The best mysteries that break the mold

Who am I?

Growing up, I devoured books from two authors, the grande dame of mystery, Agatha Christie, and the science fiction great, Isaac Asimov. Luckily for me, both were prolific. That combination explains what I write, best described as the sleuth story meets speculative fiction. As a reader, when it comes to mysteries I’m always on the lookout for the out of this world. Which doesn't necessarily mean murder on a spaceship, though it can! What breaks the mold could be an unlikely detective, an inventive premise, an unusual setting, a narrative that surprises… Here are five such tales.


I wrote...

Regarding Ducks and Universes

By Neve Maslakovic,

Book cover of Regarding Ducks and Universes

What is my book about?

On a foggy Monday in 1986, an experiment sends the universe on two different paths. Fast-forward to 35 years later: Felix Sayers of Universe A spends his days dreaming of penning an Agatha Christie-style mystery. When his Aunt Henrietta dies, Felix finds a photograph that proves he was born before the bifurcation. Panicked that his "alter" may have written a mystery novel first, Felix crosses over to Universe B and proceeds to flagrantly violate the rules of both worlds by snooping around. When he narrowly escapes a hit-and-run, it becomes clear that someone’s on his trail. Now Felix must uncover the truth about his alter, the events of one Monday, and a wayward rubber duck before his time in both worlds runs out.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

By Stuart Turton,

Book cover of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Why this book?

Stuart Turton's novel, published as The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle in the US, has a Groundhog Day setup but with head hopping, a crumbling English manor isolated on all sides by woods, and a murder at the end of the night. The pace is quick, the characters plenty sinister—including a mystery man with a medieval plague doctor's mask. The story starts with a map of the grounds and an invitation: “You are cordially invited to Blackheath House for The Masquerade,” your hosts the Hardcastle family. From there we’re off, with the narrative’s twists and turns requiring the reader’s full attention. An engrossing, ambitious whodunit. 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

By Stuart Turton,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can you solve the mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle?

WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD
WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG NOVEL AWARD
A WATERSTONES THRILLER OF THE MONTH
SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPECSAVERS NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS DEBUT OF THE YEAR
LONGLISTED FOR THE THEAKSTON OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR

Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror - the most inventive story you'll read

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed ... Again

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks…


Six Wakes

By Mur Lafferty,

Book cover of Six Wakes

Why this book?

In Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes, a crew of clones opens their eyes aboard the spaceship Dormire headed away from Earth to find their previous versions floating around dead. Not just dead, but murdered. There’s nowhere to go and each and every one of them could be the killer. That’s a premise that could have gone in a dark direction but Lafferty keeps it light, much of the story propelled by lively dialogue as the clones go about keeping the spaceship on course while zeroing in on the killer in their midst. Weighty questions about the ethics of cloning alternate with jokes, secrets are unpeeled in flashbacks, and twists and surprises abound in this entertaining space whodunit.   

Six Wakes

By Mur Lafferty,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Six Wakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this Hugo nominated science fiction thriller by Mur Lafferty, a crew of clones awakens aboard a space ship to find they're being hunted-and any one of them could be the killer.

Maria Arena awakens in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood. She has no memory of how she died. This is new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria's vat is one of seven, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so…


The Clockmaker's Daughter

By Kate Morton,

Book cover of The Clockmaker's Daughter

Why this book?

It’s the hot, hazy summer of 1862 and painter Edward Radcliffe has arranged a creative retreat for his friends at Birchwood Manor, on a bend of the river Thames. Things go terribly wrong and there's a death. A hundred and fifty years later in London, archivist Elodie Winslow stumbles across a leather satchel; what’s inside—a photograph and sketchbook—sends Elodie on an investigative journey. While Elodie can come and go as she pleases to Birchwood Manor, someone else can’t—the ghost that’s inhabited the house ever since that fateful summer. An atmospheric mystery, one to be savored on a winter’s evening with your feet up in front of a fireplace and a cup of tea by your side.

The Clockmaker's Daughter

By Kate Morton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Clockmaker's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A truly hypnotic tale that is bound to please both fans and newcomers, The Clockmaker's Daughter is another wonderful read from one of Australia's most beloved authors.' - Booktopia

'Morton explores the tangled history of people and place in her outstanding, bittersweet sixth novel.' - US Publisher's Weekly

'The Clockmaker's Daughter is an ambitious, complex, compelling historical mystery with a fabulous cast of characters. This is Kate Morton at her very best.' - Kristin Hannah, bestselling author of The Nightingale

In the depths of a nineteenth-century winter, a little girl is abandoned in the narrow streets of London. Adopted by…


The Paradox Hotel

By Rob Hart,

Book cover of The Paradox Hotel

Why this book?

Rob Hart’s The Paradox Hotel is bursting at the seams with interesting characters. The hotel of the title serves the needs of wealthy time tourists on their way to and from the nearby Einstein port. Working security is one January Cole. Her only friend an AI drone, January is grieving a lost love and fast succumbing to a time-travel illness that has her becoming unmoored from the present. Things go from bad to worse when she stumbles on a dead body that only she can see—turns out, it’s quite tricky to solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet. Surprisingly poignant, with moments that made me laugh out loud, and some inventive time travel shenanigans.

The Paradox Hotel

By Rob Hart,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Paradox Hotel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Time travel, murder, corruption, restless baby dinosaurs, and a snarky robot named Ruby collide in this excellent, noir-inflected, humor-infused, science-fiction thriller.”—The Boston Globe
 
An impossible crime. A detective on the edge of madness. The future of time travel at stake. From the author of The Warehouse . . .

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR, Kirkus Reviews

January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.

Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting…


Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of Rebecca

Why this book?

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. You’ve heard the famous first line, maybe seen the Hitchcock movie or the recent (not very good) remake. Rebecca has been called a thriller, a Gothic novel, a romance, but in its bones it's a tale of two things: Love and murder. Handsome, brooding widower? Check. Atmospheric setting? Check. Creepy housekeeper? Check. Much of the story is told in an extremely effective stream-of-consciousness fashion. The book is eighty-some years old and it shows. There's an incident of brownface at a masquerade ball; a disabled character is treated with callousness; and bits of dialogue here and there raise the modern eyebrow. So be forewarned, but otherwise a tense, compelling read.

Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Rebecca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, romantic love, and cloning?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murder, romantic love, and cloning.

Murder Explore 502 books about murder
Romantic Love Explore 518 books about romantic love
Cloning Explore 7 books about cloning

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like My Sister, the Serial Killer, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and To Each His Own if you like this list.