Mystery Must-Reads

Find a mystery novel or series that will let you imagine yourself as a vital part of its plot, and let you feel the thrill of solving a case.


Michelle Bishka

Pictured from left to right is the In the Woods prologue, which will immediately get you hooked to the novel, and the cover of the book, which is just as ominous as the content of its plot.

The only time life as a high-schooler has the intrigue of a mystery novel is when that high-schooler belongs to the fictional world. Although not everyone can be a character in a book, everyone has the opportunity to explore the many mystery novels that can give them the same buzz of solving a crime. Browse the list below to find a novel or a series to fulfill your mystery reading needs.

1. In the Woods, Tana French: “What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this – two things: I crave truth. And I lie.” Tana French is a novelist who is famous for her enticing plots that keep her readers guessing, and In the Woods is no exception. In the Woods marks the start of a series following a group of detectives that call themselves “The Dublin Murder Squad.” The book begins by describing a case that happened many years ago: the kidnapping and murder of a group of children in a forest. One child remained alive, Rob Ryan, but he was unable to remember what happened that night or who was responsible for the crime. Many years later, a similar case emerges, and Rob, as part of “The Dublin Murder Squad,” is on it to finally discover who is responsible, and to find closure for himself. However, it proves to be difficult for Rob to relive his past, and he keeps it a secret from the rest of his partners on the case. French does an exceptional job at painting Rob as a severely flawed character who still remains likable no matter how much unintentional harm he does. This is because Rob is not a horrible character, but a lost one. Instead of hating the main character for the damage he does, it makes you sympathize with him. With complex characters leading this novel, In the Woods is not one to miss.

2. The Dark Lake, Sara Bailey: A thriller rivaling Tana French’s work, The Dark Lake revolves around Gemma, a detective cracking the case of the murder of a young teacher named Rosalind, who she knew from high school. Although Rosalind was adored in high school, Gemma fostered some darker thoughts about her. Her obsession with Rosalind in the past spills over to the present in ways you would never expect until you have read the novel. Although Gemma has an unnerving perspective on the case, and makes many mistakes throughout the book, she is not a character to be hated, but she is not one to be liked neither. With its psychological approach to crime, The Dark Lake is definitely not a thriller to skip. 

3. The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith: Written by J.K Rowling under a pseudonym, this novel, based on another traditional thriller plot, sparks a new series dubbed Cormoran Strike. The whole series follows Detective Cormoran Strike who was contacted to solve a case as a private investigator after being out of work for quite some time. The first novel deals with a murder of a model that has been staged as a suicide. Despite the fact that the plot may seem appealing, the storyline does tend to lag in some places, and the writing style may not be up to everyone’s taste. Although this was a solid start to the series, I prefer the second novel of the series the most, The Silkworm, as its plot reveals to be more fast-paced.  

4. Dangerous Girls, Abigail Haas: “Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?” Dangerous Girls is a dark mystery that is a bit contradictory, making it even more enjoyable. The novel inspects the unpleasant side of friendships closely, to the point where it seems that the safer alternative to making friends is to avoid people altogether. However, while showing the nasty corners of friendship, the book shows the importance of friendship as well. These mixed signals Dangerous Girls sends the reader is part of the reason the novel is viewed so highly in addition to its exceptional plot. The plot follows Anna and her friends on their trip to Aruba for spring break. Unfortunately, what was intended to be a trip about having fun, instantly transforms into a disaster involving a murder case that leaves Anna to be seen as its prime suspect. The story progresses quickly due to the writing style of the novel: the book moves forwards and backwards in time. This haphazard approach to writing ultimately adds to the effect of the story.

Hopefully one of these books or series will let you visualize yourself as a character in its plot, and let you feel the excitement of cracking a case.