9 Fun Murder Mysteries You Should be Reading

Settle in and get cosy with these whodunnits featuring quirky detectives, plot twists, and satisfying comeuppances

Still from Murder She Wrote

Putting the words “fun” and “murder” next to each other in a conversation is a great way to give off the impression that you are gleefully maladjusted. But I’d wager if you tried it (the conversation starter, not the murder)—go ahead, show up at a party and say, “Isn’t murder fun?”—people would know just what you’re trying to say. You aren’t referring to your dark alter-ego as a serial killer (we hope), but to this long-enduring concept of the fictional murder-as-puzzle. The quirky detectives, the red herrings, the tropes of “it was the butler all along!” all under the shine of not taking itself too seriously while managing to be fiendishly clever. Books that aren’t trying to change your life, but are trying to outsmart you. Stories that champion wit, often giving a good dose of heart, and if you’re lucky, even sneak in some revelations that get you right in the feels. 

It’s not unfair to ask why such a thing exists. Why take a concept like murder—this horrific act of ending someone’s life for reasons that are usually riddled with selfishness—and put a light-hearted spin on it? I can only offer my take on it all, but my love of the genre is founded on the fact that in our imperfect world of unfairness and injustice, these stories present us a reality in which clues are trackable, ticking clocks not unbeatable, and comeuppances always dealt. You may need to shift your understanding of what’s plausible in order to roll with the plot lines of a lot of fun murder mysteries, but once you realize you’re in the hands of authors who probably grew up watching Murder She Wrote, you can sit back and accept that there are in fact times when the serious concept of murder is not taken too seriously. As one of the characters in my upcoming book, How to Solve Your Own Murder, says, “If TV has taught us anything, it’s that the murder rate in small towns is disproportionately high.”

And if you think that every permutation of whodunnit has been done to death (I make no apologies for puns), you are painfully mistaken. Here are nine books that range from humorous hijinks to slightly darker but creatively clever approaches to murder mysteries. 

Over My Dead Body by Maz Evans

When Dr. Miriam Price wakes up from a supposed drinking binge to find her own dead body on the floor of her flat, she finds herself stuck in “limbo” unless she can prove hers wasn’t a death by misadventure. Miriam is sure she’s been murdered, but her memories on the incident are murky, so she’s got to piece together the last few weeks of her rather messy life to try to find the culprit, or face being stuck in limbo for eternity. The trouble is, with her rather prickly personality and long list of enemies, she’s got a lot of avenues to investigate and not a lot of time to do it in. Adding insult to injury is the fact that while she can move amongst her friends and family, only one person can see her—it’s a clever bit of afterlife world-building on Evans’ part, that only the dying can see the dead. So Miriam is stuck trying to solve her murder with the one person she’s been feuding with for months—her elderly neighbor Winnie. The wit is electric in this one, and the unlikely crime solving duo of Winnie and Miriam is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming. A great one for a highly original take on the classic whodunnit, this book is cozy crime meets The Good Place, in the best way. 

Voyage of the Damned by Frances White

A murder mystery on a sea voyage, with a rich fantasy setting and an unforgettably snarky narrator. Ganymedes Piscero has a secret — he’s the heir to one of the twelve provinces of Concordia, a role that should have come with an inherited magical ability called a Blessing. Each of the heirs to the twelve provinces have one, but Ganymedes has come up short and shows no signs of inheriting his. When he’s forced to pretend he’s got a Blessing while on board a 12-day voyage with the other heirs, Ganymedes hatches a plan to be the biggest problem he can so that he can get kicked out of his role and go live his life in bliss, far from the politics of the realm. But when one of the heirs turns up murdered, Ganymedes finds himself at the centre of a plot that might just take down the whole empire. Suspects abound, including a host of people who all have reason to hate one another — and who all have magic that they like to keep secret. Adding an extra pinch to the heart is Ganymedes’ former lover Ravi, a man who seems to have changed overnight into someone Ganymedes doesn’t recognize. Wonderfully paced, with a fantastic pairing of a snarky disaster of a man and a small girl with a malicious streak, this is murder mystery like you’ve never seen before. 

Malice by Keigo Higashino 

This one sits in the “fun” category not because of coziness or humor, but because it’s one of the cleverest murder mysteries I’ve ever read. It takes the whodunnit and turns it on its head, and sinks the reader deep into the whydunnit, with twists upon twists all built on a set of events that you think can’t be flipped any further. It starts with the murder of bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka, who is discovered in a classic locked-room scenario. Detective Kaga investigates, and discovers that Hidaka’s best friend Nonoguchi, who is also a writer, is someone from Kaga’s own past. The case becomes a tangled story of past and present, while Kaga and Nonoguichi wrestle artfully with who has control of the narrative. Keigo Higashino is the author of the bestselling thriller The Devotion of Suspect X, and Malice will provide surprises for even the most seasoned sleuth. 

The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson

Dahlia Lively was a famous fictional detective in the 1930s, and has become such a national treasure that she’s been portrayed in television and film over the decades three separate times. When the three actresses who have played Dahlia are invited to a murder mystery convention at the home of Dahlia’s late author, everything is not what it seems. There’s Rosalind, the original Dahlia; Caro, the seasoned TV Dahlia; and Posy, the newcomer—each with their own motivations for being there, and their own secrets. When a murder occurs mid-banquet, the three Dahlias must team up to solve the crime, in an effort to save their careers—and possibly their lives. Set in a stately home with its own poison garden, miniatures of murder scenes, and a host of suspicious family members and fans mixing together, this is a wonderfully fresh take on the traditional cozy crime set-up. 

Miss Austen Investigates by Jessica Bull

Twenty-year-old Jane Austen is attending a ball, and underneath the glittering conversation and society manners is a layer of secret liaisons, cunning lies, and most importantly, murder. When the body of a milliner of Jane’s acquaintance is found on the premises, Jane’s clever mind is activated. But when her brother Georgy is accused, she’s convinced of his innocence and is determined to clear him. Georgy has learning difficulties—a historically accurate fact that Bull has clearly taken great care with—and thus becomes the unfortunate scapegoat to a killer willing to do whatever it takes to remain undiscovered. Rich with historical details, Georgian atmosphere, and a winning cast of Austens, this was like a trip back in time and a conversation with Jane Austen all in one. 

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

Nineteen-year-old Signa has a peculiar talent—she can consume Belladonna berries, and not only survive, but she’ll be visited by Death himself. He’s a mysterious and compelling force in her life, but since Singa seems to inhabit the murky space between life and death, it’s unsurprising that her guardians all tend to meet untimely ends. When Signa goes to stay with her only remaining relatives, the wealthy and strange Hawthorns, she finds herself investigating the death of its matriarch, along with the mysterious illness of the daughter of the house. She forms strange alliances and makes startling discoveries, but it’s her alliance with Death himself that makes her the perfect person to uncover what’s really happening at Thorn Grove. A slightly gothic fantasy, this book preserves the golden age crime novel feel on top of some very creative world building, with a heady romance in the mix. 

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is a struggling writer and single mom, who meets up with her agent at a Panera and to discuss her newest crime novel. The problem? She’s mistaken for a contract killer when the woman at the next table overhears the plot of her book—and she’s slipped a note with a mouth-watering amount of money promised if she kills a nasty husband. Finlay might not be a killer, but she’s a curious writer, and when she decides to do a little spying on her target, she ends up over her head when he actually turns up dead. She’s desperate to root out the killer before it all comes back on her, all while trying to make a deadline, deal with a horrible ex of her own, and juggle her young kids. It’s a fresh and funny take on the genre, with some truly clever twists. 

The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder by C. L. Miller 

Twenty years ago, Freya Lockwood was an antiques expert, world traveler, and all around adventurous woman. But something happened in Cairo that changed the course of her life, and caused her to turn her back on the antiques world, and fall out with her mentor Arthur. When Freya learns that Arthur died suddenly under mysterious circumstances, she reluctantly returns to the small village she grew up in to help her beloved Aunt Carole through the loss. But Carole and Freya quickly realize that Arthur was involved with something dangerous, and has left clues that only Freya has the knowledge to decode. Soon Freya’s past comes to back to haunt her, and she and Carole are drawn into an antiques enthusiast’s weekend that could hold all the clues to Arthur’s murder, or could be a terrible trap. Carole and Freya make such an entertaining duo, and the book is rich with description and details of real antiques.

The High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson

I am unapologetically putting an upper middle grade mystery in the mix, because not only do I think that adults have so much to gain in reading children’s books for fun (looking at problems through a child’s lens can give such great perspective), but this book in particular hits all the beats of the fun murder mystery, in perfect balance. 

Nik and Norva are sisters who live in The Tri—a triangle of high-rise buildings in central London. When they find their neighbor Hugo dead in the apartment’s dumpster, the two girls bravely put together an investigation of their own in order to clear the police’s main suspect—their father. It’s a brilliant mix of hijinks, genuine puzzles, social commentary, and family love. And if you think that just because it’s a kid’s book you’ll easily guess the ending, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. 

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