What's Popular


Various mystery book covers on a pink background
Side note, but these covers are gorgeous
Atria Books, Simon & Schuster UK, Mantle, Crooked Lane Books

This Season’s Newest, Most Mysterious Mystery Books!

With these recommendations, your weekend will be fully booked

The Bookstorian is Wondercade’s mysterious, erudite, hardcover-devouring book correspondent.

January 18, 2024 3:36 pm

Today’s all about a different type of intellectual stimulation…one that’s an immersive experience — another kind of delight, one that’s also close to my heart: reading. Getting lost in a fantasy world that’s part engineered by a brilliant author, part engineered by your own imagination. (And, if you’re doing an audiobook, part engineered by…well…sound engineers, and also by a talented voice actor [preferably one with a sexy accent, but not so sexy as to be distracting]). Today, The Bookstorian returns! That’s right: Wondercade’s lion of literature, royal of reading, pooh-bah of page-turners…is back. As usual, they’re going to recommend the best new and upcoming books. But this time, there’s a twist: they’re focusing only on mystery novels. That’s, like, a combination of reading and puzzles! Dang. This letter from the editor is turning out to be more cohesive than I thought. Go, me. And go, Bookstorian. (Sometimes I call ‘em Bookie. [They hate that.]) -NPH

Oh, it’s you again, Wondercader. Come in, come in. Welcome.

Leave your snowy boots at the door, and come roast your toes by the fire. I’ve got a little deduction game for you, and as you’re here in The Bookstorian’s lair as my guest, I feel you’re obliged to play. Just move that pile of novels stacked on the chesterfield, and take a seat.

Now then, take a good look at me. Have you read any Conan Doyle lately? Try to channel the acute senses of his scrupulous detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Nothing? I look the same as I always do, with my tattered tweed and smudged spectacles?

All right, let me illuminate to you what Holmes, Poirot or Marple would surely have deduced: First, I’m wearing shoes, even though I told you to take yours off, which suggests I was using my ladder to climb up to a higher section of my bookshelves and didn’t want to slip on the rungs. You can see it just there, over my shoulder, alongside the epistolary, Norse mythology, Egyptian hieroglyphs and mystery sections of my library. If you look closely at my hair, you’ll also see a wisp of cobweb, which makes it plain that I climbed to the highest rung on the ladder, to the ceiling, where I’ve allowed a friendly family of arachnids to spin their own hideaways at their leisure. And that top section, as you can tell from the titles you just placed on the ground, is, of course, mystery. Elementary, my dear Wondercader.

Is there anything more invigorating than an engaging mystery in the dead of winter, when the sun tucks itself into a blanket of clouds and the windows themselves seem frostbitten? I think not, which is why today, I’ve chosen to collect the newest, most unputdownable titles of the whodunit variety. First, it’s candlelit tales set in years gone by for fans of Christie and Conan Doyle, followed by present-day thrillers where magnifying glasses are swapped for smartphones, and then single-detective series for those readers who are less interested in the puzzle than the person solving it. I couldn’t forget my younger fans, either. As always, I’ve also selected a number of titles for children and young adults. Now, let’s embark together into the mystery section, into which all the sleuths and suspects of the literary world are irresistibly drained…

Old-School Sleuthing

Let’s turn the clock back as far as it’ll go, shall we? I’ll start in 1730, where Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s The Square of Sevens finds a young girl who practices a form of fortune-telling from which the novel takes its name. After the death of her parents, these powers of prognostication sweep her into the machinations of both high and low society, but her sight is clearly set on unraveling her family’s misfortunes. We’ll stay put in England for The Turnglass, in which Gareth Rubin places the reader in the Turnglass House on an island in the North Sea, where a potential poisoning in the 1880s leads to another mysterious murder in the 1930s. If your trope of choice is the haunted house, then may I also welcome you to Mrs. Chesterfield’s mansion on the moors in Ray Celestin’s Palace of Shadows? (If you’re looking for a literary respite instead of a horror that’ll raise the hairs on your neck, please decline that invitation.) Our final stop is in 1961, where Viper’s Dream by Jake Lamar begins, setting up a death at the meticulous hands of a jazz musician, and then tossing the action back and forth with the ‘30s until the cacophonous conclusion.

Various mystery book covers on a yellow background
Soho Press, Simon & Schuster, Viking, Soho Crime

Today’s most contemporary conundrums on bookshelves

Modern-Day Mysteries

There was a time when I naively believed that thrillers were best told before the advent of the internet, but I’ve since come around to the obvious conclusion: mysteries succeed and fail on the talents of the writer, not the date on the calendar. Case in point: Mike McCormack’s This Plague of Souls, which asks the question: what would you do if you came home and your family was gone — poof! — like they never existed at all? In Tara Isabella Burton’s Here in Avalon, the trouble similarly centers around the disappearance of a family member, Rose’s sister Cecilia, but she has an idea of who’s involved: a cabaret troupe that only appears at night in the rivers around New York City. The proper setting is essential in these tales of intrigue, so if the Big Apple doesn’t pique your interest, try the New Hampshire boarding school in I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai. I admit, all three of those offer the flavor of the historical whodunit, in style if not substance. But for those interested in reckoning with the tech-driven problems of the 21st century, Jo Callaghan’s In the Blink of an Eye uploads AI into the genre and Kate Brody’s Rabbit Hole swims through the cesspool of conspiracy theories.

Various mystery book covers on a red background
Viking, Mariner Books, Mysterious Press

Ingenious investigators abound

Detectives to Die For

As faithful readers of my recommendations will know, I don’t own a television set, much less subscribe to any streaming services, but I do read the periodicals and I can tell you this much: the literary detectives you’ve been seeing in your movie and TV queues are but a pale imitation of those you’ll find on the page. Don’t take my word for it, take the words of Richard Osman, Benjamin Stevenson and Tom Mead. Osman is the most popular of the bunch, his Thursday Murder Club series enchanting readers with not one, not two, but four elderly sleuths — Elizabeth, Ron, Joyce and Ibrahim — whose fourth adventure came out this fall in The Last Devil to Die. Stevenson is on his second story revolving around Ernest Cunningham, a mystery writer invited on a train with a group of fellow scribblers in Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect. When one of the society is murdered, can those who dream up crimes solve a real one? If sendups aren’t quite your style, Mead’s Death and the Conjuror takes the age-old genre of the locked-room mystery quite seriously, but with a new take on the detective: Joseph Spector is a stage magician turned sleuth. If you take to his tricks, follow it up with The Murder Wheel and then pre-order the third installment, Cabaret Macabre, coming this summer.

Various mystery book covers on a blue background
YA, all day
McElderry, Page Street YA, Sourcebooks Fire

Young Adult Whodunits

Not being a parent myself, I can’t relate to the mysteries facing readers with progeny, but if one of your conundrums includes: why is my teenager no longer interested in books? I’ve got the solution, in the form of four diverse page-turners. If your teen believes they were born in the wrong century, send them back to an English manor in the 1920s with Laura E. Weymouth’s The Voice Upstairs (if they also wish they had supernatural powers, this will fit them like a glove). If, instead, they’re quite fond of scary movies of the 21st century, give them a more fleshed-out fright with When Ghosts Call Us Home by Katya de Becerra, which centers around the filming of an amateur horror film. For those bemoaning the constant distraction of modern tech (video games, AR, VR, social media, need I go on?), Kathryn Foxfield weaves your teen’s favorite devices into Tag, You’re Dead, a thriller even more engrossing than TikTok. But if you’d rather spend quality time than send your kid off by themselves with a book, get McCormack’s This Plague of Souls for yourself and That’s Not My Name by Megan Lally for them — both start off sprinting with the main character having no idea what’s happened to them. Family dinner just got much livelier.

Various illustrated book covers on a purple background
Pixel+Ink, Dutton Books for Young Readers, Ted Neill, Scholastic Press

For pint-sized Poirots

Conundrums for Children

Children go through phases so quickly, I can’t imagine keeping track of what they’re interested in day to day. Thankfully, I have over one million titles at my disposal, so any subject under the sun can be found in my stacks. Let’s do a little demonstration. Are they fans of kings and queens? Give them The Plot to Kill a Queen, by Deborah Hopkinson, which follows budding playwright Emilia’s quest to save Queen Elizabeth I. Do they like animals? They’ll love the fire fox, feathered serpent and karkadan (a sort of rhinoceros) who help the kid sleuths in Cahoots!, the 6th book in Ted Neill and Suzi Spooner’s Mystery Force series. Are they a spelling whiz? Janet Sumner Johnson starts The Winterton Deception: Final Word with a spelling bee and ends with a hunt for clues in a spooky manor. Or is their entire world dominated by Taylor Swift? The only course of action I have for that is to hand them The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln and Claire Powell. No need to tell them it’s in no way related to Taylor. Let their imagination run wild. Soon enough, their nose will be buried in the hijinks of the amateur detective with a famous last name.

Ready to Read This Article?

Love this FREE article on our FREE website?
To keep reading all our content — for FREE — sign up for our FREE weekly email.
You're welcome.

Please enter a valid email address.

Already have an account ?