When you were a kid, did you ever stay up way past your bedtime reading?
You know, like hiding under the covers with a flashlight, turning page after page hoping to get to the end of the book before one of your parents came in?
We know you don’t want your kid to stay up late, but if they’re going to, you’d rather they be gripped by a fascinating novel than anything else.
And one of the best genres that turns apprehensive readers into total book worms is mystery.
If you’re looking for the best mystery books for kids, we put this list together so you can easily find the most engaging thrillers all in one spot.
11 Best Mystery Books for Kids
We’ve broken down the best mystery books for kids into several categories based on age and sub-genre.
Since mystery novels can sometimes toe the line with their focus on crimes and the darker aspects of human nature, we want to make sure you’re getting your young reader something you’re comfortable with.
Best Mystery Books for Middle Schoolers
1. The Mystery on Apache Canyon Drive by Barry Forbes
The Mystery on Apache Canyon Drive, like all the novels in Barry Forbes’ Mystery Searchers series blend the world of high-tech and good ol’ fashioned detective work.
A group of middle schoolers use the latest gadgets like GPS, drones, and other technology to solve impossible mysteries and expose nefarious plots.
While the stories do involve crime, don’t worry: they’re wholesome, clean, and there’s a focus on morals throughout.
The Mystery on Apache Canyon Drive is just book one of the Mystery Searchers series, too, so once they finish this novel, they’ll be racing on to the next one.
2. A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Set in the Victorian age, A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee is centered on a young orphan who’s brought in and educated by a shadowy organization only known as The Agency.
Her first assignment is to uncover a mystery of missing cargo ships by infiltrating the home of a rich merchant. As she works step by step through the mystery, she’s faced with questions about who she works for, where she comes from, and where the line between good and evil is.
Suitable for pre-teens and young teens as well, A Spy in the House has even fooled adult readers with its fabulous twists and turns.
3. The Vanishing in Deception Gap by Barry Forbes
Book #6 of the Mystery Searchers series by Barry Forbes, The Vanishing in Deception Gap, is a thrilling tale set in the remote mountains. When a man, surrounded by fellow workers, suddenly disappears, leaving only a cryptic text message, the mystery searchers have a case that only they can solve.
As they uncover more twists and turns in the plot, it becomes clear that not only “Beau,” the missing worker, is in trouble, but the mystery searchers themselves are in grave danger.
Like the rest of the Mystery Searchers collection, The Vanishing in Deception Gap is a clean mystery novel that uses technology like drones and GPS to solve crimes. If your young reader loves the latest high-tech gadgets, they’ll get a kick out of these novels.
Best Kid-Friendly Murder Mysteries
4. Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
If you’re looking for a murder mystery that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then look no further than Murder Most Unlady Like by Robin Stevens.
When amateur sleuths Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are just about ready to give up on their Agatha Christie inspired detective dreams because there aren’t any actual mysteries to solve, they come across the dead body of their science teacher.
After running to find help, they discover that the body is no longer in the gym where they found it. That must mean: a murder did take place. Now they finally have a mystery to solve.
Murder Most Unladylike is perfect for young readers because it’s funny, witty, and full of the spirit of exploration. It’s also got a great mystery at its center, which will keep your kid guessing until the very end.
5. Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel is a murder mystery for younger readers (8-12) that takes place during a fancy hotel party. When a guest goes missing, the rest are left wondering about the disappearance.
But that isn’t all that happens. There’s also a ghost haunting the hotel, and a secret hidden behind a painting. And that’s just the beginning!
The story unfolds methodically, giving the reader clues as it goes along. JJ and his new friends, Penny and Emma must work together to solve this mystery, all while avoiding the ghost-infested halls.
This book is a fun read for younger kids ages 8-12, and it features classic elements of mystery fiction like intrigue and suspense. Plus, it’s written in a way that makes it easy to understand. So whether you’re reading it to your child or your child is reading it to you, this book is sure to be a hit.
Best Mystery Books for Elementary Schoolers
6. Winterbourne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter
Winterbourne Home for Vengeance and Valor is a cozy mystery with an interesting twist that’s perfect for younger readers eager to dive into an interesting tale.
April, the main character, has been moved to a creepy old mansion along with the rest of the orphanage. But what do they know about living in a big old mansion? Not much, that’s for sure.
They soon realize that the house has a dark history, and mysterious events start happening one after another.
April, along with her friends set off to investigate.
Winterbourne Home for Vengeance and Valor is a fantastic creepy mystery for elementary school students because of its likable and relatable characters, clever twists, and interesting writing.
7. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein is a thrilling adventure that’s perfect to get your elementary schooler excited about reading.
Mr. Lemoncello is hosting a contest where he gives away $1 million dollars to whoever can complete his latest escape game. The catch? He’s locked everyone inside a library filled with dangerous traps.
This book isn’t just a fun story---it’s packed with puzzles, riddles, and puns that your young reader will actually want to solve as they escape Lemoncello’s library along with the main character.
8. Lizzie and Lucky: The Mystery of the Missing Puppies by Megan Rix and Tim Budgen
Lizzie and Lucky: the Mystery of the Missing Puppies is a cute mystery that’s perfect if your young reader is also a dog lover.
Lizzie is an aspiring detective---nothing gets past her watchful eye. Well, some things do. But that’s why she has her trusty sidekick, the adorable Dalmatian, Lucky.
It’s a fun read-aloud for elementary schoolers as well, so if you’re searching for something for the classroom, this is a great find.
Classic Mystery Books for Kids
9. The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Aruther Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous fictional detectives ever created and it all started with the novel, The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This classic series of stories was originally published between 1887 and 1893. So it’s got some age on it.
Your young reader will love these mysteries (after all, young readers and adults have fallen in love with this series for well over 100 years now).
Obviously, the main character is unique and memorable, but these stories are also genuine puzzles, with clues laid throughout the writing---as your reader progresses through the tales, they might just become better at understanding the mysteries hidden in the story.
While there are plenty of movies and TV shows on Sherlock Holmes, nothing approaches the original story.
10. The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
The Murder at the Vicarage is a fabulous (and iconic) mystery by Agatha Christie. Christie is the godmother of the murder mystery genre, with dozens of novels practically defining the category.
While identifying the murder suspect might seem obvious after the death of Colonel Prothero, the detective Miss Marple finds that the case she’s on might not be as simple as it seems.
Written in 1930, this classic mystery novel offers an excellent balance between fast paced plot development and unusual language. Your young reader will be introduced to almost an entirely new vocabulary, but won't mind because the plot is just that interesting.
11. The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe isn’t exactly a mystery writer---now he’s been branded as more of a dark literary figure. But many of the classic short stories found in The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories have hefty doses of mystery, revenge, love, and thrill.
While many mystery novels can have flat characters, none of Poe’s protagonists (or antagonists) are simple or contrived. They’re full and psychologically intriguing.
These stories are fascinating to young readers because they help readers identify with different characters---and not just the “good” ones. Once your kid becomes enthralled with these stories, they’ll build empathy and critical thinking by judging the decisions of these characters, but because the characters are so rich, there’s rarely a clear-cut answer.
Crime Fighters, Detectives, and Spies Unite
Whether your young reader is an arm-chair sleuth, or they’re just excited about diving into a tough literary puzzle, these mystery novels are unforgettable.
You can pick up one of the classics, or if you want to ensure that your kid is reading a clean, fun, and uplifting message, check out The Mystery Searchers series by Barry Forbes. This series is too easy for your reader to get lost in, and because there are 10 novels in total, they’ll have no shortage of reading material.
So what mystery will your kiddo solve next?
Why are mystery books good for kids?
Mystery novels are exciting so they’re more entertaining to read. And because they’re more entertaining, your kid will learn to enjoy the process of reading and will associate reading with fun and learning. Also, good mystery books also leave clues and your kid will naturally want to solve the mysteries in the books themselves. This promotes critical thinking and problem solving.
What are the four types of mysteries?
Detective novels, murder mysteries, spy thrillers, and psychological thrillers.
Is Harry Potter a mystery book?
Harry Potter is more of a fantasy novel, but there are plenty of mysteries throughout. However, most mystery novels center around gaining more knowledge of a singular event, whereas fantasy novels tend to focus on the struggle between good and evil.