20 Must-Read Mystery Books from Authors Like Louise Penny

Louise Penny is the author of the bestselling ‘Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’ novel series. She is the winner of eight Agatha Awards and her novels have been translated into 31 different languages and are enjoyed worldwide.

20 Must-Read Mystery Books from Authors Like Louise Penny

The books within her novel series often follow the events after a murder and unravel the truth behind the incident. 

She received the Order of Canada in 2017, for services to Canadian literature and culture. She is based in Montreal and still writes mystery thrillers. A film adaptation is currently being made, through which she is likely to reach a new audience of readers.

Whether you’ve read and loved Louise Penny’s fiction or you’re just interested in mystery fiction, this article will give you some great recommendations for some thrilling reads to kickstart the new year. 

Eye for Eye by J.K. Franko

EYE for EYE: Talion Book 1

This novel also sits within the mystery thriller category that details the lives of a couple whose daughter gets killed. 

Riddled with grief and blissfully unaware of their enemies, the couple is forced to navigate betrayal, deception, and revenge all while uncovering more secrets about their daughter. 

Pros: Unexpected twists keep readers captivated.

Cons: Many reviewers have claimed the twists are similar to shocks in Game of Thrones!

All the Dark Places by Terri Parlato

All the Dark Places: A Riveting Novel of Suspense with a Shocking Twist

This is a novel that also kickstarts with a murder – but this murder exposes long-hidden secrets within a close circle of friends. 

Two friends figure out that this death wasn’t an accident and go on a hunt to find the truth. But when the truth gets closer to home and they begin to suspect that one of their close friends is behind it, tensions rise and secrets are revealed.

Pros: Fast-paced.

Cons: Some characters are unlikeable.

A Small Affair by Flora Collins

A Small Affair: A Novel

A Small Affair mixes mystery, death and romance as the young, female protagonist is left questioning her past after her ex-lover and his wife are found dead.

She is immediately blamed and so makes it her aim to uncover the truth behind the murder to relieve herself from the scandal and reputation.

Pros: Personal attachment makes it more gripping.

Cons: Many struggled to connect with the characters.

A Mother Would Know by Amber Garza

A Mother Would Know: A Novel

Living in a large (suspectedly haunted) Victorian house alone, Valerie asks her adult son to move in with her, but he is not the company she wished for. He is moody, suspicious and rarely there, and the neighbors are quick to pass judgment.

So when a young woman is murdered nearby, he’s the first suspect. While Valerie is quick to his defense, she learns secrets about him which make her question whether she knows her son at all. 

Is it possible that she’s raised a murderer? A murderer that she now lives with alone?

Pros: The complex mother-child relationship makes the book stand out.

Cons: A slow burner.

Wicked Dreams by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush

Wicked Dreams: A Riveting New Thriller (The Colony)

These New York Times bestselling authors have written another enthralling murder mystery, this time based around Ravinia Rutledge. 

A note is found pinned to a dead body on a remote beach, a note that has Ravinia’s phone number and ‘Next of Kin’ written on it.

Adamant that she knows nothing of the person or the circumstances, Ravinia must find out who’s responsible and why they’ve involved her.

This novel is full of twists and turns and forces Ravinia to face a past and people she’d long put behind her.

Pros: Part of a series.

Cons: The long time between books makes it difficult to emotionally connect.

The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose

The Perfect Marriage: a completely gripping psychological suspense

After resenting his wife’s successful career as a defense attorney, Adam has an affair with Kelly Summers.

Although their marriage seems idyllic to passersby, Adam’s wife Sarah is soon forced to defend her husband for the murder of his mistress. 

Tangled in a web of lies, deceit and adultery, Sarah is forced to question everything about her marriage, and her husband. 

Pros: Captivating characters.

Cons: Some reviewers think the writing was let down by the editor.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient

The perfect life of a high-profile couple is suddenly thrown into disarray when the wife shoots her husband five times out of the blue. She makes no comment, has no explanation, and shows no remorse.

After she is moved to a secure forensic unit and is assigned a criminal psychotherapist, who becomes obsessed with uncovering her motive.

As their lives become more intertwined and truths are revealed, both she had her therapist spiral, becoming consumed by hidden secrets and their motivations.

Pros: Excellently written.

Cons: Some have highlighted ‘cliches’.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

A Flicker in the Dark: A Novel

Nominated for Best Mystery & Thriller of 2022, this novel tells the twisted story of Chloe Davis’ family. 

After six teenage girls go missing in a small Louisiana town, Chloe’s dad is arrested as a  suspected serial killer. Grappling with this loss and fighting the judgment that comes with it, Chloe finally gets her life on track and becomes a psychologist.

When teenage girls go missing again, Chloe is forced to deal with the memories of her past and question the legitimacy of her father’s arrest. 

Is she about to uncover the truth behind her past? Or is she on track to find a new killer?

Pros: Unpredictable and engaging.

Cons: Some have claimed it’s too romantic for their mystery-thriller taste.

Long Shadows by David Baldacci

Long Shadows (Memory Man Series, 7)

This may be a name you’re familiar with if you’ve been on the mystery thriller scene for a while. David Baldacci’s books are widely renowned and have received great reviews across the board –  and this book is no exception.

Long Shadows follows FBI agent Amos Decker, challenged with a complex, twisted case. After a high-profile judge and her bodyguard are killed in a safe, gated community, Decker faces his most challenging case yet. 

With no leads and no evidence, Decker must use his special skills to help him understand why the judge needed a bodyguard and who she was afraid of.

This book is part of a well-recommended series, so take a look at the others if you’re interested.

Pros: Reliable and awarded author.

Cons: Some have claimed it’s not as good as his other books.

Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter

Girl, Forgotten: A Novel

From a New York Times bestselling author, this novel unravels the mystery of a small town with dark secrets. One question has been haunting the town for nearly forty years – who killed Emily Vaughn?

US Marshal, Andrea Oliver is tasked with a different job at the scene of Emily’s murder. But all Andrea can think about is the murderer that was never found. Pressured by work and fighting her own thoughts, Andrea must find out what really happened to Emily and finally find the one responsible.

Pros: Intense character development.

Cons: Some reviewers noticed inconsistencies.

The Crossing by Matt Brolly

The Crossing (Detective Louise Blackwell, 1)

The first of the best-selling Louise Blackwell detective series, this novel follows a series of murders that occur in a small town in England.

Louise begins to notice the pattern emerging in each of these cases which will help her predict who’s next. As personal secrets are uncovered, Louise struggles to find a culprit, but also realizes that she cannot trust anyone.

Pros: Interesting, in-depth psychological motivations.

Cons: A lot of interior dialogue.

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

The Last to Vanish: A Novel

Abby stumbles upon incriminating evidence of the string of disappearances that have occurred in the town she is staying in. 

Feeling herself become more and more involved in each case and disappearance, Abby discovers how little she knows about herself and the ones she’s closest to.

Pros: Unpredictable and exciting plot.

Cons: Slow starting.

The Good Lie by A.R. Torre

The Good Lie

After six teenagers are murdered and local teacher Randall Thompson is arrested, the case seems closed to both the police and the media. 

However, when defense lawyer Robert Kavin appears on the scene, he is convinced of Randall’s innocence and offers to defend him.

Wanting the case opened again and determined to set Thompson free, Psychiatrist Gwen Moore is forced to question his motives. As the two grow closer, secrets are unraveled and Gwen is adamant that Robert is hiding something.

Pros: Fantastic reviews.

Cons: Some have identified ‘plot holes’.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay Awake: A Novel

Liv wakes up with no idea what happened last night and no memory of the past two years. A stranger now lives in her apartment and her phone is missing.

Instead, she finds a blood-stained knife in her pocket and the message ‘STAY AWAKE’ scribbled on her hands in ink. 

When local news reports of a crime scene with the same message written across a window in the victim’s blood, she begins questioning everything she thought she knew about herself and questions whether she is the victim or the murderer.

Pros: Fast-paced and addictive.

Cons: The story is based on a fake medical condition – too unrealistic for some.

Drift by L.T. Ryan and Brian Shea

Drift (Rachel Hatch)

First in a series of alike books, this novel follows an ex-army criminal investigator,

Rachel Hatch, who drifts between places – she has no home and no commitment.

After her sister drowns in her hometown, she is forced to return and deal with the repercussions. Convinced her sister’s death was planned, Rachel, alongside the local sheriff, must unravel the details leading up to her death and find who’s responsible.

As the situation escalates and her life is on the line, Rachel must use her army skills to ensure her safety and find justice.

Pros: Action-packed and sequels to enjoy.

Cons: Unrealistic at times.

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardener

Before She Disappeared: A Novel (A Frankie Elkin Novel)

Recovering alcoholic, Frankie Elkin is obsessed with unsolved disappearances. When the media dies down and the police give up, that’s when Frankie starts searching.

When a new case comes to light in Boston, Frankie begins looking for evidence with no help from the police or the victim’s family. Spiraling and obsessed with this case, Frankie is determined to find answers even if it means she’s next to disappear.

Pros: A riveting page-turner.

Cons: A slow, descriptive start.

She’s Gone by David Bell

She's Gone

Hunter wakes in a hospital to discover he’s been in a car crash. With no recollection of the night, Hunter is shocked to find out that his beloved girlfriend has gone missing – but the car is covered in her blood.

As accusations begin to emerge against him, Hunter must trace every step of the evening to find answers. However, when learns that he and his girlfriend were last seen arguing, he is left questioning himself – was he the one that killed her?

Pros: Well-loved and reliable author.

Cons: This book feels more like young adult literature.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The Sanatorium: A Novel (Detective Elin Warner Series)

Elin is invited to a five-star hotel in the Swiss Alps to celebrate her brother’s engagement. But what appears like a dream destination has a haunted past. 

The hotel was previously an abandoned sanatorium that makes Elin nervous from the moment she arrives. When her brother’s fiance goes missing and harsh weather blocks off exit routes, Elin realizes how much danger all occupants are in. 

When another person goes missing, Elin realizes that she may be the only one qualified to deal with this pattern and must do everything she can to keep visitors safe.

Pros: Interesting concept and different from the classic murder mysteries.

Cons: The plot relies on supernatural ideas, so not ideal for readers desiring realism.

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

The Overnight Guest: A Novel

Writer, Wylie Lark gets snowed in at an isolated farmhouse, but with a new book in mind, Wylie is unbothered and chooses to use this time to write. 

However, she soon finds out that two people were murdered in this house and a girl mysteriously disappeared. 

Wylie discovers a small child out in the snow and brings them to safety. Now trapped and with the responsibility of a child, Wylie realizes that the house is not as isolated as she first thought – someone is out to hunt the house’s inhabitants.

Pros: Gripping and engaging with lots of twists and turns.

Cons: Some reviewers have claimed the book to be farfetched.

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

Local Woman Missing: A Novel of Domestic Suspense

Shortly after the disappearance of Shelby Tebow, Meredith and her daughter Delilah go missing, which provokes fear within the entire community. 

Many thought the cases were linked and some feared they could be next, but after a few years, the case closed. 

However, when Delilah suddenly reappears, everyone wants answers but no one is prepared for the truth.

Pros: Complex and well-developed characters.

Cons: Many claim the plot is predictable.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of Louise Penny, any of these riveting books will be great choices. Some of the novels recommended are part of a series, so you may find a new set of books to sink your teeth into! 

Bonus: The 20 most popular mystery books 

  1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery, 1939)
  2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Mystery/Thriller, 2003)
  3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Mystery/Thriller, 2005)
  4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Mystery/Thriller, 2012)
  5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (Fantasy/Mystery, 1937)
  6. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (Historical Mystery, 1980)
  7. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Mystery, 1934)
  8. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (Mystery/Thriller, 2006)
  9. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Mystery, 1902)
  10. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (Mystery, 2013)
  11. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (Mystery/Thriller, 2007)
  12. The Alienist by Caleb Carr (Mystery/Thriller, 1994)
  13. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Mystery, 1926)
  14. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Mystery/Thriller, 2019)
  15. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Mystery/Thriller, 1955)
  16. The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver (Mystery/Thriller, 2006)
  17. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (Mystery, 1939)
  18. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Mystery/Fantasy, 2007)
  19. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (Mystery/Thriller, 1987)
  20. The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins (Mystery/True Crime, 2011)
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Colton Cowie