Novelist Recommendations Part 1: Mystery Fiction

Published Monday, July 8, 2019

Haven’t we all been disappointed when a book we choose to read doesn’t meet the expectations of an awesome, back-cover blurb? Novelist Plus can help! Novelist can assist you with a search to find the next great series, or by recommending a “read-alike” title that's thematically similar to your favorite books. So, before you lug home a big stack of “maybes,” or fill up the memory on your device with “please be my next favorites,” we suggest spending a minute or two on Novelist to better the odds that you will enjoy what you choose.

You can find Novelist Plus on the “Resources” tab on the library’s website at Also, Novelist provides recommendations below your search results through our online catalog. When you find a title you are interested in, just scroll down and you’ll see more title and author suggestions. Please ask library staff if you’d like any more tips for using Novelist. We’re happy to assist you.

I’ve always struggled with Mystery as a genre. I really don’t care for series with professional detectives. I much prefer accidental or amateur detectives—someone that has a personal interest in solving a crime, and working their way through it organically, not procedurally.

After looking through Novelist's recommendations for my selection, keep an eye out for Devin's and Cary's follow-up posts.

The Bottoms
by Joe R. Lansdale

The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale, winner of the 2001 Edgar Award for best novel, fits my particular tastes in mystery fiction. An eleven-year-old boy and his sister stumble upon the body of a murder victim in their small East Texas town. These children are definitely amateur detectives—they’re young, naïve, and believe the murders could have been perpetrated by local myth known as the Goat Man. These serial murders in East Texas are a dark and grim affair, and it’s interesting to see it all through an eleven-year-old’s perspective in this coming-of-age mystery. It’s been about 15 years since I read The Bottoms, and I remember enjoying it, so I decided to use the book as a springboard for recommendations from Novelist.

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by Sandra Dallas

Novelist says: In both The Bottoms and Tallgrass children narrate compelling coming age stories involving violent crimes and racial discrimination. Evocative descriptions of time and place, sympathetic characters, and family relationships, especially with fathers, enhance these novels. -- Joyce Saricks

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by Stephen King

Novelist says: Though it features an older protagonist who is more concerned with romantic relationships, Joyland is another compelling mystery novel in which the evocative small-town atmosphere, bittersweet nostalgia, and touching coming-of-age story receive as much attention as the chilling murders. -- Derek Keyser

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An Unfinished Season
by Ward Just

Novelist says: Both of these coming-of-age stories feature young men and their relationship to their fathers, crimes and violence, and evocative re-creations of time and place. Moral and ethical questions resonate in these compelling and thoughtful novels. -- Joyce Saricks

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Boy's Life
by Robert R. McCammon

Novelist says: These coming-of-age mystery stories offer vivid, sympathetic, and authentic characterizations of children who witness horrific violence. Both tales are set in the South during the mid-20th century and are full of rich atmospheric period detail. -- Derek Keyser

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Sworn to Silence
by Linda Castillo

Novelist says: Both The Bottoms and Sworn to Silence are thought-provoking, evocative mysteries. Their strong sense of time and place is enhanced by the lack of technology - due to time period or social constraints - used in solving each book's mystery. -- Rebecca Sigmon

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What Dies in Summer
by Tom Wright

Novelist says: Set in Texas in different time periods (the 1930s in The Bottoms; the 1970s in What Dies in Summer), these suspenseful coming-of-age stories portray young characters who discover horrible crimes in the small towns where they live. -- Victoria Caplinger

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Intruder in the Dust
by William Faulkner

Novelist says: Race relations in the American South figure strongly in these atmospheric, lyrical, and haunting stories. The Bottoms takes place in 1930s Texas; Intruder in the Dust is set in Mississippi in the early 20th century. -- Victoria Caplinger

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The Cold Moon
by Jeffrey Deaver

Novelist says: These books are Bleak and Compelling, and they share: the genre "mysteries"; and the subject "serial murderers."

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The Night Gardener
by George Pelecanos

Novelist says: These books are Bleak, Strong sense of place, and Character-driven, and they share: the genre "mysteries"; and the subjects "serial murders" and "serial murderers."

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About the Author

Jacob has worked at Edwardsville Public Library since 2001. He moderates the library's monthly book discussion group. Jacob enjoys literary fiction, general non-fiction, and dabbles in sci-fi.