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8 Must-Read Mystery Books by Black Authors

From cold war intrigue to cozy mayhem, these works by Black mystery authors revitalize the genre.

mysteries by black authors
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  • Photo Credit: Dead Dead Girls by "Nekesa Afia"

As you'll see in most media and creative fields, white voices are the overwhelming majority. It's been this way for years, and despite large strides made to diversify the publishing industry, there is still a vast under-appreciation of works by Black authors. Mystery books are read by readers of all kinds, and that should be reflected in the books we celebrate.

Cultivating diversity in publishing not only paves the way for incredible storytellers that have long been ignored, but also grants readers the privilege of unique, varied voices telling fresh tales. Here are 8 must-read mystery books by Black authors that you won't want to miss!

social thrillers

When No One Is Watching

By Alyssa Cole

Sydney Green has lived in Brooklyn her entire life, but it seems like her neighborhood changes every time she turns around. The gentrification is out of control—there are condos popping up left and right, "FOR SALE" signs springing up out of nowhere, and all her lifelong neighbors are disappearing. Sydney tries to maintain her grip on her community's past by pouring her frustration into a walking tour—and picking up an unlikely assistant, her neighbor Theo. But the more Sydney and Theo dig into the neighborhood's history, the more they start to wonder if the abrupt coincidences reshaping their home are really just a part of a deadly conspiracy.

mystery book series

Devil in a Blue Dress

By Walter Mosley

In the late 1940s, Easy Rawlins is a black war veteran living in the African-American community of Watts, Los Angeles. Easy has just been fired from his job at a defense plant, and he sits in a friend's bar drinking when the answer to all his problems walks in. A white man in a nice suit approaches him, promising good money if Easy can track down Miss Daphne Money, a beautiful blonde known for her fondness of black jazz clubs.



By Megan Giddings

This gripping medical mystery blurs the lines into the horror genre. After Lena Johnson's grandmother passes away, the overwhelming scope of her family's debt comes to light. Lena drops out of college in order to support her family, picking up a job in the isolated town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On the surface, the high-paying job seems too good to be true. Lena's a participant in a secret program, and it seems like the only downside is lying to her friends and family about the research. Eye drops that turn brown eyes blue, medicine to cure dementia, special pills that eradicate bad thoughts—these developments could change the world. But the consequences for the test subjects are horrific. As more truths about this program come to light, just how much is Lena willing to sacrifice for her family?

mystery thriller summer 2019 books

American Spy

By Lauren Wilkinson

It's 1986, in the midst of the Cold War. FBI intelligence officer Marie Mitchell is brilliant, but how much does that matter when she's a young black woman trying to climb the ladder in an old boys' club? Her career has come to a dead end, leaving her left out of elite squads and saddled with boring paperwork.

But everything changes when Marie is given the chance to become a part of a secret task force set out to undermine Thomas Sankara, the charming president of Burkina Faso who has ruffled American feathers with his Communist ideology. This is her big chance—she has to say yes. But Marie is secretly impressed by the things Sankara has done for his country. Still, she will step up to observe, seduce, and destroy him. Even if she's being valued more for the color of her skin than her actual talents...

Book cover of Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

Dead Dead Girls

By Nekesa Afia

This historical mystery is set in Harlem in 1926. Louise Lloyd has struggled to live a normal life ever since she was kidnapped as a teen. But she's thriving now. During the day, she works at Maggie's Café. At night, she slinks off to the Zodiac, a popular speakeasy. Though some—like her friends and her girlfriend, Rosa—say her dedication to "normality" is really just a way for her to run from her past...

When a girl is found dead in front of the café, Louise can't ignore what's happening around her anymore. Two other Black girls have been murdered, and it seems there's a serial killer on the prowl. After Louise gets into a fight with a cop, she's given a choice: go to jail, or help solve the case.

best mystery and thriller books of 2020

The Missing American

By Kwei Quartey

When 26-year-old Emma Djan's police career in Accra comes to a screeching halt, a former colleague helps her pick up the pieces of her dream by setting up an interview at a private detective agency. Missing persons, theft, infidelity—it's not exactly the kind of beat she thought she'd be working. But it's the best option available to her.

Her first case comes to her from Washington, DC. Widower Gordon Tilson sought comfort online after his wife's death and even grew close to a Ghanaian widow on the internet community. After the woman told him about her sister's car accident, Gordon sent over thousands of dollars to help with the hospital bill. Then he paid her a surprise visit, only to vanish. Now his only son, Derek, needs Emma's help to navigate a world of sakawa scams, fetish priests, and deadly secrets.

they all fall down

They All Fall Down

By Rachel Howzell Hall

Miriam Macy couldn't be more excited to receive a surprise invitation to a private island off the coast of Mexico. She sets sail with six other strangers, ready for the trip of a lifetime. But amidst the beautiful scenery, Miriam soon realizes she and her travel companions have been brought here for a nefarious reason. Each of them has a dark secret. And with danger around every corner of this remote getaway, they begin to die, one by one. Suspicions start to rise in the wake of these strange accidents, making those left behind wonder just how "accidental" these deaths are...

mysteries by diverse authors

A Deadly Inside Scoop

By Abby Collette

Keep things light with this delightful cozy. Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over the family ice cream shop, setting out to restore it to it's once great legacy by honoring her grandmother's original, homemade recipes. Unfortunately, delays in construction make her miss the crucial summer season, pushing the shop's opening to the day of the first snow.

As if it weren't bad enough that no one came through the shop, Win's big opening is made even worse by the discovery of a dead body in the snow. The deceased was a grifter—a man who happened to have an old feud with the Crewse family. When her father becomes a suspect in the murder, Win must juggle a new business and a very personal investigation.