Genre spotlight: Mystery Section

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mystery genre sectionHonestly, Mystery is not my favorite genre. I took a detective fiction course as an elective in college, and though I thought I would really love it, it ended up just being okay. It wasn’t the course or the instructor so much as the fact that detective fiction is just not my thing.

So because I’m not a huge fan, this section doesn’t get as much attention as, say, sci-fi or fantasy. It’s not the first one I go to when a student asks for a book recommendation (unless that student requests mystery).

That said, my students really do like this section, and it’s grown on me since I’ve started also adding thrillers to this section. There are loads of great new thrillers, and they are oh-so-easy to booktalk! The Mystery section consistently gets solid checkout, even though I admittedly don’t give it the attention I give other sections.

More about our Mystery section:

NUMBER OF BOOKS IN THE SECTION: 429 (as of July 2015)

GENRE LABEL COLOR: red (as in blood)


  • And Then There Were None (Christie)
  • Allegedly (Johnson)
  • One of Us is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret (McManus)
  • Sadie (Summers)
  • I Hunt Killers (Lyga)
  • We Were Liars (Lockhart)
  • Girl, Stolen and other titles by April Henry
  • This Is Our Story (Elston)
  • The Cheerleaders (Thomas)


  • Death By series (Gerber)
  • Shelter and Seconds Away (Coben)
  • The 39 Clues series (various authors)
  • Closed for the Season (Hahn)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events series (Snicket)
  • Framed (Korman)
  • Trackers (Carman)
  • What Happened to Cass McBride? (Giles)
  • Ripper (Petrucha)
  • The House on the Gulf (Haddix)
  • The Perfect Shot (Alphin)
  • And Then There Were None (Christie)–this one is due to a recent booktalk featuring this book
  • Half Moon Investigations (Colfer)
  • Don’t Look Behind You (Duncan)–lots of Lois Duncan books among top Mystery picks due to my booktalking her frequently
  • Killing Mr. Griffin (Duncan)
  • Ransom (Duncan)
  • Theodore Boone series (Grisham)
  • Confessions of a Murder Suspect (Patterson)
  • Cryer’s Cross (McMann)


Middle school: (a * beside the title means the book would be great for MS or HS)

  • The Alamo (Smith)
  • Homeroom Headhunters (Chapman)
  • *Mojo (Tharp)
  • All That’s Missing (Sullivan)
  • Back Before Dark (Shoemaker)
  • Below (McKinlay)
  • Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things (Voigt)
  • *The Caged Graves (Salerni)
  • *Confessions: The Private School Murders, sequel to Confessions of a Murder Suspect (Patterson)
  • *The Eye of Minds (Dashner)
  • Hold Fast (Balliett)
  • One Came Home (Timberlake)
  • When Did You See Her Last? (Snicket)
Mystery Section in my Texas Library

High school:

  • 17 & Gone (Suma)
  • Period 8 (Crutcher)
  • Want To Go Private? (Littman)
  • Belladonna, sequel to Venom (Paul)
  • Blythewood (Goodman)
  • Catherine (Lindner)
  • Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (Kiem)
  • Dangerous Girls (Haas)
  • Game (Lyga)
  • The Madman’s Daughter (Shepherd)
  • Out of the Easy (Sepetys)
  • Pretty Girl-13 (Coley)
  • Torn (Massey)
Mystery Section in my China library


  • detective stories
  • missing persons
  • realistic in nature; not paranormal
  • if the book is scary or violent, I will likely put it into our HORROR section


  • I am seeing more students interested in mystery recently than I have in past years. This is one of the sections I will have to expand sometime soon because I am running out of shelf space.
  • My Mystery section is not for paranormal mysteries, but I have noticed an upswing in paranormal mysteries lately (West’s Pivot Point and Derting’s Dead Silence are examples).
  • My students are drawn especially to murder mysteries or stories about missing persons.
  • Detective fiction is not very popular with my students. We have Springer’s Enola Holmes, Van Draanan’s Sammy Keyes series, and Higson’s Young Bond series, among many others, but my students just don’t check them out. Interestingly, I do get occasional requests for Nancy Drew. These students often tell me their mom recommended it to them.


  • It can be really difficult deciding genre on these. Mysteries can easily fall into other genres, particularly, Horror and Paranormal, which in my library trump the mystery part of the story when genrefying. The book has to be mainly mystery AND realistic for me to label it Mystery.
  • I’ve seen an uptick in the number of YA thrillers being released in 2018-2019. I’ve been classifying these as mystery, but they do not exactly fit. For example, Ally Carter’s Not If I Save You First is a thriller for sure, but is it also a mystery? I guess it is *sort of* a mystery (why were they kidnapped and what do these people really want?), but it’s not a solid mystery. I go back and forth on whether these kinds of thrillers better belong in Action-Adventure. Or maybe I should start a new Thriller genre section? It’s a constant battle in my mind.


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One Comment

  • My students love the Forensic Mystery series by Alane Ferguson, and the John Feinstein sports mystery books too.


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