What makes a book impossible to put down? For fans of mystery and crime fiction, the answer is a good story, plenty of twists, and a mystery that keeps you on your toes. If you fall under this category, or if you’d like to find a book that keeps you guessing, here is a list of thriller and mystery books to appease your inner detective.
What is the difference between a thriller and a mystery novel? In reality, the overlap is so significant that nearly all thrillers feature a mystery central to their plot. But while mysteries tend to feature protagonists that are detectives, private eyes, and amateur sleuths, thrillers often center on characters who are intimately linked to the central mystery. The stories thus tend to focus a lot more on suspense and drama than on clues and official investigations. For even more thrillers, check out our April post about Rainy Day Reads!
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Hal Westaway, a tarot card reader, has amassed a substantial amount of debt in the three years following her mother’s death. So when she mistakenly receives a letter bequeathing her the inheritance of one wealthy Hester Westaway, she figures she may have found a solution to her increasingly dangerous money problem. But when she attends the funeral, Hal begins to suspect that perhaps she didn’t receive the letter in error, and that all is not as it seems.
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
Deep in the Catskill Mountains, Mitchell’s Inn is the perfect weekend getaway, with cozy fireplaces, fun activities, and plenty of wine. But when a surprise storm maroons the guests inside Mitchell’s Inn, things quickly take a turn for the worse. After guests begin turning up dead, the many inhabitants of Mitchell’s Inn must figure out who is behind the murders before even more of them lose their lives. This book is perfect for fans of the classic murder mystery story, with a suspenseful twist.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
On the surface, Vanessa Thompson appears to be the victim in this situation. After all, she is the one whose husband left her for a much younger woman, whom he is now intent on marrying. As his ex-wife, she knows the unhealthy relationship the young Nellie is getting herself into. Desperate to prevent her from making the same mistakes, Vanessa will do whatever it takes to stop Nellie’s marriage. But all is not as it seems, and the many twists and turns in this novel will keep you glued to its pages.
Watching You by Lisa Jewell
Melville Heights is one of the nicest places to live, and its star resident, headmaster Tom Fitzwilliam, is almost universally beloved by all. But when a gruesome murder occurs in this picturesque town, everyone becomes a suspect. Tom’s student, Jenna, and his son, Freddie, believe that Tom is guilty, and that his squeaky-clean reputation is hiding something much more sinister. With an entire cast of suspects and plenty of red herrings, this whodunit will keep you guessing until the very end.
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Though they can barely afford it, true-crime documentary filmmaker Erin Locke and her recently unemployed fiancée, Mark, decide to go ahead with their dream honeymoon in Tahiti. But when they come across a plane crashed in the sea on their trip, they find something in the water that could solve all of their financial woes—if they are willing to overlook the warning signs. Suddenly, Erin finds herself in danger, and must turn to the very London gangster she plans to feature in her next film.
Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris
Ten years ago, young couple Finn and Layla’s pleasant vacation was interrupted when Layla mysteriously disappeared during a quick gas station trip for Finn. Now, Finn is happily married to Layla’s sister, Ellen, who helped him work through his grief all those years before. But Finn begins to suspect Ellen is hiding something, and he theorizes that Layla hasn’t actually been missing all this time, and that she’s been watching his every move.
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
Lucy Goodwin never liked her mother-in-law, but that certainly didn’t mean she wanted her dead. When her husband’s mother is found having died under mysterious circumstances, right after disinheriting her two children and their spouses, Lucy isn’t sure how to feel. Now the family must figure out what happened to the matriarch, especially since they are all suddenly suspects. And given Lucy’s cold relationship with the deceased, she just might be considered suspect number one.
The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
The seaside town of Littleport, Maine has always been separated by the deep divide between the wealthy families with summer homes and the year-round residents who rely on them for their livelihood. The only two to cross this barrier are the rich Sadie Loman and Littleport-native Avery Greer. So when Sadie ends up dead, Avery is determined to uncover the secrets behind her best friend’s demise. But to do that, she must venture into life on the upscale side of town.
I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney
For famous actress Aimee Sinclair, nothing is ever as simple as it appears. From her marriage to her career to her past, there are secrets around every corner. When her husband disappears after a big fight, she expects that he will come back after some much needed time apart. But the next day, she finds out that her bank account was emptied of $10,000. Except it’s not her husband on the surveillance tapes emptying the account; it’s her.
The Night Before by Wendy Walker
For sisters Laura and Rosie, things have always been a bit distant. But then Laura, fresh off a bad breakup, moves from New York City to live with Rosie and her husband in Connecticut. Laura is quick to rebound, hitting it off with a mysterious stranger on an online dating site. But when she never returns home from her date, Rosie begins to worry that something has happened. As she digs deeper, Rosie begins to suspect that her sister might be much more dangerous than most people expect.
The Better Sister by Alafair Burke
For a while, rival sisters Chloe and Nicky both seemed to find happiness, with Chloe landing a coveted publishing job and Nicky giving birth to Ethan, a beautiful baby boy, with her husband, Adam. Fast forward fifteen years: now Chloe is married to Adam, Nicky is estranged, and Ethan barely knows his birth mother. When Adam is suddenly murdered, all signs point to Ethan as the culprit, and Chloe and Nicky must work together to find the real killer before it’s too late.
Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline
When a prank between five high school students goes horribly wrong, the teens involved swear to never tell another soul what happened. Twenty years later, one of them is dead, and Allie Garvey is forced to return to the suburban town where she committed her biggest shame. Though they were never caught, Allie has blamed herself all these years for what happened. But what really did happen? And are Allie and her fellow ex-pranksters in danger?
Final Girls by Riley Sager
When Quincy Carpenter is the only one of her five friends to escape a vicious serial killer at Pine Cottage, she is quickly lumped in with two other girls, Lisa and Sam, who have survived similar massacres, labeled by the media as the Final Girls. Though the girls never meet, their lives are irrevocably linked. So when Lisa is found dead ten years later, Quincy is once again thrown into chaos when Sam shows up on her doorstep, insisting the two are in grave danger.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Reclusive author Vida Winter has been fictionalizing her life for over sixty years, and her missing thirteenth tale is an enigma all of its own. When she hires biographer Margaret Lea, a woman with her own fair share of secrets, to finally write her true life story, Margaret is unsure whether she can trust the tale of ghosts, murder, and feral twins that Vida spins. But as the story goes on, both Margaret and Vida find themselves unraveling their pasts, and confronting their own painful truths.
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
If you ask Amber Patterson, Daphne Parrish has the perfect life. From her wealthy husband to their two beautiful daughters, Daphne has everything Amber has ever wanted. Which is exactly why Amber plans to steal it all from under her. Befriending the compassionate housewife, Amber ingrains herself into the life of the Parrish family, hoping to eventually take Daphne’s place. But even with unsavory intentions, Amber can’t help but notice that the family is hiding something.
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
When Emily meets Adam in a hotel bar, she knows she has found the man of her dreams. Now engaged, everything seems to be falling into place. That is, until Adam introduces her to his mother, Pammie. Pammie and Adam are incredibly close, and for some reason Pammie seems to detest everything about Emily. As Emily fails again and again to win her future mother-in-law over, she can’t help but feel that something more sinister is going on beneath the surface.
Cozy Mystery Series
Cozy mysteries are a sub-genre of mystery books that focus on a detective, typically amateur rather than by career, who solves crimes in a small town, and tend to focus on their characters and setting more than suspense. These books often feature “cozy” themes, like baking, animals, books, or crafting. Infinitely lighter in tone than thrillers, cozy mysteries are perfect for someone looking to solve a puzzle without too much dark or scary material.
Kitty Couture Mysteries by Julie Chase
First Book: Cat Got Your Diamonds
This book series follows Lacy Marie Crocker, owner of a pet fashion boutique and organic treat bakery in the New Orleans Garden District, and homicide detective Jack Oliver as they try to solve a variety of murders in their community, all having to do with the beloved pets with which Lacy works. Along the way, the two try to resist their growing attraction to each other and prevent more of their pet-friendly neighbors from dying.
Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke
First Book: Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
Joanne Fluke’s famous cozy mystery series follows baker Hannah Swensen as she juggles running her bakery with her passion for amateur sleuthing, helping the local detectives solve murders that always tend to involve Hannah’s baked goods. Each book features recipes from Hannah’s cookbook, and characters even more addicting than the sweets they eat. Perhaps the most famous of the cozy mysteries, Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series has even been adapted for television.
Library Lover’s Mysteries by Jenn McKinlay
First Book: Books Can Be Deceiving
For the library lover in all of us (this is a library blog, after all), Jenn McKinlay’s cozy mystery series follows head librarian Lindsey Norris as she solves a string of murders that all seem connected to her small town library. Armed with a building full of books and important library user data, Lindsey pairs up with the local police to solve the various cases that crop up in her town. With a regular cast of lovable characters, each book provides a mystery you won’t want to put down.
Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen
First Book: Her Royal Spyness
Set in the 1930’s, this series follows Lady Georgina, a plucky young sleuth thirty-fourth in line for the British throne. Though she has the title of Lady, Georgina is absolutely broke, and must make her living without the help of the British monarchy. The series follows Georgina as she solves various mysteries, runs errands for the Queen, and tries to help keep the unruly Prince in line. For fans of all things British and a good mystery, you won’t be able to put down these royal romps!
Agatha Raisin Mysteries by M. C. Beaton
First Book: The Quiche of Death
Agatha Raisin is not your average detective. After moving to the British countryside for an early retirement, she never really planned on becoming a private investigator. But when the store-bought quiche she is trying to pass off as her own ends up poisoning a judge in a quiche contest, she is unexpectedly thrown into the world of homicide investigation. Over the years, she gains a reputation for her ability to sleuth, despite the insistence of some that her skills are simply dumb luck.
Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters
First Book: Crocodile on the Sandbank
This series follows the enigmatic Amelia Peabody, a skilled investigator who uses her skills as an Egyptologist to solve the many cases that come her way. She is accompanied by her husband, Emerson, his brother, Walter, and her assistant, Evelyn, all of whom she meets in the first novel. The series heavily features a time period where Egyptology was at its height (1880-1930), and the zany cast of characters will keep you coming back again and again.
Flavia de Luce Mysteries by Alan Bradley
First Book: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Unlike the other books on this list, the protagonist of Alan Bradley’s cozy mystery series is a child (though the series is for adults). Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce has a knack for chemistry and solving puzzles, both skills that become incredibly useful when a string of murders occur in her small British hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey. As she gains a reputation for her uncanny investigation skills, this adolescent detective finds herself at the center of more and more mysteries.
Mrs. Murphy Series by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
First Book: Wish You Were Here
In many ways, Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown are the most famous cozy mystery author duo, with one small catch: Sneaky Pie Brown is Rita Mae Brown’s cat. Together, they write the Mrs. Murphy series, about postmistress Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen and her cat, Mrs. Murphy, as they solve mysteries in their community. Harry handles the human interactions, while Mrs. Murphy enlists a crew of animal companions to help solve the mysteries.
Popular Mystery Series
When it comes to general mystery series, they tend to be defined by a single character or set of characters that do all of the investigating. Their careers include police officer, detective, private eye, lawyer and bounty hunter, and these series rely on the hard work of their protagonists. Though the mysteries often stand alone, readers get attached to the series’ investigator, and thus long series of mystery novels are born. Here are some of the most notable detectives in modern mystery.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache by Louise Penny
First Book: Still Life
Armand Gamache is the Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, the police force for the Canadian province of Quebec. A native speaker of Québécois, Gamache is charged with solving the murder cases in the small town of Three Pines. Since the publication of Still Life in 2010, Penny has received critical acclaim for her series, winning quite a few mystery awards. The series features very little sex and violence, so it is a perfect fit for those looking for a gentler piece of crime fiction.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
First Book: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
This bestselling series by Alexander McCall Smith follows Mma Precious Ramotswe, who moves from her small Botswana town to the capital city of Gabarone to open her own detective agency after receiving an inheritance from her father. The stories are full of honest emotion and character, with Mma Precious Ramotswe stealing your heart as the strong lead and Botswana serving as the beautiful setting in this touching detective saga.
Stephanie Plum Novels by Janet Evanovich
First Book: One for the Money
Stephanie Plum is not a detective; she’s a bounty hunter. After getting laid off from her job, Stephanie turned to her cousin Vinnie, the owner of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. The series is known as much for its comedy as it is for its mysteries and action, and is often considered among one of the funniest books series. If you are looking for someone who is a little bit Nancy Drew and a little bit Dirty Harry, then Stephanie Plum is your gal.
Women’s Murder Club by James Patterson
First Book: 1st to Die
The second series on this list with numerically ordered titles, James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series follows homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer and her three friends as they solve murders. Each of the four women have different jobs and skills, including police officer, medical examiner, crime reporter, and defense attorney. These four women are able to consistently put their heads together to solve some of San Francisco’s most elusive murder cases.
Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French
First Book: In the Woods
Unlike many of the other series on this list, the Dublin Murder Squad centers more around a police force than it does a particular main detective character. The books follow various detectives from the Irish police force in Dublin, with each book featuring as much suspense and intrigue as a thriller novel. The series has won several awards, and is praised by critics for its artful mix of psychological thrills and police procedures.
Kinsey Millhone Mysteries by Sue Grafton
First Book: “A” is for Alibi
In this alphabetical murder series, Kinsey Millhone makes her living as a private investigator after years in the police force. With her own complicated backstory, Kinsey Millhone makes for a complex yet incredibly skilled heroine, and her cases range from disappearances to murder to stopping hitmen. The series is twenty-five books long, as the author died before she could write the final book. Her family has announced that they do not plan to hire a ghost writer to complete the series.
Joe Pickett Novels by C. J. Box
First Book: Open Season
Joe Pickett, a Wyoming game warden, solves mysteries and prevents crimes dealing with eco-terrorists, unruly land owners, animal abusers, murderers, and some very dysfunctional families. Over the course of the series, Joe transforms from a naïve, new officer to a seasoned, hardened pro. With his family by his side, he has been able to make it through the tough cases, and even tougher choices. When it comes down to it, this man of action can’t just sit idly by when justice falls by the wayside.
Harry Bosch Novels by Michael Connelly
First Book: The Black Echo
Detective Heironymus “Harry” Bosch is a veteran cop in the LAPD system, and one of the best the force has to offer. Working in homicide, he solves murders that happen in Los Angeles, specifically the Hollywood area. As the series goes on, Bosch switches between work as a private investigator, having retired from the LAPD, and returning to the LAPD. This series was turned into a television show by Amazon Studios, and was just confirmed for a sixth season.
The word mystery almost immediately conjures an image of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective creation that defined the genre for decades. Along with Sherlock, here are some other classic mysteries and detectives for you to sink your teeth into.
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Of course, we have to start with the most classic of the classics. Sherlock Holmes, along with his partner John Watson, originally hit shelves as a feature in magazines in 1887. The master of deductive reasoning, Sherlock Holmes is a “consulting detective,” and uses his considerable skill set to outsmart, outwit, and unravel any mystery he comes across. From his pipe and hat to his apartment on 221 B Baker Street, just about everything about Sherlock Holmes remains iconic.
Hercule Poirot Series by Agatha Christie
If Sherlock Holmes is the most famous fictional detective, then Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is a close second. With his iconic mustache, Poirot is able to solve just about any mystery, and has earned quite the reputation for it. His most famous case (and Christie’s most famous Poirot novel) is Murder on the Orient Express, but we suggest starting at the beginning with The Mysterious Affair at Styles to get the full Poirot experience.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
This detective novel, widely known for its 1941 film adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart, follows detective Sam Spade as he searches for a priceless statuette after the death of his partner. This falcon statue is supposedly of great value, and Spade must work against the several other people desperate to get their hands on the antique item. With the slightly antagonistic help of the beautiful Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Spade must track down the falcon while also trying to solve his partner’s murder.
Lord Peter Wimsey Series by Dorothy L. Sayers
First Book: Whose Body?
If you’re looking to read a classic mystery series but have already blown through the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, look no further than Lord Peter Wimsey, a British gentleman and amateur sleuth who solves crimes for his own amusement. In many ways, Wimsey is detective fiction’s Batman character, using his wealth and skilled butler to solve crimes and dodge his own traumatic past.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This classic tale follows the second wife of Maxim de Winter, who feels overshadowed by the reputation of her husband’s deceased first wife, Rebecca. As she makes herself at home in Manderly (the name of her husband’s estate), she finds herself routinely antagonized by Mrs. Danvers, the estate’s unsettling housekeeper. As time passes, Mrs. de Winter begins to suspect that perhaps Rebecca’s death was not all it seemed, and that no one is truly that perfect.