The best mystery books the reader can solve by themselves

Who am I?

I am a fan and a creator of puzzles. As a child, I created twisty scavenger hunts for my younger siblings, full of codes and clues. As a reader, I get frustrated with mysteries that hide clues or use knowledge that no reader would have so no one reading can possibly solve the story before the truth comes out. So, today, as a writer, I create stories that can be solved by the reader before the end. I entertain myself by solving puzzles and researching codes in my free time. I wish you the best of luck solving these books!

I wrote...

The Explorer's Code

By Allison K. Hymas,

Book cover of The Explorer's Code

What is my book about?

Math whiz Charlie won admission in a puzzle contest―and he’s intrigued by the strange numbers he finds on Idlewood’s walls. His restless sister Anna had to be dragged to the house―but then she discovers its hidden floor. Emily’s parents brought her to the mansion on a secret mission―and she’s determined to prove herself to them.

All three kids soon unlock clues to Idlewood’s mysterious past and the famous female explorer who’s connected to it―and the secret treasure she left behind. But the adults around them are also hunting for treasure. Charlie, Anna, and Emily will have to overcome their differences and work as a team to solve Idlewood’s puzzles before it’s too late, in Allison K. Hymas's The Explorer's Code.

The books I picked & why

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The Westing Game

By Ellen Raskin,

Book cover of The Westing Game

Why this book?

This is one of my favorite mysteries of all time. It set the model for me in writing my own mystery. I love that it is, in fact, solvable by the reader if you’re observant enough to pick up the clues and clever enough to put them together. The best part, though, is that despite this being a murder mystery, the characters are likeable and relatable. At its heart it’s about people trying to be happy and finding ways to thrive, and coming together to help each other be better versions of themselves. This is a great mystery, yes, but part of its greatness is highlighting the power of community.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

By Chris Grabenstein,

Book cover of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Why this book?

This book is more than just one puzzle: it’s a whole sequence of them, and they’re all solvable by the readers. There are no hiding answers or clues, and no tricking the reader by refusing to tell the whole story. It opens its magnificent doors to the ready minds of the readers. I also appreciate that this is a book without a villain—it shows that not every story needs a villain. Sometimes the best conflict comes from solving the puzzle.

Death on the Nile

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of Death on the Nile

Why this book?

Agatha Christie is a marvel of mystery writing. Any of her books are solvable, with the right knowledge. She is not one to hide her clues but confounds her readers anyway. This book I chose because it was one of the books I was able to solve before the ending, which felt great. There is power in reading a tricky mystery and solving it, as it made me feel smart and kept me engaged the whole time. I appreciate that Christie doesn’t lie to her readers and hides no clues. When you solve one of her books, you have earned the joy that comes with it.

A Tale of Two Castles

By Gail Carson Levine, Greg Call (illustrator),

Book cover of A Tale of Two Castles

Why this book?

Dragons, castles, fairy tales, and mystery…this book has all my favorite things! We follow Elodie, a young actress (or mansioner) who becomes apprenticed to Sherlock Holmes in Dragon form. That alone was enough to hook me; I love seeing the mystery play out, and it is solvable, though in, perhaps, a different way than other mystery stories. My favorite thing about this book, though, is how it turns classic fairy tale tropes on their head. From this story, I learn not to assume and that villains can come in all different forms.

Silent to the Bone

By E.L. Konigsburg,

Book cover of Silent to the Bone

Why this book?

This book is a complex mystery revolving around a boy accused of a terrible crime, a boy who is currently unable to speak. It is solvable, as the protagonist is the detective character, though not every detail may be known until the explanation. What I love about this book are the difficult issues handled well for young readers, the excellent friendship between the protagonist and his sister, and the wisdom about interpersonal relationships and emotions that carries this novel into depths not usually seen in a young reader’s mystery. One observation about shame and anger continues to ring in my mind, reminding me that emotions seen on the surface often have deeper roots.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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