Enlightened State

8 Mystery Novels Perfect for Rainy Summer Days

BooksMorgan Vanek2 Comments

It's no secret that the weather in Indiana can be unpredictable.  In the summer, that usually means sweltering hot, sticky days that turn into thunderstorms all afternoon.  This leads to the interruption of all kinds of plans:  hiking, BBQs, boat trips, soccer games, and trips to the farmer's market all have to be postponed until the skies clear up and the sun returns from its trip behind the clouds.  

The last week in particular has been filled with storms here in the Midwest, and I've missed more than a few pool dates and good hair days watching my windshield wipers battle with torrents of rain.  My dog has been on edge, and I'm starting to miss the bright, breezy days of early summer.

Even though the rain can feel like a bit of a bummer, the silver lining of a summer storm is the opportunity to catch up on some reading.  There's nothing quite like settling into a book when the weather is bad, and the sound of wind and rain outside is the perfect complement to a mystery novel.  

The elements of a great mystery are many and varied.  The protagonist must be likable or relatable, if not both. The plot needs to be interesting enough to draw you back into the story when you put it down, and contain enough twists and turns to keep you guessing at the solution.  And for me, the higher the creep factor, the better.  I love a character or a setting that gives me chills when I picture them in my mind.  

If you find yourself stuck inside on a summer day, pour yourself a glass of sweet tea (bourbon optional) and grab one of these 8 intriguing tomes to pass the time until the weather improves.  They're so good, you may just find yourself bringing them along even after the sun comes out.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

This classic novel is often touted for its famous opening line, but the rest of the book certainly lives up to its auspicious beginning.  The beautiful, isolated Manderley is the perfect setting for the nameless main character to explore the mystery of her husband's first marriage, and characters like creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers and the titular Rebecca will keep you thrilled until the very end.  


Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

JK Rowling writes as war veteran Robert Galbraith in this modern take on the traditional hard-boiled detective novel.  In the first of a planned seven-book series (a format we already know Rowling excels in), down-on-his-luck private investigator Cormoran Strike is hired by a wealthy man to discover the truth about his supermodel sister's death.  You'll fall in love with Strike and his office assistant Robin as they navigate the world of fame and fashion in pursuit of the starlet's killer.  Once you finish Cuckoo's Calling, you'll immediately want to pick up the second Strike novel, The Silkworm.  Just don't read too quickly - the third installment in the series isn't due out until this fall.  


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

This debut novel will thrill childhood fans of The Phantom Tollbooth and The Westing Game.  You'll love the way Sloan merges the old-school world of books with the more modern one of technology, and infuses it with magic to create a secret universe with some distinctly nefarious characters.  You won't be able to put this book down as you discover more about exactly what is going on in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  


The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Fans of the BBC series Sherlock and readers of the Holmes mystery canon should grab a copy of this novel immediately.  The first in a series, it follows young Mary Russell as she encounters an aging Sherlock Holmes and becomes his student, despite his intentions to retire into a quiet life of beekeeping in the English countryside.  While the mystery itself is gripping, the real draw for this story is the characters - especially King's authentic portrayal of the greatest detective of all time.  


The Seance by John Harwood

Victorian England is the perfect backdrop for this creepy story about a young girl dabbling in spiritualism.  When she inherits a haunted mansion from which several of her distant relations have disappeared, she must unravel the mystery of Wraxford Hall before she becomes its next victim.  Although The Seance could arguably be classified as a horror novel, the mysterious deaths and strange occurrences make this traditional Victorian Gothic perfect for anyone who likes a dash of the paranormal with their whodunnits.


The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton     

I've been a fan of Kate Morton's novels for some time now, but The Secret Keeper really blew me away.  This gripping family mystery transports the reader between present day and 1940s London, and you'll feel totally immersed in the period as you read.  My favorite thing about Morton's writing (and this novel in particular) is her ability to write strong, real, relatable female characters.  Pick up The Secret Keeper  when you're in the mood to get lost in a story.


The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

This novel is something of a beast, weighing in at just over 900 pages in the paperback edition.  Don't let that deter you, though, since The Historian will draw you in and keep you enthralled from the first pages.   If you scoffed at the idea of vampire stories during the Twilight  craze a few years ago, take heed:  this is an excellent example of just how thrilling the genre can be, especially without all that sparkling nonsense.  Get off your high horse and enjoy Kostova's masterful command of her characters' voices, the descriptions of rich and exotic settings, and the creepy chill of the mystery at the center of the story. (Side note:  I strongly recommend that you do a quick re-read of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula before starting this novel.  It will seriously enrich your reading experience.)


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I fell hopelessly in love with the main character of this book from the moment I met her.  Flavia de Luce is a spunky, sharp-witted scientist who discovers a dead body in the cucumber patch near her home.  She decides that she should apply her highly logical and inquisitive mind to the case, but the police won't take her seriously because she is only 11 years old.  This hilarious, quirky take on the traditional murder mystery will brighten up your rainy day in no time.  


Have you read any of the books on this list?  What mystery novels do you enjoy?  I'm always on the lookout for great stories, so I appreciate your suggestions in the comments!


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