Best books for kids who love mysteries
As crime and thrillers fill the adult shelves of most bookshops, it is no wonder that this genre for children is going from strength to strength. Immerse yourself in clue-hunting and who-dunnit sleuthing with this choice of classic and magical mysteries from primary school teacher and children's literature reviewer Scott Evans.
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens(£6.99, Puffin)
The first in a series of fantastic stories, Murder Most Unladylike introduces young readers to Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, schoolgirls who set up their own secret detective society. Full of plot twists that'll keep any reader (young or old!) guessing, this mystery world is always my first recommendation for children who are searching for a thrilling read with a case of their very own to solve. I can guarantee you'll be hooked!
The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell(£6.99, Puffin)
"Like nothing you've seen before" is the strap-line for this book... and it's like nothing you've read before, either! Siblings Ivy and Seb find themselves in a world that is most uncommon, where ordinary objects possess the most magnificent of powers. This fast-paced, exciting and effervescent read will have you looking at things in a way you couldn't possibly imagine!
Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection by Julia Lee(£6.99, Oxford University Press Children's)
Reminiscent of Agatha Christie (but for children), this is the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of crime fiction. As main character Nancy, an aspiring detective, starts her first job as a housemaid, she discovers that more sleuthing is required than she would have ever imagined... Told through Nancy's own diary entries, drawings and journal doodles, this is a brilliant "middle-grade" mystery for KS2 readers.
The Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine(£6.99, Egmont)
This best-selling historical adventure has all the key ingredients of a stellar mystery, told with old-fashioned charm. The Clockwork Sparrow takes readers back to the heyday of department stores for some international crime-solving – the Edwardian period is beautifully detailed and you'll find yourself wishing you could visit your very own Sinclair's! Perfect for readers aged 9+.
A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan(£6.99, Usborne)
The creepiness of Neil Gaiman, the magical world-building of Roald Dahl and Eva Ibbotson and a touch of Tim-Burton-esque scene-setting: this tantalising tale has it all. Welcome to a weird and wonderful place called Perfect. Put on your specs: it's all a bit creepy, a little scary but awfully exciting – just remember that the things you see before you may not be quite as they first appear...
The Secret of the Night Train by Sylvia Bishop(£6.99, Scholastic)
Like a children's version of the Orient Express without the Murder, this tightly-plotted and captivating story hurtles along the tracks with eccentricity and humour. Solve the mystery of a stolen diamond with Max as she journeys across Europe aboard a sleeper train and help her find the answers she so desperately seeks on her whirlwind adventure. All aboard!
The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge(£6.99, Nosy Crow)
This mind-bending story weaves science into the narrative, introducing maths, physics and the multiverse to KS2 and making it unputdownably entertaining. Get (literally) sucked in to the vortex of this book and meet Maisie Day, a child genius, fighting for survival and trapped between her life with her family and an altogether alternative reality. Deeply intriguing and packed with twists and cliff-hangers.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg(£6.99, Andersen Press)
Once you see the illustrations in this picture book, you won't want to close it again; the more you look, the more you'll notice hiding in the pictures. Children will love to try to make sense of each illustration for themselves and you can complement their interpretations with The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a collection of short stories in which well-known and established authors such as Stephen King and Louis Sachar respond to the imagery with stories to accompany the stunning artwork. A perfect springboard for the imagination.
The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson(£6.99, Scholastic)
With the success her best-selling debut novel, The Goldfish Boy, and now with The Light Jar, children's author Lisa Thompson is establishing herself as a mystery specialist. These aren't your usual mysteries, though – these are deeply emotional, curious and complex stories, addressing difficult issues. Young readers will enjoy them but also take on board a meaningful message that will stay with them long after the last page has been read.
Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen(£6.99, Random House)
Filled with action, suspense and a structure-eating plant and set in a dystopian world where one boy has to find all the answers to survive, Boy in the Tower is guaranteed to keep its readers engaged. Slightly dark in tone and suitable for readers in upper Key Stage 2 or older, this unusual and zany story celebrates the strength of family in the strangest of situations.