Best Mystery Books

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Stella and Tom uncover a hidden lake that transports them 100 years into the past. The experience gives them a new perspective on their London home from years ago and helps them discover some unsettling similarities between time periods. This book brilliantly modernizes classic stories like the Nancy Drew mysteries and “The Secret Garden,” captivating young readers with suspenseful and mysterious happenings. “The Secret Lake” is 122 pages long and is best for readers ages 8 to 12.

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When their family moves into an old house in the Virginia woods, Derek and Sam make a discovery that leads them to wild adventures, hidden caves and rare treasures. The Virginia Mysteries is often compared to The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, so young readers who love following sleuths around their age will surely be captivated. This first book is about 145 pages long and is suitable for readers between the ages of 8 and 12.

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When Megan goes missing, her brother and their two friends go on an adventure inside the zoo next door to find her. Along the way, they team up with friendly animals and eventually find Megan by following a string of clues. Filled with excitement, intrigue and adventure, this book is a great introduction to both mystery and fantasy for middle-grade readers who love animals.

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Nancy Drew’s search for clues always leads her to puzzles that will challenge your young reader to help solve the mystery, and each book is its own thrilling adventure. This set features the first five books of the classic series. In the first book, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” Nancy discovers that after the death of a wealthy man, his close friends and family were denied inheritance. She suspects that the will can be found in an old clock, and she begins a quest to find it. This timeless choice is a great choice for fourth- to eighth-graders who love mysteries.

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To thwart the plans of a mysterious villain called the Sender, the book’s four heroes go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, a school without rules that is full of brilliant students. They resort to using the tunnels below the school, which hold mystery and danger around every corner. This fast-paced mystery thriller will keep you laughing and guessing as you race to the finish — and your young reader definitely won’t see the ending coming.

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Olive learns she can step into the paintings in her new house, and these portals lead to a world that is a shadow of her own called Elsewhere. Olive befriends a strange boy (as well as many cats) in Elsewhere as she discovers a mysterious dark force threatening her home. This book is perfect for fans of “Coraline” and is a great way for kids 10 and older to explore the mystery-thriller genre.

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In this novel by John Grisham, Theo gets swept into the middle of a sensational murder trial, and he is the only person who has the knowledge and skills to make sure that justice is served. This kid-appropriate legal thriller is jam-packed with all the excitement you can expect from the genre, and Theo will steal your heart and imagination with his witty comments and sharp intellect. A great choice for 11- to 13-year-olds who are interested in the legal world.

Expert Commentary

“Mysteries help teach kids to think critically and focus on the details,” licensed teacher and mother of three Emily Watts, says. “These are important skills to learn as the brain continues to grow and mature. Mystery plots also typically uncover a motive and get a child to ask the question, ‘Why?’ This genre is critical for learning to identify patterns and build reasoning skills.”