10 Addictive Mystery Series That Follow Compelling Protagonists

Mysteries are often best remembered for their main characters, from Sherlock Holmes to Hercule Poirot. In order to keep readers coming back for multiple books, these protagonists should be more than just clever; they need to be dynamic and compelling as well. The ten series listed here star cunning and intriguing sleuths who will keep you coming back for more. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Mystery Series With Great Main Characters: Our 10 Picks

Series Author First Books in the Series
1. The Sarah Weston Chronicles D.J. Niko The Tenth Saint
2. Jack McColl David Downing Jack of Spies
3. Yashim the Eunuch Jason Goodwin The Janissary Tree
4. Alexander Hawke Ted Bell Hawke
5. The Condor James Grady Six Days of the Condor
6. Vera Stanhope Ann Cleeves The Crow Trap
7. Dylan Hunter Robert Bidinotto Hunter
8. Detective Kubu Michael Stanley A Carrion Death
9. Shinobi Susan Spann Claws of the Cat
10. Ellie McEnroe Lisa Brackmann Rock Paper Tiger

Classic Mystery Books

The authors on this list stand on the shoulders of many amazing writers who influenced the genre. Consider diving into mystery's rich history with these classics:

  1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  4. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The History & Appeal of Mystery

In Depth

A relatable and likable main character is important for any good mystery, and especially crucial when writing a series. Readers should be able to celebrate their favorite sleuth's successes and mourn their losses as they follow them from book to book. Here, in no particular order, are ten thrilling mystery series with compelling protagonists.

At #1 is "The Sarah Weston Chronicles" by D.J. Niko. Cambridge archaeologist Sarah Weston is an independent trailblazer and free spirit. Her adventurous and curious nature is infectious, and readers will love following her through this trilogy. Sarah, along with her partner Daniel Madigan, solves mysteries that are centuries old by unearthing artifacts and piecing together ancient riddles. She uses her wit and determination to find hidden clues and expose dangerous secrets.

In the #2 spot is David Downing's "Jack McColl." In the days leading up to the first world war, Jack is a car salesman who transitions from ordinary guy to full-time spy. During his missions he crosses paths with Caitlyn Hanley, and the two struggle with their feelings for one another and their patriotic duty. As McColl dives deeper into the world of international espionage, he is conflicted about the lies he tells and the true purpose of his assignments.

In the days leading up to the first world war, Jack is a car salesman who transitions from ordinary guy to full-time spy.

#3 on the list is "Yashim the Eunuch" by Jason Goodwin. Anyone who has ever felt underestimated will relate to Yashim. A lover of food with a passion for investigating, he spends his free time cooking and solving mysteries. He makes friends in both high and low places, and proves his intelligence and sleuthing skills as the novels progress. Goodwin introduces a diverse and interesting cast of characters, but the unlikely hero Yashim outshines the rest.

At #4 we have "Alexander Hawke" by Ted Bell. A secret agent and aristocrat, Alexander Hawke pursues internationally wanted villains. His charm and wealth can only get him so far when dealing with the world's most dangerous criminals. Using his wit, cunning, and determination, Alexander overcomes every challenge he is faced with. Readers will be eager to live vicariously through this extravagant and charming character.

#5 is "The Condor" by James Grady. Readers were first introduced to CIA operative Ronald Malcolm in the book "Six Days of the Condor," which was adapted into a movie in 1975. In 2011, Grady revived the series with new adventures that bring this beloved character into the modern age. Ronald spends his days reading confidential material for the agency. When he is forced into action following an attack on his office, he activates his code name, Condor. He goes from an unsure desk employee to a confident field agent, as he learns who to trust and develops his skills while facing life-threatening situations.

In 2011, Grady revived the series with new adventures that bring this beloved character into the modern age.

In the #6 spot is "Vera Stanhope" by Ann Cleeves. Unconventional and flawed, Inspector Vera Stanhope is confidently herself. From staged suicides and missing women to corrupt cops and serial killers, she can handle any case. Her cleverness, along with a deep devotion to her work and the people around her, make Stanhope both a fascinating character and a great detective. The star of both a long-running series of books and a popular British TV show, Vera proves that authenticity is always in style.

Next, at #7, we have Robert Bidinotto's "Dylan Hunter." Investigative reporter Hunter is dedicated to the truth. Once reckless and impulsive in his search to uncover injustice, he is forced to become more careful and calculating after he falls in love with Annie, a government analyst. Finding creative ways to expose the misdeeds of governments and corporations is Hunter's forte, and his passion for justice is infectious.

#8 is "Detective Kubu" by Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, writing as Michael Stanley. David "Kubu" Bengu is a criminal investigator in Botswana. He is jovial, unassuming, and often underestimated in his intelligence and abilities. A well-rounded character with a love for opera, food, and family, he has an innate skill for solving mysteries. In every new case, the detective quickly sorts out the clues while maintaining his lovable and joyful attitude.

A well-rounded character with a love for opera, food, and family, he has an innate skill for solving mysteries.

For #9 we have "Shinobi" by Susan Spann. This series features a team of two: ninja Hiro Hattori and priest Father Mateo. The duo get inadvertently pulled into solving mystery after mystery. Of Portuguese descent, Father Mateo has an endearing cluelessness about Japanese culture. Hiro is the Father's loyal and skillful protector, and the two form a bond during their adventures together. They are an unlikely pair, but their charming antics manage to turn them into crime solvers and close friends.

In the #10 spot is "Ellie McEnroe" by Lisa Brackmann. An Iraq war veteran, Ellie has relocated from America to Beijing and now works in a community of artists. She finds herself in the middle of a string of murders and disappearances, and feels an obligation to help. Despite struggling with the physical and psychological effects of war, Ellie is always determined to crack the case. Her stubborn and reckless nature both solve and create problems for her, making her journey universally relatable.