15 Detective Books for Young Sleuths
Everyone loves a good mystery. There is a certain thrill in figuring out the who in the whodunit. This love isn’t just restricted to adults. Don’t believe me?
Ask yourself why the Scooby-Doo cartoon gets a revival every couple of years or so. There is a different version of the beloved cartoon series for almost every generation. Some even have multiples in the same decade. And, regardless of personal feelings on them, it goes without saying that there is a reason that has sustained. Other cartoons of that era have been largely forgotten and haven’t received a similar revival.
The trick is to snag these potential armchair detectives early to plant the seeds for love of a good mystery. And like any other seeds, once they’ve been planted, they need to be nourished. There are tons of detective books for kids out there, from early readers right up to high school.
I’ve included a quick rundown of some interesting detective books for kids below. You might see a book that is already beloved by you. Others may be a new and welcomed surprise. Either way, I hope that you find some options for yourself or young book dragons in your life.
Detective Books For Kids: Early Beginners/Elementary
Nate the Great by Marjorie W. Sharmat (author) and Marc Simont (illustrator)
This series has introduces many young readers to the detective novel. Nate the Great, as he consistently refers to himself as, is a detective whose friends know that they can always depend on him to help them out. Along with his dog partner Sludge, there is no case too small or big that can’t be cracked by Nate the Great.
West Meadows Detectives by Liam O’Donnell
First Book: The Case of the Snack Snatcher
Myron is a logic loving 3rd grader who doesn’t always do well with new things. Unfortunately for him, this school year brings him a new baby sister, new house, and a new school. When the school kitchen is burglarized and the morning snacks go missing, Myron is on the case. Along with his fellow classmates from Resource Room 15, this group of awesome kids will not even let the school bully stand in the way of them solving this case.
Clubhouse Mysteries by Sharon M. Draper
First Book: The Buried Bones Mystery
While building a clubhouse in his backyard, Ziggy, along with his friends Rico, Jerome, and Rashawn, unearth a box of bones. Who did these bones belong to? Why were they buried and, more importantly, who buried them? The boys find themselves on a mystery that is more scary than they could have imagined.
This is a first in a series of books about these boys and their mystery solving adventures. Other adventures include discovering their town was a stop for the Underground Railroad, a camping trip that doesn’t go as planned, and a talent show. This series is sure to be a delight to readers of all ages.
A-Z Mysteries by Rob Roy
First Book: The Absent Author
After writing to Wallis Wallace, his favorite mystery author, Dink is surprised that he actually takes him up on the offer to visit his hometown. However, when the exciting day comes, Wallace is nowhere to be found. It’s up to Dink and friends Ruth Rose and Josh to solve the mystery of what happened to the author before it is too late! This alliteratively titled series is another one that young readers will devour quickly, to see what adventures this trio find themselves in.
Sherlock Sam by A.J. Low
First Book: Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong
This series is a new spin on Sherlock Holmes, involving Sam, a young boy in Singapore and his trusty robot Watson. In this first adventure, Auntie Kim Lian’s Peranakan cookbook goes missing, and Sam fears he will never have her delicious ayam buah keluak ever again! He will need to use his amazing detective skills to find out where it went and save everyone from this culinary catastrophe!
Middle School Detective Books For Kids
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
This is an older book but there’s a reason people still talk about. True, there are some problematic themes in there with gender and racial archetypes. Overall, it is still a good mystery. In case you’re not sure what it is about, 16 strangers get invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. There they find that this eccentric puzzle loving millionaire has left one final puzzle for them to solve in order to inherit his vast fortune. With a new movie adaptation on the horizon, the love for this book is sure to be reignited.
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency by Jordan Stratford
First Book: The Case of the Missing Moonstone
In this series that takes place in an alternate reality, Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley are childhood besties who form a detective agency. Their first case involves a missing heirloom, a false confession, and numerous suspects who could be the actual thief. The girls must use their analytical and mathematical thinking to deduce who the actual culprit is. This new spin on the Holmes and Watson dynamic helps to promote a love of the STEM field for young readers, especially girls, as Ada and Mary use these to solve their cases.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
This is a series of books, but the first one is my favorite. Kyle Keeley prefers video and board games to reading, so he is very much uninterested in a writing contest where the prize is a lock-in in the town’s recently renovated library. That is, until he finds out that the library was designed by his favorite game designer, Luigi Lemoncello. A last minute attempt ends up garnering Kyle a winning slot along with 11 of his classmates. When the morning comes, the lock-in turns into an escape room experience, here the children have to use all of their wits to find the hidden escape route.
Wells & Wong Series by Robin Stevens
First Book: Murder is Bad Manners
After setting up a detective agency at their boarding school, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong yearn to find a mystery worthy of their deductive skills. Then Hazel comes across the body of Miss Bell, the Science Mistress; but when she returns with Daisy, the body has gone missing. Now the girls not only have to prove the murder happened, they have to solve it before the police do, and before the killer strikes again.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim enter a pod on the London eye on the morning of May 24. Thirty minutes later when the ride is over, they watch everyone but their Salim exit the pod. When the police come up with nothing, it’s up to the brother and sister to overcome their own prickly relationship to band together and find out what happened to their cousin.
Young Adult Detective Books
Trouble Series by Stephanie Tromly
First Book: Trouble is a Friend of Mine
Zoe moves with her mother to a new town school following her parent’s divorce. One of the first people she meets is Philip Digby, an annoying if extremely charismatic boy. Against her better judgement, Zoe allows Digby to draw her into his world and current scheme to solve the kidnapping of a local girl. As she goes along with his schemes, Zoe learns that Digby’s own sister was kidnapped eight years earlier and he feels this new one is related. No one is prepared for all the revelations that come not only in this book but the ones that follow. This is a trilogy of books so you won’t get too much of Zoe, Digby and their other friends, but it is still an enjoyable read even if it is short lived.
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Monday Charles has gone missing, and only her BFF Claudia seems to care. When she goes to her home to check in on her, her mother and sister April also appear apathetic about Monday’s missing status. When Claudia digs deeper into the situation, she finds that no one can really remember the last time that they saw Monday. Claudia is determined to find her missing friend as well as find out that no one seems to care that a girl has seemingly vanished into thin air.
God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen
When Asiya Haque sneaks out for a walk with Michael, her friend and hidden crush, neither expect to stumble over a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya so her strict parents don’t restrict her even more than they do, but then goes missing himself. This leads the authorities to believe he is the culprit, despite what Asiya says. She has to find a way of combating an officer who appears to have skipped all his sensitivity training classes—and avoid becoming a victim herself—to prove Michael’s innocence.
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham
Scarlett is a fearless Muslim American girl who is ready to take down crime in Las Almas. When her latest case pulls her into a centuries old battle between genies and ancient curses. What’s even worse is that her family has ties to this feud and that solving it could result in her father’s death.
The Agency Series by Y.S. Lee
First Book: A Spy in the House
Mary Quinn finds herself saved from the gallows and given the opportunity to attend Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Once there she finds that the boarding school is a cover for The Agency, an all-female investigative unit. For her first case, Mary assumes the guise of a lady’s companion to infiltrate the home of a rich shipping magnate to trace where his missing cargo has gone. In this house full of deception, will Mary be able to solve the mystery and make it to her next case?
A nicely robust list of some mysteries to pick up, either for yourself or the younger readers in your life. Need more detective books for kids? Find our list of mystery books for kids here.