Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Mysteries and Thrillers Starring Musicians

Carolina Ciucci


Carolina Ciucci is a teacher, writer and reviewer based in the south of Argentina. She hoards books like they’re going out of style. In case of emergency, you can summon her by talking about Ireland, fictional witches, and the Brontë family. Twitter: @carolinabeci

Hold Me Down, dark psychological suspense by Clea Simon, Available Now

Gal, a onetime rock star, is back in Boston to play a benefit when she sees a familiar face in the crowd. When that man is found dead the next day and a friend charged, Gal starts an informal investigation, and as the memories flood back she finds she must reexamine her own wild life, her perceptions of the past, and an industry that monetizes dysfunction. In her Massachusetts Book Award “must read” World Enough, Clea Simon explored the dangers of nostalgia. In Hold Me Down she follows the beat to a darker, deeper tale of love, music, and murder.

Music is part of all of our lives, often to a far greater extent than we realize. It doesn’t come as a surprise, therefore, that it plays such a significant role in the fiction we consume. This is clear in TV shows and movies, of course: there is a reason why a good soundtrack is so intrinsically tied to a production’s success. But it also plays a significant role in books: both on- and off-page. After all, how many authors have you seen making playlists for their WIP? I’ve lost count.

With this in mind, I approached this post thinking it couldn’t be that hard to find mysteries and thrillers starring musicians. As it turns out? I was wrong. Apparently, unlike journalism, a music career does not lend itself well to amateur sleuthing. However, the books I did find? The quality of these musical mysteries more than makes up for the low quantity. In these eight novels, the protagonists are not only professional musicians: music is an integral part of the story, and the mystery, itself. Most of them are cozy mysteries, but beware: I included a couple of thrillers that are as painful as they are brilliant.

Cover of Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon (Gethsemane Brown Mysteries #1)

Gethsemane Brown is not happy with her current task: taking a group of annoying schoolchildren and turning them into an award-winning orchestra. But this classical musician has to suck it up and pull through. After all, this task has to be easier than proving her housemate’s innocence in a murder case. Especially considering that her housemate is a ghost.

Cover of The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb (February 1, 2022)

Ray McMillian, a Black classical violinist, is determined to overcome all the obstacles in his path towards becoming a professional musician. But soon, a new obstacle is thrown his way that might destroy his dream: his violin, a priceless Stradivarius that belonged to his great-great-grandfather, is stolen shortly before the international Tchaikovsky Competition. In his attempts to get it back, he must face claims to the violin from various sources: his own family and, more infuriatingly, the descendants of the slave-trafficker that once enslaved his great-great-grandfather.

Cover of The Case of the Slain Soprano by Susan Moore Jordan

The Case of the Slain Soprano by Susan Moore Jordan (Augusta McKee #1)

Augusta McKee, former opera singer and current professor of music, is busy with rehearsals for a production of “The Pirates of Penzance”. After the play’s leading lady is murdered, Augusta uncovers information that could help the authorities find the killer. Homicide Detective Malcolm Mitchell, however, is not easily convinced.

Cover of Interrupted Aria by Beverle Graves Myers

Interrupted Aria by Beverle Graves Myers (Tito Amato #1)

Set in Venice in 1731, the novel introduces us to Tito Amato, a soprano with a traumatic past who returns to his birthplace to star in the opera. When a friend dies from poisoning, and another is falsely arrested, Tito must find the real murderer before it’s too late.

Cover of Dead Ringer by Sarah Fox

Dead Ringer by Sarah Fox (Music Lover’s Mystery #1)

When a cellist is strangled during an orchestra rehearsal, violinist Midori Bishop’s idyllic life becomes a disaster. The symphony’s maestro, who also happens to be Midori’s new boyfriend, is the main suspect…and her attempts to prove his innocence uncover secrets that she was not prepared to find.

Cover of Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter

Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter (Nanette Hayes Mysteries #1)

Nanette Hayes didn’t expect her act of kindness to land her in trouble with the police. When the jazz-loving street busker let a fellow busker spend the night at her home, she had no idea that a) he was an undercover cop, and b) he would be murdered on her kitchen floor. Soon, Nanette is on the hunt for a legendary saxophone, now well aware that the road to being heinously murdered is paved with good intentions.

Cover of Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Enchanted Jones’ dreams of being a professional singer seem to come true when Korey Fields, legendary R&B artist, takes an interest in her. But her dream soon devolves into a horrific reality: first, when Korey shows his dark side, and second, when she wakes up one morning to find him dead, her hands tainted with blood, and absolutely no memory of the previous night. This novel packs a punch, both in its incredible writing, and in its unfortunate cultural relevance.

Cover of Funeral Music by Morag Joss

Funeral Music by Morag Joss (Sara Selkirk #1)

Sara Selkirk, world-renown cellist, runs to Bath to reset. But her trip won’t be the relaxing escape she was hoping for: instead, she’ll find herself trying to solve the murder of a museum director in the Roman Baths.

In the mood for more musical novels? Say no more.