With the best mystery audiobooks, driving seven to ten hours down a boring highway can almost feel like a treat rather than a chore. I drive home to see my family a lot, and although I hate driving, the main thing that gets me through the long drive is knowing that by the time I reach my destination, the mystery that I’m currently listening to on audiobook will finally be solved. Here are some tried and tested mystery audiobooks that have gotten me through the most hellish of drives. For ease of finding one that meets the needs of your trip, I’ve organized these by shortest drive to longest drive.
the last day of emily lindsey by nic joseph
For your shorter road trips, I give you this mystery audiobook: The Last Day of Emily Lindsey by Nic Joseph. This is a mystery novel that’s sort of fallen under the radar, as far as I can tell, and I only found out about it because PageHabit sent it to me in my monthly subscription box. And yet, like many books, I still ended up purchasing it and listening to it on audiobook, because these types of books make great listens.
Detective Steven Paul has had the same nightmare for as long as he can remember, a strange symbol figuring prominently into his terror. He decided long ago that the recurring dreams are nothing more than an unfortunate side effect of his often traumatic profession. Until, that is, he’s assigned to the case of Emily Lindsey, the beautiful, elusive, and controversial blogger found alone, holding a hunting knife, and covered in someone else’s blood.
As Steven questions Emily, she repeatedly scratches out the same odd symbol he sees when he closes his eyes. A thrilling suspense ensues as Steven must get inside Emily’s head to solve a mystery without a crime—a mystery that is connected to him in ways he can’t even begin to fathom.
Run Time: 8 hrs 10 min
bluebird, bluebird by attica locke
At this point, I feel like everyone has heard of Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, but I’m including it here anyway because what you might not know is that the narrator for this audiobook JD Jackson is great, and this story makes for an amazing road trip listen.
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules—a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the Lone Star State, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.
When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders—a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman—have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes—and save himself in the process—before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.
Run Time: 9 hrs 24 min
sharp objects by Gillian flynn
Yes, I also listened to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl on audiobook (and it was excellent), but I’m suggesting Sharp Objects because it’s more of a traditional mystery. Also, the HBO miniseries starring Amy Adams is about to come out, and it looks so, so good. So if you haven’t yet read Sharp Objects, listen to this audiobook and get excited about the show coming soon. You won’t regret it.
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.
Run Time: 9 hrs 34 min
the sweetness at the bottom of the pie by alan bradley
If you love a good British amateur detective and haven’t yet checked out Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books, start here with the first in the series.
The summer of 1950 hasn’t offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neighbours, relentless battles with her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and brewing up poisonous concoctions while plotting revenge in their home’s abandoned Victorian chemistry lab, which Flavia has claimed for her own.
But then a series of mysterious events gets Flavia’s attention: A dead bird is found on the doormat, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A mysterious late-night visitor argues with her aloof father, Colonel de Luce, behind closed doors. And in the early morning Flavia finds a red-headed stranger lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, the summer begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw: “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”
Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet’s custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family’s loyal handyman, Dogger…or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime—even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it’s up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim’s identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces’s murky past.
Run Time: 9 hrs 53 min
everything i never told you by celeste ng
So Everything I Never Told You isn’t really a mystery in the most traditional sense of the word. And yet I had to include it on this list because I listened to it on audiobook for the first time this year (I know, I’m behind the times), and I was blown away. If you love mysteries and you love literary fiction, you will love this book.
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet…
So begins the story in this exquisite debut novel about a Chinese American family living in a small town in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family, Hannah, who observes far more than anyone realizes—and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
Run Time: 10 hrs 1 min
truly devious by maureen johnson
If you love mysteries and don’t mind an ending that’s sort of a “To Be Continued,” then give Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson a try. This is a young adult novel that mixes two of my favorite things to read about: murder mystery and boarding schools. I am definitely coming back for the promised second and third book.
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early 20th century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place”, he said, “where learning is a game.”
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.
Run Time: 10 hrs 12 min
one of us is lying by karen m. McManus
Another YA mystery on this list, and like the last one, this audiobook was a whole lot of fun. I love audiobooks with multiple readers, especially if you’re reading the audiobook all in one go (like on a super long road trip, which is how I read this book). The four different narrators on this audiobook add an added layer of interest to a story that’s already pretty engrossing.
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?
Run Time: 10 hrs 43 min
two girls down by luisa luna
I missed out on Two Girls Down by Luisa Luna when it was a Book of the Month option, but then so many people were raving about this novel that I had to get the audiobook. I was not disappointed.
When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied.
Run Time: 12 hrs 3 min
the silkworm by robert galbraith
So I have listened to all of Robert Galbraith’s books on audiobook, but I actually started with The Silkworm, the second novel in the series, which I know is weird, but it worked out for me. It’s still probably my favorite of the Cormoran Strike series. If you haven’t read any of them yet, you could go the traditional route and start with The Cuckoo’s Calling, which was also good, or you could be a rebel like me and just read the best one first.
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…
Run Time: 17 hrs 22 min
the outsider by stephen king
It shouldn’t be surprising that the award for longest audiobook on this list goes to Stephen King, the master of writing super long books. But actually, an 18 hour run time is pretty tame for King. Full disclosure: I haven’t actually listened to this one yet because I’m saving it for my beast of a road trip later this summer, but based on everything I’ve heard about it, I feel confident recommending it.
An 11-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.
As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.
Run Time: 18 hrs 39 min