Space operas like Star Wars and Dune may have made the big empty seem like the perfect backdrop for would-be adventurers’ wildest dreams, but let’s face it — space tours have the potential to be deadlier than cruise ships. Yikes. Outer space may not be the safest place to vacation — like, ever — but there’s just something alluring about a thriller set where no one can hear you scream. If you’re looking for a no-escape crime read, check out the list of ten murder mysteries set in space I’ve pulled together for you here.
Remember in spring 2021, when there was that huge debate over whether something — namely, Alien — could be sci-fi and horror at the same time? And have you heard the ongoing argument over where the line between horror and thriller lies? When it comes to genre, classifications can get a little…sticky, and these books are caught right in the middle.
But you probably don’t care about that. You came here looking for stories about people getting murdered in the one place where no one can hear you scream, and that’s exactly what you’ll receive here.
Keep scrolling to find ten fantastic murder mysteries set in space that you can read today.
Murder Mysteries In Space
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
Aliette de Bodard’s Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella centers on The Shadow’s Child: a sentient spaceship who has settled into her new life as a wounded veteran. Her latest client is Long Chau: a researcher who needs The Shadow’s Child‘s help acquiring a dead body. But when they realize the body they’ve found is that of a murder victim, this newly acquainted dynamic duo have no choice but to investigate in The Tea Master and the Detective.
The Vacuum of Space by Julia Huni
If lighthearted murder mysteries are more your style, check out Julia Huni’s The Vacuum of Space. When one of the robots she supervises discovers a dead body, Triana, a space-station janitor, manages to lose track of it. Now, she has to work side-by-side with a professional…or else. With her job on the line — and her programming skills in high-demand — can Triana help Agent O’Neill recover the now-missing corpse?
Tropical Punch by S.C. Jensen
Another murder mystery floating around the lighter regions of space, S.C. Jensen’s Tropical Punch follows cyborg private eye Bubbles Marlowe, who sticks her nose in some shady business involving HoloCity’s new police chief and a local cult. Now, Bubbles needs nothing more than to get out of HoloCity before she’s collared for a grisly crime she did not commit. She doesn’t have the money to leave, but that may not be her biggest problem. Someone’s coming after Bubbles, and she’ll have to use all her wits and gadgetry to stay one step ahead of her would-be assassin.
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
What would you do if you woke up staring at your own dead body…and those of your coworkers? In this locked-room murder mystery, the cloned crew of the Dormire must unravel a tangled web. They’ve reincarnated right into the center of a crime scene, but who killed whom — and why? The killer’s obviously still among them, but with heads full of missing memories, the six Dormire crew have their work cut out for them in this Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novel from Mur Lafferty.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
OK, so Gideon the Ninth doesn’t technically take place in space. But it does involve lesbian necromancers and their dashing swordswomen cavaliers, who have to travel through space when God Himself summons them to his personal planet for a deadly competition. Childhood enemies Gideon and Harrow want nothing more than to be rid of one another, but fate has other plans in this Agatha Christie–esque work of space fantasy.
We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen
Fans of sci-fi horror should look no further. The story here centers on Dr. Grace Park, a professional hired to monitor the behavior of the 13-person crew aboard the Deucalion, who finds herself connecting more with the ship’s androids than her fellow humans. Things get more complicated when the Deucalion crew are cut off from the outside world…and suddenly begin hallucinating in the ship’s halls. With time running out and no help in sight, it’s up to Dr. Park to save her team.
The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Meet detective-turned-bounty-hunter Miles Flint. Tasked with tracking down humans who commit crimes according to alien races’ legal statutes, Miles is caught in the middle of a massive fustercluck when three seemingly unrelated cases turn out to be inextricably linked. Miles has a job to do — and one he’s damn good at — but he starts to question whether he’s really on the side of the angels, in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s The Disappeared.
Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson
After escorting the 1,000 passengers aboard the Ragtime on their decade-long journey to a new home, Shell wakes to find that caretaker robots have butchered 31 of her charges as they slept. Rasheed answers her call for help, and together they begin to put the pieces of the Ragtime mystery together. But with Shell coming under heavy scrutiny and the remaining passengers still threatened by a nefarious killer on the loose, the path toward resolution won’t be straight or wide.
Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
Pretty much any of Martha Wells’s Murderbot Diaries could scratch your murder-mystery-in-space itch, but the sixth entry in the series, Fugitive Telemetry, may just be the best fit. All Murderbot — a self-aware security robot — wants is to be left alone with its favorite soap opera, The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon. These humans just won’t stop dying around it, though. And since it’s the one who found the body, well, the Preservation Station security team wants it involved in their investigation. Looks like Sanctuary Moon will have to be set on the back burner…again.
“Waiting on a Bright Moon” by Neon Yang
Another work of space fantasy, Neon Yang’s Tor.com novelette centers on Xin: a woman whose job is to use her magical voice to keep an empire in touch with all its myriad colonial arms. But when her magic uncovers a corpse, Xin finds herself in the midst of deep imperial intrigue, in “Waiting on a Bright Moon.”