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8 Mystery Novels with Non-Detective Main Characters

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Addison Rizer

Contributor

Addison Rizer is a writer and reader of anything that can be described as weird, sad, or scary. She has an MA in Professional Writing and a BA in English. She writes for Book Riot and Publishers Weekly and is always looking for more ways to gush about the books she loves. Find her published work or contact her on her website or at addisonrizer at gmaildotcom.

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.

Book cover of Arsenic and Adobo

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.

Cover of Burn Down Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

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.

Book Cover of The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping by Keigo Higashino

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.

Book Cover of Body Language by A.K. Turner

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.

cover of The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk

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.

Book Cover of Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly

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.

Book Cover of About the Author by John Colapinto

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 book cover

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.


If you still have room on your TBR after this, check out these Christmas mysteries to get you in the holiday mood or these gentle cozy mysteries!