Calling all true crime fans—who wants to solve a murder? A fictional murder, obviously, so you get all the fun of solving a case without having to deal with, you know, the dead bodies. Unless your job is to solve real-life murders? In which case, thank you. But for the rest of us, there’s a lot about mystery books that keeps us wanting more.
There are fantastic unreliable characters, high stakes from beginning to end, and the thrill of trying to solve the story for ourselves. It’s like a game of Law & Order: SV(YOU).
Whether you’re the cozied-up-by-the-fire type of reader or someone on the edge of your seat, these mysteries are not to be missed. This list features stories of the past, the present, and the future, and we guarantee there’s something for everyone. So grab your deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, and prepare to go sleuthing. Here are our top mystery book recommendations!
YA Mystery Books
THAT’LL KEEP YOU GUESSING
1. Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia
When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer.
There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.
Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.
2. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.
3. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
4. The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.
5. Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.
Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.
The only thing is: they didn’t do it.
On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.
6. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule. Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond. Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime. Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life. And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.
He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.
7. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.
The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.
Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous—and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.
8. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig
Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian–the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get worse, right?
Then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. He and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.
April swears she didn’t kill Fox. Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth, but April has something he needs. Her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to clear his sister’s name… or die trying.
9. Sadie by Courtney Summers
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.
10. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.
First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.
That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school… Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.
11. People Like Us by Dana Mele
Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.
The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make… not something that happened.
12. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the Infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.
Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.
Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….
13. Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried.
When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.
As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?
14. #MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil
Welcome to the near future, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.
When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?
15. All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to hear the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her.
Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too.
Penny Panzarella was more than the materialist party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was—and she was willing to share all her secrets with Fatima Ro to prove it.
Told as a series of interviews, journal entries, and even pages from the book within the book, this gripping story of a fictional scandal will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
16. If You’re Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser
After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.
It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.
Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:
Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails. Maybe she can’t.
17. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited Sherlock’s volatility and some of his vices—and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking for friends.
But when a student they both have a history with dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.
18. Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist
When eighteen-year-old Lexi foresees the brutal murder of a young woman outside a club in downtown L.A., she is powerless to stop it.
But then the girl’s ghost appears, seeking vengeance, and Lexi is swept into a dangerous search that could put her directly in the path of a serial killer. From the author of Devils Unto Dust, this fast-paced and literary thriller will haunt fans of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious and Karen M. McManus’s One of Us Is Lying.
With a touch, Lexi can sense how and when someone will die. Some say it’s a gift. But to Lexi it’s a curse—one that keeps her friendless and alone. All that changes when Lexi foresees the violent death of a young woman, Jane, outside a club.
Jane doesn’t go to the afterlife quietly. Her ghost remains behind, determined to hunt down her murderer, and she needs Lexi’s help. In life, Jane was everything Lexi is not—outgoing, happy, popular. But in death, all Jane wants is revenge.
Lexi will do anything to help Jane, to make up for the fact that she didn’t—couldn’t—save Jane’s life, and to keep this beautiful ghost of a girl by her side for as long as possible.
19. Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca. Their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all her loved ones disappear.
20. The Missing Season by Gillian French
Whenever another kid goes missing in October, the kids in the old factory town of Pender know what is really behind it: a monster out in the marshes that they call the Mumbler.
That’s what Clara’s new crew tells her when she moves to town. Bree and Sage, who take her under their wing. Spirited Trace, who has taken the lead on this year’s Halloween prank war. And magnetic Kincaid, whose devil-may-care attitude and air of mystery are impossible for Clara to resist.
Clara doesn’t actually believe in the Mumbler—not like Kinkaid does. But as Halloween gets closer and tensions build in the town, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there really is something dark and dangerous in Pender. Lurking in the shadows. Waiting to bring the stories to life.
21. Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox
What would you do if you had to solve your own murder to get anywhere in death?
Maybe if I hadn’t slept through my alarm, slammed into Kristin—my high school’s reigning mean girl—or stepped in a puddle, destroying my mom’s new suede DVF boots (which I borrowed without asking), I wouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I wouldn’t have been pushed in front of that arriving train. But I did, and I was.
When I came to, I was informed by a group of girls that I’m dead. And that because I died under mysterious circumstances, I can’t pass straight over to the Other Side. But at least I’m not alone.
Meet the Dead Girls Detective Agency: Nancy, Lorna, and Tess—not to mention Edison, the really cute if slightly hostile dead boy. Apparently the only way out of this limbo is to figure out who killed me, or I’ll have to spend eternity playing Nancy Drew. Considering I was fairly invisible in life, who could hate me enough to want me dead?
And what if my murderer is someone I never would have suspected?
22. All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell
Something happened to Ava. The curving scar on her face is proof. Ava would rather keep that something hidden—buried deep in her heart and her soul.
But in the woods on the outskirts of town, the traces of someone else’s secrets lie frozen, awaiting Ava’s discovery—and what Ava finds threatens to topple the carefully constructed wall of normalcy that she’s spent years building around her.
Secrets leave scars. But when the secret in question is not your own—do you ignore the truth and walk away? Or do you uncover it from its shallow grave and let it reopen old wounds—wounds that have finally begun to heal?