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A Mystery for Every Reader

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? I know I do … but what makes a great mystery? I think that every reader finds that something just a little different goes into their perfect mystery. When I started wondering why mysteries can differ so much, I came up with a pretty interesting fact: Did you know that there are more than eighteen different mystery sub-genres? Eighteen! (For more specified sub-genre definitions, check out the Writer’s Digest sub-genre descriptions.)

So. What makes your perfect mystery? An ace murder detective? A startling disappearance? A hard-boiled private eye? A chef having to prove their innocence after a poisoning? There seems to be a mystery style out there for every reader. With such a wide variety of mystery sub-genres, narrowing down which mysteries are right for you can be a real challenge. 

What was the last mystery that you really loved? Think about the elements that made it work for you. Was it very traditional? More procedural? Did it have your favorite hobby or great food and recipes included? Do you love following the clues and solving puzzles as much as the main character does? Each of these elements are indicative of different sub-genres. Once you know what you’ve already enjoyed, it’s fairly easy to find other authors and series that fall into the same sub-genres. Libraries with strong mystery collections should have some examples of each type of mystery and if not, interlibrary loan or a trip to the bookstore may be in order!

Check out the list below for different styles of mysteries and examples of each sub-genre. Whether you find the sub-genre you love and you stick with it or you branch out and try some new ones, the right mystery is out there for you! Personally, I love a great mystery with an amateur detective, maybe even one turned private eye (think Veronica Mars). I also love mysteries that include recipes, because it’s fun to read and then cook the delicious, yet often “deadly” dishes! My absolute favorite mysteries, though, always seem to include an element of the supernatural. I just love something a little wonky in my mystery.

Mystery sub-genre and sample books (YA or with YA appeal):                                                                  

Amateur Investigator                                                                  

  • All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarza
  • Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams

Bumbling Detective                                                                       

  • Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk

Caper                                                                                                

Cozy                                                                                                  

  • Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

Culinary                                                                                            

  • Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson

Doctor Detective                                                                            

  • The Doctor Digs a Grave by Robin Hathaway

Noir                                                                                                

  • You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin

Historical

Legal                                                                                                 

  • Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

Puzzle-Based                                                                                    

Police Procedural                                                                        

  • Cop Hater by Ed McBain

Private Detectives                                                                    

  • The Big Splash by Jack Ferraiolo
  • Getting the Girl by Susan Juby

Romantic                                                                                         

  • Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart

Supernatural                                                                                     

Traditional “Whodunit”                                                              

Dark Thriller                                                                                       

  • The Strawberry Picker by Monika Feth
  • Rosebush by Michelle Jaffe

Espionage                                                                                          

Forensic                                                                                           

  • The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson<

— Jessica Miller, currently reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

5 Comments

  1. I ADORE mysteries! I’m a huge fan of cozies for adult mysteries. I wish there were more teen mysteries. I’m a big fan of the spy and caper mysteries.

  2. Jessica Jessica

    I know! I’m really glad that YA seems to be putting out more mysteries, but there are definitely some of the sub-genres that haven’t yet really been well represented in the YA age group…I’m loving the newest YA supernatural mysteries like TEXAS GOTHIC and CLARITY.

  3. Maria Kramer Maria Kramer

    Thanks for this post! This is a great resource for recommending mysteries to my patrons.

  4. I love the historical mystery series The Agency by Y.S. Lee. Victorian setting, female sleuth, a hint of romance-all great fun.

    Texas Gothic is a great choice too!

    What about all the new Young Sherlock Holmes books? Andrew Cloud and Shane Peacock both have a series.

  5. Jessica M Jessica M

    I love the “Agency” series, too! I have book three on my Nook to read right now. :)
    I’ve read the first two in the Shane Peacock, “Young Sherlock Holmes” series, but I haven’t checked out the ones by Andrew Cloud. You know what other Sherlock Holmes related series I really loved? Laurie King’s “Mary Russell” series. They’re adult but with huge YA appeal…

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