From cozy mysteries to tense mystery/thrillers, Asian writers are penning some of the best and most unique stories in the crime genre. I have to confess that I’m more of a newbie to crime stories. I only recently started to read more mysteries and thrillers, but I quickly learned that I really enjoy those written by Asian writers. They manage to make familiar tropes feel entirely new, be it with their historical settings or their detective fiction. That’s why today I wanted to talk about some of the most gripping mystery/thrillers by Asian authors you can read!
A few things before we jump straight into the list. There are tons of fantastic mystery/thrillers by Asian authors you can read, both in translation and written originally in English — both of which I chose to include in this list. I especially wanted to include translated fiction because Asian countries have their own tropes and genres and they make for very unique and exciting stories. Nevertheless, this list is by no means comprehensive or definitive. There are many more mysteries and thrillers by Asian authors that are absolutely worth reading!
But without further ado, let’s jump into eight amazing mystery/thrillers by Asian writers you should definitely read ASAP.
Mystery/Thrillers by Asian Authors
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
Let’s kick things off with a tense thriller set in ’90s L.A. Your House Will Pay follows two families as they struggle with the aftermath of their own violent pasts, which are resurfacing thanks to the tension brought on by a police shooting. The Parks are Korean American. Their daughter Miriam isn’t talking to them and her sister Grace can’t understand why. Then there are the Matthewses, a Black family who lost one of their own to another police shooting. As tensions escalate in the city, the fate of both families will collide as they confront their own pasts.
Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian
Cozy mysteries can be just as gripping as regular mystery/thrillers, which is why I couldn’t ignore Under Lock & Skeleton Key for this list! The story begins when Tempest Raj’s life is turned upside down, prompting her to go back to her parents’ home in California. Her father has a construction company, and when she visits his latest renovation project, she finds the dead body of her former stage double. It was hidden inside a wall that has supposedly been sealed for a century — so something weird is clearly going on. And it’s up to Tempest to find out the truth.
Lady Joker, Volume One by Kaoru Takamura
Moving on to the first book in translation on this list. Originally written in Japanese, Lady Joker is inspired by a real case known as “the Monster with 21 Faces.” Volume two is about to be published as well! The story follows five men who have very little in common, except for their social struggles in a post-War Japan. Because of that, the five join forces to get their revenge against society. To do it, they plan to kidnap the CEO of Japan’s largest beer conglomerate and ask for a huge ransom from the company’s corrupt members.
The Bangalore Detectives Club by Harini Nagendra
Next comes another cozy crime story, which kicks off an exciting historical mystery set in 1920s Bangalore. The Bangalore Detectives Club follows a young, clever, woman named Kaveri, who moves to Bangalore in order to marry a handsome doctor. There, she attends a lavish party that soon turns into a crime scene. Kaveri saw an uninvited guest lurking around during the party, so she takes it upon herself to investigate and help the vulnerable woman who is now tied to the case.
The Old Woman With The Knife by Gu Byeong-mo
There are tons of thrillers in translation from Korean you can read right now. One of the most unique, The Old Woman with the Knife, was published in English this year. It follows a 65-year-old assassin named Hornclaw. She has done her job easily and efficiently for the past four decades, thanks to the fact that she knows very little about her victims. But everything changes with her latest job. Hornclaw gets injured, which leads her to a young doctor. The assassin gets attached to him and his family, and because emotions are dangerous for anyone in her line of work, her whole life will be turned upside down.
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong
The Good Son is such a gripping psychological thriller translated from Korean, I have to talk about it today. The story follows Yu-jin, a young man who often has memory problems and even suffers from seizures. One day, he wakes up to the smell of blood and a frantic call from his brother, which leads to Yu-jin finding his mother’s dead body at the bottom of their duplex’s stairs. Yu-jin can’t remember anything from last night, but has a vague memory of his mother calling his name. Was she calling for help or begging him for her life?
Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier
The next great mystery/thriller by an Asian author is Things We Do in the Dark. This book tells the story of Paris Peralta, who is accused of killing her celebrity husband. But for her, this isn’t the worst thing. She now has a ton of unwanted media attention, which will most likely attract the attention of someone from her hidden past. That someone is Ruby Reyes, who knows Paris’s true identity and is threatening to expose it. Paris might be able to face one murder charge, but not the second one that will come if Ruby does talk.
The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur
Last but not least is a historical mystery set during the Joseon dynasty in Korea! The Forest of Stolen Girls begins when Hwani and her sister went missing, only to be found days later — next to a crime scene and with no memories. Years later, more girls are disappearing again. Hwani’s father is a detective, so he goes back to town to investigate. But he goes missing too. So now it’s up to Hwani to find out what happened to her all those years ago and save her father too.