Reading mysteries challenges our brains to think as try to solve the mystery. Can we figure it out before the main characters do? These are the best, recommended mystery chapter books for kids ages 5 to 18.
Whether your child is in elementary school, middle school, or high school, I know you’ll find a lot of good mysteries for them to devour. The books listed start with beginning chapter books then move to middle grade and YA.
Got younger kids? Find mystery picture books here.
Mystery Beginning Chapter Books for Kids (ages 6 – 9)
The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
A MUST-READ series for all kids! These combine mystery, history, magic, and adventure as siblings Jack and Annie adventure through time.
The Case of the Stolen Sixpence by Holly Webb Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Set in Victorian England, our heroine solves a mystery and helps a friend. The line drawing illustrations are lovely and helpful to understanding the developing plot.
The Case of the Claymore Diamond Math Inspectors by Daniel Kenney and Emily Boever Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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 Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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!
The Philly Fake Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly, illustrated by Mark Meyers Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Not only is this a well-written mystery, I loved how the author included so much history within the story and 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 Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Emma Is On the Air Party Drama! by Ida Siegal (series) Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Secrets of the Manor: Claire’s Story, 1910 by Adele Whitby Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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 realize 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. Excellent first book in a new series for early readers!
Echo and the Bat Pack series of books by Roberto Pavanello Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Great colorful illustrations throughout this adventure of this talking writer bat who is befriended by the three Silver kids, aka. his Bat Pack and together they solve a mystery.
The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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 be detectives and discover the secret of the ghost.
Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes (A Stepping Stone Book) by
Marguerite Henry’s Misty Inn Runaway Pony #3 by Kristin Earhart Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
While their parents finish fixing up the recently purchased house to be a bed and breakfast, siblings Willa and Ben help their grandmother take care of the pony’s she’s rehabilitating. Both kids can’t figure out why the pony’s keep escaping but they do know that they’d be the perfect new owners for Starbuck, their favorite pony. Children will find this to be a well-written and easy-to-read story with an interesting plot, especially for animal-lovers.
Greetings From Somewhere The Mystery of the Mosaic by Harper Paris, illustrated by Marcos Calo Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Second in a series, this is a simple story about two kids who accompany their parents to Venice, Italy and get the chance to solve two mysteries. I liked the bits of geography and history and suspect this will be an interesting beginning chapter book series.
Rescue Princesses by Paula Harrison Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
These princesses love animals and solve mysteries.
Missing! A Cat Called Buster (Rainbow Street Shelter) by Wendy Orr Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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? A nice story of animal love and family closeness.
Snoop Troop It Came from Beneath the Playground by Kirk Scroggs Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Comic-book style illustrations with lots of interactivity in this interesting story totally impressed me. I know your kids will love this book, too. 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 Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Charming illustrations in red and yellow colors help readers enjoy this story about Digby’s memorable vacation. He and Percy visit to 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 Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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 cancelled 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 Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
J.J., a search-and-rescue dog, 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. Is everything as it seems?
Thea Stilton’s The Secret of Whale Island Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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 Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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.
Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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.
A to Z Mysteries by Rob Roy Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
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.
The Whodunit Detective Agency The Diamond Mystery by Martin Widmark, illustrated by Helena Willis Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Rider Woofson: The Case of the Missing Tiger’s Eye by Walker Styles, illustrated by Ben Whitehouse (series) Beginning Chapter Book: Ages 5 – 8
Filled with lots of punny doggie words, this is a clever and fun easy chapter book about a group of detective dogs!
Mystery Middle Grade Chapter Books for Kids (Ages 8 – 12)
The Curious Cat Spy Club by Linda Joy Singleton Ages 8 – 12
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.
Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning by A.J. Low ages 7 – 10
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 Ages 7 – 10
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
Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery by James Ponti Ages 8 – 12
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 a 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.
Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 by N. Griffin, illustrated by Kate Hindley Ages 8 – 10
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.
The Loch Ness Punster by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise Ages 8 – 10
The 43 Old Cemetery Road early reader series continues with this 7th book. It’s another funny adventure with ghosts, a bad guy, a punster uncle, and a happily ever after. A GREAT series!
Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Phil Gosier Ages 8 – 10
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 Ages 8 – 10
Get ready 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, develop the story and give you clues. Then, see if you can figure out the answers. When you turn the page, the clues and answer are explained. How great for critical thinking, right!?
Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson Ages 8 – 12
I picked this book up because I loved the cover art. Yes, I admit to judging a book (at least initially) by it’s cover. 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’ 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 ages 8 – 12
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.
The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr Ages 8 – 12
When I saw this book at the library, I knew I’d love it. And, I did. Celebrating artwork, this magical mystery reveals that paintings are alive. Of course, the Beaverbrook Gallery paintings have strict rules to prevent humans from discovering this truth. Only Mona Dunn doesn’t always follow the rules. She’s seen by the curator’s son named Sargent who is visiting his estranged father for the summer and they develop a close friendship. Meanwhile, she and the other paintings wonder if the creepy art restorer is an art forger because something is suspicious. The book shows copies of all the paintings including a Salvador Dali which give readers a vivid sense of where much of the book takes place — in the paintings themselves. It’s an excellent, page-turning mystery with important themes about family, forgiveness, and friendship.
Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit Ages 8 – 12
The Tiara on the Terrace (book 2 in the Young and Yang series) by Kristen Kitschier Ages 8 – 12
Three friends, ammeter sleuths, are certain that the Winter Sun Festival President’s murder is no accident. They’ll go so far as auditioning for the Royal Court to infiltrate and investigate. It’s a fun mystery with lots of clues and red herrings!
Absolutely Truly Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Votel Frederick ages 8 – 12
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 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.
Vampires on the Run: A Quinnie Boyd Mystery by C. M. Surrisi ages 8 – 12
Sherlock, Lupin & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler Ages 8 – 12
I totally love this story — so does my 11-year old! The setting is late 1800s, 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.
Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by Science Bob Pflugfleder and Steve Hockensmith Ages 8 – 12
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 soy beans 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!
Minerva Mint The Order of the Owls by Elisa Puricelli Guerra Ages 8 – 12
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 Magnificent Lizzie Brown and the Ghost Ship by Vicki Lockwood Ages 8 – 12
I couldn’t put this down! Lizzie Brown lives with a circus, she’s their psychic and she’s for real. When the circus travels to the seaside home of a Maharaja, Lizzie’s visions help her figure out who stole from him and if the Ghost Ship is real.
The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight Ages 8 – 12
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 she 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 Ages 8 – 12
The Girl with the Glass Bird by Esme Kerr Ages 8 – 12
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 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 Ages 8 – 12
Secret of Midway: Ghosts of War #1 by Steve Watkins Ages 8 – 12
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.
The Midnight Tunnel: A Suzanna Snow Mystery by Angie Frazier Ages 8 – 12
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, Zanna finds clues of her own that lead her to think there is more than one mystery going on.
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy Ages 8 – 12
I LOVE this fantastically developed historical fiction story for several reasons – the girl-centric history is really interesting (and empowering), the characters are so well-developed you feel as if you know them, 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. Mary joins Ada to study with Ada’s tutor and the duo form a detective agency. In this first adventure, Mary and Ada learn about another historical figure who invented hypnotism and solve the case of a stolen heirloom.
The Fairytale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm) by Michael Buckley Ages 8 – 12
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 Ages 8 – 12
Eddie, his best friend Jonah, and his parents are on vacation in Mexico. When Eddie’s dad becomes the primary suspect in a 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 Ages 8 – 12
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 who 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. A fun adventure – I really liked it.
Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter by Beth Fantasy Ages 8 – 12
In Chicago, 10-year old Isabel sells the newspaper she wants to write for 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 grabbed my attention from the first page. This chapter book’s memorable characters and interesting plot makes the historical setting very memorable.
Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans Ages 8 – 12
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 Plesant by Derek Landy Ages 8 – 12
39 Clues by various authors (series) Ages 8 – 12
This series has about a billion books so if your kids like it, they’ll be reading and reading and reading. There are also series within series but you’ll figure it out as you go. To start off, 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. The other decedents and them have the choice to either get 1 million dollars or a clue. The kids race around the world trying to discover all the clues to reveal the family’s biggest secret of all — the source of their power.
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore Ages 8 – 12
Three kids, Ephraim Appledorre, Mallory Green, and Will Wylie, begin at odds but as they work together, will they discover the secret Water Castle? Does it contain the secret water for eternal youth? I loved this great adventure!
Neil Flambe and the Marco Polo Murders by Kevin Sylvester Ages 10 – 14
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 read!
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Diana Sudyka Middle School Chapter Book: Ages 10 – 12
9-year-old Nicholas Benedict, a genius orphan with narcolepsy, lives in a poorly run orphanage where he’s maltreated and bullied. In this 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.
Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones Middle School Chapter Book: Ages 10 – 14
Don’t worry, this isn’t scary like you might imagine. It’s an interesting imagining of the ghost world. Some ghosts work for the “Ghost Bureau” – a predictably stuffy governing agency that does very little. Other ghosts are stuck haunting houses and can’t escape. Yet other ghosts are rogues. In this story, the Black Rot is killing 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 Middle School Chapter Book: Ages 10 – 14
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.
The Chess Queen Enigma A Stoker & Holmes Novel by Colleen Gelason Middle School Chapter Book: Ages 10 – 14
I thoroughly enjoyed this 2nd book in the Stoker and Holmes series. The two compelling main characters, Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes, become entrenched in the mystery of a missing chess queen that is thought to unlock treasures and power.
Lockwood and Co. by Jonathan Stroud Middle School Chapter Book: Ages 10 – 14
Dangerous ghosts and spirits are appearing everywhere in London but only certain kids can see them to 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.
YA Mystery Books (Ages 13+)
Jackaby by William Ritter High School School Chapter Book: Ages 13+
Featuring an independent teen girl and an unusual Sherlock Holmes-type boy who solve crimes in historical New England in 1892 this book will hook you from the first page.
Also Known As by Robin Benway High School School Chapter Book: Ages 13+
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 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.)
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