Goodreads Editors (and CEO) Share Their Mystery Picks

Posted by Sharon on January 15, 2021

Die-hard mystery fans are always on the hunt for their next supremely satisfying whodunit. To help you stock that Want to Read shelf, we asked a few of the most dedicated mystery readers in our office—including our CEO, Veronica, who devours more mysteries each year than anyone else we know!—to recommend some favorite titles. Since our reading tastes diverge pretty drastically, we're hoping you'll find a title or two that intrigues you among our selections.

Check out our picks below...

Veronica Moss, CEO

I love books of all genres, but my favorite genre has to be mystery/thriller. I wait eagerly to see what books come out each month, read prerelease reviews, and lovingly bother my favorite Goodreads editors to get their thoughts on what's worth reading. Then I curl up and bury my nose in the book, immersing myself in the twists and turns of the story. 2020 was a spectacular year for mystery/thrillers, so here are a few of my recent favorites!

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"This slow burn of a book is an atypical mystery/thriller that feels eerily relevant. Alam does a fantastic job of telling a subtle apocalyptic story that is believable, with flawed characters, uncomfortable family and social dynamics, and the bitter taste of classism and racism that lingers. After a year like 2020, there were moments when I felt that the tale Alam weaves could actually happen to us, any day now."

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"When there's a wedding, there's going to be drama, and with this extravagant wedding there's also...murder! I loved everything about this fast-paced book—from the eerily remote island location to the secrets, the jealousy, and other shadowy character traits each guest harbored and exhibited. Foley nails the ending as well; a great vacation read."

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"Bartz takes the theme of the 'old boys’ club' and turns it on its head with The Herd. This is a story about the female elite in New York City, an exclusive 'girls’ club' poised to give women the access and power to be successful. But behind that feminist ideal are a group of women who share a dark past. Let the backstabbing and power plays begin!"

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"Looking for some creepy Bates Motel vibes? Well, look no further. This book has it all—a girl gone missing, an obsession to find out what happened, a strong female lead, and things that go bump in the night. If you like suspenseful ghost stories and creepy roadside motels, read this now."

Cybil Wallace, Senior Editor

I didn't think of myself as a mystery reader until I started working at Goodreads and noticed that almost every other book I'd pick up in the office involved a murder, scheme, or a twisty plot (usually all three). I go to this genre when I need to read a book that I simply will not be able to put down. I will go so far as to guarantee that each of these picks is a reading-slump buster!

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"Since Australian author Jane Harper burst onto the mystery scene in 2016 with her beloved first novel in the Aaron Falk series, readers have been hooked. While I love the series, this standalone is her novel I recommend the most. If you're looking for a page-turner that's smart and haunting, look no further."

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"Septuagenarian crime fighters! I thought this mystery debut was going to be too cute for my reading needs...I was incorrect. Let me put it to you this way: The week of the U.S. presidential election, this book was the only thing that was able to pry my attention away from my Twitter feed. While the characters would make this a recommendation on its own, the plot is savvy and unexpected!"

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"Riley Sager loves to take horror movie tropes and then chucks in some twists, turns, and shocks along the way just as you think you know where the story is headed. In this book, he takes readers to a summer camp...where very bad things have happened. So what could go wrong when a survivor returns 15 years later? Get the popcorn ready for this read!"

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"This book is completely bonkers! It's a pure, nonstop adrenaline rush from beginning to end. A group of strangers is trapped at a highway rest stop during a snowstorm in the Colorado Rockies. Oh, and in one of their vehicles there's a child chained in a cage. If you're looking for a locked-room, cat-and-mouse-game mystery that brings plenty of (winter) chills, this one's for you!"

Sharon Hsu, Associate Editor

As the resident scaredy-cat on the Goodreads Editorial team, I gravitate toward the bloodless end of the mystery spectrum. That means I read mostly Golden Age classics and contemporary whodunits that offer the same "oh no, someone is going to die during this country house weekend" feel. Here are a few of my favorites from the cozy mystery subgenre.

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"If you're looking for a standalone taste before committing to reading the full Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series, you can't go wrong with Murder Must Advertise. It's a delightful romp of a book that sees our aristocratic amateur sleuth go undercover at an advertising agency. Witty dialogue, a vivid cast of secondary characters, and a fiendishly clever plot!"

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"I spent my teen years checking out every single Agatha Christie book from my local library, which is why I'm furious that I didn't learn about Ngaio Marsh, New Zealand's grande dame of Golden Age mystery, until well into my adult years. Now I'm reading my way through Marsh's backlist. This book starts with a literal bang as an actor is shot dead onstage. An accident? Or murder most foul?"

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"A cozy mystery with a sci-fi twist! In Connie Willis' version of the 2050s, time travel exists, but its use is strictly restricted to academic researchers only. A 'time-lagged' Oxford historian is sent back to 1888 for a spot of R&R, but, well. Shenanigans. They ensue. This hilarious mystery is stuffed full of nods to late Victorian literature and classic detective fiction. It also features the most delightfully absurd MacGuffin I've ever encountered. If you're feeling rather blue, it's a guaranteed pick-me-up."

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"Speaking of mysteries with a speculative angle, this thriller wraps a terrifyingly plausible alternate history in the trappings of a genteel 1940s manor house mystery. Eight years after England brokered a peace treaty with Nazi Germany, the negotiators of the deal meet at a country estate. A murder occurs and tensions rise...and rise, and rise. Warning: This 'cozy' is sure to send a chill up your spine."

Which recommendations will you be reading? What are your favorite mysteries to recommend? Let's talk books in the comments! 

Check out more recent articles, including:
36 of the Most Anticipated Mysteries and Thrillers of 2021
45 of the Most Anticipated Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels of 2021
A Mystery Maven's Favorite Whodunits, Thrillers, and Capers of 2020

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)

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message 1: by Jayna (new)

Jayna Sharon Hsu, you and I may be mystery soulmates! I love all four of the books you recommended. I far prefer classic and classic-type mysteries to thrillers. In current books I'm an Anthony Horowitz fan. I'd love to know who you're reading of current authors.

message 2: by John (new)

John Johnston I love getting these GR notices on these mystery recommendations. Some I have read and some are on my library wait list - many thanks

message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly A. I actually have at least one book from each person's recommendations on my Want To Read List already. Awesome. So, I better get to reading so I can be ready for the next recommendations or maybe just add the rest of the suggestions to my list too.

message 4: by Anne (new)

Anne R Thanks for the suggestions, there are lots of good ones to explore. I am surprised no one mentioned Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby, also excellent.

message 5: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Pitching Leave the World Behind as a mystery is just setting people up for disappointment.

message 6: by Boweavil (new)

Boweavil Sharon Hsu reads in the same library aisles as I do. Along with these gems, though, Margery Allingham's books are absolute musts. THE TIGER IN THE SMOKE still takes my breath away after several readings.

message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy Straus I have all but one of Cybil Wallace's recommendations on my to-read list! I can't wait to read them! And I enjoyed the Guest List (gave it 4 stars) and loved The Sun Down Motel - Simone St. James is one of my new fav author, 5 stars!

message 8: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hadland Just a newbie to Goodreads so this is my first email of recommended reads. Love this community and thanks for the reviews!

message 9: by bill holmes (new)

bill holmes The best crime novel I read last year was Peter Temple’s Broken Shore. Beautifully written, funny, well plotted, and no holds barred dialogue. The audiobook version is excellent.

message 10: by Greg (new)

Greg I strongly endorse Veronica's recommendation of The Guest List. A great read with lots of twists and turns and fun (in an OMG kind of way) Looking forward to reading more from Lucy Foley.

message 11: by Sharon, Goodreads employee (new)

Sharon Jayna wrote: "Sharon Hsu, you and I may be mystery soulmates! I love all four of the books you recommended. I far prefer classic and classic-type mysteries to thrillers. In current books I'm an Anthony Horowitz ..."

Aww, book buddies! Thanks for letting me know. For current books with that cozy feel, I would definitely second Cybil's recommendation of The Thursday Murder Club, and keep an eye out for Mia Manansala's Arsenic and Adobo, which will be out in May. Sarah Ross' Julian Kestrel series is a little older (from the '90s), but if you haven't read it before, I think you would like the first book, Cut to the Quick, which is a fun country house mystery set in the Regency period!

message 12: by Deby (new)

Deby Beran I am reading the Anne Cleeves Vera Stanhope series. I won one in a Goodreads Giveaway and am hooked. I bought a set and started from the beginning and even bought the DVD set - all so good!

message 13: by Linda (new)

Linda Something for everyone. I have a few added to my "to read" list

message 14: by Ann (new)

Ann Hope I will agree with you, Greg and Veronica! Can’t wait to read!

message 15: by Jo (new)

Jo Oh, The Lost Man is my all time favourite book ever! Jane Harper did such a brilliant job - the setting was described so well and the characters were amazing, chilling even. I really hope that they make this into a movie! I just saw The Dry movie, which has good, but I think The Lost Man would be amazing!

message 16: by Deborah (new)

Deborah I'm reading a lot of Blake Pierce right now. I love the French farce tones in her cozy mystery series set on a river cruise in Europe. Bonus points because I'm almost positive the river cruise company is one I've sailed with.
Her classic thrillers have kept me up reading until the wee hours too many times, but I just have to see what happens next.

message 17: by Kathleen (last edited Jan 15, 2021 03:06PM) (new)

Kathleen Dennis I absolutely loved No Exit by Taylor Adams!! One of the best "edge of your seat" thrillers I've read in a long time. Highly recommend it!! You won't be sorry. If you like it, try Replay by Ken Greenwood-a completely off the wall premise-couldn't put it down!!

message 18: by John (new)

John "Leave the World Behind". Haven't read this, but in my years of experience on Goodreads, something that has an aggregate rating of 3.35, and has been rated by so many Goodreads users (35,000+) is probably really very not good.

message 19: by Ann (new)

Ann I'm new to the community. I'm loving all the reviews.

message 20: by Judy (new)

Judy Desetti THANKS! I put many of these on my want to read list. And, bonus, most are available at my local library, although for some there is a long wait.

message 21: by Brina (new)

Brina Sharon Hsu, same. I love Agatha Christie so I’ll have to check out Marsh too. Thanks for these recs.

message 22: by Peggy (last edited Jan 25, 2021 07:27AM) (new)

Peggy I've read 3 of them - The Guest List was a 3 for me; The Lost Man was a 4; The Last time I lied, a 3. I've added The Thursday Murder Club to my TBR list. It may be better than I previously thought. Thank you, Cybil Wallace for your review which echoed my initial thoughts on the book.

message 23: by Eden (new)

Eden Gills Cybil Wallace's recommendations are spot on!! Two of them are in my top 10 favorites!!

message 24: by Cybil, Goodreads employee (new)

Cybil Peggy wrote: "I've read 3 of them - The Guest List was a 3 for me; The Lost Man was a 4; The Last time I lied, a 3. I've added The Thursday Murder Club to my TBR list. It may be better than I previously thought...."

Oh, I really think you'll love The Thursday Murder Club!

message 25: by Cybil, Goodreads employee (new)

Cybil Eden wrote: "Cybil Wallace's recommendations are spot on!! Two of them are in my top 10 favorites!!"

Yay! Glad to find a book buddy!

message 26: by Emkoshka (new)

Emkoshka I can highly recommend Australian authors Chris Hammer and Christian White for Jane Harper fans. And Elly Griffiths's 'Ruth Galloway' mysteries are great for their atmospheric Norfolk setting.

message 27: by Fatima (new)

Fatima Imran Riley Sager is brilliant at creating a creepy atmosphere, I repeat brilliant! I saw that name on Cybil Wallace's list and I immediately got her other recommendations.

message 28: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen I have added some of these to my want to read list! Thanks.
I recommend Louise Penny`s Inspector Gamache series. suspenseful and thought-provoking. I also enjoy many other series: Maisie Dobbs, Maggie Hope, Secret, Book & Scone Society, bookshop themed series (there are many! ), ....

message 29: by Jez (new)

Jez I am amazed that Keigo Higashino doesn't appear anywhere on this list. In my opinion the best mystery thriller writer in the world today.

Anyone who is interested, I highly recommend The Devotion of Suspect X and Malice as a good starting point.

message 30: by Ncarlisle (new)

Ncarlisle I too am in Sharon Hsu's camp loving classic mysteries more than thrillers. I'm surprised no one has mentioned one of my current favorites - Louise Penny and her series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamashe

message 31: by Lucy (new)

Lucy I love Sharon Hsu's list (well, I would, as Allingham, Sayers, Marsh, and definitely Connie Willis are at the very top of my favorite writers). Have read the 1st three titles here multiple times, and will reserve "Farthing" by Jo Walton post-haste!

message 32: by Ann (new)

Ann Just started The Guest List for our Book Club! So glad we chose it!

message 33: by Patty (new)

Patty Mattingly I thought No Exit looked like it would be a great read. I just finished reading Mexican Gothic which I would say is a mystery/horror boo. I loved it.

message 34: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Sharon, thanks for your list!! I had missed Murder Must Advertise and will look for it. My favorite Allingham is The Estate of the Beckoning Lady. Also loved Josephine Tey's books - try Miss Pym Disposes. In the same vein as Thursday Murder Club, maybe the Mrs. Pollifax mysteries?

message 35: by Anissa (new)

Anissa I can't say enough good things about The Thursday Murder Club and The Guest List. I've added The Herd to my TBR, somehow I missed that before and Leave The World Behind is already on my list.

I've also, for the last couple of years, been reading the British Library Classic Crime reissues of Golden Age mysteries. From short story collections to full-length novels, I think they're worth the read. Here's a list of them so far:

message 36: by Dawn (new)

Dawn Sharon wrote: "Sarah Ross' Julian Kestrel series is a little older (from the '90s), but if you haven't read it before, I think you would like the first book, Cut to the Quick, which is a fun country house mystery set in the Regency period!"

I forgot about this series, which is wonderful! Great recommendation, Sharon. Gentle correction that it's by Kate Ross.

message 37: by Dawn (new)

Dawn The Carl Morck series by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Copenhagen is dark and atmospheric. We make forays across the bridge to places of unspeakable beauty, peppered by sick criminal acts. Enter Carl Morck, homicide detective promoted to cold cases. Tragic histories, shocking action, revealing current events, and a pathetic character you adore because he's so human. Ditto with his sidekicks. Thank goodness for the humour that KEEPS YOU COMING BACK FOR MORE otherwise you'd be walking around like a shell-shocked zomby, unable to sleep, living off bad coffee.

Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series. The Norfolk salt marshes. A forensic archaeologist. Her cat. The hand of a child pointing out of the marshy mud one stormy day. This is how it begins. I pre-order her books because I cannot wait to get the next. More, please more...!

Deon Meyer's Benny Griessel series. I never thought I could fall for an ex-alcoholic messed-up policeman on the mend living in South Africa, but I have. Please write more--they just keep on improving, and the first was already the Holy Grail.

All of the above series deal with character-driven plots steeped in atmosphere. I also love the Jane Harper stand-alones with their Australian backdrops.

message 38: by Anika (new)

Anika Regarding the book, No Exit:

There are plenty of great thriller and mystery books without random racial slurs and derogatory stereotypes about Asian and African American people...This book isn't one of them.

In this book, Taylor Adams, perpetuates derogatory racial stereotypes and uses racial slurs for multiple ethnic groups. He tries to play off his racist remarks as just jokes and/or comments that his book characters make. The remarks were 100% unnecessary for the plot of the story to be successful. The racists thoughts originated in the mind of the Taylor, yet he tries to hide his own racism behind his book characters. (The character may have "said' it, but the author thought it.)

I think is it worth repeating that the racist remarks Taylor made were 100% unnecessary for the plot of the story to be successful. Taylor is just very comfortable with random racial slurs and slanderous racial stereotypes in his writing.

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