There’s simply no doubt about it: nothing beats a good mystery.
No matter your age, crime fiction can hook you in, take you on a roller coaster ride and leave you desperate to find out what happens at the end.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect story for a younger reader or someone who’s simply young at heart, these books are packed with intrigue and are guaranteed to help kick-start a life-long love of reading.
13 of the best children’s crime books:
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
Thirteen-year-old BFFs Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have set up their own top-secret detective agency at Deepdean High – and now all they need is a case to solve. So when science mistress Miss Bell is found dead in the gym, Daisy and Hazel are primed and ready to investigate. An energetic, witty and endearing whodunit that’s full of suspense and will keep young readers entertained until the very end, when all they’ll want to do is search out the next book in the series!
(And if you’re a classic crime fan, you’ll love the references to the likes of Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham too!)
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner
Young Emil is packed off on a train to stay with his grandmother when his holiday money goes missing. A gang of boys come to the rescue and together they’re determined to catch the thief and get the money back.
Originally written in 1928, this crime caper has been loved through the generations. Bursting full of courageous characters, it celebrates children and their hidden strengths. A classic crime tale of its time.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
At 11:32 am, Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim board the London Eye – but as Salim’s pod completes its circuit at 12:02 pm, he’s nowhere to be found. When the police draw blanks, Ted and Kat have no alternative but to follow a trail of clues around London in the hunt for their missing cousin themselves.
Told from the point of view of Ted, a sparky twelve-year-old with Asperger Syndrome, this is a satisfying mystery and a brilliant portrayal of how children overcome personal challenges. Plus, there’s a fantastic sequel – The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens – to get stuck into afterwards!
The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford
Imagine an alternative 1826 where Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, meet as young women and join forces to form Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. Their first case is the mystery of the stolen necklace, but it’s no match for super-sleuths Mary and Ada.
A female take on Sherlock and Watson for crime-fighting kids, this is the first book in a thrilling series and is a perfect mix of mystery, history and clandestine female detectives.
Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John
When orphan Laura Marlin moves from her children’s home to live with her uncle in his creepy house in Cornwall he forbids her from visiting Dead Man’s Cove – but why? Then Laura gets a mysterious message in a bottle from an unknown sender and the plot thickens… Can ace detective Laura and new friend Skye, a three-legged husky, get to the bottom of what’s going on?
A deadly quest with thrilling twists and turns, this award-winning book will keep young readers captivated.
The Young Magicians and the Thieves’ Almanac by Nick Mohammed
Alex, Zack, Sophie and Jonny are all young magicians with the same aim – to become fully-fledged members of the Magic Circle – but little do they know what happens when they penetrate magic’s most infamous circle of trust. Step into the unknown world of magic and mystery with this awesome-foursome, as they make it their mission to get to the bottom of the secrecy and mystery surrounding the Magic Circle and the legendary Thieves’ Almanac.
A laugh-out-loud, fast-paced, heist-style mystery romp where seemingly unsolvable crimes are solved. Simply magic.
Five On A Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
Join the infamous Julian, Dick, Anne, George and four-legged adventurer Timmy – aka the famous five – on their very first adventure! When a shipwreck occurs off Kirrin Island the treasure goes missing and the intrepid fivesome are hot on the trail to find the missing treasure before someone else does.
An old-fashioned adventure that has entertained and enthralled readers for years, with a host of sequels for young readers to lose themselves in when they’re hooked.
The Extraordinary Cases of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The world’s most famous detective duo Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson embark on eight thrilling mysteries in this collection to test their super-sleuth powers of deduction. Each short story is packed with all the classic tropes of a cracking Sherlock case and it’s never a question of if Sherlock and Watson will solve the mystery but how.
This Puffin Classics edition is introduced by award-winning fantasy novelist Jonathan Stroud and will be loved by Holmes fans young and old.
The Mona Lisa Mystery by Pat Hutchins
Join the pupils of class 3 in Hampstead Primary School on a school trip to Paris they’ll never forget, as they find themselves mixed up with a group of art thieves determined to steal the Mona Lisa. It’s a good job the kids are equally determined to find the culprit!
Beautifully illustrated by Laurence Hutchins, this classic crime adventure is a firm favourite with school readers and once read will never be forgotten.
Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Lucy Carlyle is a teenage ghost-hunter who joins Lockwood and Co as a junior field operator. Not only does she have an unusual talent of hearing ghosts, she’s also prepared to spend the night in one of the most haunted houses in England to help rid the country of dangerous apparitions. But will she come out alive?
Sherlock meets Ghostbusters in the first in this chilling new series full of spooky suspense, supernatural beings and a good dose of humour added in. It’s a real page turner with a deliciously creepy atmosphere. Enjoy it if you dare.
The Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine
When Miss Sophie Taylor is hired to work at Sinclair’s department store in London she thinks her life is going to change for the better. But on the eve of the grand opening an exquisite, jewel-encrusted clockwork sparrow is stolen from the grand exhibition and Sophie is accused of theft. Can Sophie solve the crime and prove her innocence?
With everything you need in a good mystery – code-cracking, gangs, double-crosses and dirty dealings – this is a pacey, sparky, enjoyable mystery which will keep you guessing until the final page.
The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Teenager Nancy Drew is an amateur sleuth, who spends all her spare time solving mysteries. She’s tenacious, smart, brave and never gives up. In the first book in the incredibly popular long-running series, Nancy has to help Mr Crowly’s friends find his missing will before his inheritance is stolen.
The perfect start to a series that’ll make kids life-long mystery lovers.
The Lady Grace Mysteries: Assassin by Grace Cavendish
Spring 1569 and Lady Grace, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I, is made to choose three suitors at a glittering ball, despite not wanting to marry any of them. But when one of the suitors is murdered and people start acting strangely, Lady Grace goes on a mission to find out what happened.
A historical mystery that explores the court and times of Queen Elizabeth I. Light-hearted, amusing and a great introduction to historical fiction and mysteries for young readers.
Have we missed any of the best children’s crime fiction books? Let us know in the comments below!