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Mystery Essential
When you go into a bookstore or come to Audible to choose your next book, you'll find that mysteries and thrillers share the same shelf space, both physically and virtually. But when our team of editors sat down to debate, and ultimately select our Mystery Essentials we thought it was important to draw a distinction between the two.


One editor suggested that mysteries appeal to your intellectual curiosity, while thrillers more to your emotional curiosity, which may often be true. But then there are so many great books that do both: there are mysterious thrillers, and thrilling mysteries. So in the end, after much discussion, we drew this firm narrative line in the sand: Mysteries are about the solving of a crime. Thrillers are about the prevention of a crime. This is the definition we used when poring over our favorite mystery listens.



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  • The Black Echo: Harry Bosch Series, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Michael Connelly
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4876)
    Performance
    (2863)
    Story
    (2860)

    For LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch - hero, maverick, nighthawk - the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal. The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who fought side by side with him in a nightmare underground war that brought them to the depths of hell.

    Daniel Mcafee says: "What a Terrific Book"
    Why we think it's Essential:The Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel was just the start for Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series. The Black Echo kicked off one of the best police procedural series of all time, and Connelly ran from there, creating twisting plot after twisting plot, all anchored by Harry Bosch, a hardened L.A. cop/PI who echoes the noir ethos of hard-boiled detectives of the past. Dick Hill delivers a highly-skilled narration, impressing all ears with his rendition of Connelly's gritty and realistic dialogue. Hill's portrayal of Bosch is one for all narrators to aspire to, and it puts Connelly's debut in a class by itself.--Chris D.
  • Child 44

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Tom Rob Smith
    • Narrated By Dennis Boutsikaris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1784)
    Performance
    (670)
    Story
    (669)

    It is a society that is, officially, a paradise. Superior to the decadent West, Stalin's Soviet Union is a haven for its citizens, providing for all of their needs: education, health care, security. In exchange, all that is required is their hard work, and their loyalty and faith to the Soviet State. But now a murderer is on the loose.

    Melvin says: "Terror from all sides."
    Why we think it's Essential: Tom Rob Smith's debut novel took the mystery world by storm with its astonishing originality, and Dennis Boutsikaris's narration rises to the task. He takes the listener deep into the heart of the 1950s Soviet Union, where Leo Demidov is a former war hero who is fiercely loyal to the state and all the protections it offers its citizens. But when a serial killer starts targeting children, Leo learns that in his country even to suggest a blemish in paradise may be a bigger crime than murder. --Emily
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank: The Amelia Peabody Series, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Peters
    • Narrated By Barbara Rosenblat
    Overall
    (2709)
    Performance
    (1499)
    Story
    (1494)

    Amelia Peabody inherited two things from her father: a considerable fortune and an unbendable will. The first allowed her to indulge in her life's passion. Without the second, the mummy's curse would have made corpses of them all.

    Carrie says: "Nice break from the usual-"
    Why we think it's Essential: Elizabeth Peters drew on her academic background in ancient history to bring to life a time in the late 19th century when the whole of Europe was Egypt-mad and amateur Egyptologists ran rampant. The heroine of her long and beloved series, Amelia Peabody, is one of them, and in this first novel she packs off to follow her passion for archeology and ends up stumbling on some ancient mysteries along the way. The first person format is suited for audio and Barbara Rosenblat perfectly creates the voice of the studious and cynical feminist while not losing the delightful parody in the story. --Emily
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Mark Haddon
    • Narrated By Jeff Woodman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3950)
    Performance
    (1673)
    Story
    (1696)

    Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone has Asperger's Syndrome, a condition similar to autism. He doesn't like to be touched or meet new people, he cannot make small talk, and he hates the colors brown and yellow. He is a math whiz with a very logical brain who loves solving puzzles that have definite answers.

    Robert says: "Endearing. Pathos, humor, reality, and insight."
    Why we think it's Essential: Wellington--Mrs. Shear's black poodle--is dead, and Christopher is writing a murder mystery novel based on his investigation of who stabbed the dog with a garden fork. Christopher is not your average sleuth--he's a 15-year-old who suffers from Asperger's syndrome. Not only does his hunt for Wellington's killer send him into unfamiliar territory, but it also takes the listener on a unique journey from a previously unexplored perspective. Jeff Woodman embodies Christopher's quirks and social anxieties flawlessly, from the boy's initial encounters with the police to the fallout of discovering the culprit is closer to home than anticipated. --Diana D.
  • Death in Holy Orders

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs)
    • By P.D. James
    • Narrated By Charles Keating
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (524)
    Performance
    (118)
    Story
    (120)

    Atop a sweep of low cliffs stands the small theological college of St. Anselm's. Not far away, smothered beneath a fall of sand, lies the body of one of the school's young ordinands. When Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called to investigate the death, the college is torn apart by another death, a sacrilegious and horrifying murder.

    Jannice says: "Death in Holy Orders - good PBS"
    Why we think it's Essential: Set along the terrifying and beautiful coastline of East Anglia at a theological college, a location that her fans call "quintessential James," Death and Holy Orders is the 11th Adam Dalgliesh novel, but arguably the best. The Commander agrees to take a murder case at the college, in large part because the place holds sentimental meaning for him. But his affectionate memories soon evolve into haunting suspicions as the complexity of the case grows. As always P.D. James' writing is balanced and beautiful and Charles Keating delivers the psychological and emotional gravity that it deserves. --Emily
  • The Death of Dalziel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Reginald Hill
    • Narrated By Shaun Dooley
    Overall
    (222)
    Performance
    (60)
    Story
    (57)

    Caught in the blast of a huge Semtex explosion, the only things preventing Superintendent Andy Dalziel from stepping through Death's door might be his own size and indomitable willpower. As he lies on a hospital bed, it falls on DCI Peter Pascoe to seek justice for Andy. The security services have written it off as an accident: the terrorist suspects have paid for their clumsiness with their lives. Who, then, are the Knights Templar, a shadowy group exacting summary public justice on their enemies?

    A User says: "Great Entry in a Great Series"
    Why we think it's Essential: The main character, DS Andy DalzieI, spends most of the story in a coma--yet this is perhaps the most gripping entry in one of the greatest British police procedural series. That's because author Reginald Hill's poetic writing--and Shaun Dooley's wonderful characterizations - peel back the surprising layers of the "Fat Man's" inner life. If you haven't had the Dalziel & Pascoe experience, this is a fine place to start. --Steve
  • Fer-De-Lance

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Rex Stout
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    Overall
    (245)
    Performance
    (136)
    Story
    (134)

    When someone makes a present of a fer-de-lance - the dreaded snake - to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he's close to solving two apparently unrelated murders. As for Wolfe, he's playing snake charmer in a case more deadly than a cobra and whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer with poison in his heart.

    ShySusan says: "One of the best crime series of all time."
    Why we think it's Essential: Michael Prichard, who has also narrated books by Tom Clancy and Nelson Demille, brings Nero Wolfe, the ultimate eccentric shut-in private detective, to life. Originally published in 1934, this is the first mystery ever written by Rex Stout. It delivers his classic pair of detectives (Nero is joined by assistant Archie Goodwin), solving a crime involving a deadly snake and a college president. --Gina
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: The Millennium Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Stieg Larsson
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (23104)
    Performance
    (9744)
    Story
    (9816)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: How do you one-up a book that’s already a global literary phenomenon? Hire Simon Vance to (flawlessly) interpret the loves, lives, and murders of Sweden’s cold and secret-filled world. A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue. It's about the disappearance 40 years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden.

    Pamela Murphy says: "COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN"
    Why we think it's Essential: If you ever wondered which audiobook should be your first listen, you have just found it. The first in a trilogy delivered to publishers shortly before Larson's death, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is full of complex and flawed characters.  Simon Vance keeps you engaged in the story and the priceless characters, without distracting with over-done character voices.  Without giving the ending away, know that there are some pretty impressive plot twists--you will never see them coming!--Sylvia
  • Gorky Park

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Martin Cruz Smith
    • Narrated By Henry Strozier
    Overall
    (447)
    Performance
    (277)
    Story
    (280)

    At first, the case of the bodies found in a Moscow park looked straightforward: a "troika", probably three on a bottle, drunk together and then frozen to death together in the brutal Russian night. But Chief Homicide Investigator Arkady Renko hits a sharp and complicated turn with the arrival of the KGB's Pribluda. Suddenly, his access to a routine investigation is blocked. Why?

    Ranch Girl says: "Beautiful writing - But easy to put down"
    Why we think it's Essential: Martin Cruz Smith's masterpiece was published during the first months of the Reagan Era, at a time of heightened US-Soviet tension. This made his creation of the downtrodden everyman, Russian homicide investigator Arkady Renko, all the more remarkable. This novel is an all-time great combination of plot and character with an exceptional evocation of time and place, brought vividly to life by Henry Strozier's voice.--Steve
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Narrated By David Timson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (129)
    Performance
    (41)
    Story
    (40)

    The award-winning Sherlock Holmes narrator David Timson leads us through Conan Doyle's most famous tale. This extended story brings the archetypal detective to the moors with his friend and biographer Dr. Watson to investigate the mystery of a beast terrorizing the neighborhood.

    Linda says: "A masterpiece"
    Why we think it's Essential: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story about murder on the moors is one of the great mystery classics. Originally serialized, the novel unfolds clue by clue beginning with the death of a rich landowner and the paw prints of a dog-like beast surrounding the body. Sherlock Holmes polishes his magnifying glass and with his trusty partner Watson, tracks the source of this crime. Actor David Timson delivers a credible performance, admirably giving voice to at least a dozen characters.--Corey
  • In the Woods

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Tana French
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4621)
    Performance
    (2678)
    Story
    (2679)

    As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children, unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

    Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery.

    Barbara says: "A near-flawless audiobook (but for one thing...)"
    Why we think it's Essential: Tana French's debut novel tells the haunting story of Detective Rob Ryan whose past collides into his current case of a murdered 12 year old girl.  The characters are flawed but real and the plot twists will keep you guessing right up to the end.  Set in contemporary Ireland, the voices are brought to life by Steven Crossley's narration in a perfect match of story and storytelling.--Pam
  • The Last Detective: An Elvis Cole - Joe Pike Novel, Book 9

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Robert Crais
    • Narrated By James Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (300)
    Performance
    (162)
    Story
    (163)

    Elvis Cole's relationship with attorney Lucy Chenier is strained. When she moved from Louisiana to join Elvis in Los Angeles, she never dreamed that violence would so easily touch her life - but then the unthinkable happens. While Lucy is away on business and her 10-year-old son, Ben, is staying with Elvis, Ben disappears without a trace.

    Fanne says: "One book and I was hooked"
    Why we think it's Essential: This book marked Robert Crais' 2003 return to Elvis Cole after a hiatus of several years. And fans were not disappointed, as this installment digs deeper into Elvis' psyche than any of his prior novels. When Ben, the son of Elvis' girlfriend, disappears, his kidnappers let it be known that their motive is connected to a hidden and dark part of Elvis' past. James Daniels' narration moves seamlessly and skillfully between the first-person story, wartime flashbacks, and scenes from Ben's abduction. --Emily
  • The Maltese Falcon

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Dashiell Hammett
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    Overall
    (796)
    Performance
    (322)
    Story
    (319)

    Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade is hired to locate a client's sister by tailing the sister's companion. Spade's partner Miles Archer takes on the assignment, and quickly both Archer and the man he was shadowing are murdered. As Spade pursues the mystery of his partner's death, he is drawn into a circle of colorful characters, and they are all after a legendary statuette of a falcon that had long ago been made for King Charles of Spain. Encrusted with jewels, it is worth a fortune.

    Jim says: "A little overacted"
    Why we think it's Essential: Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is the chain-smoking father of all hard-boiled detective fiction. Without Maltese, the genre would hardly exist, and William Dufris takes the experience to the next level. His character voices - from Sam Spade to Brigid O'Shaughnessy - have the perfect dramatic flair, and his voice and pace is keenly attuned to the noir atmosphere. It's more than enough to make you forget Humphrey Bogart.--Chris D.
  • March Violets

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Philip Kerr
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (480)
    Performance
    (262)
    Story
    (261)

    Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a "brilliantly innovative thriller-writer", Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries set in Nazi-era Berlin that are nothing short of spellbinding. The first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, March Violets introduces listeners to Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin - until he turned freelance and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture.

    King says: "Nazi Noir"
    Why we think it's Essential: Kerr's aptly-named Berlin Noir trilogy centers on ex-cop turned PI Bernie Gunther, a bedraggled and beleaguered Sam Spade who plies his trade in 1936 Germany. Squeezed by the Gestapo and horrified by what he sees, Gunther does what little he can to resist the Nazi's growing grip. What I especially like about this recording is that narrator John Lee chooses not to "do" the typical German accent, but simply tells this gripping story.--Steve
  • The Moonstone

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Wilkie Collins
    • Narrated By Peter Jeffrey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (413)
    Performance
    (225)
    Story
    (229)

    T.S. Eliot described The Moonstone as "the first and the greatest English detective novel". The stone of the title is an enormous diamond plundered from an Indian shrine after the Siege of Seringapatam. Given to Miss Verinder on her 18th birthday, it mysteriously disappears that very night. Suspicion falls on three Indian jugglers who have been seen in the neighbourhood.

    Lucie says: "An engrossing detective novel"
    Why we think it's Essential: T.S Elliot hailed Wilkie Collins' masterpiece as "the first and greatest of English detective novels," and scholars have long agreed. But while its importance to the English cannon, and the mystery genre in general, is undisputed, The Moonstone is also a charming, fun, suspenseful, and highly enjoyable story. Through a series of perspectives, the story of Rachel Verinder's eighteenth birthday party, and the theft of her best present, a large yellow diamond from India, unfolds. Peter Jeffrey masterfully gives each character his own distinct voice, not only defined by gender but by their position in the household. And he even creates a sense of the house itself- the waiting place is a solid and stern ..
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Alexander McCall Smith
    • Narrated By Lisette Lecat
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2504)
    Performance
    (1034)
    Story
    (1035)

    Mma "Precious" Ramotswe sets up a detective agency in Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, making her the only female detective in the country. At first, cases are hard to come by. But eventually, troubled people come to Precious with a variety of concerns. Potentially philandering husbands, seemingly schizophrenic doctors, and a missing boy who may have been killed by witch doctors all compel Precious to roam about in her tiny van, searching for clues.

    Gene says: "Transcends its Genre"
    Why we think it's Essential: In this introduction to a most charming and delightful series, we meet Mma Precious Ramotswe and are quickly transported to her beloved Botswana by Lisette Lecat's rich, lilting voice. Lecat's elegant narration deftly weaves the cases Precious is called on to solve as her country's first female detective with her personal adventures. This authentic, nuanced performance--complete with a relaxed, enjoyable pace--will leave you wanting to follow Precious on all her future investigations.--Diana D.
  • Rebecca

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Daphne du Maurier
    • Narrated By Anna Massey
    Overall
    (868)
    Performance
    (636)
    Story
    (644)

    After a whirlwind romance and a honeymoon in Italy, the innocent young heroine and the dashing Maxim de Winter return to his country estate, Manderley. But the unsettling memory of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, still lingers within. The timid bride must overcome her husband's oppressive silences and the sullen history of the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, to confront the emotional horrors of the past.

    P. Wade Thompson says: "A Great Listen"
    Why we think it's Essential: When a delicate young woman becomes the second wife of a wealthy Englishman, her suffocating encounters with his housekeeper--a domineering woman with an unusual devotion to his deceased first wife, Rebecca--build to almost unbearable tension. And that's just one side of this exciting mystery, which becomes increasingly complex as details of Rebecca's death are revealed. This terrific novel is narrated with great precision and clarity by Anna Massey. --Corey
  • Skinny Dip

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Carl Hiaasen
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    Overall
    (2367)
    Performance
    (610)
    Story
    (621)

    When Chaz Perron's wife discovers that he is running a scam (posing as a marine biologist to doctor water samples so that an agribusiness tycoon can continue illegally dumping fertilizer into the Everglades), he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner. Unlucky for Chaz, Joey survives clutching a bale of Jamaican pot. Rescued from the Atlantic by a former police officer, Mick Stranahan, she decides not to report him but instead haunt and taunt him, with Mick's help, by playing dead.

    Phillip says: "Summer's Best Read"
    Why we think it's Essential: If you've never listened to Carl Hiassen, you are in for a treat;  if you have, know that the world in Skinny Dip is a quintessential  example of one that can only be created by this author.  The population of innocents, criminals, schemers, and outright villains that traverse through this satirical work will give you hours of enjoyment and more than a bit of satisfaction that you are not related to any of them.  Stephen Hoye does a fantastic job of creating distinct voices, while showing restraint in not cracking up during the performance. --Pam
  • Through a Glass, Darkly

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Donna Leon
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    Overall
    (107)
    Performance
    (46)
    Story
    (45)

    On a spring day in Venice, Commissario Brunetti and his assistant, Vianello, play hooky to help Vianello's friend Marco Ripetti, arrested during an environmental protest. They secure his release, only to be faced with the fury of the man's father-in-law, Giovanni De Cal, who has made violent threats against Ripetti. Brunetti's curiousity is peaked, and he finds himself drawn to investigate. Is De Cal the type of man to carry out his threats?

    Jean says: "too much information!"
    Why we think it's Essential:Donna Leon turns up on our customer favorite lists over and over again. Her Commissario Guido Brunetti series, which leaves through the corrupt underworld of Venice,is undoubtedly one of the best in the genre.Leon is a master of nuanced characters and David Colacci, a narrator for over 15 years, is sensitive and concise in his portrayals of these subtleties.--Gina
  • The Tin Roof Blowdown: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By James Lee Burke
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2438)
    Performance
    (607)
    Story
    (595)

    Dave Robicheaux returns in another Bayou adventure, this one more gruesome and gut-wrenching than any that have come before. Hurricane Katrina has ravaged New Orleans, leaving the streets and buildings flooded and the city awash with opportunists, looters, and vicious criminals. There is no order, no law. Police are shooting randomly at innocent people, prison guards have abandoned their posts, and bodies float through the streets and hang from trees.

    Deborah says: "How Does One Manage?"
    Why we think it's Essential: James Lee Burke is a master storyteller who has used the city of New Orleans as a character in the past, but in the wake of Hurricane Katrina Burke delivered a fantastic mystery and a scathing look at the aftermath of this tragedy.  Burke's writing comes alive with the masterful narration of Will Patton.  The world of Robicheaux springs to life on the audio, making it a rich and textured experience, so that however you encounter the Dave Robicheaux series going forward, Patton will be the voice in your head. --Pam
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