Sit back, Off the Shelf readers, we’re getting meta here. If you love mysteries and you love books, then let us recommend one of our favorite genres: the literary mystery where books themselves are at the center of the puzzle. Here are 8 novels featuring whodunits and riddles with a bookish bent.
Like death and taxes, crime is unfortunately a global constant. Lucky for us, many brilliant authors have written engrossing, riveting, and often moving nonfiction books about criminal cases throughout history. From Europe to Asia and beyond, discover some of the most engrossing true-crime books from around the world.
Every year, the Mystery Writers of America holds the Edgar Allan Poe Awards to honor the very best in mystery and crime fiction and nonfiction. Since we aren’t invited to tonight’s Edgar banquet (the apt dress code: “dress to kill”), we’ll celebrate by reading these captivating books that are all past winners of Edgar Awards.
I was a teenager when I first read Octavia Butler and had recently begun rebelling against my mother. Deeply rooted in her Christian faith, she forbade me to watch certain movies, read certain books, or participate in certain activities. In her eyes, she was protecting me from temptation, showing me the path, and working toward keeping me focused on it. I, on the other hand, felt limited and emotionally abused. I wanted to read and watch everything she said would reserve me a one-way ticket to hell.
It’s well documented that I love a good unreliable narrator. So how could I resist a bestselling thriller that boasts three? THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN delves into the minds of a trio of women whose lives are intertwined in a story of obsession, lies, and secrets. More compelling than a love triangle, the triangle of deception created by these three characters makes it so the reader can’t really trust any of them.
For two years in high school, I had a long-suffering crush on a guy named Randy, who only saw me as a brainy, funny friend and not the coquettish sexpot I so desperately wanted to be. We talked on the phone often, exchanged book recommendations, and watched movies together. Meanwhile, I desperately yearned to crawl underneath his arm or for his hand to brush mine and for him to spontaneously decide that OF COURSE he loved me, too.
Being a lover of troubled and complex characters, I want to share a list of books I love that have unreliable narrators. Uncertain of their world, they have all reshaped it in their own ways, often with startling and disturbing results. Their voices are intimate, quirky, unique; their motivations unfathomable. We may not always like these darkly ingenious creations, and yet their stories pursue us from the page, and more often than not, into our dreams…
From Gillian Flynn to Agatha Christie, some of the best-loved authors of the greatest dark psychological thrillers have been women. Yet until recently, the works of female authors were often overlooked in favor of their male compatriots. We want to celebrate our favorite women behind the most ominous and suspenseful novels with this list of shivery thrillers. Be sure to read these with the lights on.
Every few years, there’s one book I latch onto that I keep recommending to people, over and over. And for the last year, that book has been DESCENT by Tim Johnston. I love character-driven thrillers, and this book was geared perfectly for me. But—more than the type of book—there’s something more, something that lingers, that keeps me coming back to it.
There is this silly word that only exists in book reviews and was probably invented by a book reviewer. It’s “unputdownable.” Spell check will always underline it in red, auto-correct will always suggest confusing replacements, and I’ll always picture a book with some sticky, glue-like substance on it preventing you from releasing it. The word might be silly, but the concept isn’t.
I happen to judge books by their “stickiness,” or how long the story, resolution, or characters stick with me after I finish the last page. The stickiest book that I’ve read in a long while was Mindy Mejia’s EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE.