mystery books and films

Every story has a season. A dreamy romance is perfect for the blooms of spring, but a tale of swashbuckling adventure will be most enjoyed during the summer months. An aching tragedy, on the other hand, somehow makes the melancholy of winter even more lovely.

And mysteries?  Mysteries are the kinds of stories that creep into our thoughts and dreams during the pale sunset of autumn. A mystery can only be fully appreciated when we’re tucked under a knit blanket, snug with a warm cup of tea while the frost creeps across our windows. But a mystery also brings a thrill, an eerie sensation of disarray, the unsettled notion that things aren’t quite as they should be — and it’s up to us to discover why.

At once lovely and disturbing, mysteries capture the chilling wonder that is fall, and your seasonal experience will be all the richer if you can surround yourself with some particularly good ones. Whether you enjoy fantasy, drama, or horror, English detectives or Cold War spies, whether you find your stories on the screen, the page, or even your phone — there’s a mystery on this list for you.


“Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”  Television Series, Drama
If you love Downton Abbey and/or BBC’s Sherlock, you will grow to love Miss Fisher. Set in Melbourne in the glamorous 1920s, this period drama follows the adventures of Miss Phryne Fisher, Private Detective. Independent, stylish, and deliciously sassy, Miss Fisher is a gem of a leading lady, and you’ll find yourself taking notes to solve the puzzle of each case she takes on. Available on Netflix.

Horns” – Feature Film, Dark Fantasy
Starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter, a touch of magic is about the only thing this film has in common with Radcliffe’s wand-carrying past. Ig Parrish is the prime suspect in his girlfriend’s brutal murder, but he is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer. When he mysteriously grows a pair of horns, what seems like a strange curse turns into a blessing: whenever anyone is near him, they now feel compelled to confess their darkest sins and temptations. Which, of course, just might help him on his hunt. This thriller is absolutely entrancing to watch, but be aware it does contain some disturbing scenes of violence. Available on Netflix.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” – Feature Film, Spy Drama
Here in London in 1970s, someone at the very top of the British Secret Service is actually a Soviet double-agent — but who? With an incredible cast (Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hardy to name a few) and a gripping plot, this film is a study in the quiet subtleties of espionage drama. Follow the hunt and see if you can guess who’s hiding as the mole. Available on Netflix.

“The Haunting of Sunshine Girl” –  Web Series, Horror
Presented as the video blog of an ‘adorkable’ sixteen-year-old girl known only as “Sunshine,” this web series has me completely addicted right now. Sunshine is a wonderful character, and half the value of the series comes from her engaging and fun personality. The other half, however, comes from the legitimately frightening paranormal activity she’s investigating. I never really considered that a Youtube series could be scary, but I have definitely jumped (okay, maybe even screamed) several times so far. A nice aspect of this show is the complete lack of any disturbing imagery — I’m almost through season one, and it’s not gory or gruesome in any way. The fear comes from the excellent acting by Sunshine and the mystery of not knowing what might be creeping in the shadows. Available on YouTube.


Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
For anyone who loves mystery, Sherlock Holmes is a staple. In this first novel of the series, John Watson narrates as he meets the detective for the first time and joins him investigating an inexplicable murder. One section of the novel practically reads as historical fiction, telling the back story of the murderer in America’s wild west, and what led him across the ocean to violence. The science of deduction and the two fantastic protagonists shine.

The Forgotten Girls  by Sara Blaedel
Detective Louise Rick is in charge of discovering why the young woman who’s just been discovered dead was issued a death certificate almost thirty years prior. Unfortunately for her, the investigation also forces her to revisit her own dark past and uncover even darker secrets about the children that society forgot. With excellent writing and a main character almost as mysterious as her case, this novel is rich and absorbing.

The Martian Chronicles  by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury was the master of the short story, and this collection established him as such. The book tells overall of the long-term colonization of Mars by humanity, but each chapter/story is strange, lovely, and deeply mysterious in and of itself. You might be wondering whether the earthlings are actually insane in one story, or whether the Martians are capable of murder in another, but each will bring its own distinct curiosity.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo  by Stieg Larsson
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is recruited by a wealthy, retired CEO to investigate the disappearance of his niece many years ago. Mikael joins expert hacker Lisbeth Salander, and the unexpected evidence they uncover means the entire family is suspect — and their lives might be in danger. This investigative thriller is fascinating from beginning to end, and Lisbeth will certainly go down in history as one of the most compelling characters of our time.

Ava Coulise and the Timepieces  by Heather Rose Walters
This story is slightly different for two reasons. Firstly, you’ll most likely read it on your phone, as it is a serial told in 200-word micro chapters on Instagram. Secondly, I happen to be the writer behind it! I couldn’t very well tell you about my favorite mysteries without mentioning my own, could I? The story follows Ava Coulise, a young woman who abandons a high-paying job in advertising to investigate the disappearance of her twin sister — and the family legend that might have led to her demise. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, you can read what’s out so far here or follow on Instagram for each of the story updates.

What are your favorite mysteries to dive into during the fall?

Image via Dustin Scarpitti

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