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The Greatest Crime and Mystery

Greatest Works | Greatest Short Stories

The novel is the literary form that dominates practically all fields of fiction today. But for much of the history of crime and mystery publishing, the short story ruled. Readers once got their weekly fix of murder and mayhem from the hundreds of periodicals that filled magazine racks. Since the mid-twentieth century those publications have all but disappeared. Writers of crime and detective fiction, however, are still seeing their work appear in the few magazines that still run such stories, as well as in collections of their works and in third-party anthologies.

The continuing interest in short stories has led us to produce this list of the greatest crime and mystery stories, separate from the Greatest Crime and Mystery list where they struggled to be listed aside the popular larger volumes.

For this list we define a short story as having fewer than 17,500 words—any longer prose work usually being categorized as a novella or a novel. For a rougher rule of thumb, think of a short story as a prose narrative you can read in an hour or less.

Note, this is our first stab at a list of great crime and mystery short stories, and we recognize it is much too brief. Expect it to grow dramatically over the next several months as our greatest literature research proceeds. Check back for updates.

Latest update: October 24, 2022

The 55 greatest crime and mystery stories of all time

Click linked titles and authors for details, critiques and comments.

1843
The Gold Bug
United States
Story
1844
United States
Story
1880
The Pavilion on the Links
Scotland
Story
1881
Who Killed Zebedee?
England
Story
1882
The Knightsbridge Mystery
Charles Reade
England
Story
1883
The Three Strangers
Thomas Hardy
England
Story
1884
The Safety Match
Anton Chekhov
Russia
Story
1905
The Problem of Cell 13
Jacques Futrelle
United States
Story
1910
England
Story
1911
The Invisible Man
England
Story
1914
The Doomdorf Mystery
Melville Davisson Post
United States
Story
1916
My Favorite Murder
Ambrose Bierce
United States
Story
1917
A Jury of Her Peers
Susan Glaspell
United States
Story
1923
The Oracle of the Dog
G.K. Chesterton
England
Story
1925
The Witness for the Prosecution
England
Story
1926
Locked Doors
Mary Roberts Rinehart
United States
Story
1927
The Trumpet Sounds
Mary Roberts Rinehart
United States
Story
1931
Thomas Burke
England
Story
1934
Accident
England
Story
1935
The Baby in the Icebox
United States
Story
1938
Red Wind
United States
Story
 
Leg Man
Erle Stanley Gardner
United States
Story
1939
I'll Be Waiting
United States
Story
1942
Rear Window
Cornell Woolrich
United States
Story
1947
Inspector Maigret Deduces
Georges Simenon
Belgium
Story
 
Don't Look Behind You
Fredric Brown
United States
Story
 
The House in Goblin Wood
John Dickson Carr
United States
Story
 
The Nine Mile Walk
Harry Kemelman
United States
Story
1948
The Specialty of the House
Stanley Ellin
United States
Story
1950
Love Lies Bleeding
Philip MacDonald
England
Story
1952
The Two Bottles of Relish
Lord Dunsany
Ireland
Story
1953
Lamb to the Slaughter
Roald Dahl
Wales
Story
1954
The House Party
Stanley Ellin
United States
Story
1959
The Landlady
Roald Dahl
Wales
Story
1965
The Possibility of Evil
Shirley Jackson
United States
Story
1967
The Oblong Room
Edward D. Hoch
United States
Story
1973
The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
Harlan Ellison
United States
Story
1974
The Fallen Curtain
Ruth Rendell
England
Story
1976
Sweet Fever
Bill Pronzini
United States
Story
1983
The New Girlfriend
Ruth Rendell
England
Story
1984
By Dawn's Early Light
Lawrence Block
England
Story
1986
The Parker Shotgun
Sue Grafton
United States
Story
1989
Too Many Crooks
Donald E. Westlake
United States
Story
1996
Herbert in Motion
Ian Rankin
Scotland
Story
1997
On the Psychiatrist's Couch
Reginald Hill
England
Story
2000
Missing in Action
Peter Robinson
Canada
Story
2013
The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository
John Connolly
Ireland
Story