When I think of mysteries, I think of the typical detective procedural story. A tragedy-shrouded, unhinged detective gets too invested in a hard-to-crack case but perseveres despite things like rules or ethics or personal health. Corruption, secrets, and red herrings galore, the procedural mysteries have it all. And there are some great ones out there with thrilling twists and touching back stories that are sure to entertain.
But the police-centric murder mysteries are not the only type of mystery out there. All sorts of characters get obsessed with a loose end they can’t solve. Missing persons, stolen art, a rogue pet — it’s all fair game when protagonists have perspectives outside of being the hardened detective behind their desk. Family members dedicated to finding out what happened or investigative journalists shedding light on cover-ups are just two of the different perspectives you can get in the genre, but there are so many others out there! We’re all plagued with mysteries in our lives and the same applies to fictional characters.
So, here are eight mystery novels with non-detective main characters if you’re sick of the police procedurals but still want the twists and turns of solving a case.
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
It’s one thing to have your food critic ex-boyfriend end up dead right after an argument. It’s another thing entirely when Lila also has to save her Tita Rosie’s restaurant, deal with matchmaking aunties, and contend with the scrutiny of being a murder suspect. This cozy mystery is a delight full of delicious food, the cutest dog, and aunties who can find out anything.
Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado
Sixteen-year-old Raquel knows no one is paying attention to the disappearances in the Bronx. But when her crush’s cousin goes missing and her mom catches a weird illness, she starts digging around herself. She and her crush uncover The Echo Game that’s rumored to trap people in some underground world. In this horror mystery, you’re sure to get all of the thrills you need.
The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping by Keigo Higashino, Translated by Jan Misuko Cash
Sakuma loves treating everything like a game, and he’s good at it. He’s a successful ad agent on the verge of landing a huge gig, but when his idea is rejected by his superiors, he turns his tendency for games toward revenge. A battle of wits breaks out with kidnappings and scheming galore.
Body Language by A.K. Turner
Cassie Raven takes her job as a mortuary technician seriously, staying overnight and learning their secrets. When her mentor turns up dead and in her mortuary, she’s even more dedicated to finding out what happened. When another body disappears in the middle of the night, law enforcement turns their sights on Cassie. Now, she needs to get the dead to talk before she ends up going down for someone else’s crime.
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk
Liesl is a pro at making the inner workings of the rare book department run smoothly, much to the benefit of her supervisor. But when her boss has a stroke and a manuscript goes missing, her attempts at reporting it are met with dismissal. When a librarian goes missing, too, things only seem more pressing and Liesl can’t help but investigate it herself.
Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly
Vic Fowler, despite all of his efforts and landing a job at a big perfumer, is in debt and desperate for fame. Using his skills with scent, he develops a murderous side business. When a client shows up with a difficult and dangerous request, Vic needs help to make it happen and his fellow artists are just the people. With relationship complications and the ever-persistent private eye sniffing around, Vic’s well laid plans start to unravel.
About the Author by John Colapinto
Cal Cunningham stocked shelves at a bookstore when he published a bestseller. Now, he’s here to tell the world exactly how he did it. A bike accident, a nosey roommate, and an opportunity too good to pass up leads to Cal’s literary success, but all of those eyes aren’t always a positive thing when he’s got secrets to hide.
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
An inn in the woods sounds like the perfect getaway. But when a blizzard traps the guests inside with no electricity, things are less than ideal. While unfortunate, when one guest has an accident and dies, it’s no reason for the rest of the guests to panic. That is, until another one dies, too. This snowy, locked-room mystery is sure to keep you guessing.