Jessica Teisch

Harry Potter’s story may have concluded in last summer’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, but that’s no reason to stop reading. We recommended alternatives to the popular wizard-boy epic in our July/August 2003 issue. Here, we’ve selected some compelling mysteries, both new and classic.

Picture Books
(Ages 3–8)

C-Bad Day at RiverbendBad Day at Riverbend

Chris Van Allsburg (1995)

Why are colored scribbles appearing on the town’s black-and-white houses and terrorizing the citizens? Sheriff Ned Hardy aims to find out.

C-Eggs Marks the SpotEggs Mark the Spot

Mary Jane Auch (1996)

Pauline the hen has a rare gift: she can copy famous paintings on eggs. Can her talent, however, help her catch a thief?

C-Wheres the Big Bad WolfWhere’s the Big Bad Wolf?

Eileen Christelow (2002)

If the Big Bad Wolf is sick with the flu, then who is destroying the little pigs’ houses? And who is that strange-looking sheep?

C-The Eleventh HourThe Eleventh Hour

Graeme Base (1989)

When Horace the Elephant turns 11, somebody steals his birthday feast. The lavish illustrations contain clues to the culprit.

The-13th-ClueThe 13th Clue

Ann Jonas (1992)

A young girl is having a terrible day—until she follows 13 clues to a surprise! Young detectives will find hints in the pictures.

(Ages 9–12)

C-The Ghost of Fossil GlenThe Ghost of Fossil Glen

Cynthia DeFelice (1998)

Award Star School Library Journal Best Book

When a ghost saves her from falling off a cliff, Allie Nichols realizes she has been chosen to avenge a young girl’s murder. Soon her own life is in danger.

C-The Case of the FirecrackersThe Case of the Firecrackers

Laurence Yep (1999)

In the third Chinatown Mysteries series, Tiger Lil, a movie-star-turned-detective, and her great-niece, Lily, try to solve the mysterious shooting of teen movie star Clarke Tom.

C-Sammy KeyesSammy Keyes and the Art of Deception

Wendelin Van Draanen (2003)

In the eighth title in this series, 13-year-old Sammy stops a masked gunman at an art gallery reception—only to discover more crimes and some unlikely romances.

C-Chasing VermeerChasing Vermeer

Blue Balliett (2004)

Award Star Edgar Award, Book Sense Book of the Year

When sixth graders Petra and Calder learn of the theft of a Vermeer painting near their hometown of Chicago, they work to solve the crime. Their search leads to an international art scandal. Sequel: The Wright 3 (2006).

C-The Thief LordThe Thief Lord

Cornelia Funke (2002)

Award Star School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Book Sense Book of the Year

Brothers Prosper and Bo flee to Venice after their parents’ death and find themselves in the care of Scipio, the mysterious Thief Lord. Soon Scipio embarks on a mission to steal part of an old, magical carousel.


C-The Dollhouse MurdersThe Dollhouse Murders

Betty Ren Wright (1983)

Twelve-year-old Amy notices that the dolls in her Aunt Claire’s house seem to be telling her something. As she starts to research her family, she and her mentally handicapped sister solve a dark, tragic mystery.

C-The House of Dies DrearThe House of Dies Drear

Virginia Hamilton (1968)

Award Star National Book Award, Edgar Award

When 13-year-old Thomas and his family move to a haunted house in Ohio that once formed part of the Underground Railroad, Thomas starts to piece together secrets from the past.

C-The Westing GameThe Westing Game

Ellen Raskin (1978)

Award Star Newbery Medal

If one of the 16 "heirs" gathered at Samuel Westing’s mansion can figure out who killed him, he or she will inherit a great deal of money. Everyone is a suspect—and no one is who she or he claims to be.

C-The House With a ClockThe House With a Clock in Its Walls

John Bellairs (1973)

After the death of his parents, Lewis goes to live with his uncle, a wizard, at his mansion. When Lewis accidentally sets off a clock hidden in the walls, he must stop it before it brings about the end of the world.

C-From the Mixed Up filesFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

E. L. Konigsburg (1967)

Award Star Newbery Medal

When 12-year-old Claudia and her younger brother run away to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, they manage to hide out for a week—and get caught up in the mystery of a statue.

Young Adult
(Ages 12 and up)

C-The House of the ScorpionThe House of the Scorpion

Nancy Farmer (2002)

Award Star National Book Award, Newbery Honor, Michael L. Printz Award

In the near future El Patrón, a drug lord, has, with the help of cloning, governed a country bordering Aztlan (once Mexico) for more than 100 years. Then one of El Patrón’s young clones tries to escape.

C-Counterfeit SonCounterfeit Son

Elaine Marie Alphin (2000)

Award Star Edgar Award

Cameron’s father abused and killed young boys; after his death, Cameron escapes his past by assuming the identity of one of his father’s supposedly murdered victims. Then someone threatens to reveal the truth to Cameron’s new "parents."

C-The Ruby in the SmokeThe Ruby in the Smoke

Philip Pullman (1985)

In 19th-century London, 16-year-old Sally Lockhart searches for her father’s murderer while becoming involved in a dangerous quest for a mysterious ruby. Next in the trilogy: The Shadow in the North (1986).

C-Artemis FowlArtemis Fowl

Eoin Colfer (2001)

In the first of the series, 12-year-old antihero Artemis Fowl designs a plan to recover his family’s lost glory. His kidnapping of a fairy and demand for ransom, however, backfire. Next in the series: Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident (2002).

C-The Ghost in the Tokaido InnThe Ghost in the Tokaido Inn

Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (1999)

Award Star Edgar Finalist

In 18th-century Japan, Seikei hopes to become a samurai. When he witnesses a ghost steal a precious gem from Lord Hakuseki, Seiki sets out to defend a young girl’s innocence and honor.


Walter Dean Myers (1999)

Award Star Michael L. Printz Award, Coretta Scott King Honor Book, National Book Award Finalist

Steve Harmon, 16, sits in prison awaiting trial for his role as a lookout in a fatal robbery in Harlem. Written in screenplay and diary format, the novel explores Steve’s innocence—or guilt.


Carl Hiaasen (2002)

Award Star Newbery Honor

In this ecological mystery, new kid Roy Eberhardt discovers endangered owls in the neighborhood. Will a developer have his way and build over their burrows—or can three middle school kids stop the project?


C-The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Hound of the Baskervilles

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)

The Baskerville family has been haunted by a hound for many generations. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on the Devon moorland with hound footprints nearby, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson must solve the mystery of the family curse.

C-The Kidnapping of Christina LattimoreThe Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore

Jean Lowery Nixon (1979)

Award Star Edgar Award

When Christina is kidnapped, held for ransom, and then freed, everyone believes that she masterminded her own abduction. How will she prove her innocence?

C-Killing Mr GriffinKilling Mr. Griffin

Lois Duncan (1978)

When a group of teenage students kidnap their strict English teacher, Mr. Griffin, they intend only to scare him. But their plan goes awry, and they soon find themselves over their heads.

C-I Am the CheeseI Am the Cheese

Robert Cormier (1977)

Award Star New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Fourteen-year-old psychiatric patient Adam Farmer tries to piece together terrifying parts of his past, including large-scale conspiracy, his mother’s death, and his father’s disappearance. But if he remembers too much, he won’t survive.