The best YA mysteries that will have you channeling your inner Nancy Drew

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up reading Nancy Drew books creekside in an Alabama swamp and developed a deep adoration of mysteries with atmospheric, creepy settings. I love the idea of strong female protagonists who take matters into their own hands and don’t sit idly by, so not only do I read books that have them as main characters, but I write them too. In addition to writing, I’m lucky enough to be a kidlit haint at a haunted indie bookshop, so reading and recommending the books I enjoy is literally my job!

I wrote...

The Existence of Bea Pearl

By Candice Marley Conner,

Book cover of The Existence of Bea Pearl

What is my book about?

If her brother could stop existing, could she too?

Sixteen-year-old Bea Pearl knows her brother isn’t dead—even if her parents don’t agree. Even if the entire town doesn’t believe her. She knows it’s true. When orders came to evacuate Lake George, Alabama due to rising floodwaters, Bea Pearl saw Jim head toward the river. She followed him. Only she returned. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pride and Premeditation

Candice Marley Conner Why did I love this book?

If you like your mysteries paired with retold classics—think Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie for tea—I highly recommend this one! Price superbly captured the essence of Austen's characters and made them all her own. Instead of Bingley's purchase of Netherfield starting the story, he’s accused of murdering his brother-in-law. Quick-witted and resourceful Lizzie Bennet is eager to prove her worth as a solicitor in her father's barrister office and takes on the case to the prideful Darcy's dismay. Collins' character is just as cringy, and charming Wickham is a Bow Street Runner, helping Lizzie on her case. (You want him to be good! Just this once, Wickham!)

By Tirzah Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of BuzzFeed's best YA books of 2021!

Perfect for fans of the Lady Janies and Stalking Jack the Ripper, the first book in the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries trilogy is a clever retelling of Pride and Prejudice that reimagines the iconic settings, characters, and romances in a thrilling and high-stakes whodunit.

When a scandalous murder shocks London high society, seventeen-year-old aspiring lawyer Lizzie Bennet seizes the opportunity to prove herself, despite the interference of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious firm Pemberley Associates.

Convinced the authorities have imprisoned the wrong person, Lizzie vows to solve…

Book cover of No Beauties or Monsters

Candice Marley Conner Why did I love this book?

Read this if you devour mysteries served with a side of science fiction. The main character, Rylie, moves back to Twentynine Palms in her grandfather’s old house in the Mojave Desert. Weird things are happening. Then Rylie finds out that her childhood best friend’s sister disappeared and her grandfather may be involved. Rylie keeps losing time. Who is the bad guy?? Nobody knows. Is it the grandfather? The guy on the news? The government Rylie’s mom works for? Her new stepbrother who may be too helpful? Her childhood bestie? Rylie herself? I couldn’t put this one down!

By Tara Goedjen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Beauties or Monsters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

“A desert full of mystery. A girl who sees things she shouldn’t. Desperate to unlock the secrets of Twentynine Palms, I raced through this book!” —Erin A. Craig, New York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows
For fans of Stranger Things and Veronica Mars comes a new YA mystery about a girl whose desperate search for her missing friend unearths dark secrets, preternatural threats, and a truth that could ultimately tear her family, friends, and town apart.

Welcome to Twentynine Palms, where nothing is what it seems.

Rylie hasn't been back to the military base in Twentynine…

Book cover of Dark and Shallow Lies

Candice Marley Conner Why did I love this book?

Dark and Shallow Lies is the perfect atmospheric thriller if you crave a mystery festering with swampy paranormal undercurrents. Set in a small coastal Louisiana town, Grey returns home intent on finding out what happened to her best friend Elora who disappeared six months earlier. You get to meet the Summer Children, eleven (but there used to be more!) psychic children who all have different gifts, like Evie’s ability to listen to the dead, Hart’s empathy, and Case’s knack to be in two places at once. This is another one where I wasn’t sure who was the bad guy. The plot twists are thicker than a mosquito swarm and faster than Willie Nelson’s alligator death roll.

By Ginny Myers Sain,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dark and Shallow Lies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?



A intensely romantic and atmospheric thriller for young adults, full of twists and turns with a simmering supernatural undercurrent. Perfect for fans of Holly Jackson, Karen McManus and Delia Owens' Where the Crawdads Sing

When seventeen-year-old Grey makes her annual visit to La Cachette, Louisiana - the tiny bayou town that proclaims to be the "Psychic Capital of the World" - she knows it will be different from past years: her childhood best friend Elora went missing several months earlier and no one is telling…

Book cover of Lazarus

Candice Marley Conner Why did I love this book?

Another good small-town mystery, I recommend Lazarus if you prefer your whodunits full of heart and humor. Margo and Hank are the sweetest teen detective couple since Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson. Only problem is Hank’s dead. 

The book is a dual POV, and their love for each other comes out of the pages as they grapple with what haunts them. In Margo's situation, the cold case death of her mother, and in Hank's, his accidental murderers plotting something nefarious, and wondering what's best for Margo--stay with her to protect her, or move on so she can too.

Every time I thought I figured out who the killer could be, Hank or Margo brought another neighbor’s secrets to light. The cornfield-filled, rural Nebraska setting lent creepy vibes.

By Maryanne Melloan Woods,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lazarus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Margo and Hank are teen detectives in tiny, god-forsaken Lazarus, Nebraska. They have a profoundly deep relationship; the only hitch is that Hank has been dead for two months.The pair team up to solve a local murder, with Margo doing the everyday gumshoe work and the late Hank spying on suspects unseen. At the same time, Margo attempts to solve the cold case of her mother’s murder seven years ago. As Margo’s quest becomes more perilous, Hank will try to protect her, anguished that he can’t do more as she finally battles the sinister forces that killed her mother.

Book cover of These Wicked Waters

Candice Marley Conner Why did I love this book?

If you like your sleuthing seaside—with mermaids!—I recommend These Wicked Waters. Our main character, Annie, reluctantly spends her summer working at her mother’s new island resort, but things get super mysterious when the staff starts disappearing and she learns about the island’s curse. Cursed islands give me immediate grabby hands. With nods to The Odyssey, the sirens in this story are not your friendly, musical-loving mermaids. And the hurricane at the end will have you on the edge of your seat. 

By Emily Layne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked These Wicked Waters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

A centuries-old curse plagues the island of Viaii Nisi and an ancient enemy lurks beneath the depths of the surrounding water.Annie Mayfield has heard all the stories and rumors about the island that is now home to the brand new Mayfield Villa resort, and she is definitely not psyched about having to spend her summer working there. The island’s name alone—Viaii Nisi, or violent island—is enough to make any sane person seriously reconsider it as a vacation destination. Then there are the mysterious deaths of every previous owner! It’s a history Annie’s mother is quick to shrug off, but when…

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Blood of the White Bear

By Marcia Calhoun Forecki, Gerald Schnitzer,

Book cover of Blood of the White Bear

Marcia Calhoun Forecki Author Of Blood of the White Bear

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author History hound Polyglot Bookworm Neatness averse Yoga beginner

Marcia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Virologist Dr. Rachel Bisette sees visions of a Kachina and remembers the plane crash that killed her parents and the Dine medicine woman who saved her life. Rachel is investigating a new and lethal hantavirus spreading through the Four Corners, and believes the Kachina is calling her to join the work against the spreading pandemic.

She finds Eva Yellow Horn, a medicine woman with the key to fighting the pandemic. When Eva demonstrates ancient healing powers beyond science, Rachel recognizes her as the medicine woman who saved her life years before. Eva reveals that Rachel’s father was investigating the 1979 nuclear disaster in Church Rock, when his plane crashed, killing her parents. Now, Rachel undertakes a new investigation, but she is not alone.

Blood of the White Bear

By Marcia Calhoun Forecki, Gerald Schnitzer,

What is this book about?

“Visions of kachinas guide doctor to spiritual healing in pandemic.”

2014 Finalist in the Willa Literary Award

This is a book that once closed and last line read, my mind wandered to explore certain character motivations and potential follow-up responses. I don’t think an author has to answer every possibility, art comes into play best when the reader’s own imagination can wander within the story.

Dr. Rachel Bisette is drawn to the Four Corners to lead the search for a vaccine against a lethal pandemic. One elusive indigenous woman, Eva Yellow Horn, carries the gift of immunity. In her search…

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