January 28, 2023

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8 mystery novels with non-detective main characters

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When I think of mysteries, I think of the typical detective story. Wrapped in tragedy, a deranged detective overinvests in a hard-to-crack case, but perseveres despite things like rules, ethics, or personal health. Corruption, secrets and diversionary maneuvers galore, the procedural secrets pack a punch. And there are some great ones out there with suspenseful twists and touching backstories that are sure to entertain.

But the police-centric murder mysteries aren’t the only type of mysteries out there. All sorts of characters are obsessed with a loose end they can’t solve. Missing people, stolen art, a rogue pet — it’s all fair game when protagonists have perspectives that aren’t the hardened detective behind their desk. Family members working to find out what happened or investigative journalists looking into cover-ups are just two of the different perspectives you can get in this genre, but there are so many others out there! We are all plagued by mysteries in our lives, and the same goes for fictional characters.

So here are eight crime novels with non-detective main characters if you’re tired of police procedures but still want the twists and turns of solving a case.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

It’s one thing when a food critic’s ex-boyfriend dies right after a fight. It’s a whole different story when Lila also has to save her Tita Rosie’s restaurant, deal with dating agency aunts, and battle the test of being a murder suspect. This cozy mystery is a treat full of delicious food, the cutest dog and aunts who can figure it all out.

Cover of Burn Down Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

Burn down, rise from Vincent Tirado

16-year-old Raquel knows that nobody in the Bronx is paying attention to the disappearance. But when her crush’s cousin goes missing and her mother falls ill with a strange illness, she begins to dig inside herself. She and her crush uncover the Echo Game, rumored to be keeping people trapped in an underground world. You will surely get the thrill you need in this horror mystery.

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Book cover of The Name of the Game is an abduction by Keigo Higashino

The game’s name is an abduction of Keigo Higashino translated by Jan Misuko Cash

Sakuma loves to treat everything like a game and he’s good at it. He’s a successful advertising agent about to make a big splash, but when his idea is rejected by his superiors, he turns his penchant for gaming to revenge. A mental war breaks out with kidnappings and intrigues galore.

Book cover of Body Language by AK Turner

Body language by AK Turner

Cassie Raven takes her job as a funeral director seriously, staying the night and learning her secrets. When her mentor turns up dead and in her morgue, she becomes even more anxious to find out what happened. When another body goes missing in the middle of the night, law enforcement turns on Cassie. Now she must make the dead talk before she goes down for someone else’s crime.

Cover of the Department of Old Prints and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk

The Department of Old Prints and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk

Liesl is a pro at getting the inner workings of the rare department running smoothly, which greatly benefits her supervisor. But when her boss suffers a stroke and a manuscript goes missing, her attempts to report it are met with a dismissal. When a librarian goes missing as well, things only seem more urgent and Liesl can’t help but get to the bottom of the matter herself.

Book cover of Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly

Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly

Despite his best efforts and a job with a major perfumer, Vic Fowler is in debt and desperate for fame. Using his skills with smells, he develops a murderous side business. When a client comes up with a difficult and dangerous request, Vic needs help to make it happen, and his fellow artists are just the people. With relationship complications and the ever-tenacious private investigator snooping around, Vic’s well-conceived plans begin to unravel.

Book cover of About the Author by John Colapinto

About the Author by John Colapinto

Cal Cunningham filled shelves in a bookstore when he published a bestseller. Now he’s here to tell the world exactly how he did it. A bike accident, a nosy roommate and an opportunity too good to pass up lead to Cal’s literary success, but all those eyes aren’t always positive when he has secrets to hide.

An Unwelcome Guest by Shari Lapena book cover

An unwanted guest of Shari Lapena

An inn in the forest sounds like the perfect getaway. But when a snowstorm leaves guests without power, things are far from ideal. While it’s unfortunate when a guest has an accident and dies, that’s no reason for other guests to panic. That is, until someone else dies too. This snowy mystery in a locked room is sure to leave you guessing.

If you still have room on your TBR after that, check out these Christmas Secrets to get you in the Christmas spirit, or these Gentle Cozy Secrets!