Best Mystery and Crime Books for Kids and Teens

We all love a good murder mystery or true crime thriller, right? But what about the young adults in your life? Children and teens need to start developing their critical thinking skills and the joys of reading at an early age. While there is great debate on what kids should be exposed to, and at what ages, a good mystery will certainly help foster an early love of critical thinking and problem-solving. So, we rounded up a few of our favorites, from who-dun-its, detective stories, middle-grade mysteries, crime fiction to murder mysteries and we hope you will find some new ones to enjoy! We would love to know what some of your childhood favorites are too!

For young readers who are not quite up to reading complex mysteries or thrillers here are some of the best mystery books that will be the perfect introduction to the realm of mystery for five to twelve-year olds to explore. We included some well-known series like the Hardy Boys and some lesser-known works that we enjoyed as well. These books are full of main character’s on a secret mission with plot twists that will keep them engaged with these adventurous mystery stories!

Best mysteries for kids and teens

Mystery Books for Young Readers that will foster a lifelong love of reading

1. First up of course is the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series!

The Hardy Boys series was first published in 1927. The series follows two brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, and their mystery adventures. The series consists of 200 books.
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The Nancy Drew Series was first published in 1930. The series follows Nancey Drew, her best friends Bess and George, and her boyfriend Ned on some intriguing mysteries.
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2. The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers

We found this book to be a cute mystery and it made us smile.

The animals? homes are disappearing. Tree by tree, the forest is being cut down. Clues! There must be clues. For instance, look–there is a mysterious bear carrying an ax! But what would a bear want with so many trees? Perhaps the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor have a story to tell?
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3. The Box car children

Since 1942, generations of readers have delighted in the adventures of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden―The Boxcar Children®. Resourceful, optimistic, and independent, these four orphaned siblings work together to help each other and their community. Invite your young reader to discover Greenfield and beyond with the first 12 stories in the series, written by author and educator Gertrude Chandler Warner. Featuring wholesome, family-friendly themes and varied locations, every mystery encourages kids to imagine, explore, and grow.
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4. The Adventures of Hank the Cow Dog series

The popular Hank the Cowdog series is based on the humorous antics of the canine Head of Ranch Security. In this first book, Hank and his little buddy, Drover, set out to solve a series of baffling murders on the ranch. Is Hank a suspect? An Outlaw? Can he clear his good name? USA Today calls the hilarious Hank the Cowdog series “…the best family entertainment in years.”
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5. The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes

Who is Jane Moffat, anyway? She isn’t the youngest in the family, and she isn’t the oldest-she is always just Jane. How boring. So Jane decides to become a figure of mystery . . . the mysterious “Middle Moffat.” But being in the middle is a lot harder than it looks.
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6. Imagination Station Series by Paul McCusker

Join cousins Patrick and Beth as they travel to various lands and times solving mysteries and having adventures!
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7. The Feather Chase (book 1 in The Crime Solving Cousins Mystery series) by Shannon L. Brown

They start chasing a mystery—then it chases them.
Twelve-year-old cousins Sophie and Jessica don’t have much in common. Sophie loves hiking and her small town. Jessica would rather be shopping in a city. The only mystery is how they’ll be able to spend the summer together.
Then . . . they find a briefcase in the forest with a surprise inside. When they hear footsteps behind them and bad guys run after them, they have no choice but to work together to solve the mystery of The Feather Chase.
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8. National Park Mystery Series by Aaron Johnson

Before Jake’s grandfather died, he was on the trail of a centuries-old mystery. And he has entrusted that mystery to Jake, leaving behind a set of hidden codes, riddles, maps, and other clues that lead Jake and his friends on a scavenger hunt into the most wild and rugged wilderness of the national parks.
The mystery unfolds as Jake, Amber, and Wes learn about survival skills, natural history, integrity, character, and friendship.
Along the way, they discover they are not the only ones on this quest. An elusive shadow group is close on their heels.

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9. Ava & Carol Detective Agency Series by Thomas Lockhaven

Get ready for a rollercoaster ride of mysteries with the Ava & Carol Detective Agency Bundle Set. Join Ava and Carol, two clever detectives, as they tackle stolen jewels, ancient relics, and haunted houses.
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10. The Red Rock Mysteries by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry

Watch out! The Timberline twins are on the loose. Bryce and Ashley are ATV-riding tweens from Colorado who unearth action-packed mystery and adventure wherever they go. From clearing the name of a local miscreant to thwarting a gold-stealing heist, the twins’ growing faith and the strong example of their parents guide them through even the most life-threatening situations. 
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11. Spy School: Spy School Series by Stuart Gibbs

Ben Ripley may only be in middle school, but he’s already pegged his dream job: CIA or bust. Unfortunately for him, his personality doesn’t exactly scream “secret agent.” In fact, Ben is so awkward, he can barely get to school and back without a mishap. Because of his innate nerdiness, Ben is not surprised when he is recruited for a magnet school with a focus on science—but he’s entirely shocked to discover that the school is actually a front for a junior CIA academy. Could the CIA really want him?
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12. Murder Most Unladylike Series by Robin Stevens

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong both have a penchant for solving mysteries. In fact, outspoken Daisy is a self-described Sherlock Holmes, and she appoints wallflower Hazel as her own personal Watson when they form their own (secret!) detective agency. The only problem? There is nothing to investigate at the perfectly proper Deepdean School for Girls they both attend.

Or is there?

Follow Daisy and Hazel as they put their deductive skills and friendship to the test to solve a series of murders most unladylike involving a teacher’s disappearing body, a poisoning at a high society tea party, a sinister slaying aboard the Orient Express, a brutal bully’s demise at their school’s Bonfire Night, and a holiday homicide in the stairwells of Cambridge.
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13. The Case Closed Series by Lauren Magaziner

Pick-your-own-path and puzzle-packed mystery collide in the first book in Lauren Magaziner’s hilarious and high-stakes four-book middle-grade series in which the reader must help Carlos and his friends put together the clues to save his mom’s detective agency.

In this wildly entertaining and interactive adventure, YOU pick which suspects to interview, which questions to ask, and which clues to follow. You pick the path—you crack the case!
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14. History’s Mysteries series from National Geographic Kids

Curious kids itching for real-life Indiana Jones-like intrigue will get swept away with the next book in this spine-tingling series about solving puzzles of the past–from whole civilizations that have vanished to mystifying monuments and urban legends.
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15. The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

When Stella and her younger brother, Tom, move to their new London home, they become mystified by the disappearance of Harry, their elderly neighbor’s small dog. Where does he go? And why does he keep reappearing wet-through?

Their quest to solve the riddle over the summer holidays leads to a boat buried under a grassy mound, and a tunnel that takes them to a secret lake.
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16. The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal

James R. Hannibal presents a thrilling adventure through history, complete with mysteries, secret items, codes, and a touch of magic in this stunning middle grade debut.

Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles is great at finding things. Not just a missing glove or the other sock, but things normal people have long given up on ever seeing again. If only he could find his father, who has disappeared in London without a trace.

But Jack’s father was not who he claimed to be. It turns out that he was a member of a secret society of detectives that has served the crown for centuries—and membership into the Lost Property Office is Jack’s inheritance.

Now the only way Jack will ever see his father again is if he finds what the nefarious Clockmaker is after: the Ember, which holds a secret that has been kept since the Great Fire of London. Will Jack be able to find the Ember and save his father, or will his talent for finding things fall short?
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There are honestly so many wonderful mystery books for younger readers that I had a hard time just picking these 16 to highlight, if you want even more recommendations I suggest checking out Imagination Soup’s article on “Good Mysteries for Kids.”

A Great List of Young Adult Mystery Stories

Often the lines between teens and young adults are blurred because each individual learns at a different pace. So, we’ve included a round-up of complex and intriguing mysteries for this wide demographic of tweens to young adults (though if we’re being honest any age would enjoy getting lost in these mysteries). Here are the best books for teens, tweens and beyond:

1. One of Us is Lying Series by Karen M. McMannas

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

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2. The World’s Deadliest School Trips series by James DuBern

Each book is a fictional account of a school trip that ends up in a survival situation. The location, era and characters are always different. They are set in real locations, and are gripping tales of adventure, teamwork and determination.
Find the series on Goodreads, Amazon

3. Horses and Friends Series by Miralee Ferrell

A horse of her own would be awesome. But Kate figures that might be a long way away, especially since she had to give up riding lessons and move to her late grandfather’s farm. Besides, it would be a lot more fun to have a best friend to ride with. When Kate discovers a barn on their new farm that’s perfect for a horse, and a dusty bridle too, she starts to think that her dream might come true. Then she meets Tori at school, who is totally the best. So when they discover a thoroughbred that appears to be all alone, could it be the answer to her prayers? Maybe. If she can convince her dad … and figure out what’s going on with that horse.
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4. A good girls guide to murder by Holly Jackson

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Bookshop.org

5. Jackaby by William Ritter

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of the kind of creature whose very existence the local authorities–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–seem adamant to deny.
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6. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why—or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.

To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch—and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a conwoman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Bookshop.org

7. The Jailbirds series by Brian McBride

In the coastal city of Mammoth, Washington, five best friends known as the Jailbirds uncover conspiracies, make discoveries, and navigate the ups and downs of young adulthood.
Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Bookshop.org.

8. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life. Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine.

When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her back to her own sheltered world. The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
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9. Shelter by Harlen Coben

Mickey Bolitar’s year can’t get much worse. After witnessing his father’s death and sending his mom to rehab, he’s forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey’s train-wreck of a life is finally improving – until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley’s trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn’t who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey’s father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury – and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

First introduced to readers in Harlan Coben’s latest adult novel, Live Wire, Mickey Bolitar is as quick-witted and clever as his uncle Myron, and eager to go to any length to save the people he cares about. With this new series, Coben introduces an entirely new generation of fans to the masterful plotting and wry humor that have made him an award-winning, internationally bestselling, and beloved author.
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10. Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.
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11. Heirlooms and Homicide by Danielle Collins

Henrietta Hewitt runs an antique store in Hearts Grove, Washington. In the process of collecting antiques, she comes across countless unusual items, many with a story. Some with secrets. When a missing girl is mixed with a prized antique, things turn deadly. Can Henrietta solve the mystery of the antique box and keep everyone safe?

Heirlooms and Homicide is the first book in the Hearts Grove Cozy Mystery series. If you enjoy cozy mysteries with interesting characters, you don’t want to miss the Hearts Grove Cozy Mysteries.

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12. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

They said his uncle Ian died in a car accident. But Alex Rider knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in the windshield prove it. Yet he never suspected the truth: his uncle was really a spy for Britain’s top secret intelligence agency. And now Alex has been recruited to find his uncle’s killers . . .
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13. The Cabin by Natasha Preston

A weekend partying at a remote cabin is just what Mackenzie needs. She can’t wait to let loose with her friends. But a crazy night of fun leaves two of them dead—murdered.

With no signs of a forced entry or struggle, suspicion turns to the five survivors. Someone isn’t telling the truth. And Mackenzie’s first mistake? Assuming the killing is over…
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14. The Face on the Milk Carton Series by Caroline B. Cooney

No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar–a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years before from a shopping mall in New Jersey–she felt overcome with shock. She recognized that little girl–it was she. How could it possibly be true?

Janie can’t believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, but as she begins to piece things together, nothing makes sense. Something is terribly wrong. Are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson really Janie’s parents? And if not, who is Janie Johnson, and what really happened?
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15. Out of Time Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Clifton, Indiana, 1840. Jessie Keyser lives with her family in a small log cabin. Her father is a blacksmith and her mother cares for her and her siblings—though, at night, Jessie’s mother also secretly tends anyone who gets sick in their village.

Lately, more and more people have been falling ill. Especially the other kids in Jessie’s one-room schoolhouse. Quarantine signs appear on the local homes. And Jessie’s mother looks worried. Very worried. One night, she tells Jessie that it’s a diphtheria outbreak—a dangerous disease. And if they don’t act soon, some of those sick children could die. Then Jessie’s mother tells her that only Jessie can help—by leaving Clifton.

But Jessie’s mother also reveals a shocking truth about the outside world, and what, where, and when Clifton is. Jessie will have to escape and survive a totally strange world, because she and her friends are all running out of time.
Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Bookshop.org

This list of books is by no means complete, however, it is a wonderful round-up of some great books to help spark a love of mystery for the next generation. Let me know if you know of more books we should add to this list. 

Our love of reading in the mystery genre started at a young age with watching Agatha Christie and reading the Nancy Drew book series. I believe that investing in a world of mystery novels (even a graphic novel) is a great way we can give the next generation a love for creativity, problem-solving, and cognitive growth – by planting seeds of deductive reasoning critical thinking skills, problem-solving, and hopefully a lifelong love of reading good books.

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