Reading mysteries challenges kids to figure out the solution before the main characters do. Can you do it? Try your hand with these are best, highly recommended mystery chapter books for kids ages 5 to 18.
Whether your child is in elementary school, middle school, or high school, you’ll find a lot of good mysteries for them to read in this genre and on this list.
The books listed start with beginning chapter books then move to middle grade and YA book.
Find mystery picture books for younger kids here.
The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
A MUST-READ series for all kids! These combine mystery, history, magic, and adventure as siblings Jack and Annie adventure through time.
King and Kayla and the Case of the Unhappy Neighbor by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers
Kayla’s dog King narrates this mystery story about a problem with Mr. Gary’s messed up trash cans. Mr. Gary thinks it’s a puppy named Thor but Kaya and her friend Jillian aren’t so sure. Together they collect evidence and make deductions and a play. The final clue leads them to the real culprit — a raccoon. Easy to read with a relatable mystery.
Dying to Meet You 43 Cemetary Road by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
The 43 Old Cemetery Road early reader series is a funny and punny adventure with a kid, a cat, a grumpy ghost, and a really cool writing style in letters, emails, newspaper clippings, jokes, and more. These books are addictive!
Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale
The Big Bad Wolf aka. Wolfgang is the only suspect in the destruction of the Little Pigs house. And he doesn’t have an alibi. But he didn’t do it either so he partners with the cheerful 4th Little Pig, Ferkel, (who knew!?) to find the real culprit. I love this humorous fairy-tale mash-up and can’t wait for more adventures in this series.
Bark Park by Brandi Dougherty, illustrated by Paige Pooler
Scout’s life is filled with mystery and adventure as she helps her dog friends. Charming characters and gentle storylines.
The Lunchnapper: Pipsi Nature Animal Detective by Rick DeDonato, illustrated by Tracy Bishop
Pipsi is excited to go on a nature scavenger hunt but it turns into a mystery when someone steals her lunch. While investigating, she and her turtle friend, Alfred, follow tracks and discover the items on the scavenger hunt. Great illustrations and an interesting story.
A to Z Mysteries by Rob Roy
This addictive mystery series will keep your kids reading for hours and days and months. My kids read them all more than once — we highly recommend this series about a group of crime-solving friends.
The Case of the Claymore Diamond Math Inspectors by Daniel Kenney and Emily Boever
Viva math! These friends love math and are proud of it — in fact, they’re sure they can use their math skills to solve crimes. This first mystery is about a jewelry store robbery. And they do solve it by finding clues that the police miss, freeing an innocent man. This is a delightful easy chapter book series. (Free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.)
Crime Biters: My Dog Is Better Than Your Dog by Tommy Greenwald
This is a funny beginning chapter book about a boy who is convinced (rightly so?!) that his rescue dog is a crime-solving, vampire, genius!
Real Pigeons Fight Crime by Ben Wood
In the first of three silly stories, Rock Pigeon is a crime-fighting pigeon who helps Grandpouter and the other park pigeons solve the problem of the vanishing bread crumbs. Hilarious disguises, charming illustrations, quirky characters, and funny mysteries, this is an entertaining romp that is sure to entice even the most reluctant of readers.
The Philly Fake Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly, illustrated by Mark Meyers
Not only is this a well-written mystery, but I also loved how the author included so much history within the story. Plus, the mystery hooked me immediately. This is one of my top picks for early chapter books!
West Meadow Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher by Liam O’Donnell, illustrated by Aurelie Grand
Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone
Living with the famous Sherlock Holmes is how Basil learns to be a skilled detective. He must race against the clock to find the kidnapped mouse twins before it’s too late. Kids will love these suspenseful beginning reader mysteries narrated by Basil’s friend, Dr. Dawson.
Emma Is On the Air Party Drama! by Ida Siegal (series)
Secrets of the Manor: Claire’s Story, 1910 by Adele Whitby
I loved this book — it’s a captivating story about an orphan girl who moves to France to live with friends of her family. She befriends a servant girl and the duo realizes there are mysteries that must be answered — like what happened to the daughter of the manor and why did her parents send her to this family.
The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler
My 9-year-old daughter and I loved this entertaining new series about a boy ghost, Kaz, who is blown away from his family and into a new haunt — a library. But who is the library ghost? It’s not him! He and his new friend Claire decide to investigate the secret of the ghost.
Mac Undercover (Kid Spy #1) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Mike Lowery
The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
I loved this Sherlock-inspired book because it’s very well written and tells a great story. John Watson and his mom move to Harlem. There he meets a unique girl named Shelby Holmes who reluctantly allows him to tag along with her as she solves her latest crime — the mystery of who took a posh, show-dog from a classmate’s secure house.
Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes (A Stepping Stone Book) by
Rescue Princesses by Paula Harrison
These princesses love animals and solve mysteries. The story isn’t very complex but might be fun reading for kids who like princesses and animals.
Missing! A Cat Called Buster (Rainbow Street Shelter) by Wendy Orr
Josh always sees the orange cat, Buster, sitting on the porch with his owner, Mr. Larsen. When Mr. Larsen is taken to the hospital, Buster runs away from home. Josh and his family search for Buster everywhere. Will he end up at the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter? And who will he live with now? It’s a sweet story of animal love and family closeness.
Snoop Troop It Came from Beneath the Playground by Kirk Scroggs
Comic-book style illustrations with lots of interactivity in this interesting story totally impressed me. As a reader, you get to play a part in solving the crime by looking for clues in the pictures, drawing the culprit based on the description, and so on. Isn’t that cool?
Digby O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy
Charming illustrations in red and yellow colors help readers enjoy this story about Digby’s memorable vacation. He and Percy visit the fancy Hotel Splendide. While there, the singer Peaches Meow’s, diamonds are stolen! With the help of a new friend on the island, Percy and Digby catch the thieves.
The Seals That Wouldn’t Swim, Field Trip Mysteries by Steve Brezenoff, illustrated by Marcos Calo
The Field Trip Mysteries are the field trips of Cat and her classmates. In this particular adventure, they are at the aquarium to see a seal show. But the seal show is canceled and the kids discover that two of the seals have been drugged. It’s up to them to discover the person behind it.
The Legend of Diamond Lil: A J.J. Tully Mystery (J. J. Tully Mysteries) by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
J.J. is a search-and-rescue dog who doesn’t like that his charges, a chicken and her chicks, want to spend time with the neighbor’s new dog, Diamond Lil. But soon J.J. starts to like Diamond Lil just as much as the chicks. Then, when a possum tries to steal the chicks, it seems that Diamond Lil is involved. Who is behind the kidnapping attempt?
Thea Stilton’s The Secret of Whale Island by Geronimo Stilton
My kids love these entertaining mysteries with colorful fonts and exciting adventures. (I found the fonts distracting personally.) Also, see the Geronimo Stilton graphic novels.
The Critter Club by Callie Berkley
The girls in the Critter Club love animals and want to help them any way they can. Sweet stories for beginning mystery readers!
Fancy Nancy is now Nancy Clancy and ready for chapter books. She and Bree want to solve crimes and have their first case in their very own classroom. Love this new, grown-up Nancy.
The Whodunit Detective Agency The Diamond Mystery by Martin Widmark, illustrated by Helena Willis
Rider Woofson: The Case of the Missing Tiger’s Eye by Walker Styles, illustrated by Ben Whitehouse (series)
Filled with lots of punny doggie words, this is a clever and fun easy chapter book about a group of detective dogs!
Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 by N. Griffin, illustrated by Kate Hindley
Falsely accused of stealing the class 11 hamster, who she admittedly doesn’t like, third-grader Smashie decides to find the real thief and clear her name. She and her friend Dontel look for clues and try to put them together to solve the crime. Smashie is a well-written, relatable book on the easier side of middle-grade chapter books.
Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning by A.J. Low
Set in Singapore, Sherlock Sam and his friends use their brains to solve mysteries. In this case, they’re determined to discover the cause of the ghostly sounds from an abandoned military fort. Could it be a ghost? Their adventures are funny and exciting, this is a well-written chapter book in a new series.
Sherlock Academy by F.C. Shaw
I enjoyed this book very much! It’s about a boy, Rollie, and his friend, Cecily, who receive a mysterious and exclusive invitation to attend a school for budding detectives. Of course, there’s a mystery afoot and Rollie and Cecily are determined to get to the bottom of it.
Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Phil Gosier
Friday thinks like Sherlock Holmes in the sense that she’s brilliant and observes her surroundings to draw conclusions. She’s a neglected 5th child who sends herself to boarding school where she actually (and surprisingly to her) makes friends and solves mysteries. I can not wait for the next book!! This is going to be another fantastic series by the talented R.A. Spratt with its crisp plotting and characters with big personalities.
Max Finder Mystery Vol. 7 by Craig Battle and Ramon Perez, created by Liam O’Donnell
Mystery fans and young detectives, you’re in for some fun with this book! Each of the cases, told in comic form like in the Owl Magazine, develops the story and gives you clues. Then, see if you can figure out the answers. When you turn the page, the clues and answers are explained. How great for critical thinking, right!?
The Case of the Stolen Sixpence by Holly Webb
Set in Victorian England, our heroine solves a mystery and helps a friend. The line drawing illustrations are lovely and helpful in understanding the developing plot.
The Curious Cat Spy Club by Linda Joy Singleton
What a fantastic new book series — my daughter and I devoured this first book. (She’s currently enjoying the 2nd.) Three kids from seemingly different social circles band together to rescue kittens they found in a dumpster — and solve the mystery of who would try to kill the kittens.
Me, Frida, and the Secret is the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes
Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery by James Ponti
Captivating from the first page, 12- year old Florian Bates uses his brilliant, observing brain to implement T.O.A.S.T. (the Theory of All Small Things) to notice things that others have missed. Including the FBI when there’s an art heist at the museum his mother works at. The FBI hires him to help unravel a mysterious art heist which he does with the help of his best friend, Margaret. Fast-paced and interesting.
Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Nooks and Crannies is an intriguing story about a young girl with horrible parents. Just before she’s about to be sent to an orphanage, she learns that she just might be a rich someone’s heir and have the chance to live happily ever after. Once at the Countess’s home, she must use her detective skills to figure out what is going on with the disappearing kids and scary Countess. My daughter’s book club loved this story.
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Was the FunJungle’s hippo murdered? Teddy and Summer think so. Mystery, adventure, and humor will keep your readers on the edge of their seats in this unique story with quirky characters.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Kyle and a few classmates win a sleepover at the town’s newly created library by game-creator Mr. Lemoncello. The silly Mr. Lemoncello devises a fun way to get OUT of the library — you can only get out if you solve the puzzles around the entire library. Will the kids work together or will it be every child for himself? (Next in the series: Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.)
Connect the Dots by Keith Calabrese
The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
Celebrating artwork, this magical mystery chapter book reveals that paintings are alive. The Beaverbrook Gallery paintings have strict rules to prevent humans from discovering this truth. But Mona Dunn doesn’t always follow the rules and she befriends the curator’s son named Sargent who is visiting his estranged father for the summer. Meanwhile, she and the other paintings wonder if the creepy art restorer is an art forger because something is suspicious. It’s an excellent, page-turning mystery with important themes about family, forgiveness, and friendship.
Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol
Elizabeth, an orphan, is unexpectedly sent to a large, stately hotel with a kind, grandfatherly proprietor for Christmas vacation. There, she discovers a magical book, a sinister couple, a family mystery, and a new friend who loves puzzles as much as she does. The writing is mesmerizing, the mystery is fascinating, and the characters are enchanting.
Winterbone Home for Vengence and Valor by Ally Carter
April is a foster kid invited to live at a fancy mansion with other orphans. There. she notices the same symbol that is on the key her mom left her. Could the key belong to this house? Then she discovers the home’s long lost missing heir lurking around the shadows and hiding in a secret part of the house. When she and her friends realize this new home is about to be acquired by a nefarious man, they are determined to solve the mystery of the heir, the key, and the house. If you like exciting, heartwarming mysteries, you’ll love this story.
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Diana Sudyka
9-year-old Nicholas Benedict, a genius orphan with narcolepsy, lives in a poorly run orphanage where he’s maltreated and bullied. In this popular middle school prequel to the series, Nicholas discovers there’s a treasure somewhere in the orphanage. While he and his friend search, he finds a way to improve life for all the kids living there. Boxed set here.
Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by Science Bob Pflugfleder and Steve Hockensmith
Siblings Nick and Tesla are shipped off to live with their mad-scientist Uncle Newt for the summer while their parents are . . . doing something with soybeans in Uzbekistan. When left to fend for themselves, they discover something very suspicious happening at the old mansion down the street, more than just losing their rocket in that yard. Fun and adventurous!
Digging Up Danger by Jaqueline West, illustrated by Hatem Aly
You are going to LOVE the premise of this “meta” series! It’s a mystery story that while you read, also teaches you specific writing techniques about writing a mystery story. The plot is really cool, about a ghost-loving girl named Eliza whose mom is a strange plant expert. They’ve moved to a mysterious plant shop where something very creepy is happening! While you read, you’re prompted to flip to the back to learn about writing a spooky setting, using figurative language, creating a culprit, creating clues, and much more.
Absolutely Truly Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Vogel Frederick
Truly and her family now live in her father’s small hometown after her father, a soldier, returns from Afghanistan a changed man. Truly helps her father and his sister in the family bookstore where she finds a valuable first edition of Charlotte’s Web which leads her on a mysterious treasure hunt. I loved how the journey for clues develops simultaneously as Truly finds friends and her place in the town! This is a wonderful story.
Jada Sly, Artist & Spy by Sherri Winston
39 Clues by various authors (series)
This series has about a billion books so if your kids like it, they’ll have plenty to read. When two orphan siblings named Amy and Dan are told in their grandma’s will that they belong to the very famous and powerful Cahill family which has several different branches, it’s revealed that they and the other decedents will either get 1 million dollars or a clue. The kids pick the clue and race around the world trying to discover all the clues to reveal the family’s biggest secret of all — the source of their power.
Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna M. Holyoak
Kazuko is a likable, smart, and determined main character who loves investigating mysteries despite her mother’s rules. When dogs in her neighborhood are going missing, Kazu and her best friend, March plus two more kids team up to find clues and follow leads. Things get dangerous when the police don’t believe them and they discover the warehouse where the dogs are being taken. I love this fast-paced mystery!
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
I LOVE this fantastically developed historical fiction story for several reasons — the girl-centric history is really interesting (and empowering), the characters are very well-developed, and the plot is a grand adventure! The author imagines a friendship between Ada Byron, genius daughter of Lord Byron and the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the world’s first science-fiction author who almost could have been friends in real life but for about a decade of years. In this first adventure, Mary and Ada learn about another historical figure who invented hypnotism and solve the case of a stolen heirloom.
The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray
The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten by Krista Van Dolzer
Not only did I love this fun-filled adventure but I also enjoyed that it showed the fun of problem-solving math puzzles. When Esther and her stepdad accidentally arrive at math camp, not art camp, they’re forced to stay due to a major storm. Then both her roommate and stepdad go missing and she receives clues about mythological monsters, one of whom might be a murderer. Delightful!
Sherlock, Lupin & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler
I totally love this story — so does my 11-year old! The setting is the late 1800s in France. The heroes? Three best friends, one of whom just happens to be Sherlock Holmes. Only in this story, he’s a young boy. You’ll fall in love with the spunky, Irene Adler, our author and junior detective as she and her best friends seek to solve the small beach town’s greatest mystery.
Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz
Minerva Mint The Order of the Owls by Elisa Puricelli Guerra
Minerva lives in a huge but run-down mansion (that she owns) with her guardian, a quirky artist who found her abandoned at a train station (with the house deed.) Every year, her guardian puts an ad in the papers to find her real parents. And, every year imposters answer the ad. This year is no different for imposters but this year, Minerva has two friends her own age. Minerva and her friends not only run off the imposters but discover answers about Minerva’s past.
The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight
Fairday’s parents move from the city to the country to a mysterious Victorian house and the only reason she hasn’t died of boredom is she’s found a mystery for her and her best friend, Lizzy, who are in their own detective club. Lizzy and Fairday discover an old diary, a picture, and other clues that lead them to discover an alternative universe where the house hasn’t aged.
Gladiator School Book 1 Blood Oath by Dan Scott
The Girl with the Glass Bird by Esme Kerr
A lonely orphan named Edie is forced to leave her only known relative and live at a strict boarding school in order to surreptitiously protect Anastasia, the Russian prince’s daughter. While she’s at it, she’s also supposed to discover what is behind all of Anastasia’s problems. Edie thinks there’s something fishy going on; that someone is trying to make Anastasia believe she’s going crazy. But, it’s not so easy to tell — it could be that Anastasia is lying. Then she learns that the headmaster knew her mother and was her mother’s sworn enemy. This is an engrossing mystery book tangled with compelling characters and emotional resonance.
Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye: A Novel by Tania Del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle
The Secrets of Midway: Ghosts of War #1 by Steve Watkins
Three kids discover the navy peacoat of a WWII soldier and when they do, the soldier’s ghost appears. They think there’s a reason the ghost hasn’t moved on so the kids are determined to discover his story and what really happened at Midway. Interesting, especially for history enthusiasts, but not particularly compelling.
The Midnight Tunnel: A Suzanna Snow Mystery by Angie Frazier
My 11-year old says this is a GREAT mystery. Set in 1905 in New Brunswick, Suzanna works at her family’s inn. When a young guest disappears, Suzanna’s detective uncle arrives for the search. But, Suzanna finds clues of her own that lead her to think there is more than one mystery going on.
The Fairytale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm) by Michael Buckley
Sabrina and Daphne move in with their Grandmother Grimm and learn that they and their grandmother are fairy tale detectives for the town which is filled with fairy tale people called Everafters. You’ll see meet a LOT of fairy tale characters in this magical town. The Sisters Grimm chapter book series is suspenseful with lots of secrets, magic, mystery, and adventure.
Eddie Red Undercover Mystery in Mayan Mexico by Marcia Wells
Eddie, his best friend Jonah, and his parents are on vacation in Mexico. When Eddie’s dad becomes the primary suspect in the theft of a stolen Mayan mask so Eddie and Jonah decide to solve the mystery themselves. Only they don’t speak Spanish all that well, and there’s more to this mystery than just a stolen mask. You’ll love the Spanish words throughout, the well-paced action, and the characters.
Manhunt by Kate Messner
At midnight all over the world, works of art vanish from houses and museums. Anna, Henry, and Jose are kids of parents in the Silver Jaguar Society, a society that protects priceless works of art, head to Paris to guard the Mona Lisa. But there’s someone in the society who is feeding information to the art thieves. And it’s up to the kids to figure it out.
Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter by Beth Fantasy
In Chicago, 10-year old Isabel sells the newspaper she wants to be a writer during the days of speak-easies and the Mob. When one of her customers is accused of murder, Isabel decides to investigate and prove the woman’s innocence. She meets the famous woman reporter, Maude Collier, and two new friends who all are important to solving the case. This historical mystery chapter book grabbed my attention from the first page with memorable characters and an interesting plot.
Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans
Horten’s magician great-uncle Tony, whom he just learns about, disappeared mysteriously years ago. Horten and one of the triplet neighbors must piece together the clues left behind before his uncle’s house is destroyed by the city. He’s facing a deadline and also another scheming magician who wants to find the hidden secrets in Tony’s lost workshop.
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Neil Flambe and the Marco Polo Murders by Kevin Sylvester
Arrogant yet endearing, 14-year old chef Neil Flambe is known for his keen powers of smell – especially by the police detectives who need Neil’s help with a series of mysterious murders of chefs in the area. The clues lead to something about a trip of Marco Polo and spices. It’s a delightful, aromatic mystery read!
Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones
Don’t worry, this isn’t a scary middle school mystery like you might imagine. In this ghost world, some ghosts work for the “Ghost Bureau” — a predictably stuffy governing agency that does nothing. Other ghosts haunt houses and can’t escape. Finally, other ghosts are rogues. Right now, the Black Rot is killing the haunted house ghosts. And they don’t reappear. So it’s up to a bumbling ghost named Mr. Lapsewood to find out how to stop it. Totally entertaining and very well-written.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
I struggled a bit with the British words– maybe your kids will as well. (It’s a great opportunity to learn to make inferences with British vocabulary!) All that aside, this middle-grade novel is a puzzling mystery that only the boy named Ted who seems to be on the spectrum (his brain is different but not explained) can solve. How did his cousin disappear from a closed pod on the London Eye? The enjoyable action and intrigue will keep your attention throughout — and you’ll wonder why you didn’t guess the ending before Ted.
Vampires on the Run: A Quinnie Boyd Mystery by C. M. Surrisi
Intriguing, suspenseful, and tons of fun! Readers want to believe the mysterious authors vacationing in the small town really could be vampires. The main characters have passion and curiosity and the plot races along with twists and turns. (This is part of a mystery chapter book series but you can read it out of order.)
Lockwood and Co. by Jonathan Stroud
Dangerous ghosts and spirits are appearing everywhere in London but only certain kids can see them and thus, eradicate them. Teens Lucy, Anthony, and George badly need money for their ghost-hunting agency, Lockwood & Co., so they take a perilous job that, if the ghosts have their way, may just be their last.
Jackaby by William Ritter
This YA mystery chapter book features an independent teen girl and an unusual Sherlock Holmes-type boy who solve crimes in historical New England in 1892. It hooks you from the first page.
Also Known As by Robin Benway
Imagine your parents are spies, and you are, too — this is the life of Maggie Silver, a teenager and expert safecracker. Maggie gets to attend regular high school in New York City in order to befriend the son of a writer who is about to expose their spy network. She’s conflicted about lying to this boy and her new friend because they are her first real friends — and when she faces failure to complete the mission, she decides to tell them the truth. She is a spy. I loved this story and the characters and highly recommend it. (Parents, it’s a mild YA romance, but her friend gets drunk and shares a brief story about having sex.)
The Agency 3: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee