It's summertime! If you have plans to spend a good chunk of it lounging poolside or at the beach, you want to have a good read stashed in your bag. True crime stories dominate social media and streaming platforms for good reason: we just can’t get enough of these dramatic and tragic stories, and we can’t resist putting on our detective hats to figure out whodunnit in books from classic mystery writers like Walter Mosley to newcomers like Jumata Emil. While you're enjoying the waves, test your crime-solving skills with these five mystery novels by Black authors.
The Black Queen
Jumata Emil (Delacorte Press, 2023)
This 2023 thriller brings a fresh twist to the crime writing genre. The book follows Duchess Simmons as she investigates the murder of her best friend, Nove Albright, Lovett High’s first Black homecoming queen. Emil’s gripping crime drama uniquely tackles justice and privilege while keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.
Dead Dead Girls
Nekesa Afia (Berkley, 2021
In the first entry into the “Harlem Renaissance Mystery” series, Afia spins a tale of love, murder and peril in 1920s Harlem. This first novel follows cafe worker Louise Lloyd as she tries to escape the dark events of her past until a corpse shows up in front of Maggie’s Cafe. Now Louise must follow the recent tracks of dead Black girls to clear her name and avoid becoming the next victim. Afia’s must read novel is sure to be one that you can’t put down.
Devil in a Blue Dress
Walter Mosley (W. W. Norton Company, 1990)
This classic noir thriller from 1990 served as the first entry in author Mosley’s “Easy Rawlins” series. Set in the 1940s, war veteran Easy Rawlins is hit by hard times after getting fired from his job. But Easy’s luck changes when he’s approached by a stranger with a proposition: locate jazz club regular Daphne Monet and get a hefty pay day. Mosley’s timeless style and characters are sure to keep readers turning the page and looking for Easy’s next adventure.
Jackal: A Novel
Erin E. Adams (Bantam, 2022)
A chilling debut novel, “Jackal” is sure to captivate readers' imaginations and bring out our deepest fears. The story follows Liz Rocher as she investigates the disappearance of her friend’s daughter, Caroline—the second Black girl to go missing in the white neighborhood of Johnstown. As she uncovers a hidden trail of murdered Black girls in the hometown’s history, Liz races against the clock to find Caroline and save herself from joining that history. Readers delving into Adams’ tale are sure to be left tossing and turning all night.
The Violin Conspiracy
Brendan Slocumb (Anchor, 2022)
“The Violin Conspiracy” has been praised by critics since its release. The novel follows Black musician Ray McMillian as he is determined to defy the odds to make it in the world of classical music with the help of his great-grandfather’s rare violin. Things take a turn for the worse as Ray’s violin is stolen right before he can get his big break in the upcoming Tchaikovsky Competition, and he must find it before others try to claim the priceless instrument for themselves. This fun mystery will have readers cheering for our hero to race to the finish and chase his dreams.