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I love reading mysteries because they keep me guessing from page one to the very end.
I’m forever in awe of mystery writers. They juggle all the clues and then meticulously puzzle them together, leading us along a brisk, breathless path until—BAM!—everything falls into place.
What’s better than reading a beautifully crafted mystery? Listening to a talented narrator bring it to life on audiobook.
Here are some of the best mystery audiobooks that I’ve come across. Not only are the stories themselves great, but they bring plenty of ear candy to the table, too.
Famous mystery authors (it’d be a crime not to mention them)
First, we must pay homage to the greats. These authors are synonymous with “mystery novel,” because many of them shaped the genre into what it is today. Below each author’s name, you’ll see the audiobook recommendations—these writers were so prolific it’s hard to choose an entry point.
Why, if it isn’t the Queen of Mystery herself. I’ve got a soft spot for Hercule Poirot—and if you didn’t like him in any of the movies, please don’t let that dissuade you from reading him in print (he’s much more likeable that way, no offense intended to Sir Kenneth Branagh).
- And Then There Were None narrated by Dan Stevens (yep, that’s Matthew from Downton Abbey). This short, crazy novel is THE place to start if you’ve never read Christie before.
- Murder on the Orient Express narrated by Dan Stevens. This book is a classic for a reason (ahem, the ending), but there are a lot of characters to keep track of—use the Notes app on your phone to jot down names and quick descriptions as you’re listening on the go.
- Death on the Nile narrated by David Suchet (he’s the perfect Poirot because he starred as the Belgian detective in the BBC miniseries). Please do not judge this book by the new movie version! I loved this on audio.
Dorothy L. Sayers
Sayers was one of several Golden Age mystery writers, and her most notable character is Lord Peter Wimsey, a pampered, aristocratic ameteur sleuth.
- Whose Body? narrated by Nadia May. From the publisher: Mr. Thipps wakes up to the worst day ever. A dead body in his bathtub wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez. So many questions.
- Strong Poison narrated by Ian Carmichael. Lord Peter finds himself falling in love—but the lady is on trial for the murder of her first husband.
G. K. Chesterton
Chesterton wrote prolifically about Christianity, but he’s also famous for his Father Brown mysteries. An unassuming English cleric has the wits to solve crimes that baffle the police. You can listen to these for free on Librivox, but here’s something that might be fun:
Father Brown: The Complete Series 1 and 2: 13 BBC Radio Full-Cast Dramatizations
From the publisher: In this collection of 13 full-cast dramatisations, the high priest of detection becomes involved in seven intriguing cases that will tax even his mental powers to the limit.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The king of the detective novel, Sir Arthur introduced the world to the brilliant mind of the one, the only Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes, narrated by Stephen Fry
This Audible exclusive includes all the Sherlock mysteries narrated by a celebrated English actor.
Modern mysteries in the cozy style
These contemporary mysteries were all written in this century, but they have the sleuthy vibe of the Golden Age about them.
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton, narrated by James Cameron Stewart
This book has been described as “Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day.” Evelyn Hardcastle dies at a house party, and one of the guests has fallen into a time loop, waking up each morning in the body of a different guest. The only way he can break out of the cycle is to finger Evelyn’s killer.
by Anthony Horowitz, narrated by Samantha Bond and Allan Corduner
You get two mysteries for the price of one in this long book—well worth an Audible credit if you ask me. This book-within-a-book mystery puts a fresh spin on a classic genre, and the dual narrators help you know which story you’re listening to.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley, narrated by Jayne Entwistle
If you love all things British, then you’ll fall hard for this ’50s-era whodunnit set in the English countryside.
Funny, lighthearted mystery audiobooks
Want a mystery that’ll also make you chuckle? These stories do contain serious material—they aren’t all laughs—but they’ve got more comedy than drama. I love this type of mystery because I’m a total wimp.
by Nita Prose, narrated by Lauren Ambrose
The special-needs protagonist in this murder mystery is impeccably rendered by the narrator, making this (probably) better on audio than in print.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Lisette Lecat
From the publisher: Mma “Precious” Ramotswe sets up a detective agency in Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, making her the only female detective in the country. She’s a sassy, smart protagonist, who is (ironically) as old-fashioned as they come.
The Thursday Murder Club
by Richard Osman, narrated by Lesley Manville
From the publisher: In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together, they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.
Literary mysteries that you’ll love on audiobook
Why will you love these on audio? Well, these books are older, all published before 1920. They’re tougher to read, so let these talented audiobook narrators pronounce all the hard names for you.
The Scarlet Pimpernel
by Baroness Von Orczy, narrated by Ralph Cosham
Who is the Scarlet Pimpernel? Everyone has an idea, but nobody knows for sure. He’s a man of many disguises, leaving red flowers (and angry French revolutionaries) in his wake.
by Wilkie Collins, narrated by Peter Jeffrey
Many people consider this the first mystery novel ever written, and it revolves around the theft of a precious jewel, a moonstone. The story is long and complex and pretty sad, but if you guess all the plot twists, I’ll buy you lunch.
by Daphne D’Maurier, narrated by Anna Massey
A rich widower marries again and brings his young (formerly penniless) wife to his country estate, which feels eerily haunted by the late wife.
The Thirty-Nine Steps
by John Buchan, narrated by Robert Powell
Is this the first great spy novel? Might be. This man-on-the-run thriller inspired the famous classic film.
Crime-thriller mysteries with grit
Okay, these are the type of mysteries that I try to avoid. But, if you want your mysteries to make you bite your nails (and maybe need to consult a therapist afterward) here are a few you may like.
The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave, narrated by Rebecca Lowman
This Reece’s Book Club pick is about a woman who is desperate to find out what happened to her missing husband. All she has to go off of is a note that says “protect her.”
The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides, narrated by Jack Hawkins and Louise Brealey
This psychological thriller starts with a therapist and his patient, a woman accused of brutally murdering her husband. The only problem is she hasn’t said a word since it happened.
by William Kent Kreuger, narrated by David Chandler
This is the first in Kreuger’s Cork O’Connor crime series, and new installments are still coming out. The latest, Lightning Strike, is supposed to be the best yet. This one has a rural, small-town setting with loads of family drama.
The Terminal List
by Jack Carr, narrated by Ray Porter
This dude thriller is buzzy right now due to the Amazon Original film slated to debut, starring Chris Pine as ex-Navy Seal James Reece.
Young adult mystery-thriller audiobooks
YA books are designed to be fast-paced and easy to read, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then give one of these teenage mysteries a try.
One of Us is Lying
by Karen M. McManus, narrated by Kim Mai Guest, Shannon McManus, Robbie Daymond, and Macleod Andrews
This book is basically a twisted version of The Breakfast Club. Four teens show up for detention, and one of them knows terrible secrets about the other three. That person dies in detention, and the three survivors are now suspects.
by Maureen Johnson, narrated by Kate Rudd
Ellingham Academy is an elite school where “learning is a game.” But, the school has a few skeletons in its closet that are coming back to haunt a current student, Stevie Bell. She’s got to solve a long-ago crime in order to figure out who is perpetrating new evils on campus.
by A. J. Hartley, narrated by Noma Dumezweni (who originated the role of Hermione Granger in the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
Set in a South African fantasy world, this novel featuring a young female protagonist who has the role of detective thrust upon her when a treasured icon is stolen amid a slew of suspicious deaths.
Don’t discount these mystery novels just because they’re written for the 8-to-10-year-old crowd. These all have serious adult appeal, too, and they’re some of the best mystery audiobooks for whole-family listening.
The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
When I first read this book, I was like “this is for kids?!” It’s twisty and complex and often very mature. The rich Samuel Westing has named 16 people in his will, but only one stands to inherit—if he or she can win the game.
York: The Shadow Cipher
by Laura Ruby, narrated by Adam Verner
Set in an alternate-history NYC, three middle-schoolers must use their knowledge of history to solve an epic puzzle. This isn’t just a ploy to get the kiddies to appreciate history—this story has some serious teeth to it.
The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier, narrated by Beverley A. Crick
This is more of a ghost story, but it’s shrouded in some serious mystery, along with lots of chills. Set in Victorian times, two penniless orphans take jobs at a ramshackle country estate that has a creepy tree growing straight through it.
The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart, narrated by Del Roy
This rollicking story is the perfect brew of mystery and fun, with tons of puzzles to solve. Have you watched the Disney+ adaptation? I haven’t seen it.
Mystery-thriller audiobooks that creeped me out
Personally, I love classic, cozy mysteries, the kind that focus on the pursuit of truth and where the villain gets caught and punished. Crime thrillers are harder for me because I’m soft and squishy on the inside, and it’s hard for me to read anything too gritty. Here are a few mysteries that were just a little too much for me. I kinda wish I could take them back.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (the pen name that J. K. Rowling uses for her adult crime-mystery series)
- Verity by Colleen Hoover
So, what title would you add to this list of best mystery audiobooks? I can’t wait to read your book recommendations in the comments.