There’s nothing quite like cuddling under a warm blanket with a cup of tea or hot cocoa by your side, reading a good book while snow falls outside. But that very scenario can also lead to the perfect setup for a murder, whether it's an actual locked room—or another similarly isolated location.
Here’s a list of classic wintery locked room mystery books that will be perfect for reading this chilly season—plus some more recent additions to the confounding subgenre.
Murder on the Orient Express
I had to start off with this classic (especially since I rewatched Kenneth Branaugh’s movie version recently). I’ve always dreamed of taking a ride on the legendary and luxurious Orient Express. Published in 1934, Hercules Poirot has to take his detecting skills to the limit as he tries to figure out who killed an American businessman in his locked compartment on the train after the train is stopped by snow. Can he find out who the killer is before the train can start moving again and the suspects scatter into the wind?
Antarctica can be the ideal place if you need to get away from your life and need a job. That’s if you don’t mind 24 hours of nighttime during the winter. It may not be ideal for some, but it was perfect for Kate North, who needed to escape her deteriorating life. She takes a job as a relief medic in the Antarctic, but soon learns that her predecessor didn’t go back to his life—he died out on the ice. While Kate tries (and fails) to deal with her own destabilizing mental health, it’s becoming evident that her predecessor’s death may not have been an accident.
The Hunting Party
I’m a big fan of Foley’s after The Guest List and the more recent The Paris Apartment. This earlier work is a tour de force. Told in her signature style of different points of view, college friends decide to take a vacation together at a hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands. But tensions have already been arising between the group—old grudges, new insults—exacerbated by being cut off by a giant blizzard. And then one member of the group is found dead, and it’s more than likely that someone in the group is the cause.
The Honjin Murders
Here’s another classic locked room mystery from 1946 that has been translated in English. It’s a fine example of Japanese detective stories called honkaku. After their wedding, the bride and groom spend their first night as a married couple in a house next to the groom’s family home. Instead of a blissful night as newlyweds, they are both found dead the next morning. But the doors and windows are locked, and there are no footprints in the snow or evidence of someone entering the house. Can Detective Kosuke Kindaichi figure out whodunnit and how?
One by One
How do you decide whether it’s time to sell your successful company? You go to a luxurious chalet to figure it out, of course! While the setting may be cozy, the guests and their purpose are anything but. Tensions rise as they figure out the future of the company, challenged by their ex-coworker and minority shareowner. When they get cut off from the rest of the world thanks to an avalanche, the bodies start to pile up. Someone is taking corporate malfeasance to the extreme.
Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the British Library Crime Classic series, this is a fun start. It’s a series of winter/Christmas-themed mysteries. While they don’t all include locked room plots, Victor Gunn’s 70-page story “Death in December”, practically a novella, includes a locked and possibly haunted room mystery with a reappearing and disappearing corpse and more.
Rim of the Pit
Considered second only to the master of locked room mysteries, John Dickson Carr, Talbot’s 1944 classic starts like many other locked room/isolated mysteries: with a touch of haunting. Two families are feuding over a lucrative logging contract and decide that the only way to solve it is to witness a seance in a winter lodge in New England. Things go awry with the seance itself and soon death follows. Are there supernatural forces in play, or one very clever murderer?
The White Priory Murders
And of course, I have to have a locked room mystery with the king of impossible crimes, John Dickson Carr. In this 1934 book, a failed actress, Marcia Tate, is found murdered on a small island in a tiny temple of the ancient estate White Priory. The only footprints are the man who discovered her corpse. While her acting career was going nowhere, she was the apple of everyone’s eye. Who killed her and why? James Bennett had met the young woman and decided to ask his uncle, Sir Henry Merrivale, to help him figure it out.