The best mysteries to try on audio

Seira Wilson on January 13, 2021
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The best mysteries (to try on audio)

Of all the audiobooks I've listened to, many of my favorites are mysteries. To me, these were the gateway books for my audio obsession; if you've ever read a really great thriller that you can't put down, it's the same thing for the audio version when you've got a good narrator to carry the story.

Below are some of what I consider the best mysteries on audio. These stories compelled me to stay in the car after I'd already parked or to keep cleaning that closet a little longer, just so I could listen to what happened next.

If you read mysteries, and you've thought about trying an audiobook, here are some titles I highly recommend.


Defending Jacob by William Landay, read by Grover Gardner

A legal thriller about the lengths a parent will go to protect their child, Defending Jacob is utterly riveting. I'm watching Your Honor on Showtime right now and it reminded me of this fantastic book, one of the first thrillers I tried on audio (Apple TV+ made the book into a miniseries last year). When assistant district attorney Andy Barber's 14-year-old son is charged with the murder of another student, the perfect facade of their family crumbles, and Barber's loyalties are tested. Narrator Grover Gardner has a voice that is easy to listen to, and pulls you into the story. You'll find him reading the audio for books by Stephen King, among others.


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee

I love recommending this book and it usually gets readers (and listeners) headed for Moriarty's other books, posthaste. Adapted into an award-wining two-season HBO series with a cast to die for, this psychological thriller about a fierce group of women—all mothers of kids who go to school together in a small, affluent town—and the secrets they are keeping is absolutely packed with suspense and surprises. I found it almost impossible to stop listening to narrator Caroline Lee read this novel.


My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, read by Adepero Oduye

I listened to this audio over two years ago, but I still have a vivid memory of the story and the narration. My Sister, the Serial Killer is highly original; a funny, dark tale of murder and sisterhood set in Lagos, Nigeria. Ayoola keeps killing the men in her life, and her older sister, Korede, keeps getting stuck cleaning up the mess. Literally. Narrator Adepero Oduye is a delight, her tone and cadence matching the emotion of the characters as well as their words.


Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben, performed by January LaVoy

Harlan Coben has millions of fans and for good reason. Fool Me Once is the first Coben mystery that I ever listened to but certainly not the last. I was completely turned around by this thriller about a former special ops pilot named Maya who sees her husband on the nanny cam one afternoon, which wouldn't be a big deal except her husband was murdered two weeks before. Narrator January LaVoy does an excellent job channeling Maya and the other characters in this book, and I listened to this thriller in a single weekend because it was that good.


Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby, narrated by Adam Lazarre-White

Blacktop Wasteland is one of our editors' picks for the Best Books of 2020 and our number one pick in mystery and thriller.  The audio is one of the best I've listened to, not only because the story is propulsive, thoughtful, and utterly addictive, but also because narrator Adam Lazarre-White does it justice in the reading. He gets each character just right, giving the listener the feeling of being right there in the midst of the heart-pounding action or inside the protagonist Beauregard “Bug” Montage's head and heart.


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