I love solving puzzles and chasing down crime…in books of course. But there is something wonderful about feeling like a sleuth in your own home as you dive into a great mystery and try to unravel the killer before the final page. These ten reads are sure to put your case-cracking skills to the test!
10 Puzzling Mysteries to Make You Feel Like an Ace Detective
Are you a mystery reader who LOVES trying to unravel all the clues before the end? If so, this is one you don’t want to miss! Forty years ago, Steven found an Edith Twyford children’s book with strange notes in the margins on the bus and gave it to his remedial English teacher. Despite the author being out of fashion for her xenophobic views, his teacher read the book to her students convinced that the markings are a key to solving a puzzle involving all of Twyford’s books. She takes her class on a field trip to Edith Twyford’s house in an attempt to get to the bottom of everything, and it’s that field trip that has haunted Steven ever since. His teacher, Ms. Isles disappeared, and Steven can’t remember what happened. Now out of prison and armed with an iPhone from his estranged son, Steven is determined to find out what happened to Ms. Isles and if the Twyford Code really does lead to incredible power.
The mysterious connection between a teacher’s disappearance and an unsolved code in a children’s book is explored in this fresh novel from the author of the “clever and often wryly funny” (PopSugar) novel The Appeal.
Forty years ago, Steven “Smithy” Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. When he showed it to his remedial English teacher Miss Iles, she believed that it was part of a secret code that ran through all of Twyford’s novels. And when she disappeared on a class field trip, Smithy became convinced that she had been right.
Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Smithy decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. In a series of voice recordings on an old iPhone from his estranged son, Smithy alternates between visiting the people of his childhood and looking back on the events that later landed him in prison.
But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code holds a great secret, and Smithy may just have the key.
“A modern Agatha Christie” (The Sunday Times, London), Janice Hallett has constructed a fiendishly clever, maddeningly original crime novel for lovers of word games, puzzles, and stories of redemption.
A Scandinavian crime thriller about two missing people from two very different families comes together in this beautifully written and thought-provoking novel. A brother and sister believe that their father has gone missing in search of his father who was lost during the war while another young woman is missing and there are reports of abuse. Chief Inspector Erik Winter ventures to Scotland in search of the missing father while Detective Aneta Djanali is determined to find this woman, especially after her family refuses to tell her anything and someone threatens her own life.
From bestselling Scandinavian crime writer Åke Edwardson—whose books are international sensations in Europe—comes this gripping novel of suspense and character involving two missing persons, two detectives, and a mystery dating to World War II.
A brother and sister believe that their father has gone missing. They think he may have traveled in search of his father, who was presumed lost decades ago in World War II. Meanwhile, there are reports that a woman is being abused, but she can’t be found and her family won’t tell the police where she is. Two missing people and two very different families combine in this dynamic and suspenseful mystery by the Swedish master Åke Edwardson.
Gothenburg’s Chief Inspector Erik Winter travels to Scotland in search of the missing man, aided there by an old friend from Scotland Yard. Back in Gothenburg, Afro-Swedish detective Aneta Djanali discovers how badly someone doesn’t want her to find the missing woman when she herself is threatened. Sail of Stone is a brilliantly perceptive character study, acutely observed and skillfully written with an unerring sense of pace.
Gethsemane Brown has two gifts. The first is that she is an incredibly talented concert violinist in the States. The second is that she can see dead people, apparently. So when her entire life falls apart and she finds herself stranded in Ireland she takes a less-than-ideal teaching job at a boys’ school. Lucky the position also offers her the opportunity to house-sit a gorgeous cottage in the countryside, not so lucky, the house comes with the ghost of a man falsely accused of killing his wife. So now Gethsemane needs to use both her gifts to turn these rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra and find the real murderer. But her search lures out the killer, meaning that this performance could be her last. Alexia Gordon has created a wonderful and strong protagonist for this cozy mystery full of musical references and great suspense.
Burke is a talented crime fiction writer who creates vivid worlds and incredible metaphors that drive his complex characters. Desmond Cormier was able to make his dream come true of becoming a Hollywood director, but when detective Dave Robicheaux arrives to visit it’s not to celebrate his success. Robicheaux found the body of a woman who went missing near Cormier’s property. The body was crucified and now the detective is looking for answers, but Cormier and his film crew are keeping quiet. As Robicheaux digs deeper into the case, demons from his past emerge, mob ties reveal themselves, and his daughter gets mixed up with the wrong people. Will Robichaeux be able to face his past and save them all?
Named one of the best crime novels of 2019 by The New York Times Book Review.
The shocking death of a young woman leads Detective Dave Robicheaux into the dark corners of Hollywood, the mafia, and the backwoods of Louisiana in this New York Times bestselling mystery from “modern master” (Publishers Weekly) James Lee Burke.
Detective Dave Robicheaux’s world isn’t filled with too many happy stories, but Desmond Cormier’s rags-to-riches tale is certainly one of them. Robicheaux first met Cormier on the streets of New Orleans, when the young, undersized boy had foolish dreams of becoming a Hollywood director.
Twenty-five years later, when Robicheaux knocks on Cormier’s door, it isn’t to congratulate him on his Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Robicheaux has discovered the body of a young woman who’s been crucified, wearing only a small chain on her ankle. She disappeared near Cormier’s Cyrpemort Point estate, and Robicheaux, along with young deputy, Sean McClain, is looking for answers. Neither Cormier nor his enigmatic actor friend Antoine Butterworth are saying much, but Robicheaux knows better.
As always, Clete Purcel and Davie’s daughter, Alafair, have Robicheaux’s back. Clete witnesses the escape of Texas inmate, Hugo Tillinger, who may hold the key to Robicheaux’s case. As they wade further into the investigation, they end up in the crosshairs of the mob, the deranged Chester Wimple, and the dark ghosts Robicheaux has been running from for years. Ultimately, it’s up to Robicheaux to stop them all, but he’ll have to summon a light he’s never seen or felt to save himself, and those he loves.
Stephen King hailed New York Times bestselling author James Lee Burke “as good as he ever was.” With The New Iberia Blues, Burke proves that he “just keeps getting better” (Booklist, starred review), and is “one of a small handful of elite suspense writers whose work transcends the genre, making the leap into capital-L Literature” (BookPage).
Another incredible modern Scandinavian noir with Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner. Heartbroken, Jeppe has taken a leave from the police force to recuperate in Bornholm. Trying to cope with his loneliness, he befriends Esther, a writer working on the biography of a peculiar anthropologist. Meanwhile, Anette Werner is investigating the case of a severed corpse. All the clues lead her to Bornholm. So Anette reaches out to Jeppe and together they dive into the island’s mysterious past.
From internationally bestselling author Katrine Engberg, the series that is a “gripping addition to the Scandinavian crime fiction pantheon” (Oprah Daily) comes to a stunning conclusion as Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner rush to untangle a long-simmering mystery before a brutal killer strikes again.
Jeppe Kørner, on leave from the police force and nursing a broken heart, has taken refuge on the island of Bornholm for the winter. Also on the island is Esther de Laurenti, a writer working on a biography on a female anthropologist with a mysterious past and coming to terms with her own crushing sense of loneliness in the wake of a dear friend’s death. When Jeppe lends a helping hand at the island’s local sawmill, he begins to realize that the island may not be the peaceful refuge it appears to be.
Back in Copenhagen, Anette Werner is tasked with leading the investigation into a severed corpse discovered on a downtown playground. As she follows the strange trail of clues, they all seem to lead back to Bornholm. With an innocent offer to check out a lead, Jeppe unwittingly finds himself in the crosshairs of a sinister mystery rooted in the past, forcing him to team up with Anette and Esther to unravel the island’s secrets before it’s too late.
With her signature “unforgettable characters and brilliant plot twists” (Kathy Reichs, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Katrine Engberg weaves a satisfying and white-knuckled finale to her Korner and Werner series that is a modern classic of Scandinavian noir.
A fun, quirky, cozy mystery with an unreliable psychic and struggling travel agent? Color me intrigued. Leda Foley can see the future…sometimes. She’s more of a hot mess, but she’s been honing her skills doing Klairvoyant Karaoke—singing whatever song comes to mind when she holds people’s personal effects at her favorite bar. So when she saves the life of a Seattle detective by changing his flight at the last second, he sees an opportunity for her to help him with a cold case he can’t seem to crack. Together Detective Grady Merritt and Leda plunge into the case, but Leda has other motives for catching the killer. Her husband was brutally murdered and she couldn’t use her abilities to solve the case then, now she’s determined for things to be different.
A psychic travel agent and a Seattle PD detective try to solve a murder in this “ebullient tap dance of a mystery” (Christopher Moore, New York Times bestselling author)—perfect for fans of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files and Elle Cosimano’s Finlay Donovan series.
Meet Leda Foley: devoted friend, struggling travel agent, and inconsistent psychic. Impulsively re-booking Seattle PD detective Grady Merritt’s flight, she has no idea that her life is about to change in ways she could have never foretold.
When his original plane blows up on the runway, Grady begins to suspect that Leda’s special abilities could help him with a cold case he just can’t crack. Despite her scattershot premonitions, she agrees to join the investigation for a secret reason: her fiancé’s murder remains unsolved.
Leda’s psychic abilities couldn’t help that sad case, but she’s been honing her skills and drawing a crowd at her favorite bar’s open-mic nights, where she performs her klairvoyant karaoke—singing whatever song comes to mind when she holds people’s personal effects. Now joined by a ragtag group of bar patrons and pals, Leda and Grady set out to catch a killer—and learn how the two cases that haunt them have more in common than they ever suspected.
This is a fast young-adult thriller on the seemingly perfect paradise island of Parris. If you are a fan of the White Lotus TV show then you’ll want to check this out. Because to the locals, Parris isn’t a beautiful escape, it’s cursed. The island’s history is dark and filled with unsolved deaths of young women. After her best friend Polly dies, Luca fully believes in the horror stories and can’t help but feel like death is looming, coming for her next. Instead, it’s her sister Whitney. Now Luca and the girl next door, Naomi, will have to face everything she’s afraid of if she wants to catch the killer. Filled with murder, suspense, and betrayal BAD THINGS HAPPEN HERE is a captivating island mystery.
I Killed Zoe Spanos meets The Cheerleaders in this “atmospheric and multi-layered mystery” (Kara Thomas, author of The Cheerleaders) about an island town with a history of unsolved deaths—and a girl desperate to uncover the mystery behind it all.
Luca Laine Thomas lives on a cursed island. To the outside world, Parris is an exclusive, idyllic escape accessible only to the one percent. There’s nothing idyllic about its history, though, scattered with the unsolved deaths of young women—deaths Parris society happily ignores to maintain its polished veneer. But Luca can’t ignore them. Not when the curse that took them killed her best friend, Polly, three years ago. Not when she feels the curse lingering nearby, ready to take her next.
When Luca comes home to police cars outside her house, she knows the curse has visited once again. Except this time, it came for Whitney, her sister. Luca decides to take the investigation of Whitney’s death into her own hands. But as a shocking betrayal rocks Luca’s world, the identity of Whitney’s killer isn’t the only truth Luca seeks. And by the time she finds what she’s looking for, Luca will come face to face with the curse she’s been running from her whole life.
Intricate writing mixed with an epic female protagonist and a science fiction approach brings something new to the thriller genre. Listed as a sci-fi noir, THE SHAMSHINE BLIND takes place in an alternate version of 2009 in which the US is a second-rate power and Argentina won the Falklands War using weapons that can produce any human emotion on contact. Now “psychopigments” have made their way into pharmaceuticals and on to the streets. On the outskirts of what used to be San Francisco, Kay Curtida works as a psychopigment enforcement agent chasing down small-time criminals. That is until a friend shows up with a lead in a huge case and her life takes a turn. Now Curtida finds herself in a complicated web of conspiracies, her family drama, and her own conflicting emotions. Kay Curtida is a smart and humorous protagonist that drives this unique narrative forward.
A beguiling blend of noir detective story and science fiction perfect for fans of Michael Chabon and Emily St. John Mandel, this unputdownable debut imagines a world where emotions have been weaponized, and a small-town law enforcement agent uncovers a conspiracy to take down what’s left of American democracy.
In an alternate 2009, the United States has been a second-rate power for a quarter of a century, ever since Argentina’s victory in the Falkland’s War thanks to their development of “psychopigments.” Created as weapons, these colorful chemicals can produce almost any human emotion upon contact, and they have been embraced in the US as both pharmaceutical cure-alls and popular recreational drugs. Black market traders illegally sell everything from Blackberry Purple (which causes terror) to Sunshine Yellow (which delivers happiness).
Psychopigment Enforcement Agent Kay Curtida works a beat in Daly City, just outside the ruins of San Francisco, chasing down smalltime crooks. But when an old friend shows up with a tantalizing lead on a career-making case, Curtida’s humdrum existence suddenly gets a boost. Little does she know that this case will send her down a tangled path of conspiracy and lead to an overdue reckoning with her family and with the truth of her own emotions.
Told in the voice of a funny, brooding, Latinx Sam Spade, The Shamshine Blind is “a rip-roaring beautifully crafted mash-up of cop noir, sci-fi, and alt-history that left me dazzled by its prescience and literary zing” (Leah Hampton, author of F*ckface).
A comedic commentary on modern-day churches in England coupled with a cozy mystery, THE BAD SAMARITAN is a great mix of characters and suspense. Rosemary, the Vicar’s wife, has suddenly announced that she’s lost her faith in God and takes a brief trip to a resort. There she meets a Bosnian refugee and waiter named Stanko. Now Rosemary is back and expected to face the congregation when Stanko arrives asking for help for fear of being deported. Things take a turn for the worse when a body is found in the park and the real mystery begins. Barnard examines how one ripple can affect an entire community and how power-hungry people can change an entire congregation.
When British policemen Charlie Pearce and Mike Oddie investigate the unsurprising murder of the village parish Lothario, they question Rosemary Sheffield, the vicar’s wife. Rosemary, who has recently “lost” her faith and been accused of immoral behavior with a Yugoslavian refugee, makes a perfect suspect. Another winning combination of plot, character, and wit from Barnard.
Jamie Mason has created a dark comedy that is teeming with suspense. Guilt will take its toll on a person, and they’ve captured that wonderfully in Jason Getty. Jason is mild-mannered, completely unassuming, and kind of a push-over, but a little over a year ago, he killed a man and buried him in the backyard. As his life deteriorates from the guilt, his front yard continues to grow, until finally, he decides to hire someone to take care of it. Don’t worry though, they’re under strict instructions not to touch the backyard. And yet, the landscapers dig up a body, but it’s not the man Jason killed. And then they find another body, and it’s still not the man Jason killed. His yard is turned into a crime scene with a detective who knows he’s hiding something as Jason struggles to keep his own demons buried.
A Library Journal Best Book of 2013!
A Booklist Best Crime Novel of 2013!
There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard. But it could always be worse…
More than a year ago, mild-mannered Jason Getty killed a man he wished he’d never met. Then he planted the problem a little too close to home. But just as he’s learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he’s done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried.
Jason races to stay ahead of the consequences of his crime, and while chaos reigns on his lawn, his sanity unravels, snagged on the agendas of a colorful cast of strangers. A jilted woman searches for her lost fiancé, a fringe dweller runs from a past that’s quickly gaining on him, and a couple of earnest local detectives piece clues together with the help of a volunteer police dog—all in the shadow of a dead man who had it coming. As the action unfolds, each character discovers that knowing more than one side of the story doesn't necessarily rule out a deadly margin of error.
Jamie Mason’s irrepressible debut is a macabre, darkly humorous tale with the thoughtful beauty of a literary novel, the tense pacing of a thriller, and a clever twist of suspense.
Photo credit: iStock / Andranik Hakobyan