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Everyone loves a good mystery! It is one of the most popular genres for leisure reading. People love mysteries because they provide a story with a definite storyline, they love the challenge of solving the mystery, they can read about crimes that they could or would never commit themselves, or they can always count on Good triumphing over Evil. Also, mysteries are just fun - they are pure entertainment. There are several different variations of mysteries. One is detective fiction, where a central character like Sherlock Holmes, solves crimes. Another is suspense fiction, wherein the main character is involved in a roller coaster of adventure as he or she solves the mystery, like James Bond.


For a mystery to be successful, certain elements must be present according to Donelson and Nilsen in Literature for Today's Young Adults. It is only fair that the reader knows the same facts surrounding the case that the protagonist does and that he is introduced to all the suspects early on in the story. The fun of a mystery is trying to figure out 'whodunnit', but the reader should never be disappointed by actually being able to figure it out easily or prematurely. [1]


Mystery can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Playwriters like Sophocles and Euripides entertained the citizens of Greece with their courtroom dramas. Mystery writings began as courtroom dramas but have expanded to different crimes and supernatural happenings. Suspense and drama are important factors in mystery. 


Young Adult novels are popular among teenagers and college students. Young readers do not want to read pessimistic and straightforward crime novels. They like to read books that go a little deeper than just a crime. In most young adult mystery novels, the protagonist is a young intelligent person rather than a professional detective as in adult mysteries. The victim is usually associated with the protagonist. Young adult novels are not as dark and dreary as adult mystery novels. Good usually overcomes evil in Young Adult Mystery novels. [2]


There are many notable moments in the history of the mystery. In 1794 Things as They Are: or, the Adventures of Caleb Williams, written by William Godwin, was the first modern detective story. In 1827 the anonymously written book Richmond: Or, Scenes in the Life of a Bow Street Officer, Drawn from Private Memoranda, was the first book that contained a police officer as a detective. In 1841, Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which introduced a detective by the name of C. Augustine Dupin. In 1842, Poe also wrote The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, which was based on a real murder. 1843, Poe wrote The Gold Bug. It was considered the first detective fiction book. 


Some famous mystery writers are: Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ellery Queen, Charlie Chan, Perry Mason, The Shadow, The Saint Ed McBain, and Nancy Drew. Some mysteries can be classified into certain sub genres:

     Amateur investigator – main character that is not a trained professional investigator, but someone that investigates anyway.

     Bumbling detective - humorous tale that includes investigation.

     Doctor detective - involves doctors that solve mystery murders.

     Locked room/puzzle investigations - mysteries that seem like an impossible crime was committed. [4] [5]


Detective fiction is focused on a certain crime. Edgar Allen Poe was known for writing detective fiction stories. In The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the detective was inspirational and more detective stories came about. The first American detective hero was Carroll John Daly in 1923. [6]


Mystery writers

Son of the Mob, by Gordon Korman is a mystery of a seventeen year old boy named Vince Luca who's father and brother are both in the mob. He has a friend Alex that wants him to find a girlfriend and for them to have a good relationship since Alex can't talk to any girls on his own. After a while he meets a girl at a football game and they start dating. But things go horrible with their relationship when he finds out that her dad is in the FBI and that he is also one of the FBI agents that is investigating his father. Last, this book is very exciting,full of situational irony, and I recommended to kids of all races and genders. 


Recommended by Mr. Manley


Popular books with synopsis

Richard Peck is another well-known mystery author. One of his most notable books is Are You in the House Alone? Gail Osborne is the main character who receives a series of threatening and obscene telephone calls. The book deals with the loneliness and fear associated with the aftermath of rape. Osborne is ostracized by her friends in the small suburban Connecticut community where she is stalked.


Black Mirror by Nancy Werlin is another mystery for young adults. Werlin is a past winner of the Edgar Award. In the book, 16 year old France Leventhal and her brother Daniel attend a preppy boarding school thanks to a scholarship from the charitable school organization Unity. But after her brother dies of a drug overdose, she begins to question his association with Unity and is convinced that his death was not really a suicide but a murder.


Yet another YA mystery is Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan. This is a mystery, but with supernatural undertones due to the inclusion of the topic of astral projection. The 17 year old central character thinks she is being spied on. It turns out to be her twin sister Lia who is projecting herself into Laurie's life to wreak havoc on it. The two were separated at birth, Laurie being adopted and Lia growing up in a series of foster homes. The mystery here is not 'who dunnit' but rather where Laurie's true loyalties lie. 


John Grisham, the king of the thriller, has written several mysteries, including The Brethren. The brethren are three judges who are in a low security prison for committing white-collar crimes. Inside the jail they run a mail scam in which they blackmail wealthy gay men. Congressman Anthony Lake, up to no good himself, becomes one of their targets. A complex plot keeps the reader enthralled although in this book everyone is corrupt and there is no good guy.


Where are the Children? is the first mystery novel written by Mary Higgins Clark. Nancy Harmon is on trial at the beginning of the book for the murder of her children. She is freed because of a technicality - one of the main witnesses flees the country. She moves across the country, changes her identity, remarries, and has two more children. The mystery begins when she looks out the window one day and finds that her children have disappeared and she is being framed for their murder.


1. Donelson, Kenneth L. and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Literature for Young Adults.  Boston: Pearson Education, 2005.


2. Donelson, Kenneth L. and Allen Pace Nilsen. Literature for Young Adults. Boston: Pearson Education, 2005.


3. Richard, Betty. “Mystery and Detective Fiction – Time line.” Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction, Revised Edition (2008) : 1-13. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 8 Dec      2011. 


4. “Mystery of the Time Line.” Mystery Net.com. Mystery Net and Newfront Productions.  2009. Web. 12 Dec 2011.


5. Carlson, Paul, ed. “Mystery Subgenres.” Cuebon.com. N.p. 2011. Web. 12 Dec 2011. 


6. Perkins. George, Barbara Perkins, and Phillip Leininger, eds. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature. New York: Harper & Row. 1997.

Comments (9)

Regina said

at 9:27 am on May 7, 2009

Regina Boone said:
The Breathren sounds really interesting. I like the way you came straight forward with details of the book a little. I think I may read that as well. I wonder did they get away with the mail scam?

Regina said

at 9:41 am on May 11, 2009

I would like to read this book. The reasons whyI would like to read this book is that there are two plots going on at the same time between the three judges in Tremble and a CIA Agent that is running for president. It contains to me alot of action that I would really enjoy.The ending part sound where someone has to leave and the whole scam get started again is outrageous. I think this is a really good book by John Grisham.

Cameron H. said

at 1:41 pm on Dec 10, 2009

My friend told me that the book Where Are The Children by Mary Higgins Clark was a great read. She liked it because it was not a terrifying story, only suspenseful. She said that she could not put the book down because she kept wanting to know more. I think these are important factors in a mystery novel. I plan to read this book.

Cameron H. said

at 1:25 pm on Dec 11, 2009

John Grisham is a well known author. His novel The Firm spent 47 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. This book was considered to be the bestselling novel of 1991. His books, The Pelican Brief and The Client both debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller List. When his book, A Time To Kill was published the first time, it was not that popular. But after attention was brought back to it, it was also considered a bestseller. Over 235 million of John Grisham's books were printed worldwide. Nine of his novels were turned into films.

Cameron H. said

at 2:20 pm on Dec 11, 2009

John Grisham. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://www.jgrisham.com/>.

Raina said

at 2:25 pm on Nov 30, 2010

Lois Duncan's A Stranger With my Face was a great book. I liked how it kept you thinking on what was going on. It kept me very interested and was easy to read because it was so good.

Jessica Pavey said

at 3:19 pm on Nov 29, 2011

I like the Mysteries because you stay on your toe's and it fun to read.

Brianna Whalen said

at 10:58 am on May 2, 2012

I have read many books by Lois Duncan and Stranger with My Face sounds like an interesting book to read. I might have to read that one after I finish the book I am currently reading. I really like mysteries they keep you in suspense during the whole story and you never know what will happen next.

Joselyn Hathaway said

at 1:06 pm on Nov 18, 2014

I enjoy mystery books because they always keep you wonder whats going to happen next. You can also feel the tension building as you continue reading. Of the above examples, the one that stood out to me was Black Mirror by Nancy Werlin.

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