The best series starters in mystery featuring everyday heroes

Jessica Sherry Author Of Sea-Devil: A Delilah Duffy Mystery
By Jessica Sherry

Who am I?

A Virginia Tech grad, I’ve been many things: a teacher, preschool director, #PitchWars mentee, blogger, chef, caregiver, and chauffeur (some, just for my household). But always a writer. My fifth and final Delilah Duffy Mystery is coming in early 2023. A pandemic romance (One Thing Better) and an unlikely superhero novel (Adam) come next. I love a good mystery. Quirky, amateur sleuths using their wits and grit to solve tough cases while juggling regular lives like real people deliver a double-thrill—one for justice and another for the everyday oddball taking the win (like me, when I publish a book). This inspired my Delilah Duffy series and this list.


I wrote...

Sea-Devil: A Delilah Duffy Mystery

By Jessica Sherry,

Book cover of Sea-Devil: A Delilah Duffy Mystery

What is my book about?

Tipee Island isn’t just a breathtaking vacation spot but the perfect small town for a new start. Gutsy but error-prone, Delilah Duffy returns to the beloved island to reinvent herself as manager of Beach Read Books. But disturbing acts of vandalism send a clear message—her bookstore dreams have strange enemies. A murder in Beach Read Books the night before her grand opening threatens her second chance and, as she gets closer to the truth, puts her in danger of becoming the next victim. A family feud and a sweet romance deliver more complications as if a looming murder charge isn’t enough. Will she get her idyllic beach life, or will her second chance be her last?

The books I picked & why

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The Life We Bury

By Allen Eskens,

Book cover of The Life We Bury

Why this book?

Joe Talbert’s not your average college student but a hero easy to love for all he’s up against. He’s escaped his mom’s unstable household and her revolving door of abusers, but barely and not really. With his autistic brother Jeremy still in her care, Joe’s in a constant tug-of-war between his family and his future. Joe’s survivor-tough but with a soft side. He needs both when a biography assignment leads him to Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam vet and convicted felon. How can this war hero be a killer? Chasing the story with Joe is as thrilling as rooting for him. He must solve the mystery, save his family, get the girl, and, of course, get an A on his paper.  

The Life We Bury

By Allen Eskens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A USA Today bestseller and book club favorite!

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in…


Finlay Donovan Is Killing It

By Elle Cosimano,

Book cover of Finlay Donovan Is Killing It

Why this book?

A newly divorced novelist with two young children and writer’s block, Finlay Donovan isn’t killing anything yet. She’s a mess. Adding to the stress of single motherhood, Finlay has a deadline. Her latest murder mystery will secure her the advance she desperately needs to make ends meet and support her kids. Only she hasn’t written it. Kids, a cheating ex, and general chaos have buried her muse. Talking with her agent about (fictional) murder and (book advance) money at Panera leads to a monumental misunderstanding—she’s mistaken for a hit-woman. One uh-oh situation to the next, Finlay’s messed-up life gives a great escape from our own. This funny, light-hearted, twisty mystery has readers hoping Finlay lives up to the title. 

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It

By Elle Cosimano,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Finlay Donovan Is Killing It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Getting the job done" for one single mom takes on a whole new meaning in Finlay Donovan is Killing It.

One of Suspense Magazine's "Best Thrillers of 2021"
One of New York Public Library's Best Books of 2021
Nominated for the Left Coast Crime 2022 Lefty Award for the Best Humorous Mystery

“Funny and smart, twisty and surprising.”—Megan Miranda

Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny…


The Word Is Murder

By Anthony Horowitz,

Book cover of The Word Is Murder

Why this book?

Another writer-hero, Anthony Horowitz writes as himself in this page-turning whodunit. Well-known for his television work on Midsomer Murders, Poirot, and Foyle’s War, Horowitz knows how to craft a mystery. When ex-cop turned private investigator Nathaniel Hawthorne approaches Horowitz about ghostwriting a book about his cases, Horowitz isn’t interested. Annoying and eccentric, Hawthorne isn’t someone Horowitz wants to be around, let alone write about. But when a famous actor’s wealthy mother is murdered six hours after planning her own funeral, Horowitz gets pulled into the investigation anyway. Though very much a Sherlock Holmes and Watson relationship, Hawthorne and Horowitz are more adversarial, making them an entertaining team. You want them to be friends, but then again, you don’t. The word isn’t just murder, but funny, engaging, and endearing, too.  

The Word Is Murder

By Anthony Horowitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'EASILY THE GREATEST OF OUR CRIME WRITERS' Sunday Times

Chosen as one of Crime Time's books of the year! If you enjoyed BBC's Sherlock, you'll LOVE The Word is Murder.
_________________

Buried secrets, murder and a trail of bloody clues lie at the heart of Anthony Horowitz's page-turning new detective series.

SHE PLANNED HER OWN FUNERAL. BUT DID SHE ARRANGE HER OWN MURDER?

A woman is strangled six hours after organising her own funeral.

Did she know she was going to die? Did she recognise her killer?

Daniel Hawthorne, a recalcitrant detective with secrets of his own, is on the…


The Secret, Book & Scone Society

By Ellery Adams,

Book cover of The Secret, Book & Scone Society

Why this book?

Owner of Miracle Books, Nora Pennington doesn’t just sell books but prescribes them as a “bibliotherapist,” helping customers through their struggles. Who doesn’t need one of those? Outside of books, though, it’s difficult for Nora to connect—a sentiment that hits close to home, especially for us writers. Characters in stories aren’t real friends. So, when a new customer ends up dead, Nora does something very uncharacteristic—she reaches out to the women in her life to solve the mystery. As the murder case grows more intriguing, so does the partnership of The Secret, Book, & Scone Society. The members bond over books, murder, and their darkest pains, and readers bond with them. This pick makes you want to visit quaint bookstores, drink espresso, and devour more books.

The Secret, Book & Scone Society

By Ellery Adams,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Secret, Book & Scone Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First in the mystery series from the New York Times-bestselling author: “Anyone who loves novels that revolve around books will savor this tasty treat.”—Library Journal (starred review)
 
A quirky club in small-town North Carolina holds the keys to health, happiness, friendship—and even solving a murder—all to be found within the pages of the right book…

Strangers flock to Miracle Springs hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone, they exchange their stories with owner Nora…


The Thursday Murder Club

By Richard Osman,

Book cover of The Thursday Murder Club

Why this book?

The Thursday Murder Club features another formidable crime-solving foursome—senior citizens, or as the Brits say pensioners, from an upscale retirement village. Dissatisfied with their village’s social groups, they form The Thursday Murder Club to re-examine cold case files. Elizabeth, a master at getting her way, leads the team, including Ibrahim, a fact-centric psychiatrist, Ron, an adversarial celebrity trade union leader, and Joyce, a sweet and flirty retired nurse. When a murderer strikes close to home, they must get involved, even if it means manipulating the police and calling on an impressive network for favors. Laugh-out-loud moments combine perfectly with heartfelt ones in this twisty whodunit. You’ll want to start your own club for murder talk over tea and biscuits after you call your folks, that is. 

The Thursday Murder Club

By Richard Osman,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Thursday Murder Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller | Soon to be a major motion picture from Steven Spielberg at Amblin Entertainment

"Witty, endearing and greatly entertaining." -Wall Street Journal

"Don't trust anyone, including the four septuagenarian sleuths in Osman's own laugh-out-loud whodunit." -Parade

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to...
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, criminal investigations, and private investigators?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murder, criminal investigations, and private investigators.

Murder Explore 497 books about murder
Criminal Investigations Explore 278 books about criminal investigations
Private Investigators Explore 196 books about private investigators

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Go the F*ck to Sleep, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and Get Shorty if you like this list.