Mystery and Suspense Short Stories

These short stories have a mystery that has to be solved.

For younger readers, check out Two-Minute MysteriesIn the Amazon preview, you can read the first three stories—a restaurant robbery, a delivery driver suspected of murder, and a possible suicide.

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“Detour” by Joyce Carol Oates

Abigail feels light-headed as she’s driving home. Three-quarters of the way there, she sees a “Detour” sign. She thinks about ignoring it, but it’s not in her nature. She follows the signs through the country roads.

“Detour” can be read in the preview of Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense.

“A Scandal in Bohemia” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Dr. Watson drops in on Holmes after some time apart. Holmes has received a note saying a masked visitor would come by that evening with a sensitive case. The man is tall, muscled and richly dressed. He’s a Count of Bohemia. A picture that could cause problems for the King of Bohemia is in the possession of Irene Adler. His attempts to retrieve it have failed.

This is the first story in the preview of Big Book of Best Short Stories: Mystery & Detective.

“The Cat’s Paw” by Stanley Ellin

Mr. Crabtree has taken a room in a boarding-house because it’s near the public telephone in the hallway. This allowed him to include the phone number on a job application. He was a perfect match for the job description, and he’s anxiously awaiting a response. Two weeks later, a call with a job offer comes through. It seems an ideal position.

This story can be read in the preview of The Speciality of the House(53% into Kindle preview)

“The Man Who Knew How” by Dorothy Sayers

Pender reads a mystery while riding the train. The man sitting across from him has an unsettling expression, which upsets Pender. They get talking about murder mysteries. The man claims to know a sure and undetectable way of killing people, by adding a simple solution to the targets bath water. Pender becomes obsessed with scouring the newspaper for reports of people dying in the bath.

This is the second story in the preview of A Moment on the Edge: 100 Years of Crime Stories by Women.

“The Love of a Good Woman” by Alice Munro

A museum in Walley has a box of optometrist’s instruments that were owned by D. M. Willens, who drowned in the Peregrine River decades ago. It was found by an anonymous donor. Three boys who were out exploring on a spring morning first spotted the car and the body submerged in the river. In another thread, Enid is providing homecare for Mrs. Quinn, a young woman dying of kidney failure.

This longer story, not a traditional mystery, can be read in the preview of Family Furnishings: Selected Stories(13% into Kindle preview)

“The Speciality of the House” by Stanley Ellin

Laffler takes Costain to Sbirro’s, a dismal looking restaurant. Laffler has an extremely high opinion of the establishment. Costain is the only person at work who has shown an appreciation for fine food, so Laffler wants to share this experience with him. There are no menus. Occasionally, a special is served. Their meal begins with a rather bland broth.

This classic mystery can be read in the preview of The Speciality of the House(18% into Kindle preview)

“The Blue Cross” by G. K. Chesterton

Valentin, head of the Paris police and famous investigator, is in London on the trail of criminal mastermind Flambeau. While having breakfast at a restaurant, Valentin gets his first lead when he learns that two clergyman had stopped in earlier and one of them had made a mess before leaving. Valentin is open to oddities so he follows up on this unusual incident.

This story, which is the first appearance of the famous Father Brown, can be read in the preview of The Complete Father Brown Mysteries.

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe 

The narrator shares a residence with Dupin, a man with superior analytical skills. They like spending their time in seclusion reading, writing, and talking to each other. One day, they read a newspaper report of the violent murder of two women.

This is the first story in the preview of Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

“Justice” by Pamela Blackwood

William can’t sleep. He’s sore from work and his bed is empty. He gets up, goes outside, and sits on his front porch. He imagines Hannah coming back to him. There’s a terrible barking of dogs down the road.  The next day, he hears there was a killing near his place.

The first few pages can be read in the Amazon preview of Best American Mystery Stories 2020.

“The Red-Headed League” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is visited by Mr. Jabez Wilson, a man with striking red hair. Wilson had responded to an ad in the paper from the Red-Headed League. He was hired to copy from the encyclopedia for four hours a day. One day he showed up for work but the League was gone without explanation.

Read “The Red-Headed League”

“The Dead Witness, or, the Bush Waterhole” by Mary Fortune

A detective is riding through the Australian bush and plains. A young photographer who had been staying in a public-house has been missing for a few days. A contact informs the detective that some cattle have uncovered a large blood stain in a field. They make an appointment to investigate the scene.

Read “The Dead Witness” (PDF Pg. 214)

“The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe

The narrator is sitting with his friend Dupin, an amateur detective. They are joined by the Prefect of the Police, who lays out a case he can’t crack. A letter containing some compromising information has been stolen from a young woman by a government official. The suspect and his home have been searched to no avail.

Read “The Purloined Letter”

“The Case of the Dixon Torpedo” by Arthur Morrison

Hewitt, an investigator, receives a visit from Mr. Dixon. The drawings of a top secret torpedo have been stolen from his office. He doesn’t suspect either of his employees. No one had entered or left the office during the time in question. Hewitt and Dixon set off for the office.

Read “The Case of the Dixon Torpedo”

“Miss Hinch” by Henry Sydnor Harrison

An old woman and a clergyman on the subway talk about the latest sensational story—Miss Hinch, an actress and expert impersonator, killed John Catherwood with a sword. She was seen minutes after the killing, but then seemingly disappeared for the next ten days. With her uncanny ability to become someone else, the police—and a famous detective, Jessie Dark—are stumped.

Read “Miss Hinch”

“Wasps’ Nest” by Agatha Christie

John Harrison is out in his garden when he gets an unexpected visit from his old friend, the detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot explains that he has come to investigate a murder that hasn’t yet happened; he’s going to stop it, and he would like his friend’s help.

Read “Wasps’ Nest” (Free trial sign-up required)

“A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman

The narrator, who is looking for a roommate, meets a man who deduces he has just been tortured in Afghanistan. They agree to share accommodations in Baker Street. The narrator’s roommate is a consulting detective. He is visited by Inspector Lastrade of Scotland Yard.

Read “A Study in Emerald”

“Dying Room Only” by Richard Matheson

Bob and Jean are driving through the desert when they come upon a café. They decide to stop, because they don’t know when they’ll get another chance. The three men inside look at them for a long time. Bob orders from the limited menu, and Jean goes to wash up. Bob goes to the washroom before Jean gets back to her seat. He’s in there a long time.

Read “Dying Room Only” (PDF Pg 27)

“Shipshape Home” by Richard Matheson

Ruth tells her husband, Rick, that the janitor of their building gives her the creeps. She thinks he’s up to something, but Rick dismisses her concerns. While having dinner with their neighbors, Marge and Phil, the subject comes up, as well as the fact that the rent in their building is quite cheap. They start taking Ruth’s theories a bit more seriously.

This is a sci-fi story.

“A Bottle of Perrier” by Edith Wharton

Medford, from the American School of Archaeology at Athens, goes to visit his friend, Henry, an amateur archaeologist living in the desert. When he arrives, Henry isn’t home. The servant, Gosling, says he was invited to some unexplored ruins. Medford waits for his friend’s return.

“A Bottle of Perrier”

“The Cross of Lorraine” by Isaac Asimov

Rubin is hosting the monthly gathering of his club, the Black Widowers. Their custom is to have an interesting guest who agrees to answer all questions put to him. Tonight’s guest is the Amazing Larri, a stage magician who debunks supernatural claims. The conversation eventually turns to a mystery that even Larri can’t solve.

Read “The Cross of Lorraine”

“The Whole Town’s Sleeping” by Ray Bradbury

Lavinia and Francine walk to Helen’s house. Francine is worried about the Lonely One, someone who’s been strangling women in the area. Lavinia is dismissive of the danger. They take a short cut through the ravine. They come across the body of a missing woman. Francine is distraught; Lavinia convinces her to continue their evening.

Read “The Whole Town’s Sleeping”

“Have A Nice Death” by Antonia Fraser

Sammy Luke, an English novelist, is in New York. His latest book is on the best-seller list. He’s in the city to do some television appearances. The trip has gone surprisingly well. The concerns expressed by his wife, Zara, and others seem unfounded. While staying at his hotel, he gets a call that changes his mood.

“Death on Christmas Eve” by Stanley Ellin

The family lawyer goes to the Boerum house to visit Charlie, who’s wife, Jessie, has died. Charlie’s sister, Celia, answers the door. The authorities have cleared Celia in the death, but the lawyer makes it clear he knows she did it. There’s lots of tension in the house. Celia is planning on getting rid of Jessie’s things.

This mystery story can be read in the preview of The Speciality of the House(82% into Kindle preview)