Bookstores are magical places. When you go into one, you never know quite what you’ll find. Some of my favorite books came from an accidental meeting at a shop, whether it’s a personalized recommendation from an employee or simply sitting on the shelf, glowing with possibility.
Like many bibliophiles, I love going to local bookshops when I travel, feeling like it helps me get a better sense of the place I’m traveling in. Plus, there are many bookstores that are magical in and of themselves, like the theater turned bookstore El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Beerwolf Books, a bookstore/pub in Falmouth, United Kingdom.
So with that magical feeling, it’s natural that there are books about bookstore mysteries. Magic and mystery are so intertwined in my mind. Without that mystery, no magic — and vice versa. So I’ve put together a list of ten delightful bookstore mysteries. Five of them will be murder mysteries, since I am a murder mystery buff; but five will also be more general mysteries, not necessarily related to murder, since there is more mystery out there than just murder mysteries (I suppose).
The Plot Is Murder (Mystery Bookshop #1) by V.M. Burns
Murder and a mystery bookstore: that’s just a perfect marriage. Samantha Washington has aspired to have her own mystery bookstore and write her own cozy. But when a realtor ends up dead in her backyard, she suddenly finds that murder mysteries are more than just daydreams for her. Added by her grandmother, she has to clear her name. There are six books in this cozy series with a seventh due 11/30/21.
Killer Content (A Brooklyn Murder Mystery #1) by Olivia Blacke
When Odessa Dean’s aunt gave her the opportunity to house-sit and cat-sit rent free in her Brooklyn apartment, Odessa couldn’t pass up the change of scenery from her Louisiana upbringing. She loves the food trucks, thrift stores, and the general vibe. To help pay for high expenses of living in Brooklyn, she’s taken a job as a waitress/book seller at Untapped Books & Café. But when one of her colleagues falls to her death, Odessa is not convinced that her death was an accident. It’s a delightful start to a new series with book two, No Memes of Escape, coming out on 10/5/21.
Body and Soul Food (Books and Biscuits #1) by Abby Collette
I’m thrilled about this new series by Abby Collette of An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series. Fraternal twins Koby Hill and Keaton Rutledge may have been separated after they were orphaned, but now they are going all in on a new dream: opening a soul food cafe and bookstore called Books & Biscuits in Timber Lake in the Pacific Northeast. But when Koby’s foster brother is murdered, the twins decide to team up to solve the murder, all while working on opening up their bookstore. This new series is expected to be published on 11/2/21. The cover does not appear to have been revealed yet.
Fearless Jones by Walter Mosley
A bit older than the other books in the series, but a goodie. When Paris Minton is beaten up and his bookstore burned down, he turns to Fearless Jones for help. At the core, there’s a beautiful but mysterious woman involved who might be central to the mysteries. All of this takes place in 1950s Los Angeles racial and economic politics. It’s the first book in the three book Fearless Jones series.
Booked to Die (Cliff Janeway #1) by John Dunning
Another oldie but goodie. Also, I had to nod towards antiquarian book shops. After losing his badge, former detective and collector of first editions Cliff Janeway opens his own bookstore. When a collection of rare books find its way to the market, Janeway sees an opportunity. Unfortunately, people related to the collection start showing up dead. Now he has to use his detective skills and his antiquarian book skills to find out who and why. There are five books in this series.
The Bookshop of Yesterday by Amy Meyerson
Miranda Brooks had fond memories of her Uncle Billy and their scavenger hunt adventures. But all she knows is that something happened with her 16th birthday, and she never saw him again. When she hears news of his passing, she discovers that he left her Prospero Books, his bookstore. But he also leaves her with another of his scavenger hunts that might help her understand why the schism occurred.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I loved this book so much. It was the first fiction book I’ve read that critiques data and data visualization. And it’s a heck of a book mystery. Clay Jannon finds himself working at the 24-Hour Bookstore. All day/night long, strange patrons come just to check out books. Clearly, something is afoot. So Jannon decides to use his skills in web design and the talents of his friends to try to get behind this strange bookstore’s mysteries and that of its owner, Mr. Penumbra.
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, Translated by Alison Anderson
Ivan and Francesca want to make a bookstore unlike the big bookstores in the world. This is a bookstore with carefully curated literature by a secret committee. But when the owners start getting threats, internet rumors fly, and members of the secret committee begin getting attacked, Ivan and Francesca have to call in police to find out why someone or someones are determined to destroy their bookshop.
The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Translated by Lucia Graves
Did I mention I have a soft spot for antiquarian bookstores? Daniel grew up around books with his father, an antiquarian bookseller and widower. At age 10, they go to the Cemetery of Lost Books, where Daniel gets to select a single book. His choice is Julian Carax’s The Shadow of the Wind. However, several years later, he meets a man who reminds him of a devilish character in Carax’s book that appears to be on a mission to destroy all of the author’s works. Determined to find out why this man wants to destroy all of Carax’s work, Daniel ends up in a labyrinthine world of post-war Barcelona with its dark and sometimes bloody secrets. There are four books in this series.
Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co. #1) by Anna James
I’m ending this list with a delightful YA series that I found in my favorite bookshop in London. Tilly grew up in a bookshop owned by her grandparents after her mother mysteriously vanished. But one day, Tilly starts seeing characters from classical literature, like Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables, wandering around the shop. They might help her understand why her mother disappeared all those years before. There are three books, with the fourth projected to come out on 10/19/21.