Hey readers, it’s almost Independent Bookstore Day! We enjoy celebrating our favorite indies year-round, but Saturday, April 24th is a special day to recognize the importance of independent bookstores in our communities.
To fully immerse ourselves in the world of books and bookstores, we have a special book list for you today. These literary mysteries take place in antiquarian bookstores, dusty libraries, and modern bookshops. They’ll have you by turns racing to find out what happens next and lingering on nostalgic passages about the reading life.
I find that bookish content often delivers a dose of comfort in a genre filled with murder and crime, but some literary thrillers contain graphic scenes or references. Your experience may differ from mine, so mind your triggers.
I hope you find a mystery to get lost in, readers. Happy Independent Bookstore Day!
This mystery, set firmly in the tradition of Gothic greats like Jane Eyre, kept me guessing from start to finish. The premise is intriguing (and you may find yourself a little bit envious of the narrator's bookish existence). Reclusive author Vida Winter hires a biographer to share her story. Margaret has one question: Why? While she decides whether to take on the assignment, she begins reading one of the author's works: Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. Winter's fairy tale collection is as well-loved as it is famous for the mysterious missing thirteenth tale. She is captivated by the stories, and puzzled by them because the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? A moody literary mystery, perfect for curling up with on a cold day. More info →
With an inventive plot, Fforde introduces us to literary detectives who protect books and their characters, going so far as to slip inside the books themselves. When Acheron Hades steals an original manuscript and kills a minor character, that character disappears from every volume of the novel in existence, which is bad enough. But his next target is Jane Eyre herself and detective Thursday Next will have to do everything in her power to stop him and return Bronte's classic to its former glory. If you enjoy this one, pick up the next book in Jasper Fforde's comic fantasy, alternate history, nerdy and self-aware The Thursday Next series, with seven titles out so far. More info →
Who really wrote Pride and Prejudice? That mystery drives this literary thriller, which plunges the reader into the world of first editions, secondhand books, and zealous collectors. When a young librarian discovers a document that casts doubt on Austen's authorship of Pride and Prejudice, she struggles to clear her beloved author of plagiarist charges before it's too late. Lovett flips back and forth between the time when Jane was writing her best-known story and today's desperate race to prove her innocence. Lovett's love of books permeates every page. Farfetched? Of course, but piles of fun for book lovers. Charlie Lovett's The Lost Book Of The Grail, centered around Arthurian legend, and The Bookman's Tale, concerning Shakespeare, are also fantastic. More info →
I'll confess I had a hard time getting into this sweeping literary mystery, but after I got oriented I couldn't turn the pages fast enough: I loved the post-war Barcelona setting, the rich cast of characters, and the surprising twists and turns the story took. This is a lifetime favorite of several readers I know with great taste, and I'm so glad I finally read it. It's a book about books, a mystery, a love letter to literature, a beautifully written masterpiece, a work worthy of a lifetime favorite list. If you're looking for a book in translation to complete a reading challenge, consider this atmospheric novel. More info →
From the 2018 Summer Reading Guide. While you don't have to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one, this is the sequel I didn't know I wanted. The day before her wedding, Clare has cold feet. Enter Edith, an elderly stranger Clare connects with instantly, who nudges Clare to cancel her wedding to a man who scares her. Not long after, Clare receives notice that Edith has died, and bequeathed her a strange gift—her house. Easy to read while covering serious emotional territory, packed with literary references that will warm book lovers' hearts. More info →
“Think of this - that the writer wrote alone, and the reader read alone, and they were alone with each other.” I love A. S. Byatt, particularly for the wonderful way she writes her female characters. In this literary mystery and comedy of manners, two scholars research the lives of Victorian Era poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. Through letters, journals, and poetry, Ash and LaMotte spring vividly to life. Through parallel plot lines, two separate love stories and a literary mystery unfold as we push past the surface and get to know all four characters. More info →
Editor Susan Ryeland has worked with Alan Conway for years, putting up with his eccentricities for the sake of his bestselling detective series. Every Atticus Pünd mystery novel feels pretty much the same to Susan by now, each one set in a small English village, following an Agatha Christie-like formula. When Susan reads Conway’s latest, however, she finds there might be more to the fictional mystery at Pye Hall. The more she reads, the more she becomes convinced of a real life mystery between the pages. A tale of greed and gruesome murder prompts Susan to investigate in this clever novel-within-a-novel. More info →
With its countless literary references and bookish setting, this debut mystery-within-a-mystery is meant for bookstore and library lovers alike. When a dedicated bookseller loses one of her favorite patrons to suicide on the top floor of the Bright Ideas Bookstore, she follows the literary puzzle he left behind. Joey Molina bequeathed all of his worldly possessions to Lydia Smith, including a bunch of disturbingly defaced books. As she works to uncover a hidden message among the pages, Lydia's own secrets come back to haunt her. I don't want to say much more as I think it's best to know as little as possible about the plot. Though there were some gruesome scenes, I enjoyed picking up quips and quotes about the reading life along the way. More info →
This novel is a book lover’s dream. In 1913, Laura Lyons lives with her family in the New York Public Library, a perk of her husband’s job as superintendent of the grand building. Her dream to become a journalist conflicts with her husband’s desire to provide for his family himself. Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan’s scored her dream job as an NYPL curator, landing a plum appointment on the team for the famed Berg Collection. But when valuable manuscripts start disappearing from under Sadie’s nose, she’s first scorned for her incompetence—and then suspected as a thief. Sadie suspects the theft traces back to her grandmother, the renowned feminist journalist Laura Lyons, but Sadie can’t imagine how. A literary mystery that’s full of surprises. More info →
This psychological thriller set in the world of books and bookstores is an homage to classic mysteries. Years ago, bookseller Malcolm Kershaw wrote a little-read blog post about the “Eight Perfect Murders” in the classic mysteries he loves. He says he hasn't thought about it since—until an FBI agent shows up on his doorstep to ask for his help. A murderer is on the loose, and appears to be using Malcolm's blog post as a guide. This meta take on the genre will be best appreciated by fans of those classics, like Strangers on a Train and The ABC Murders, but be warned—spoilers abound for the older books in this plot. More info →
Imagine a library filled with unpublished manuscripts, countless novels that never came to be. In the tiny village of Crozon, a small town librarian collects and cares for these unloved manuscripts. While on holiday, a renowned French editor visits the library and stumbles upon an undiscovered masterpiece, which she and her author boyfriend soon discover was written by a small-town French pizza chef. She champions its publication and turns it into an instant bestseller. Readers everywhere swoon for the book and the story behind its publication, but one snobby literary critic questions the book’s origins, and resolves to get the real story. (Is it weird to say this plot thread reminds me of Ratatoille?) Funny and endearing, a quirky mystery for book lovers, and a great read for anyone who fancies a peek into the publishing industry. A highly discussable novel-in-translation for book clubs, especially because of the sure-to-be-controversial epilogue. More info →
This fast-paced book is mystery, quest, and love letter to the written word, all rolled into one: think Harry Potter meets National Treasure. After a few days working at Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, Clay starts to wonder about the curiously named shop and its strange clientele. Using analysis skills from his Silicon Valley tech days, he starts to uncover much deeper secrets between the pages. A story about friendship and adventure as well as the conflict between new technology and print books, this is another crowd favorite among bookworms. More info →
Have you read any great bookish mysteries lately? Or visited any lovely bookstores? Tell us about your favorites in the comments.