The best African American mystery novels

Michael R. Lane Author Of The Gem Connection
By Michael R. Lane

Who am I?

As an avid reader, I read a wide variety of books. Of the fiction genre mystery and suspense remain my favorite. From the classics to the gritty, a well-told mystery is a literary gem. As my mystery palette has aged—like my taste in wine—so are my demands of what makes a good mystery novel. The best mysteries for me contain more than a serpentine journey toward the hidden truth. They have intriguing characters, crisp dialogue, interesting settings, formidable foes, and of course indispensable heroes or anti-heroes. My writing goal is aimed at achieving the same level of literary penmanship of the mysteries I enjoy reading so much.


I wrote...

The Gem Connection

By Michael R. Lane,

Book cover of The Gem Connection

What is my book about?

Clinton Windell is murdered in his home and robbed of twenty million dollars in uncut gems. An anonymous client hires ex-DEA agent turned Private Investigator C. J. Cavanaugh to solve the case. There’s only one catch. C. J. and his partner must not reveal to anyone that they are involved. Not even C. J.’s lover and dogged Homicide Detective, Destini Pendleton, who is assigned the high-profile case, can know. The murder mystery requires C. J. to utilize all of his cunnings to keep him and his partner alive and out of prison long enough to apprehend the killers.

The books I picked & why

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Blood Grove

By Walter Mosley,

Book cover of Blood Grove

Why this book?

Easy Rawlins is an African American private detective in 1960s Los Angeles. Easy gets a visit from a troubled Vietnam veteran at his office. The vet tells an implausible story of him and his lover being attacked in a citrus grove outside the city. He may have killed the man. The woman and his dog are missing. Rawlins’ gut tells him the case is nothing but trouble. He takes the case anyway. The bond between veterans overriding all other concerns. Blood Grove is an exhilarating, mystery soup involving moguls, sociopaths, cops, hippies, extremists, and swindlers. Requiring Easy to call upon help from his friends. Friends who range from genius to lethal. I loved going along with Easy on this case. Admiring his resolve and intelligence in solving the mystery.

Blood Grove

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blood Grove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ezekiel "Easy" Porterhouse Rawlins is an unlicensed private investigator turned hard-boiled detective always willing to do what it takes to get things done in the racially charged, dark underbelly of Los Angeles.

But when Easy is approached by a shell-shocked Vietnam War veteran- a young white man who claims to have gotten into a fight protecting a white woman from a black man- he knows he shouldn't take the case.

Though he sees nothing but trouble in the brooding ex-soldier's eyes, Easy, a vet himself, feels a kinship form between them. Easy embarks on an investigation that takes him from…


The Nickel Boys

By Colson Whitehead,

Book cover of The Nickel Boys

Why this book?

This novel is based upon unraveling the mystery of a real Florida reform school that operated for one hundred and eleven years destroying thousands of children’s lives. Elwood Curtis is about to enroll in college when an innocent mistake derails his future. A mistake that lands him at The Nickel Academy. A place that is supposed to turn inmates into “honorable and honest men.” A place in reality that is no more than a den of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. A place where corrupt officials exploit the goodwill intended for the academy. Elwood who enters the academy believing in the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. has those beliefs challenged by the cruelty he experiences and witnesses all around him. This novel was riveting and heart-wrenching for me.

The Nickel Boys

By Colson Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Nickel Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • In this Pulitzer Prize-winning follow-up to The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys unjustly sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
 
When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way…


Fear No Evil

By James Patterson,

Book cover of Fear No Evil

Why this book?

Dr. Alex Cross and Detective John Sampson are preparing to leave on their “manly trip” into the Montana wilderness when they receive a call from Metro PD. A dead CIA officer puts a pause on their plans. During his investigation, Alex receives an unnerving text from the criminal genius known as “M” who has terrorized Cross and his family for years. Alex and John eventually make it to Montana. Their vacation takes a treacherous 360-degree turn as they venture deep into the rugged Montana wilderness. Two rival teams of trained assassins are hunting them. One controlled by “M”. The other by the cartel. Cross and Sampson are isolated and cut off in a life-or-death struggle. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. A thriller right up until the end.

Fear No Evil

By James Patterson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fear No Evil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alex Cross enters the final battle with the all-knowing genius who has stalked him and his family for years.

Dr. Alex Cross and Detective John Sampson venture into the rugged Montana wilderness—where they will be the prey.
 
They’re not on the job, but on a personal mission. 
 
Until they’re attacked by two rival teams of assassins, controlled by the same mastermind who has stalked Alex and his family for years. 
 
Darkness falls. The river churns into rapids. Shots ring out through the forest. 
 
No backup. No way out. Fear no evil.

Palace Council

By Stephen L. Carter,

Book cover of Palace Council

Why this book?

Twenty prominent men hold a secret meeting on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1952 to formulate a plan to manipulate the President of the United States. A rising Harlem literary star, Eddie Wesley discovers the body of a famous lawyer Philmont Castle while leaving the engagement party of Kevin Garland and the woman he loves, Aurelia Treene. The mysterious disappearance of Eddie’s younger sister shortly thereafter sparks a twenty-year search by Eddie and Aurelia for the truth. Wesley and Aurelia uncoil secrets involving a conspiracy and murder that leads them to the Oval Office. One of the things I enjoy about this novel is Carter’s ability to dispense with stereotypes. A multifaceted, suspenseful, unique, captivating read. 

Palace Council

By Stephen L. Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Palace Council as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Summer, 1952. Twenty powerful men gather in secret and devise a plot to manipulate the President of the United States.

Soon after, writer Eddie Wesley leaves a party hosted by affluent and influential members of black society, and discovers a body. The murdered man had an unusual gold cross gripped between his hands and Eddie is determined to find out why he was killed and what the cross signifies.

But then Eddie's sister Junie becomes entangled in an underground movement and vanishes...

Is her disappearance connected to the conspiracy to control the President of the United States?


One-Shot Harry

By Gary Phillips,

Book cover of One-Shot Harry

Why this book?

This historical novel takes place in 1963 Los Angeles. Harry Ingram is an African American Korean War veteran, news/forensic photographer, and process server. Ingram arrives at a scene to photograph a deadly automobile accident. He recognizes the vehicle. It belongs to an old army buddy. Ingram sees evidence of foul play when he develops his photos of the accident. He is compelled to investigate. With Martin Luther King Jr’s Freedom Rally just around the corner, racial tensions are running high. Ingram dives headlong into the sordid underbelly of LA. Armed primarily with his camera and wits Ingram tangles with gangsters, fanatics, racists, and blackmailers in an effort to weed out justice for his friend. The captivating content, distinctive characters, and crisp dialogue kept me on the edge of my seat. 

One-Shot Harry

By Gary Phillips,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One-Shot Harry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Race and civil rights in 1963 Los Angeles provide a powerful backdrop in Gary Phillips’s riveting mystery about an African American crime scene photographer seeking justice for a friend—perfect for fans of Walter Mosley, James Ellroy, and George Pelecanos.

LOS ANGELES, 1963: Korean War veteran Harry Ingram earns a living as a news photographer and occasional process server: chasing police radio calls and dodging baseball bats. With racial tensions running high on the eve of Martin Luther King’s Freedom Rally, Ingram risks becoming a victim at every crime scene he photographs.

When Ingram hears about a deadly automobile accident on…


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