The best atmospheric mysteries with twists I didn’t see coming

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and a reader, and there is little I love more than falling deep into an atmospheric mystery. One that has the texture of dark velvet—something so rich, vivid, and experiential I can almost wrap it around me—and has just the right amount of suspense to keep me turning pages. As an author of historical fiction and mysteries, capturing that immersive, atmospheric sense of place is so important to me. When I see this done well, I want to savor it, study it—and try to get you to read it, too.


I wrote...

Enchanted Hill

By Emily Bain Murphy,

Book cover of Enchanted Hill

What is my book about?

Escape to Enchanted Hill in this historical mystery where two people with a dark, shared past collide while working undercover during a week of parties at a glittering mansion on the California coast.

Filled with intrigue and Old Hollywood glamour, Enchanted Hill is set in 1930 within an intricate puzzle of romance, mystery, art theft, and murder. Perfect for fans of historical fiction books like the Molly Murphy Mysteries, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Kate Morton books.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Secret Keeper

Emily Bain Murphy Why did I love this book?

The Secret Keeper is a master class in atmospheric mystery storytelling. Kate Morton always writes the most gorgeous, sweeping novels with epic twists and such strong senses of place.

Whenever someone asks for a book that made me gasp or had a twist I never saw coming, this is the first book that always comes to mind. Morton became an auto-buy author for me after this one, with her ethereal prose, her lush manor settings, and her time slips between rich historical flashbacks and present day.

This book is one that’s best read on a wraparound porch spattered with summer shadows and holding a glass of iced tea. 

By Kate Morton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret Keeper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kate Morton's heartbreaking novel, The Secret Keeper, is a spellbinding story of mysteries and secrets, murder and enduring love, moving between the 1930s, the 1960s and the 2010s.

1961: On a sweltering summer's day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree-house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can't wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades…


Book cover of How the Light Gets In

Emily Bain Murphy Why did I love this book?

I can’t possibly have a best-of list that doesn’t include Louise Penny. Her Inspector Gamache series exudes such a joyous, hopeful, cozy warmth—even when they’re about premeditated murder.

How the Light Gets In is one of my very favorites because it at first seems like such a quiet, wintry book where subtle hints wink like sunlight on sparkling snow. But there’s something so much more ominous lurking beneath the surface and it leads to a truly shocking climax.

As with all of Penny’s books, this one brims with heart and makes me wish I could travel to the cozy town of Three Pines. Best read near a crackling fire with a blanket and a steaming hot toddy.

By Louise Penny,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How the Light Gets In as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How the Light Gets In is the ninth Chief Inspector Gamache Novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny.

"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." —Leonard Cohen

Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it's a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn't spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining…


Book cover of Wrong Place Wrong Time

Emily Bain Murphy Why did I love this book?

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is the book I have found myself most recommending over the last year.

Gillian McAllister perfectly captures the wide spectrum of feelings that accompany motherhood—overwhelming love, regret, anxiety, courage. This book is thought-provoking, page-turning, and plumbs emotional depths that quickly elevated it to one of my favorite books.

It begins with a mother who witnesses her son committing a brutal murder, and then traces the days and years backward to figure out what led to the crime—and whether she can stop it from happening. An incredibly original story that plays with form, kept me guessing, and pulled at my heartstrings. Best read at the lake, as the sun sets, with a glass of blood red wine.

By Gillian McAllister,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Wrong Place Wrong Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

CAN YOU STOP A MURDER WHEN IT'S ALREADY HAPPENED?

'Perfection, every word, every moment. One of the best books I've ever read' LISA JEWELL
'Ingenious. A book to blow your mind and break your heart' ERIN KELLY
'Extraordinary' HARRIET TYCE
'I am totally in awe. This is one story I will not forget' HEIDI PERKS
'Genre-bending and totally original. A tour de force!' CLAIRE DOUGLAS

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK EVERYONE HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT
_________

It's every parent's nightmare.

Your happy, funny, innocent son commits a terrible crime: murdering a complete stranger.

You don't know who. You don't know why. You…


Book cover of Faithful Place

Emily Bain Murphy Why did I love this book?

No one does dialogue and atmospheric tension like Tana French. Faithful Place is my favorite of hers.

I felt like the characters were so alive that I could hear their voices in my head long after I had closed the book. This story is rife with a gritty, urban Irish atmosphere and thick with familial tension. French does a cross between literary fiction and procedural that is devastating, at times quite dark, and yet ringing with hope—one of my favorite qualities in a mystery.

Best read on a dark, rainy afternoon with a mug of rich coffee—or a Guinness. 

By Tana French,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Faithful Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Tana French, author of the forthcoming novel The Searcher, “the most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years” (The Washington Post), the bestseller called “the most stunning of her books” (The New York Times) and a finalist for the Edgar Award. 

Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was a nineteen-year-old kid with a dream of escaping hisi family's cramped flat on Faithful Place and running away to London with his girl, Rosie Daly. But on the night they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn't show. Frank took it for granted that she'd dumped him-probably because of his…


Book cover of Malice

Emily Bain Murphy Why did I love this book?

I love mysteries that play with form and narration. Malice was published in 1996 by Keigo Higashino and it’s unlike any mystery that I’ve ever read.

There are multiple stories being told at different levels and I loved the way the puzzle unravels. It’s a locked room mystery set in Tokyo that midway through the narrative switches from being about who the murderer is to why they did it. The atmosphere is chilling and almost sterile, like a flickering fluorescent light.

Best read on a redeye flight with a web of city lights spread out beneath you—or on a commuter train to work between sips of black coffee. 

By Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he's planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. His body is found in his office, in a locked room, within his locked house, by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have rock solid alibis. Or so it seems.

Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka's best friend. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same high school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Osamu Nonoguchi left to become a full-time writer, though with…


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Book cover of The Woman at the Wheel

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

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The Woman at the Wheel

By Penny Haw,

What is this book about?

Inspiring historical fiction based on the real life of Bertha Benz, whose husband built the first prototype automobile, which eventually evolved into the Mercedes-Benz marque.

"Unfortunately, only a girl again."

From a young age, Cacilie Bertha Ringer is fascinated by her father's work as a master builder in Pforzheim, Germany. But those five words, which he wrote next to her name in the family Bible, haunt Bertha.

Years later, Bertha meets Carl Benz and falls in love-with him and his extraordinary dream of building a horseless carriage. Bertha has such faith in him that she invests her dowry in his…


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