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Find our latest selection of crime and mystery books, from serious whodunnits to failed comic detectives.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | If you like your adventures good and creepy, you’re going to love The Invasion of the Crooked Oak. Crooked Oak is a peaceful kind of place, but it seems something is up with the town’s grown-ups – they’ve stopped eating, are avoiding the light, and generally behaving really strangely. When teenagers Pete, Krish and Nancy try to work out what’s going on, they find the trail leads to the fracking site on the town’s edge. The tension ratchets up nicely as the three realise they’ve got one chance to save their parents and themselves. The environmental theme feels very topical and author Dan Smith knows just how to keep his readers on the edge of their seats. Published by dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke, this is accessible to readers of all abilities and completely gripping.
Meet Mina Mistry, primary school student and would-be private investigator. She’s smart, observant and has a great sidekick in the shape of her best friend, cuddly toy Mr Panda. All she needs is a case to solve and there’s one right under her nose: how come their school dinners are such a danger to their teeth, in direct contrast to what their headmaster says and school dinner lady wants? Hmmm. Against the backdrop of a wonderfully wacky charity fundraising event, and assisted by her Granny Meera, Mina uncovers some dodgy goings-on in the school office. Mina is a lively character and her assorted school friends and family members make an excellent supporting cast. This is very readable, lots of fun and a satisfying mystery too.
After stories set in jungles and on the Russian steppes, Katherine Rundell has chosen the streets of Prohibition New York for her latest, but it’s just as full of the sense of peril and freedom from rules that characterises her earlier books, with central character Vita facing possibly the greatest danger yet. Newly arrived from England, Vita is determined to win back her family home, the fabulous Hudson Castle, acquired from her grandfather in a distinctly shady way by mob boss Victor Sorrotore. This will involve breaking and entering – and legend has it the castle is impregnable – and safe cracking, but Vita is fortunate enough to have as associates an extremely talented pickpocket and two fearless young circus performers. Rundell revels in setting her characters these kind of challenges and also in exploring the kind of physical and mental daring required to undertake them. She likes to equip her protagonists with right and with love too, the latter proves a formidable weapon for Vita. Beautifully written and full of scenes that both thrill and enchant, The Good Thieves is Rundell at her classy best. Readers who are captivated by Katherine Rundell’s wild children will also enjoy Stop the Train or The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean, or books by classic children’s writers such as Joan Aiken and Eva Ibbotson.
An absolutely charming addition to a much loved series. There is something so uplifting about these novels, Alexander McCall Smith has the ability to embrace the intimate in order to open far-reaching views. Mma Ramotswe is troubled by a strange smell in her van, her new neighbour causes concern, and a distant cousin asks for help. Can you believe that we are now at book twenty-one in this evocative series which began with The No:1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 1998? Do you have a favourite, I think this could well be mine…though as with all good series that create a world for you to inhabit, the latest usually becomes your most treasured! There is a graceful ease to the words of Alexander McCall Smith, he is so gently yet evocatively descriptive and as soon as I started to read a sense of ease enveloped me. The pace slows, the small things matter, and Mma Ramotswe is just glorious.
Shot-through with a vital message about the importance of giving voice and rightful representation to women who’ve been silenced by centuries of patriarchy, this smart novel melds an intriguing art history mystery with Parisian amour. While Khayyam is clear about what she wants to do with her life - become a respected art historian - her identity is more complex. She’s “French American. Indian American. Muslim American. Biracial. Interfaith.” As such, “Others look at me and try to shove me into their own narrative to define who and what I am. But I’m not a blank page that everyone else gets to write on. I have my own voice.” This statement weaves through the whole novel, which sees Khayyam in Paris for the summer, still reeling from a relationship gone awry back home in Chicago, and from her Young Scholar Prize essay being dismissed as “the work of a dilettante, not a future art historian”. When she happens to run into a cute Parisian boy, who happens to be a descendent of bi-racial French writer Alexandre Dumas, Khayyam and said cute boy (also called Alexandre) embark on an intellectual voyage that leads them to Leila, a nineteenth-century Muslim woman connected to Dumas and Byron. Leila’s forgotten life and silenced voice is revealed through her letters, with Khayyam frequently asserting her desire to right the wrong of “the entire world dehumanizing and erasing this woman who had a life, who mattered.” Through Khayyam the novel also addresses issues around representation and cultural appropriation as she wrestles with determining who has the right to tell Leila’s story, including herself. As Khayyam’s findings hot up, so too does her love life. First there’s the spark between her and Alexandre, then there’s the simmering presence of her Chicagoan ex. With Paris vibrantly evoked as her stage - its history, architecture, secret gardens and food - Leila’s personal life and intellectual prowess combine to create a life-changing summer. This comes hugely commended - and recommended - for its portrayal of an intelligent young woman who refuses to bow to expectations, and who’s determined to give voice to the voiceless. Like Khayyam, it’s smart, thoughtful and inspirational. For more books with a strong, feminist theme, visit our Girl Power feature.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | August 2020 Debut/Book of the Month | Warm-hearted and mysterious The Unadoptables is a wonderfully entertaining adventure with a cast of fascinating characters set in a brilliantly evoked old-world Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside. Following the clues from the only possessions she was left with when she was abandoned as a baby and guided by her ‘Book of Theories’, the imaginative Milou leads her four friends – the least adoptable children in the very horrible Little Tulip Orphanage – to her family home where she is sure she will find her parents. Travelling through a freezing night the children arrive at their destination. But there is not the welcome they had expected. Where are Milou’s parents? And what is the mystery they need to solve? The creative ways in which the five children manage first to escape from the evil clutches of their matron and her evil accomplice Rotman and then to make a new life for themselves bamboozling neighbours and unravelling the mystery is vivid and captivating.
Architecture-loving Iggy Peck is one of the young band of Questioneers, along with Ada Twist, Sofia Valdez and Rosie Revere. They love nothing more than asking questions, working things out and solving mysteries, and there’s a great one here: Ada’s Great-Aunt Bernice has been left a beautiful Art Nouveau mansion, complete with ghost – can Iggy find the mansion’s hidden treasures, and what to do about the ghost? The story is lots of fun, and Iggy’s enthusiasm for buildings and knowledge too is a key part of the adventure. A lively, hugely enjoyable read that celebrates brains and partnership.
The highly-anticipated and brilliantly crafted crime-thriller sequel to the no.1 debut of 2019, A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore. With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her. But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won't do anything about it. And if they won't look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town's dark secrets along the way... and this time EVERYONE is listening. But will she find him before it's too late? Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying, Eva Dolan, C L Taylor, We Were Liars and Riverdale
Spring is coming slowly to Sweden - though not quite as slowly as Detective Ulf Varg's promised promotion at the Department of Sensitive Crimes. For Varg, referred by his psychoanalyst to group therapy at Malmoe's Wholeness Centre, life now seems mostly a circle of self-examination, something which may or may not be useful when it comes to the nature of his profession and the particularly sensitive cases that have recently come to light. All in a day's work for Detective Varg, except that one of his new investigations involves fellow detective Anna; it will require every ounce of self-discipline he has in order to remain professional. The other, more curious case is centred around internationally successful novelist Nils Personn-Cederstroem. According to his girlfriend, Cederstroem is being blackmailed - but by whom and for what reason? Accompanied by his irritating but kindly colleague Blomquist, Varg begins his enquiries and soon the answers fall neatly into place. Nothing and no one is ever that simple, however, and not for the first time he learns as much about his own emotional and moral landscape as he does about the motives of others. Now Varg must make a possibly life-changing decision. Will he choose his own happiness over that of his heart's desire?
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Winner of the Newbery Medal | Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize | Multi-award winning When I Reach You is a sophisticated and thought-provoking time travelling story that fizzes with excitement and energy as it encourages readers to explore how the future can shape the present. Miranda, a six grader in a New York school, tells a brilliant story that weaves together the details of her everyday school and home life with a series of inexplicable events which create a mystery that it is hard to unravel. Part of the thrill of the story is that Rebecca Stead expects of lot of her readers! With much referencing of Madeline L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, the book that Miranda loves best, there are detailed conversations about now and the future about how and whether they come together. With not a word wasted When You Reach me is not only a story to fall in love with but also an irresistible spur to thinking!
Detective siblings Nik and Norva are back with a blast in this second novel set around The Tri high-rise block. If the highly-acclaimed High-Rise Mystery was a devastatingly good debut (it was), this is a full-on firecracker of a follow-up. A classic kids detective series slickly rebooted for the twentieth-first-century – think Harriet the Spy with a smartphone and added spark. Rising global music star Trojkat is back in her old ‘hood to make a music video when she dies in The Tri while shooting a scene. Most people – including the police - assume Trojkat’s death is a tragic accident, but sleuth-minded Nik and Norva suspect otherwise. With the help of their mate George, the determined duo set about piecing together a hotchpotch of clues to solve a case that has personal resonance. There are plenty of poignant moments along the way, such as when Nik expresses how it feels to lose a person you love: “It made you feel empty. Fragile. Like you could shatter into a million pieces if someone gently blew in your direction”. Overall, this is a super-charged detective story that fizzes with a whole lot of quick-witted, ping-ponging exchanges between Nik and Norva, with a sensational revelatory showdown to round things off.
Noah loves his new house, he has his own room and he has even made friends at his new school. Noah wants to stay! But that has never happened yet-the supernatural, centuries old curse still follows the Bradley family and every home they have ever lived in is destroyed. He has a duffel bag with his most precious possessions that is never unpacked – just in case. This is an exciting premise that will immediately grip young readers and Noah is a completely believable, modern character with the same issues about fitting in and finding friends, that readers will all recognise and this makes the danger he faces all the more thrilling. When the inevitable disaster strikes, Noah blames himself for ignoring the warning signs and with his father away and his mother in hospital it is up to him to continue his mother’s quest to find the other Bradley’s and the magical objects which together could break the curse. One of the delights of this fast-paced adventure is the characterisation of Noah, his younger brother Billy and of Neena- the neighbour who is a social outcast at school but a brave, resourceful and true friend. Noah’s growing maturity allows him to see her true value as well as recognise his own failings. This highly readable tale really does have the perfect blend of social realism, thrilling adventure and a supernatural mystery to solve.