7 mysteries set in the world of books

Vannessa Cronin on March 31, 2020

7 mysteries set in the world of books

I find myself missing bookstores even more than restaurants and theaters as this pandemic winds on. On the upside, my home cooking game has vastly improved. But there's no recipe for replacing the giddy joy of discovering a new book on a table full of them. Luckily, the joy of reading books about books, bookstores, libraries, and fellow bibliophiles remains, so here are a few of our favorite books about books—all from the mystery/thriller section of the stacks and all available on Kindle—to tide fellow book-lovers over.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

Miranda Brooks loved her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, the bookstore where Billy would create scavenger hunts just for Miranda to solve. But Billy disappeared on Miranda's 12th birthday, following a row with Miranda's mom. And she doesn't hear from him again, until 16 years later, when she learns that Billy has died and left Prospero Books to her, along with one final scavenger hunt. But the Prospero Books to which Miranda returns as owner is on the verge of bankruptcy, and Miranda vows to save the bookstore and solve the riddle. The scavenger hunt and the secrets it reveals provide the mystery, but this valentine to books and the people who love them has plenty of heart too.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Lydia Smith is a clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, where it's hard to tell what she enjoys more: her beloved books, her eccentric colleagues, or the BookFrogs—the regulars who linger every day among the stacks. When a BookFrog named Joey, whose favorite clerk was Lydia, commits suicide in the store and leaves all his worldly possessions—a collection of trinkets and books—to her, Lydia falls apart. Scrolling through Joey's books for answers to his suicide, she thinks she discerns a secret message, and it causes a chink in Lydia's psychic armor, as she begins to remember a long-suppressed night from her own past. Clever, intricate, and a love note to the power of books.

Booked to Die by John Dunning

Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway is an old school cop with a surprising hobby: he collects rare and first edition books. When he loses his badge after meting out rough justice to a lowlife he knows murdered a bookscout friend of his, he decides to make his hobby his new career and opens up a small bookshop while keeping his eye out for ways to bring Jackie Newton to account for the innocent life he took. But a series of deaths with aconnection to the vintage book trade grab his attention in this solid, detective tale which reveals some of book collecting’s most shocking secrets, thanks to author John Dunning's own experience in the rare book business.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

A witty, action-packed fantasy, The Invisible Library has drawn comparisons to Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. It follows Irene and Kai—a professional spy and her assistant—as they work for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization on a mission to collect important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Their latest mission was to retrieve a dangerous book from an alternative London, a mission thwarted when they show up to find the book's already been stolen. Books are the heart of a plot that hums with deadly danger, even deadlier secrets, enigmatic clues, and a sinister secret society.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Books, family, and magic are at the heart of The Book of Speculation. Simon is a lonely librarian living in a home so dilapidated that every year it edges closer to falling into the Long Island Sound. One day in June an antiquarian book dealer drops off a rare book, a log maintained by the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s. It sheds light on why every woman in Simon's family, including his circus mermaid mother, drowned despite being able to hold their breath under water far longer than most. As the date on which all the women died—July 24th—is looming, Simon must use the book to help his estranged sister Enola escape her fate in this atmospheric and affecting novel.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has means Clay Jannon can no longer work as a San Francisco web-design drone and instead, he goes to work at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But days into the job he notices some odd patterns such as the way few customers enter the store and fewer still purchase anything; they "check out" huge obscure volumes from hidden corners at the back of the store. But investigations into customer behavior lead him to learn some secrets about Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. A technological plot fired up by good old analog storytelling skill, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a whimsical but thoughtful ode to the value of permanence in a world gone digital.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon Diaz

In Barcelona, just after the Spanish Civil War, Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son still grieving his mother's death, finds a book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and in that book he finds solace. The book is The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. Like book lovers before and after him, he is moved to seek out and read all the other books written by Carax. But he quickly finds that someone has been systematically buying and destroying Carax's books. Intrigued, he investigates, only to uncover one of Barcelona’s deepest, darkest secrets. A Gothic mystery with romance and fantasy elements, it's a powerful tribute to the power of books and reading.

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