5 Best Writing Books for Mystery Writers

list of five books for mystery writers

Looking for a source of great writing books for mystery writers?

Writing mystery books offers a unique challenge and can be puzzling when trying to put all the pieces together. How do you put the story together, leave enough clues, and not give away your ending? And let’s not forget fair play…

What is fair play?

It means you’ve given the reader the details they need in order to try to solve it for themselves before your big reveal. Holding back crucial information, or adding a character at the very end that hasn’t been a part of the story would be an example of not using fair play in your stories. Best practice includes fair play when you’re writing your story. Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. (disclosure)

These five mystery writing books will give you a great place to start when it comes to writing a mystery. I love writing mysteries. I write cozies, which are family-friendly, lighter versions of mysteries than a hard-boiled detective story. Regardless of which sub-genre you right, there are rules to follow that a reader expects, and books that can teach you the easiest path to getting it right.

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey is one book you won’t want to miss.

When you know what’s going on behind the scenes, behind the lies, behind the deceptions, the mysterious deflection is happening without any need on your part to think up any red herrings–the characters are doing that job for you.

James N. Frey

This is a solid book with great information. It’s highly recommended along with a few others. Be sure to check it out and see if it fits your needs. Never stop learning. This is a helpful book when it comes to mystery plotting if you’re not sure where to start.


Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron is another great choice to add to your writing book collection.

These are just a few of the many ways to twist your plot: a witness is discredited, a witness recants their story, a witness disappears, or the victim isn’t dead after all.

Hallie Ephron

This book is thorough and offers ways to make stronger characters, along with finding a solid ending to your story, and so much more. It covers where to find ideas along with ways to deepen your characters, both your protagonist and antagonist. She also goes into the suspects and plotting with great tips. Don’t miss this one.


How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat is such a good book for mystery writers to dive into. You don’t want to miss this book.

Many characters with different goals and separate paths step onto the road of life and by the end of the book, all the paths will collide, all the characters will interact in surprising ways, accidents will happen, and no one in the book will emerge unscathed by the experience.

Carolyn Wheat

I found this book immensely helpful. It would be impossible to say one book is better than another, that’s why it’s crucial for you to check each book out and see what speaks to you. Each author had a different writing style. I find that I try to pick up two or three books on a new topic to me, and end up getting nuggets of golden wisdom from the multiple sources. These books are some of the best when it comes to learning to write a mystery.


The Busy Writer’s Tips on Writing Mystery and Crime by Marg McAllister is a great addition to your writing books. I wouldn’t want to be without it.

What prompted her to commit the crime? What did she do immediately to try to cover it up– or did she work out how to cover her tracks before she did the deed?

Marg McAllister

It’s questions like these that set you onto the write path of writing your mystery novel. When you know who your antagonist is and why they did what they did, it helps you set the pieces. Take your time, and write the story the right way, and your readers will stick to you like glue, clamoring for your next story. This book will certainly offer you the kind of information that will set you on your writing path. I also like that she talks about sub-genres, and even things like setting up the conflict and tension. Good stuff.


A Mystery Writing Resource: Throwing you a Curve Ball

Not what you were expecting? Good. It’s important to think from many directions when you’re writing a mystery. I’ve bought books on poisons, weapons, police study and so much more — but this book my friends is not only a fun read, but so helpful to stir up ideas.

Forensics and Fiction by D.P. Lyle M.D. is one of my favorites. There’s a second version too, More Forensics and Fiction. He’s been a consultant to many of your favorite TV shows like: Monk, Law and Order, House, and CSI: Miami. Do I have your attention? Yeah. And you’ll get to read about some of those neat things in the book, while he’s answering questions.

He’s an entertaining writer, so it’s never a dull read. This is a must have for your writing book collection if you’re writing mysteries. I adore this book.


There are so many great writing books for mystery writers. It’s hard to pick only a handful to highlight. Each comes with its own voice. I like to peruse the table of contents to see what they cover, by looking at the “Look Inside” feature, and then check reviews. You’ll often find bits of reviews that will make you go, oh, exactly what I’m looking for, or nope, I think this one won’t fit what I need right now.

Want to see more of my favorite writing books? Be sure to check them out here.