13 Dark and Twisted Murder Mystery Books

By Kaitlyn Johnston
A collection of thriller and mystery novels displayed with striking covers, each promising a gripping tale that awaits avid readers.

These wicked reads are packed with twists and turns.

When it comes to a good murder mystery, sometimes darker is better — and the narratives below deliver the chills. Gripping and utterly twisted, the following murder mystery books will have you turning the pages long into the night.

granite harbor cover alex michaelides quote

Granite Harbor

By Peter Nichols

From bestselling author Peter Nichols, Granite Harbor is a propulsive new murder mystery about a coastal Maine enclave upended by a serial killer. Single father and former novelist Alex Brangwen is the lone detective in the tight-knit town of Granite Harbor. When a local teen is found brutally murdered at the Settlement, the town’s famed archeological site, Alex scrambles to launch an investigation. Isabel, a single mother who works at the Settlement, finds herself tangled up in the case as well: Like Alex’s daughter, Isabel’s son was close friends with the victim. When another teen is murdered, Alex and Isabel fear their children might be next, so the pair join forces in a frantic race to find the killer. But time is running out, and this once-tranquil community is slipping into chaos as shocking secrets come to light. An atmospheric mix of Mare of Easttown and Silence of the Lambs, Granite Harbor is a “fiendishly inventive murder mystery that will rattle even seasoned genre fans” (Publishers Weekly).

A book cover for "the whisper man" by alex north, featuring an artistic representation of a butterfly formed by black fingerprint patterns against a white background, with the silhouette of a man standing at the bottom.

The Whisper Man

By Alex North

Alex North delivered “a terrifying page-turner” (Kirkus Reviews) in his New York Times bestselling thriller The Whisper Man — and if you’re looking for an extra dose of fright, both of North’s follow-ups, The Shadows and The Angel Maker, will get under your skin as well. In The Whisper Man, the author crafts a vivid nightmare of grief, fatherhood, and darkness just outside your door. Recently widowed Tom Kennedy moves with his son, Jake, to the town of Featherbank in search of a fresh start. But evil hangs in the air of this seemingly peaceful town. Twenty years ago, a killer preyed upon Featherbank, luring victims to their deaths by whispering at their windows. When a local boy in the present vanishes in a manner eerily similar to the crimes of the past, rumors fly that the so-called Whisper Man is back. As detectives search for clues, Tom strives to protect his son from harm. There’s just one problem: Jake’s been acting strangely of late…and what’s that murmuring he hears at his window at night?

Cover of the book Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters

By Lauren Beukes

In Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes serves up an intense murder mystery thriller that genre fans don’t want to miss. A killer prowls the streets of Detroit, leaving grotesquely arranged murder scenes in their wake. Detective Gabriella Versado isn’t new to the horrors of homicide, but this case is different: The body she finds is an unnatural fusion of a boy’s torso with the back legs of a deer. As Versado dives into the darkness, her teenage daughter carries on a dangerous online dalliance with strangers, and a desperate journalist named Jonno searches for leads in the gruesome story. All the while, the monster torments the city with its violent vision of a remade world. Horror maestro Stephen King recommends Broken Monsters as “scary as hell,” so you know it’s going to be good.

A suspenseful novel set in a foreboding forest path, hinting at the chilling twists within.

A Flicker in the Dark

By Stacy Willingham

Stacy Willingham’s New York Times bestselling debut, A Flicker in the Dark, is a skillfully crafted psycho-thriller packed with “plot twists that you’ll never see coming” (bestselling author Karin Slaughter). Chloe Davis was only 12 when her father confessed to the murders of six teen girls. Twenty years later, an adult Chloe has done her best to move on from the shock of the past: She’s engaged, works as a psychologist in Baton Rouge, and strives to make the world better by helping her young patients. But Chloe’s fragile happiness comes undone when local teenage girls begin to vanish and the awful memories of her childhood creep back into focus. Chloe sees parallels between the intensifying events of the present and those 20-year-old murders, but she can’t be sure if it’s real or if she’s just losing her grip. Beautifully written and in-your-head haunting, A Flicker in the Dark will keep you up at night.

Cover of "the chestnut man" novel by søren sveistrup, teasing an upcoming netflix adaptation.

The Chestnut Man

By Soren Sveistrup

In The Chestnut Man, Soren Sveistrup crafts a spine-chilling procedural that is as complex as it is frightening. A “chestnut man” is a doll made of matchsticks and chestnuts. But on the streets of Copenhagen, this cheery handmade figure takes on a dark new meaning — as the calling card of a deranged killer. Two detectives delve into the case. When forensics experts examine the dolls, however, they discover a baffling clue: a fingerprint that belongs to the daughter of a government minister who had been kidnapped and murdered the year before. “Sveistrup creates a plot so intricately woven that even a seasoned crime reader won’t guess the ending. This book is the best kind of terrifying” (Library Journal, starred review).

A locket submerging in water, creating ripples around it, on the cover of karin slaughter's thriller novel "pretty girls.

Pretty Girls

By Karin Slaughter

Award-winning author Karin Slaughter is one of crime fiction’s greatest storytellers; any of her spellbinding narratives will captivate fans of dark murder mysteries. In the bestselling Pretty Girls, Slaughter delivers a suspenseful psychological thriller of sisterhood and secrets. Claire and Lydia’s lives are forever changed when their sister Julia vanishes without a trace. Twenty years later, the siblings lead entirely separate lives and no longer keep in touch. Until a new tragedy pulls them back together: Claire’s millionaire husband is killed, and while it seems improbable that his murder is connected to Julia’s disappearance, the two sisters find themselves reunited in a search for whatever truth may be buried in the secrets of the past. A New York Times bestseller, Pretty Girls is a gripping, twisty, “hell-raising thriller” (New York Times Book Review).

A bold and vivid book cover titled "bright young women" by jessica knoll, featuring a close-up of a woman's face with striking yellow eyeshadow and pink accents, set against a contrasting yellow and black background to create a visually arresting design.

Bright Young Women

By Jessica Knoll

In Bright Young Women, Jessica Knoll presents a compelling mix of true crime and psychological suspense that explores the crimes of Ted Bundy and our collective fascination with tabloid violence. In 1978, a killer strikes a sorority house in Florida. Pamela Schumacher survives the massacre, but she’ll never be the same. Across the country, Tina Cannon is sure her missing friend is the latest victim of the man whom media outlets are calling the “All-American Sex Killer.” Brought together by this gruesome connection, Pamela and Tina set out on a mission for the truth.

Bare tree branches overlay a misty backdrop on the cover of tana french's mystery novel "in the woods," a new york times bestseller and the inspiration for the starz series "dublin murders.

In the Woods

By Tana French

Tana French excels at crafting richly layered works of creepy suspense. In the Woods, French’s Edgar Award–winning 2007 debut and the first in her acclaimed Dublin Murder Squad series, remains one of our favorites. It’s 1984, in Dublin: Three children race into the woods, but only one returns alive. He’s found clinging to a tree, scared to death, and soaked in blood, with no memory of what happened. Twenty years later, that little boy is now Rob Ryan, a detective who strives to keep his past a secret. When a young girl is found murdered in the same woods, Ryan begins to notice details about the case that are unnervingly similar to his own. With his partner, Detective Cassie Maddox, Ryan investigates the girl’s murder, plunging into his own shadowed memories in search of answers. 

A book cover with a suspenseful atmosphere featuring the title "survive the night" in bright neon letters, with a lone car heading down a dark, wooded road, signaling a thrilling narrative ahead.

Survive the Night

By Riley Sager

In Riley Sager’s Survive the Night, college student Charlie Jordan is about to have the longest car ride of her life — hopefully she’ll survive it. It’s 1991, and Charlie’s college life has transformed into a nightmare. A killer stalks her campus, claiming the life of her best friend, so Charlie leaves campus for her home in Ohio to escape the grief and shock. Through a rideshare board, she meets a man named Josh Baxter; he’s headed to Ohio to take care of his ailing father, and they decide to make the long drive together. But the longer she’s in the car with Josh, the more suspicious Charlie gets of her traveling companion — Josh’s story feels terribly off, and he’s being cagey about whatever he has in the trunk. Is Charlie just paranoid, or is she trapped in this car with a killer? Expertly plotted and utterly propulsive, Survive the Night is a “scary, creepy, don’t-turn-out-the-lights thriller” (CNN).

An advertisement for jo nesbø's novel "the snowman," featuring a graphic of a sinister-looking snowman and text indicating the book is soon to be adapted into a major motion picture, with critical acclaim from the new york times book review.

The Snowman

By Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø needs no introduction. The internationally acclaimed crime writer and creator of the Inspector Harry Hole series is a preeminent force in Nordic noir literature. In The Snowman, Nesbø delivers a complex and compelling murder mystery that’s sure to chill you to your core. It’s the first snowfall of the season, and a boy wakes up to find that his mother is missing. Outside stands a freshly made snowman, now wearing the missing woman’s scarf. Investigator Harry Hole takes up the case and soon uncovers a disturbing pattern: Over the last 10 years, 11 women have gone missing, always on the day of the first snowfall. As Harry sorts through the clues, the killer calls out from the wintry darkness, entangling them both in a sadistic web.

Book cover of thomas harris's 'red dragon' - the chilling novel that introduced the world to hannibal lecter.

Red Dragon

By Thomas Harris

In the bestselling Red Dragon, Thomas Harris introduces us to one of psychological horror’s most fiendish creations: Hannibal Lecter. Former FBI profiler Will Graham comes out of retirement to stop a family annihilator. Nicknamed “the Tooth Fairy,” the killer leaves behind disturbing scenes of violence and pieces to a grisly puzzle that Graham struggles to comprehend. If he wants to catch the Tooth Fairy, he’ll have to get into the killer’s head. And to do that, he’ll need to turn into the darkness — by asking for help from Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer he put away five years ago.

Book cover of 'the wire in the blood' by val mcdermid, featuring a silhouette of a forest against a blood-red sky, teasing a thrilling and suspenseful read.

The Wire in the Blood

By Val McDermid

CWA Gold Dagger Award–winning author Val McDermid knows how to craft a gripping murder mystery that’s impossible to put down. The author most certainly delivers in The Wire in the Blood, the second in McDermid’s acclaimed Hill and Jordan series. Teen girls have been disappearing all over the country, but most authorities dismiss them as runaways. Profilers Dr. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan take up the case and searching for a connecting thread, only to encounter a different kind of opponent. This one is charming, handsome, and famous. He’s not the sort of man anyone would suspect of the heinous things he’s done. And soon the profilers are roped into a vile, twisted game.

A book cover with stark red and white contrast, featuring a silhouette of a monkey and the title "the fourth monkey - geboren, um zu töten" by j.d. barker, signaling a thrilling and potentially chilling narrative.

The Fourth Monkey

By J. D. Barker

We conclude our list with The Fourth Monkey, a haunting thriller by J. D. Barker with a disturbingly compelling villain at its core. The Four Monkey Killer has been terrorizing Chicago for years. Now he’s dead — but the killer’s crime spree isn’t over quite yet. Soon after discovering the killer’s body, police realize he’s taken another victim, one who may still be alive but whose chances of survival are quickly slipping away. Detective Sam Porter races against the clock to find her, but he’ll have to wade through the Four Monkey Killer’s twisted psyche if he hopes to succeed.

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