The best books with mysteries—and solutions—you never saw coming

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader and writer, I work with a pretty broad definition of “mystery.” You’ll find my own novels in the fantasy section of the bookstore, but my books are mysteries too — and romances, and tales of adventure, and intimate character studies, and reflections on our reality, no matter how fantastical the worlds in which they take place. I love melding genres! So when I think of my favorite mysteries, I try not to limit myself to the mystery section of the bookstore. Few things make me happier than discovering partway through a book that a mystery has been building that I didn’t even notice.


I wrote...

Winterkeep

By Kristin Cashore,

Book cover of Winterkeep

What is my book about?

For the past five years, Bitterblue has reigned as Queen of Monsea, heroically rebuilding her nation after her father's horrific rule. After learning about the land of Torla in the east, she sends envoys to the closest nation there: Winterkeep—a place where telepathic foxes bond with humans, and people fly across the sky in wondrous airships. But when the envoys never return, having drowned under suspicious circumstances, Bitterblue sets off for Winterkeep herself, along with her spy Hava and her trusted colleague Giddon. On the way, tragedy strikes again.

Meanwhile, in Winterkeep, Lovisa Cavenda waits and watches. The teenage daughter of two powerful politicians, she is the key to unlocking everything—but only if she's willing to transcend the person she's been all her life.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of My Sister, the Serial Killer

Kristin Cashore Why did I love this book?

The majority of books I read involve characters with a relatable, and sometimes even predictable, arc of growth and change. As much as I love variations on this theme, imagine my delight to stumble across something completely different. Korede is a nurse in Lagos whose sister Ayoola may just be a serial killer. The book opens with a phone call from Ayoola: Could Korede please come help her clear away the body of Ayoola’s suddenly dead boyfriend? Korede’s responses to phone calls like this are a continuously surprising delight. And though the premise of this book is hilarious and absurd, Braithewaite is playing with real, deep truths about humans here. I loved it.

By Oyinkan Braithwaite,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked My Sister, the Serial Killer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sunday Times bestseller and The Times #1 bestseller

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019
Winner of the 2019 LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller
Capital Crime Debut Author of the Year 2019
__________

'A literary sensation'
Guardian

'A bombshell of a book... Sharp, explosive, hilarious'
New York Times

'Glittering and funny... A stiletto slipped between the ribs and through the left ventricle of the heart' Financial Times
__________

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber…


Book cover of Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

Kristin Cashore Why did I love this book?

The less I say about the plot of this book, the better your reading experience will be. I avoided reading the flap copy, and I recommend you do too. What I can promise you is this: a book set in Arizona and firmly grounded in the reality of racism and deportation in the USA, mixed together with spirituality, mythology, sci-fi pop culture, a surprising solution to a mystery, and, just possibly, aliens from outer space. Plus, beautiful writing! This is one of those books with super short chapters, each of which is a little gem. I loved it.

By Raquel Vasquez Gilliland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“In a world where we are so often dividing ourselves into us and them, this book feels like a kind of magic, celebrating all beliefs, ethnicities, and unknowns.” —The New York Times Book Review

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Roswell by way of Laurie Halse Anderson in this astonishing, genre-bending novel about a Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life.

It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to…


Book cover of Miss Pym Disposes

Kristin Cashore Why did I love this book?

This is my favorite novel by the mystery master Josephine Tey, because it quietly breaks the mold. Miss Pym, bestselling writer of a book about psychology, makes an author visit to an English “college of physical culture,” where young women are training in various athletic arts. As the students of this school charm Miss Pym and occupy her ruminations, she continues to delay her departure. But where is the mystery? It isn’t until the final third of the book that the mystery appears, and it was only on rereading that I realized it had been coming all along. I love this kind of unexpected unfolding. I also adored the resolution.

By Josephine Tey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Miss Pym Disposes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic murder mystery from the Golden Age of detective fiction, written by genre legend Josephine Tey.

Leys Physical Training College is famous for its excellent discipline and its spectacularly athletic students. Miss Lucy Pym, expert psychologist, is pleased and flattered to be invited to lecture there - even if the Olympian splendour of the students leaves her feeling just a little inadequate.

But a nasty accident spoils the occasion, and suddenly Miss Pym must turn her intellect to the unpleasant suspicion that, among all these healthy young students, there lurks an incurably sick mind...


Book cover of Stories of Your Life and Others

Kristin Cashore Why did I love this book?

Most of the “mystery” books I’m recommending here aren’t categorized as such — especially this one, which you’ll find in the sci-fi section of your bookstore. But sci-fi abounds with mysteries; in much of my favorite sci-fi, the characters are undergoing some sort of deeply human yet otherworldly experience that’s essentially a mystery that they (or the reader) must solve. Ted Chiang is a writer highly skilled at touching the mysteries and paradoxes of our existence, then distilling them into beautiful stories that cause my sense of the wondrous to expand. I love the way his stories make me feel. And then I love rereading them and picking apart the techniques — like, for example, the use of tense in Story of Your Life — that make his writing so powerful.

By Ted Chiang,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Stories of Your Life and Others as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A science fiction genius . . . Ted Chiang is a superstar.' - Guardian

With Stories of Your Life and Others, his masterful first collection, multiple-award-winning author Ted Chiang deftly blends human emotion and scientific rationalism in eight remarkably diverse stories, all told in his trademark precise and evocative prose.

From a soaring Babylonian tower that connects a flat Earth with the firmament above, to a world where angelic visitations are a wondrous and terrifying part of everyday life; from a neural modification that eliminates the appeal of physical beauty, to an alien language that challenges our very perception of…


Book cover of The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau

Kristin Cashore Why did I love this book?

I’m going to guess that most adults don’t encounter many picture books, except in the context of introducing them to children. I would like to humbly suggest that if your reading habits don’t extend to picture books, you may be missing out. It’s an art form I adore, and one of my favorites is this book about a mysterious painter in Paris whose paintings contain scenes that come alive. I love Agee’s palette and the perspectives he chose for this story — and no matter how many times I read this book, I’m still thrilled by the twist at the end. It’s the sort of mysterious story that delights, while opening your imagination to bigger things.

By Jon Agee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Art imitates life in this hilarious, absurdist picture book--one of Jon Agee's most beloved titles, now back in print.

"Outrageous!" the judges cried. "Ridiculous!" Who would dare enter a portrait of a duck in the Grand Contest of Art? But when Felix Clouseau's painting quacks, he is hailed as a genius. Suddenly everyone wants a Clousseau masterpiece, and the unknown painter becomes an overnight sensation. That's when the trouble begins.


You might also like...

Sea Change

By Darlene Marshall,

Book cover of Sea Change

Darlene Marshall Author Of Sea Change

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Romance Reader Regency Romance Fan History Buff SF & Fantasy Fan

Darlene's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

David Fletcher needs a surgeon, stat! But when he captures a British merchantman in the Caribbean, what he gets is Charley Alcott, an apprentice physician barely old enough to shave. Needs must, and Captain Fletcher takes the prisoner back aboard his ship with orders to do his best or he’ll be walking the plank.

Charley Alcott’s medical skills are being put to the test in a life-or-death situation, Charley’s life as well as the patient’s. Even if she can save the American privateer's brother there will still be hell to pay—and maybe a plank to walk—when Captain Fletcher learns Charley…

Sea Change

By Darlene Marshall,

What is this book about?

High Seas, #1

David Fletcher needs a surgeon, stat! But when he captures a British merchantman in the Caribbean what he gets is Charley Alcott, an apprentice physician barely old enough to shave. Needs must, and Captain Fletcher takes the prisoner back aboard his ship with orders to do his best, or he'll be walking the plank.

Charley Alcott's medical skills are being put to the test in a life-or-death situation, Charley's life as well as the patient's. Even if she can save the pirate's brother there will still be hell to pay--and maybe a plank to walk--when Captain Fletcher…


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