An assortment of murder mystery book covers

The Best Modern Murder Mystery Books

Sometimes you need something that puts you on the edge of your seat. That’s where a good mystery book comes in. When it comes to mystery, there are a lot of different sub-genres. There are cozy mysteries, which usually involve the protagonist going through a breakup and landing back in their hometown to take over a failing family business and finding themself witness to a murder. Then there are young adult murder mystery books that don’t pull any punches just because the protagonists can’t legally drink. There are the campy mysteries, the trapped room tropes, your run-of-the-mill domestic thrillers, and many more. When it comes to the best murder mystery books, there’s a little something for everyone.

Recommended Videos

For those who don’t necessarily need murder in their intrigue, check our list of the best thrillers, and for those who prefer true crime, there’s a list for you, too. Here are the best mystery books for the modern day.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris' 'Red Dragon' book cover
(G. P. Putnams, Dell Publishing)

While Thomas Harris’ Silence of The Lambs is the most famous of his works, Red Dragon is one of his very best. The novel serves as an introduction to the mind-probing, wine-drinking, fava bean, and human liver-eating villain Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who is arguably one of the greatest antagonists ever conceived of in fiction. The story centers around an FBI named Will Graham agent who is tasked with tracking down a serial killer obsessed with re-enacting William Blake’s painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, a macabre piece that pictures the biblical dragon of Revelation falling upon the Virgin Mary. With the help of Dr. Lecter, Will might just catch the killer. But at what cost?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The cover of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood"
(Random House)

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood was a landmark edition to the true crime genre, centering around the real-life murders of The Clutter Family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. The book provides an in-depth study into the psyches of killers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, ultimately answering the question of why they performed the grisly crime. In Cold Blood is the second best-selling true crime novel in history, only falling behind Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter—the story of Charles Manson.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

The cover of Attica Locke's "Bluebird, Bluebird"
(Mulholland Books)

Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird revolves around Darren Matthews, a Black Texas Ranger who is drawn into a criminal investigation in the small town of Lark, Texas. A Black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman are found dead in the bayou, re-igniting long-simmering racial tensions in the area. Matthews has to navigate his own personal demons while simultaneously digging deeper into the town’s bloody history of prejudice and violence.

Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

The cover of Tade Thompson's "Far From The Light of Heaven"
(Orbit Books)

Murder … in space! Tade Thompson’s Far From The Light of Heaven takes place onboard the Ragtime, a colony spaceship bound for the planet Bloodroot. After Captain Michelle “Shell” Campion awakens from cryosleep while onboard the Ragtime, she discovers that 31 passengers onboard the ship have been murdered and dismembered. The ship’s AI is compromised, meaning that Shell will have to solve this crime the old-fashioned way—with some good old-fashioned detective work.

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

The cover art for Rachel Howzell Hall's "They All Fall Down"
(Forge Books)

Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down starts off a lot like Clue. A small group of strangers—each with a dark secret—are invited to a luxurious private island for the promise of a fun weekend getaway. The question they should have asked is “fun for who?”. Spoiler alert: it ain’t them. As the days go by, they begin dying one by one, leaving the survivors to believe that someone is having a grand old time hunting them.

Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien

The cover of 'Death by Dumpling' by Vivien Chen
(Macmillan)

Lana Lee is reluctantly working at her family restaurant once again after a life-changing breakup. She’s forced to grin while serving customers and tolerating every conversation with her mother, which always revolves around husband-hunting—that is until Lana delivers an order of shrimp dumplings to the restaurant property manager, who subsequently winds up dead. Now she’s the prime suspect and has to prove her innocence.

Vivien Chien’s story circles around culinary cuisine, pestering family dynamics, hometown drama, and mystery. For those who end up liking this book, you’re in luck! This is a multi-part series, so there’s plenty more to read after this one.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

The cover of 'Arsenic and Adobo' by Mia P. Manansala
(Penguin Random House)

There are not enough Filipino-American writers, and especially not enough of them experimenting with fun commercial genres like cozy murder mysteries. Well, Mia P. Manansala is paving the way with her new culinary series.

This book follows Lila Macapagal, who, similarly to Death by Dumplings‘ Lana Lee, is going through a bad breakup and has to move home. And we all know if you’re brown and going back home, you’re going to get roped into helping with a family business (rom-com, cozy mystery trope or not). So Lila helps Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant by pushing her Filipino-American flavors into the dishes and desserts. Of course, her ex-boyfriend—a food critic—shows up at the restaurant to argue with Lila in front of everyone right before he dies. Lila tries to get the cops off her case with the help of her adorable dachshund, Longanisa.

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette
(Penguin Random House)

Bronwyn Crewse is taking over her family’s ice cream shop (seeing a pattern with these food-based murder mystery books yet?) in her hometown in Ohio. She just earned her MBA and is ready to apply all the business knowledge she’s acquired to restore the ice cream shop to its former glory. 

But during the shop’s cold open the first snow falls, scaring away potential customers. To make matters worse, Bronwyn also finds a dead body in the snow. Of course, in small-town murder mystery fashion, that dead body was once a person involved in an intense life-long feud with her family. So now she’s caught in the middle of a murder investigation. 

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

'Grown' by Tiffany D. Jackson
(Katherine Tegen Books)

This murder mystery is not for the faint of heart. Teen Enchanted Jones is scouted by legendary musician Korey Fields, who takes her under his wing. Then, all of a sudden, Enchanted wakes up with his blood on her hands. 

This book is loosely inspired by the R. Kelly case and explores the toxic adult-teen dynamics in the music industry. Content warning for depictions of sexual assault, physical abuse, gaslighting, emotional manipulation, and PTSD.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie by Courtney Summers
(Wednesday Books)

This is a must-read for any true crime fan. Part novel and part podcast, Sadie is hard to forget. The audiobook is my personal recommendation because it elevates the podcast portions of the story.

The book follows Sadie as she tries to figure out who killed her younger sister, Mattie. The police didn’t do their due diligence (of course), so Sadie’s conducting an investigation of her own, interviewing anyone who might know anything. When Sadie’s story catches the attention of a radio host, he starts a podcast of his own to find her. 

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

'Patron Saints of Nothing' by Randy Ribay
(Penguin Books)

When Jay gets news that his cousin was murdered because of President Duterte’s war on drugs and no one cares, he goes to the Philippines to investigate what happened. The Filipino-American teen is soon confronted with the realities that his family back home in the Philippines has to live with. 

Patron Saints of Nothing is full of twists and turns. This book will hit home for those familiar with the contemporary Philippines. Randy Ribay is knowledgeable and treats serious, nuanced topics with care and intention.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

'Firekeeper’s Daughter' by Angeline Boulley
(Henry Holt and Co.)

This multi-award-winning novel and Reese Witherspoon book club pick is worth checking out. Although marketed as a YA book, Firekeeper’s Daughter is for the older YA market. 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine is a biracial unenrolled Ojibwe tribal member who has to step up and help care for her mother. When she witnesses a murder, she finds herself wrapped up in a drug-related criminal investigation where she’s forced to go undercover. 

Content warning for rape, drug use, and death.

The Maid by Nita Prose

'The Maid' by Nita Prose
(Ballantine Books)

The Maid earned a spot on Goodreads’ Best Books of 2022 list. Even more exciting is that Florence Pugh is reportedly playing the title role in an upcoming film adaptation. 

Molly Gray is dealing with the death of her grandmother and throws herself into her job as a hotel maid. She’s an odd bird who struggles with social skills and is dependent on her grandmother to maneuver the world. Now, she finds herself alone, only taking solace in making things clean—until the rich and famous Charles Black is found dead.

This is part Clue and part locked-room mystery with a unique narrator.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

'The Woman in the Library' by Sulari Gentill
(Poisoned Pen Press)

This will be a hit for those who are especially bookish. Set in the Instagram-picturesque Boston Public Library, every book lover’s dream turns into a nightmare when a woman’s blood-curdling scream breaks the silence. The building is locked down as security tries to figure out what is happening. Now, four strangers have become reluctant friends, but the thing is: One of them is the murderer.

The Woman in the Library is a thrilling ride with bookish easter eggs planted throughout. 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

'The Silent Patient' by Alex Michaelides
(Celadon Books)

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist working with infamous painter Alicia Berenson, who murdered her husband and has remained silent ever since. Out of morbid curiosity, Theo sets out to uncover the event that caused Alicia to become silent.

The Silent Patient is incredibly slow-paced until the last eighth of the book. In many ways, this is a classic murder mystery filled with twists and turns, but because of its slow pace, I recommend listening to this one via audiobook.

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

'Finlay Donovan Is Killing It' by Elle Cosimano
(Minotaur Books)

Finlay is a single mother and novelist struggling to get her manuscript to her literary agent. Her life is a mess and she’s barely holding it together—until she’s mistaken for a contract killer and someone asks her to kill their husband. Finlay accidentally accepts and gets roped into a murder investigation.

This book is pure fun; a great palate cleanser if you’re stuck in a rut.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

'The Lying Game' by Ruth Ware
(Scout Press)

When she was 15, Isa Wilde and her boarding school friends created a game called “The Lying Game,” which made everyone hate them. There are five rules to the game: Tell a lie, stick to your story, don’t get caught, never lie to each other, and know when to stop lying. Fast forward 17 years later, when the women reunite to try and cover up their deep, dark secret. 

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

'My Lovely Wife' by Samantha Downing
(Berkley)

This is a domestic thriller about a seemingly boring suburban husband and wife who’ve been married for 15 years. The husband is a tennis instructor, while the wife is a real estate agent. They have a picture-perfect life from the outside, except the husband sleeps around and the wife murders his mistresses. This sinister cat-and-mouse game gets put to the test in My Lovely Wife.

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

'Winter Counts' by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
(Ecco)

On the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Virgil Wounded Horse is who people call when they need to take care of business. Virgil is an enforcer who steps up when the tribal council and the American legal system won’t. So when his nephew gets involved with drugs that’ve been circulating the reservation, Virgil takes matters into his own hands in this story about one man against a growing drug cartel.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithewaite

'My Sister, the Serial Killer' by Oyinkan Braithewaite
(Doubleday Books)

Ayoola is the golden child. She gets everything she wants (probably because she’s beautiful), and it’s turned her into a sociopath. She’s just killed not one, not two, but three boyfriends.

Enter Korede, Ayoola’s sister. Korede has been cleaning up Ayoola’s mess for so long that she’s gotten really good at getting blood out of anything. Everything is just fine until Korede’s longtime crush shows interest in Ayoola.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a fast-paced contemporary noir that will have you tearing through it in one sitting. Oyinkan Braithwaite is smart, funny, and a master of suspense. This is a must-read for everyone—mystery fan or not.

(featured image: Celadon / Poisoned Pen Press / Doubleday / Henry Holt and Co. / The Mary Sue)


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Conservative Book Banners Are Redacting Entire Textbook Chapters in Texas Schools
A book with redacted sections
Read Article So What Happened With the Ending of ‘Iron Flame’?
Cover art for Rebecca Yarrow's "Iron Flame"
Read Article How Much of ‘Bridgerton’s Romantic Drama Is Historically Accurate?
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in Bridgerton season 3
Read Article Julia Quinn’s Many ‘Bridgerton’ Books Offer So Much More Regency Romance
The covers for Bridgerton books with Netflix tie-in covers, including The Duke & I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Read Article The 19 Best Standalone Fantasy Novels if You’re Looking For a Quick Adventure
Black mermaid looking up at the surface and swimming in front of whales. One of the covers for "The Deep." Image: Simon & Schuster
Related Content
Read Article Conservative Book Banners Are Redacting Entire Textbook Chapters in Texas Schools
A book with redacted sections
Read Article So What Happened With the Ending of ‘Iron Flame’?
Cover art for Rebecca Yarrow's "Iron Flame"
Read Article How Much of ‘Bridgerton’s Romantic Drama Is Historically Accurate?
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in Bridgerton season 3
Read Article Julia Quinn’s Many ‘Bridgerton’ Books Offer So Much More Regency Romance
The covers for Bridgerton books with Netflix tie-in covers, including The Duke & I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Read Article The 19 Best Standalone Fantasy Novels if You’re Looking For a Quick Adventure
Black mermaid looking up at the surface and swimming in front of whales. One of the covers for "The Deep." Image: Simon & Schuster
Author
A. Mana Nava
Nava was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, they edit economic textbooks by day and write geeky articles for the internet in the evenings. They currently exist on unceded Lenape land aka Brooklyn. (Filipine/a Mexican American)
Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.