Sometimes, reading the same genre over and over again can make things feel predictable or fall into a pattern. Even a genre as exciting as mystery, which is meant to be unpredictable, can fall victim to the mold.
Thankfully, there are fellow bookworms in a popular online forum that have discovered murder mystery books that have broken the traditions of the genre. Here are ten unique murder mysteries that break the standard mold.
1. The Appeal by Janice Hallett (2022)
Tragedy strikes a theater group after the director and star’s granddaughter is diagnosed with cancer and requires a costly, experimental treatment that has the whole cast chipping in. Distrust causes tensions to grow in the community until everything boils over after an explosive dress rehearsal.
A body is found the next day, and an arrest follows soon after. Two lawyers are examining the evidence of the case, and suspensions develop that the true killer is still out there and hiding in plain sight. The Appeal is an epistolary novel, meaning it isn’t written like a conventional story.
The story is told through emails, letters, and messages, making it feel like you are a part of the investigation.
2. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
A man is hunting for a killer with a time-turning twist that leaves no one and nothing what they seem. He is stuck in a time loop until he can solve the repeated death of Evelyn Hardcastle and find her killer.
That isn’t the end of the twisted confusion our protagonist finds himself in, however. Every day, the events repeat, and he wakes up in a different person’s body who is a guest at the manor. A time loop and body swap murder mystery? Count me in!
3. Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Pessl
As a film lover, particularly horror films, I’m already intrigued. Though it isn’t technically a murder mystery, there is still mystery and death. And there is a death that some suspect is a murder, instead of self-inflicted. Does that make it count?
The body of Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse and is ruled to be a result of her punching her own ticket. An investigative journalist feels this isn’t the case and begins to look into the unusual situations that surround her death and the legacy of her reclusive cult-horror-film director father. Another death linked to the family leads the journalist and two strangers down the rabbit hole that is the world of the Cordova family.
4. Cain’s Jawbone by Edward Powys Mathers
I think this book fan describes what makes this story unique best. They say, “The pages have been printed in an entirely haphazard order, but it is possible – through logic and intelligent reading – to sort the pages into the only correct order, revealing six murder victims and their respective murderers.”
Though the book is more a puzzle than a novel, I believe it still deserves to be here. Who knows! Maybe you’ll be one of the few to be able to solve the mystery.
5. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
This isn’t your standard “everybody’s a suspect” kind of mystery. Instead of everyone having a motive, everyone in the family has killed at least one person. Yep, from siblings to in-laws, everyone in the family has done some slaying, even the main character.
At a family reunion at a ski resort, a body has been discovered. The problem is with a family full of killers, anyone could have done it! Throw in the fact that the body has the same MO of an elusive serial killer, and you get one heck of a mystery.
6. The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers and Robert Eustace
This book is another instance of a story made up of in-world documents. A fungi expert has been found dead and grinning in a cabin. Beside him sits a dish of mushrooms, all poisonous, and in his system is enough to kill 30 people.
The victim’s son has now started to gather together letters and documents in an attempt to find the hidden clues to his father’s death.
7. Bodies by Si Spencer
Not long before writing this article, my family started watching the adaptation of this graphic novel that was released on Netflix. Perhaps it was destined to be! The story of Bodies takes place in London but stretches through centuries.
Going from way back in the past of 1890 to the future of 2050, the story follows four different people as they investigate murders in their time. But there’s one glaring point in all of them: each victim is the same. That’s right; the same victim has shown up at the same place in London through the centuries!
8. Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter
Ever want to test your true crime abilities and see if you can solve the mystery before the detectives? Well, then, this is the book for you. The stepfather to future acclaimed filmmaker Guy Howard has been found dead in the garden.
His murder has never been solved, no suspects have been charged, and the case goes cold despite receiving massive attention. Years later, the case resurfaces after being investigated by a sensational series. You can look at the case’s evidence for yourself and try to solve what happened alongside, and maybe even before, the new group of experts.
9. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel by Zachary Thomas Dodson
It may not be a murder mystery, but this book is too good to pass up. It’s a story with quite a bit to offer the reader looking for more in their mysteries, including a novel within a novel! In the mid-1800s, a naturalist must leave Chicago to deliver a letter to an infamous general serving the front lines in the war over Texas that keeps his future and the republic’s future in the balance. Taken off course by a cloud of flying bats, he discovers something impossible.
Now, 300 years later, the world has collapsed, leaving the remains of humanity to hold onto a society of paranoia. Zeke Thomas loses a valuable letter from his grandfather and works to get it back. Failure to do so will result in the destruction of his relationship, his family, and even the republic. Stories soon begin to overlap, and history begins to unravel.
10. Tell Me What Really Happened by Chelsea Sedoti
As the title might imply, this story involves police interviews. In fact, the whole book is told from the perspective of first-person police interviews! A young girl has vanished after she and her four friends decided to get away for the weekend and go camping.
Each friend is being interviewed under suspicion that they had something to do with her disappearance, and each is telling a different story. If the girl is going to be found, police need to figure out who is lying and what each of the friends is hiding, and they may just have to uncover some dark truths to do so.
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This thread inspired this post.
I’m John Schmoll, a former stockbroker, MBA-grad, published finance writer, and founder of Frugal Rules.
As a veteran of the financial services industry, I’ve worked as a mutual fund administrator, banker, and stockbroker and was Series 7 and 63-licensed, but I left all that behind in 2012 to help people learn how to manage their money.
My goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to become financially independent with personally-tested financial tools and money-saving solutions.