For a good example, see When Red Is Black – Inspector Chen #3(This gripping crime novel shows China in transition).

Denmark: Department Q

From Denmark comes Jussi Adler-Olsen’s off-beat series featuring the misfits of Department Q, the cold case unit that somehow always seems to solve Copenhagen’s most pressing current cases. In the seven novels published to date, Detective Carl Mørck and his motley crew of sidekicks take on some of the most convoluted cases in the genre. For a taste of the series, check out my review of The Marco Effect. Find it at Child soldiers, bank fraud, and eccentric police in a Danish thriller. For capsule reviews of all seven novels in the series, see Jussi-Adler Olsen’s captivating Department Q thrillers.

Denmark: Nina Borg

The Danish writing duo of Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis have produced a series of four outstanding mystery novels featuring Red Cross nurse Nina Borg and her partner, an inspector in the Danish Security and Intelligence Service with the unfortunate name of Søren Kierkegard. Every one of the four novels involves events that unfold in other countries (including Ukraine, The Philippines, and Hungary). The first of the four novels is The Boy in the Suitcase. My review is at Something’s rotten in Denmark.

England: Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid

Deborah Crombie has written 18 novels so far in an intriguing series featuring Scotland Yard’s Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid. I’m in awe of a woman who lives in a small North Texas town who manages to write—apparently with ease—English police procedurals, some of which even win literary prizes in England! My review of one of the books, In a Dark House, can be found at Why read mystery stories? Author Deborah Crombie offers good reasons.

England: Maisie Dobbs

Jacqueline Winspear‘s engrossing series of detective novels features Maisie Dobbs. Formerly a nurse on the Western Front in World War I, Maisie later opens her own agency. With the assistance of two loyal staff members, she takes on cases that either baffle the police or fall through the cracks at Scotland Yard. At this writing, there are fifteen books in the series. You can find capsule reviews of the whole series at The Maisie Dobbs novels from Jacqueline Winspear.

England: Inspector Thomas Lynley

Elizabeth George’s long-running series of novels about Inspector Thomas Lynley provides a window on English society, both in London, where Lynley is based at New Scotland Yard, and in the countryside, where he and his investigative team are called so often to tackle the country’s toughest murder cases. (Like Deborah Crombie, George is American.) The 20th entry in the series is was published in 2018. I’ve read all the others so far. I reviewed #19, A Banquet of Consequences, at Elizabeth George’s latest is much more than a whodunit. And the Lynley novels are clearly one of the most outstanding detective series now in print.

England: Brother Cadfael

In the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, Ellis Peters (the pseudonym of Edith Pargeter) conjured up the world of 12th-century England. The Benedictine monk who is her protagonist was a soldier in the Crusades but retired to a quieter life as an herbalist in a monastery near the Welsh border. His powers of observation and his experience of life equip him to function as a detective when crime occurs. I reviewedA Morbid Taste for Bones,at The first book in the delightful Brother Cadfael series.

England: Cormoran Strike

J. K. Rowling is, of course, the world-famous author of the Harry Potter series. More recently, she ventured into detective fiction, writing under the name Robert Galbraith. Cormoran Strike is a down-and-out private detective with one leg and a colorful past. The first of the four novels published in the series to date was The Cuckoo’s Calling. Its review is at J. K. Rowling scores with her debut in detective fiction. Check out J. K. Rowling’s thrilling Cormoran Strike detective series for reviews of the whole series.

England: John Madden

John Madden fought in World War I, then returned to service at Scotland Yard following the war. Rennie Airth‘s mysteries featuring Madden span the years between the two wars and beyond. As of 2020, he has published six novels in the series, the last of which takes place in 1951. The sixth is The Decent Inn of Death, reviewed at Retired Scotland Yard detectives face off with a suspected war criminal.

France: Aimée Leduc

Private eye Aimée Leduc and her partner, René Friant, a dwarf who is a wizard with computers, always seem to find themselves mixed up in murder investigations that take them away from their company’s work in online corporate security. Author Cara Black has set each succeeding entry in the series in a different arrondissem*nt of Paris. There are 18 novels to date. For an example, check out my review of Murder in Montmartre: Enduring mysteries in Aimee Leduc’s Paris.

Germany: Bernie Gunther

The late Philip Kerr wrote a masterful series of fourteen novels featuring Bernie Gunther. He was first an anti-Nazi homicide inspector for the Berlin Police, then a private eye working for the famous Adlon Hotel, later a soldier in the Wehrmacht in World War II, and finally a fugitive in Argentina, Cuba, and France. Check out Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels for reviews of all the books in this outstanding detective series.

Ghana: Darko Dawson

Retired Ghanaian-American physician Kwei Quartey has written two series of detective novels set in his homeland, one a police procedural, the other a newer series about a female private investigator. Check out the latest in the former at Murder at Cape Three Points – Darko Dawson #3 (A captivating murder mystery set in Ghana).

Ghana: Emma Djan

Kwei Quartey followed the five books of his Darko Dawson series with four to date starring the talented young PI, Emma Djan. For a taste of this captivating series, see Last Seen in Lapaz – Emma Djan #3(A missing woman, a murder, and a young PI).

India: Vish Puri

As I followed private investigator Vish Puri and his team through the streets of Jaipur in Tarquin Hall‘s The Case of the Missing Servant (reviewed at Indian private eye Vish Puri is the best, he thinks, it suddenly occurred to me that a fair amount of what I’ve learned about life and culture in other countries has come from my reading of detective fiction. And, given the depth of research conducted by so many of my favorite crime writers, I suspect this isn’t such a bad way to learn about the world around me.

India: Perveen Mistry

The Perveen Mistry series of mystery novels by Sujata Massey features a woman lawyer who practices in Mumbai in the fraught years following World War I. The books highlight life under the British Raj in all its conflicts and contradictions. (Massey also writes a modern mystery series set in Japan.) Born in England to parents from India and Germany, Sujata was raised primarily in St. Paul, Minnesota, although her home for almost thirty years has been Baltimore, Maryland. In The Satapur Moonstone (A murder mystery set in colonial India highlights the princely states), the second novel in the series, Mistry travels to one of the more than 500 princely states scattered about the subcontinent.

India: Wyndham and Banerjee

Scottish-Indian author Abir Mukherjee brings Calcutta in the 1920s back to life with his series of mysteries featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and Surendranath (“Surrender-Not”) Banerjee. The series is based on solid historical research into the complexity of Indian society in the wake of World War I. The second entry in the series, A Necessary Evil, illustrates this beautifully. My review is at A royal murder in colonial India with hundreds of suspects.

India: Persis Wadia

British novelist Vaseem Khan has staked out a place among the greatest of the century’s new crop of Indian writers. He gained a reputation for his Baby Ganesh series of detective novels. More recently, he has been writing the superb Malabar House novels featuring India’s first female police inspector, Persis Wadia, set in 1950 Bombay. All four books to date are terrific. Check out the fourth, Death of a Lesser God (Murder in the shadow of Partition).

Ireland: Quirke

Man Booker Prize winner John Banville, writing as Benjamin Black, has written seven novels set in Dublin in the 1950s. His protagonist is Quirke, the coroner, who acts as a detective, sometimes in concert with his friend in the Garda, Inspector Hackett. For capsule reviews of the whole series, go to The Quirke series of Dublin crime novels from Benjamin Black.

Ireland: Dublin Murder Squad

Tana French writes tightly plotted murder mysteries heavy on the atmospherics featuring the Dublin Murder Squad. (French is American but lives in Dublin.) This device allows her to place new detectives at the center of her stories while relegating the stars of previous novels to the background. I found Faithful Place, the third of her seven novels to date, especially satisfying. It’s reviewed at From Tana French, a brilliant and satisfying novel of suspense. You’ll find capsule reviews of the whole series at Reviewing the Dublin Murder Squad novels by Tana French.

Italy: Commissario Guido Brunetti

Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti delves into the corruption and mulish bureaucracy of Venetian society, giving a sense from the inside looking out on the impact of unending waves of tourists who invade his beautiful city. (She has never allowed the books to be translated into Italian—for reasons that will be obvious to any reader.) I loved a few of the early novels, especially the second one, Death in a Strange Country (Donna Leon’s best detective novel in the Commissario Brunetti series). The most recent of her 27 novels didn’t work well for me.

Norway: Harry Hole

Jo Nesbø has achieved worldwide acclaim for his gripping series of detective novels featuring Oslo Police Detective Harry Hole. This series belongs on anyone’s list of outstanding detective series. Harry is a troubled man, an alcoholic and sometime drug addict and a loose cannon who is despised by most of his colleagues despite his great investigative skill. As of 2018, there were 11 novels in the series. Number 3 was The Redbreast, which I reviewed at Nazis in Norway, a mysterious assassin, and an insubordinate detective. And you’ll find the whole series reviewed at The outstanding Harry Hole thrillers from Jo Nesbo.

Palestine: Omar Yussef

Late in life the schoolteacher Omar Yussef in a UN refugee camp styles himself as a detective when a former star pupil is murdered by an Israeli sniper with the help of a Palestinian informer. This four-book Palestine Mystery series is the work of former journalist Matt Rees, who spent years in the Middle East and knows the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intimately. Omar Yussef proves to be a fast learner in The Collaborator of Bethlehem, the first book in the series. I’ve reviewed it at A murder in Palestine exposes the fault lines in the refugee community.

Russia: Arkady Renko

Racing through the streets of Moscow, Senior Investigator Arkady Renko explores crime-ridden post-Soviet Russia in Martin Cruz Smith’s excellent novels that faithfully conjure up Russia today. I reviewed the seventh novel in the series, Three Stations, at In an Arkady Renko novel, a look inside Russia under Putin.

Scotland: Lewis Trilogy

Among the two dozen novels written by Scottish author Peter May is a fascinating trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides Islands, off the far north coast of Scotland. The books center around the life and investigations of Detective Inspector Finlay (Fin) Macleod, a native who has returned to the islands from Edinburgh to investigate a murder. The Lewis Trilogy’s opener is The Blackhouse, reviewed at A moody Scottish detective novel set in the Outer Hebrides.

Scotland: Inspector Rebus

In the Inspector Rebus novels of Ian Rankin, set in Edinburgh, we view the workings of politics in Scotland’s capital and the interplay of the criminal underworld with the city’s establishment. What emerges in the process is the realization of just how different is Scottish society from English, not to mention American. I loved a couple of the later novels in the series, so I began reading from its debut: Knots and Crosses (The first in a series of great detective novels).

Singapore: Inspector Samuel Tay

Jake Needham’s series of detective novels featuring Inspector Samuel Tay of Singapore’s CID are wildly popular in Asia but only recently have become available in the United States. Sam Tay is a grumpy, often disagreeable investigator who often finds himself at odds with his superiors. But he’s the best at what he does. Needham lives in Southeast Asia and is intimately familiar with the city, so Singapore itself emerges as a character in the novels. For a dramatic introduction to the series, see The Umbrella Man – Inspector Samuel Tay #2 (Investigating a terrorist bombing in Singapore).

Soviet Union: Porfiry Rostnikov

Chief Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov attempts to solve crimes for the MVD in Moscow—when the KGB will let him. Stuart Kaminsky‘s 16-book series opens in the early 1980s, when the USSR is in the early stages of the collapse that culminated in the end of the Cold War. The inspector is a wounded veteran of World War II who compensates for the injury to his leg by weight-lifting. He is uncommonly strong as well as a brilliant investigator. You’ll get a sense of his cleverness in the second book in the series, Black Knight in Red Square – Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov #2 (The collapse of the USSR is underway in this detective novel). And you’ll find the whole series I’ve read to date at Police procedurals spanning modern Russian history.

Sweden: Martin Beck

Martin Beck and his teammates on the Swedish National Police pursue their investigations with dogged persistence and skill in the 10 novels of the series by husband-and-wife writing duo Maj SjöwallandPer Wahlöö. These engrossing police procedurals launched the field of Nordic Noir in 1965 with the publication ofRoseanna (Martin Beck #1). My review is atToday’s Scandinavian detective fiction started here.

Sweden: Joona Linna

The newest hero-detective to join the fray is Joona Linna, the creation of Lars Kepler (Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril). Linna is Finnish but has worked in Sweden’s National Homicide Unit for many years and is recognized as “the best detective in Sweden.” In the seven novels published so far, Linna demonstrates his uncanny ability to bring an intuitive grasp of human nature with the lightning-fast application of cold logic. Check him out at the third book in the series, The Fire Witness (Nordic Noir at its best).

Sweden: Kurt Wallender

Henning Mankell’s alter ego, small-town police detective Kurt Wallender, probed the dark recesses of Swedish society, exploring the widespread racism, alcoholism, and depression, in a series of 13 superb novels. (Mankell died in 2015). I reviewed the 13th and final Wallender novel, The Troubled Man, here: Farewell Kurt Wallender, we’re sad to see you go.

Sweden: Fjällbacka

CamillaLäckberg sets her tales in her home town, Fjällbacka, a small community on Sweden’s west coast, due west of Stockholm. She writes deeply engaging novels—a total of ten, as of 2018—about Detective Patrik Hedström and true-crime author Ericka Falck, whose collaboration brings them together in marriage. The first of the series is The Ice Princess, which I reviewed at Murder on ice in a small Swedish town. And I’ve reviewed all the novels at The Fjällbacka series of Swedish thrillers from Camilla Läckberg.

Thailand: Royal Thai Detectives

Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the creation of John Burdett, guides us through the rotten underbelly of Bangkok, with its ever-present sex for sale and police officers moonlighting as drug kingpins. I’ve read most of the six novels published to date in the series, which began with Bangkok 8 long before I began reviewing books here. You’ll find my review of #4, The Godfather of Kathmandu, here: A Buddhist homicide detective in an over-the-top murder mystery.

Every one of these outstanding detective series is well worth reading for sheer enjoyment, even though one or several of them in each series may not measure up to the quality of the others. Yet they all help illuminate the world we live in.

For a book about the mysteries and thrillers of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, check out Scandinavian Noir: In Pursuit of a Mystery by Wendy Lesser (Down the rabbit hole of Nordic noir).

You might care to check out The best mystery series set in Asia.

There are many other outstanding detective series set in historical times, which I’ve addressed separately at Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here.

There are also many other series of detective novels set in sometimes distant countries that I am less eager to recommend. Among those are the works of Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Iceland), Colin Cotterill (Laos), Anne Holt and Hans Olav Lahlum (Norway), James Church (North Korea), Sara Blaedel (Denmark), Elly Griffiths (England), Barry Lancet (Japan), Louise Penny (Canada), Andrea Camilleri (Italy), and Pierre Lemaitre (France). In some of these series, I’ve enjoyed one or even several of the books; a few are even outstanding. But the series as a whole doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Be sure to check out Mystery and thriller series starters can be misleading.

For a more comprehensive list of other outstanding detective series, go to Top 10 mystery and thriller series. You might also enjoy the standalone novels listed at Top 20 suspenseful detective novels.

And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, on the Home Page.

30 outstanding detective series from around the world (2024)

FAQs

What is the most famous detective story in the world? ›

Sherlock Holmes as a series is perhaps the most popular form of detective fiction. Conan Doyle attempted to kill the character off after twenty-three stories, but after popular request, he continued to write stories featuring the character. The popularity of Sherlock Holmes extends beyond the written medium.

Who is the top 1 fictional detective? ›

Sherlock Holmes

We start with perhaps the most famous detective ever. Sherlock Holmes has been iconic since the days when he was the subject of stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He's been portrayed in movies and television dozens of times.

Who is the world's greatest detective? ›

Crime stories fascinate people and Sherlock Holmes is perhaps one of the most fascinating and well-known modern mastermind detective in human history. Holmes is so incredibly famous that people thought that the story of Sherlock Holmes is based on a real detective and based on real crime cases.

Who is the most famous private detective in the world? ›

That's right, you guessed it: the most famous British detective must surely be Sherlock Holmes. The deerstalker-wearing, pipe-smoking, violin-playing private detective was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring in four of the author's novels and a whopping 56 short stories.

Who is the smartest detective ever? ›

A collection of detective novels authored by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes Novels are about the world's smartest detective, Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend and biographer, Dr John Watson.

Who is the best homicide detective ever? ›

Joseph Patrick Kenda (born November 14, 1946) is a retired Colorado Springs Police Department detective lieutenant who was involved in 387 homicide cases over a 23-year career. He solved 356 cases, a closure rate of 92%.

Which is the best series of True Detective? ›

1. Season 1 (2014) The perception that “True Detective” only had a good first season before it ran out of gas isn't entirely accurate; if nothing else, Season 3 proves that Pizzolatto had more than just one story to tell. But with that said, there's a reason why that original 2014 season was such a phenomenon.

What is the most successful novel series? ›

Having sold more than 600 million copies worldwide, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling is the best-selling book series in history.

Who is the most popular fictional detective of all time? ›

The first famous detective in fiction was Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin. Later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes became the most famous example and remains so to this day. The detectives are often accompanied by a Dr.

Who is the most famous female detective? ›

One of the most famous female detectives, Miss Marple proves that nosiness and maturity are skills important for any crime-solver. Christie's “lady next door” character is often overlooked by her neighbors – she's just a kindly old woman, isn't she? – but she's always watching and taking in information.

Who is the youngest detective in the world? ›

The Youngest Detective | Story.com. The crowd erupted in applause as Rani Singh, the youngest detective ever, stepped onto the stage. Her heart pounded in her chest, but she held her head high, confident and ready to share her story.

Who is the #1 mystery author? ›

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Synonymous with the character Sherlock Holmes, Doyle is one of the world's most famous mystery authors.

Which is the world first detective story? ›

Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," first appears in Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine. The tale is generally considered to be the first detective story. The story describes the extraordinary “analytical power” used by Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin to solve a series of murders in Paris.

Who is the most famous detective writer? ›

Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1839)

We often associate him with grim tales and horror literature. However, this American author is also known as the father and inventor of detective fiction. The first detective mystery written in the English language is recognised as Poe's short story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

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