Mystery book recommendations?

Anyone have favorite mystery books? I’m craving some great puzzles. (More the puzzle aspect than the lurid crime aspect.)

One of my favorite books is The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, which is the first detective novel and an extremely fun Victorian story involving a stolen diamond:

I also, of course, love Agatha Christie.

Have you read any good ones?


Robin Sloan is all about puzzle fiction! He’s shared lots of reccs over the years but this one is recent:


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is a young adult book with a pretty good puzzle/mystery. It is told from a young girls perspective and is very heart warming.


I totally second The Moonstone, super good…I haven’t read a ton of mysteries so looking forward to some from this topic!

The “puzzle fiction” books Robin Sloan mentions seem great. Gnomon has been on my list for a while, and The Westing Game is a classic YA mystery, would be fun to re-read that at some point.

He also talks about a related genre in another newsletter:

This week I’ve been reading books in the shin honkaku genre … These are the kinds of mysteries that a clever reader can solve ahead of the detective, with

  • characters introduced fully and fairly,
  • a clearly circumscribed stage (think: snowbound chalet), and
  • no vital information withheld from the reader.

Locked room mysteries basically…and apparently these ones are particularly “meta”. See the full post for some specific recs / links. Great genre for anyone who loved books like this as a kid :wink:

One old favorite I haven’t read in a long time but remember being fantastic is actually a nonfiction mystery! Kind of an old school computer hacker cat and mouse game…very fun:

Not a book, so this might be too off-topic, but anyone who likes puzzle mysteries more than the violent ones will probably enjoy this podcast, which looks at the history of classic detective fiction and the women who wrote in the genre or were affected by it. Episodes are short, well-produced, and always turn up something interesting.

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This one is a puzzle-game style mystery book for kids, and I just remembered how cool I thought it was when I was little! (Also the main character’s name is Horace! :wink: ).


Yesss this one was great…fun for the whole family!

Choking back into this thread to recommend 2 mysteries I’ve read recently:

1: The 7 and 1/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

A fun one, published pretty recently but in the style of a golden age English country house murder mystery (w a downton abbey-ish setting.) the main character keeps repeating the day of the murder but waking up in the bodies of different suspects each time, like Groundhog Day, and he has to solve the murder to escape the situation. Satisfying mystery, the end (which tries to explain the body-swapping-time-loop premise) kind of is a little silly but I forgive it bc in general the book is a ton of fun. Made me want to read a bunch more mysteries with this premise.

2: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers
A true golden age mystery set in Oxford, at a women’s college. The mystery is pretty fun but imo the real pleasure of the book is all the philosophical meditations on work, love, feminism, academia, and ethics of crime/capital punishment. All the while staying scathingly witty and funny. Plus there’s an excellently written slow burn, bantering romance. It’s not perfect—plenty of out-of-date class snobbery—but in the light of all else that’s just a small quibble. This one is going into my greatest of all time list next to The Moonstone and I’m going to tackle the rest of the Lord Peter Wimsey books next!


I can’t recommend Shadow of the Wind enough! It has a bit of book within a book themes, historical place (Spain during civil war and right after), also had some very gothic undertones. Like I could see Guillermo de Toro directing it (reminded me a bit of Pan’s Labyrinth without the fantasy bits).

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Speaking of “puzzle fiction”…a really cool book I ordered just arrived!

Cain’s Jawbone — billed as the “world’s most fiendish literary puzzle”, and a literal book in a box…

In 1934, the Observer’s cryptic crossword compiler, Edward Powys Mathers (aka Torquemada), released a novel that was simultaneously a murder mystery and the most fiendishly difficult literary puzzle ever written.

The pages have been printed in an entirely haphazard order, but it is possible — through logic and intelligent reading — to sort the pages into the only correct order, revealing six murder victims and their respective murderers.

Only two puzzlers have ever solved the mystery of Cain’s Jawbone: do you have what it takes to join their ranks?

Please note: this puzzle is extremely difficult and not for the faint-hearted.

I backed the project on Unbound, a crowdfunding site for publishing projects. It’s being published by The Laurence Sterne Trust, which “is interested in all literary works that challenge the idea of linear narrative” and holds the original in their collection.

And one really cool part of this: the solution is apparently still a closely guarded secret, and they’re bringing back a competition with a £1,000 prize to the first reader who solves it!

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Love this, found via @Adam’s newsletter — a “meta genre novel” about perfect murders from classic mystery novels:

What did I learn from making this list? That perfect murders, at least the artful kind we find in books, are all about concealment and misdirection. They have a lot in common with well-executed magic: it’s all about fooling the detectives (and the readers), making us look away from where the crime is happening.

Anyone know of other good “meta genre novels”, mystery or otherwise?

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Fun interview from Five Books (one of my favorite sites!) with David Baldacci, who recommends a number of classic 20th century mystery novels:

They’ve got a few other fun mystery lists too, like best “cosy mysteries”, and best-of lists for Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and Wilkie Collins: