Hello readers, I have another Bookish Lists post today! It’s almost October, and while horror novels aren’t really to my taste, the weeks leading up to Halloween are definitely my favorite time of year to pick up mysteries and thrillers. Here is a small collection of the books I’ve particularly enjoyed over the past couple of years!
1. Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) – Maureen Johnson
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.
Truly Devious ranks at the top of this list because it is one of the few mystery novels that really made me stop and analyze the clues to the extent that I actually put my book down to think about it. This series was also my introduction to the dual narration style in the genre and the way the plot is woven keeps the reader guessing until the pieces finally start to come together, making it a true delight to read.
2. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (AGGGM #1) – Holly Jackson
Everyone in Fairview knows the story.
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent…and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.
My favorite part about this particular book is in the way the story is narrated, as a combination of multiple character perspectives and documentation of the main character’s investigation. It is, in my opinion, the kind of mystery you can sit back and enjoy rather than being completely overwhelmed by reveal upon reveal with no time to breathe – it gave me as a reader time to do some thinking on my own too, and it was a proper whodunnit mystery.
3. Dark and Shallow Lies – Ginny Myers Sain
A teen girl disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp like water rot, in this chilling debut supernatural thriller for fans of Natasha Preston, Karen McManus, and Rory Power.
La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide.
This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World–and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier.
Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something – her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave.
When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou – a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history – Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent–and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.
Supernatural themes are not something I usually enjoy, but combined with a thriller, I just couldn’t resist trying this one out. With how well written and executed this book was, I could hardly believe that it is a debut novel! The setting of the Louisiana bayou was amazing and provided the perfect backdrop for this story, making this one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever come across.
4. All These Bodies – Kendare Blake
Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation.
Summer 1958 – a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes – even in their beds – their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere.
September 19 – the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.
Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to.
As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?
The latest addition to this list, and one I never expected I would like as much as I did, considering it’s actually a bit on the scary side, All These Bodies is one book not to be missed for fans of the genre this year!
5. That Weekend – Kara Thomas
Three best friends, a lake house, a secret trip – what could go wrong?
It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours.
Three went up the mountain, but only one came back.
Now everyone wants answers – most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that… nothing. And now Kat and Jesse – her best friends – are missing.
That weekend changes everything.
What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory, but as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.
This is one of the few mysteries I’ve read that includes a time leap. It’s an unusual choice, breaking the flow of the story given the high level of suspense in the narrative, but it worked for this one.
6. The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games #1) – Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.
Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
This book was honestly so much fun to read! The author has come up with such a captivating series of puzzles and twists, and combined with the gripping plot, it’s impossible to look away as the mystery unfolds, one layer at a time.
7. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.
Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.
I initially thought this was a mystery novel, but it was more of a mystery/thriller leaning into paranormal, which was a mix of genres I’d never tried before, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it! The feel of the book is somewhat reminiscent of Agatha Christie, and it was the most intriguing mystery I’d come across in a while, along with being the sole novel with a non-linear plot line that I’ve found easy to follow to date.
Have you read any of these books? Are there any others you enjoyed not on this list? Let me know in the comments below!