Many murder mystery writers set their mysteries in the point of view of the detective or the detective’s assistant, like Archie Goodwin in Nero Wolfe mysteries or Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes. But some writers elect to have multiple points of view in their stories, everyone from the main suspects themselves, the detective to passersby, or even the murderer. It’s always fun to read unreliable narrators as a general rule so having several is even better. It helps deepen the intrigue as each person has their own motivations for telling their story and figuring out the clues set before them. Or what they choose to leave out or hide. Here’s a list of nine great books with a changing point of view.
The Guest List
The Guest List opens on the verge of the wedding of all weddings on an island off the coast of Ireland. The bride is an Influencer so everything has to be just so. The groom is a Reality TV star. Everything seems perfect for them both. But through the eyes of five people—the best man, the bride, the bridesmaid, the plus one, and the host— it’s clear that not everything is perfect. It starts with a body being found. What’s great about the book is that you don’t know who is killed until later in the book. Each voice is so distinct with their own troubles and vision of the happy couple. Foley also wrote The Hunting Party with a similar concept but she really hones the idea in this one. And from the descriptions of her forthcoming The Paris Apartment (February 22, 2022), she’ll be continuing the idea.
An Instance of the Fingerpost
This one is an oldie but a goodie, a historical novel and a murder mystery all at once. It’s the 1660s England with Charles II finally restored to the throne. Everything seems back to normal. But when a scholar is found dead in Oxford, a young woman stands accused of the crime. Told from the perspective of four witnesses, each who clearly has their own agenda and view of the facts, the real story about the scholar and the young woman comes out. It was the first point of view murder mystery I had ever read. Pears also wrote the only second-person murder mystery I’ve ever encountered in The Portrait.
In the Hall with the Knife
In the Hall with the Knife is the first book in a new young adult CLUE series that all takes place at the prestigious boarding school Blackbrook Academy. When a snowstorm isolates the Academy from the rest of the world and the headmaster is found dead, the students have to figure out what happened, while hiding their secrets from the world. The story switches from the viewpoints of Scarlet Mistry, Finn Plum, Beth “Peacock” Picach and others as they tease out whodunnit. The third and final book in this series will be out in the beginning of November.
It’s hard to have a list about shifting point of view without this classic mystery story. Considered one of the first detective novels, even though it leans more on side of mystery and theft than murder. On her 18th birthday, Rachel Verinder inherits a giant diamond, called the Moonstone, that came from India with a holy and illustrious past. Rachel then showcases the beautiful stone at a party held for her birthday but that night, the stone goes missing. Told through many colorful narrators, the story of how the stone came to England and its theft unfolds.
While most of the other books on this list take place in England, this work takes place in space. Marie Arena of the Dormire crew wakes up to a frightening site: her body and her crewmates' bodies floating in the air amongst a great deal of blood. The ship is compromised and no one remembers how they died. It’s a universe where cloning is normal; people live forever through clone after clone. But the crew has to figure out what happened to the ship, to their former selves. And how exactly did they get brought back to life in their new clone bodies if they all died? While much of it is told through the eyes of crewmate Maria Arena, the story unfolds as each crewmate remembers their own history and previous lives. It’s as much murder mystery as well as a treatise on bioethics and cloning.
The Thursday Murder Club
Just because you live in a retirement community, doesn’t mean the excitement or search for truth has to end. Moving from viewpoint to viewpoint, four septuagenarians come together every Thursday to research old murder cases, led by Elizabeth who may have led a particularly interesting life. But when a local and unpopular developer ends up dead, the four decide to put their work into this case literally on their doorstep. It’s a funny snapshot into a retirement community where the inhabitants may have retired but full of vim and vigor. Start reading before the arrival of the series' second installment, The Man Who Died Twice, on September 28!
The Poisoned Chocolates Case
The Poisoned Chocolates Case is another classic mystery with an unusual structure written in 1929. A woman dies after eating from a box of poisoned chocolates. But it seems like sheer coincidence that she ended up with the box. So six amateur detectives try their hands at solving the strange crime? Who was the real target? Who is the murderer? Each chapter is a different detective's interpretation of the facts. This is the fifth tale in the Roger Sheringham series but totally can be read on its own.
Death at Greenway
Taking place during the pivotal period of evacuating children from London during the Blitz and told through the voices of eight people, the story focuses on two nurses taking care of children in the strange Greenway House, home of Agatha Christie. Bridget, or Bridey, is coming off a disgraceful incident in London and hopes to find redemption in this work. The other nurse, Gigi, seems experienced but very independent minded and less concerned with doing her job. However, when someone is found murdered nearby in the river, both nurses worry their secrets will come out. Bridey is the main narrator but auxiliary characters have their say and bring out new perspectives on the surroundings and people involved in the case. It’s a slice of life of the child evacuations during this period in England, due out on October 12, 2021.
Composed almost entirely of emails, text messages, and other documentation, this mystery unfolds from the points of view of dozens of people. A senior partner has given two young lawyers in his employ the task of reading these materials because the partner thinks the wrong person went to jail. It’s a story centered around an amateur play and two newcomers who have just returned to England after working in international aid in Africa. Everything goes haywire when the leading family’s granddaughter is diagnosed with brain cancer and the play and everything in town works to raise funds for a miracle treatment. But even before the death, there are cracks in the firmament. Like the Guest List, you don’t know who is murdered until later on. The cast of characters are great including the obsessive nurse, the acting impressionario matriarch, the all-business fundraiser, the avenging doctor, and so much more. Out now in the United Kingdom, The Appeal will be published in the U.S. on January 25, 2022.