Recommend me some twisty mystery audiobooks please!
September 15, 2019 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Looking to stock up my audible library to help break up a long commute. Specifically looking for twisty mystery novels (or a series) written within the last 20 years, available as audiobooks, to suit my somewhat specific tastes.

As an reader of literary fiction my whole life, I never really got into the mystery/thriller genre until I had to start driving 2+ hours a day for work. I then discovered the Robert Galbraith series, and got hooked but can't seem to find more to scratch that itch!

In all my research I've found the whole genre of mystery/thriller just too vast to find where to start or suit my specific tastes. The whole Agatha Christie side of things is just a bit too dated for me (I'd prefer something that resonates a bit more with my own experience or more contemporary). The whole legal/espionage/mainstream suspense canon seems to akin to jumping into to a five season TV show from the beginning - Not looking for that kind of investment – would prefer individual titles under 10 hours each.

Also not looking for anything too ultraviolent - I was going to start in on Jo Nesbo's books but I think that may be a bit much for me at the moment. Even though the Cormoran Strike books are definitely gory in some stages, I think that's about my limit. They just had such a great balance of all things - Super tight plot with a big twist, writing that is good but doesn't require you to think too much (i.e, can drive or be doing other things and still follow), and a solid voice actor on the audiobooks was a bonus.

I also really got into the Claire Dewitt series (Infinite Blacktop) as it was an interesting hybrid of a novel with some interesting existential overtones, but I think that's pretty unique in that space. On the other hand, I never got into Tana French, who I've often seen recommended here, as the central mystery was too vague and metaphorical.

Can anyone recommend something that can fill the mystery shaped hole in my library? TIA!
posted by LongDrive to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
You might enjoy Magpie Murders or The Word is Murder, both by Anthony Horowitz.
posted by mogget at 10:35 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can’t speak to the audiobooks, but I too like the Cormorant Strike books and think Gone Girl (by Gillian Flynn) is really pretty great and meets your other requirements. Great twists, tight, plot-driven, not super-gory, writing is fine.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:23 PM on September 15, 2019

Sort of a mystery book - I'm working my way through the audio book version of The Peripheral by William Gibson. The voice actress does a good job with it, it's got a solid whodunit feel, and the chapters are short enough and the pacing is such that it's easy to listen to while driving without getting lost (or at worst, you only listen to a few minutes again if you go back to the beginning of the chapter). And it does have some good word play to savor from time to time.
posted by Candleman at 11:26 PM on September 15, 2019

"Nutshell" by Ian McEwen!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:13 AM on September 16, 2019

Give Harlan Coben a try. He has a series (Myron Bolitar) but these days is mostly doing standalones, all v. twisty, not too gory.
posted by Etrigan at 3:53 AM on September 16, 2019

I'm not a big mystery lover and this isn't a traditional mystery, but I really enjoyed the audio version of Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore.

Described as "a magnificent “Comedy d’Art” from the author of Lamb, Fool, and Bite Me, Moore’s Sacré Bleu is part mystery, part history (sort of), part love story, and wholly hilarious as it follows a young baker-painter as he joins the dapper Henri Toulouse-Lautrec on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the supposed “suicide” of Vincent van Gogh."

I found the voice acting to be superb and the story to be humorous, offbeat and engaging.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:09 AM on September 16, 2019

Okay, it's got plenty of flaws, but the Bibliophile mystery series by Kate Carlisle got me through a long slog, so could probably do for commutes. There are many (12?). I found most of them for free with my library card/Libby app. Very light, some cheesy romance, rich good looking people in San Francisco, old books, murder mystery...
posted by PistachioRoux at 4:29 AM on September 16, 2019

I enjoyed the audiobook version of The Seventh Function of Language. It's a mystery/thriller about a cop and a semiotics professor who are forced to work together to solve the murder of Roland Barthes. There are a couple of violent scenes and some hilariously bad sex scenes, but the narration is really well done and it made my commute enjoyable.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:56 AM on September 16, 2019

Drive Your Bones Over the Bones of the Dead and Eileen are both terrific literary crime novels.

And, not a crime novel in the sense you're asking, but Deliverance is one of my favorite books and Will Patton nails the narration. I've listened to it multiple times. So, so great.

I would also recommend Bronson Pinchot's reading of Daniel Woodrell's Bayou Trilogy. Three audiobooks for the price of one.
posted by dobbs at 5:12 AM on September 16, 2019

I've listened to quite a few books by Sharon Bolton, or SJ Bolton (she writes under both names). Best audio was Awakening, which is stand-alone. Note, it has snakes it in so if you're phobic, I would avoid.

The Karen Pirie series by Val Mcdermid are a bit less gruesome than her other books, but I haven't listened to the audio versions.

I have listened to a lot of the non-Inspector-Wexford Ruth Rendel/Barbara Vine audiobooks (my library has loads to borrow). Stand out was probably A Judgement in Stone, but it is a bit old-fashioned although quite socially aware for the time. The Girl Next Door deals with older characters and was good, as was The Lake of Darkness - the version I listened to was read by the actor David Suchet and was pretty creepy without being gruesome.

Anne Cleves - the Shetland novels, and the 'Vera' novels should fit your criteria, but I haven't listened to them - read them all and really like.

Finally, maybe the Inspector Lynley novels by Elizabeth George? Again, I haven't listened to these, but enjoy the series.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 5:14 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ruth Ware's books might be up your alley - pretty much just straightforwardly-written mystery stories without much explicit violence, but they do have interesting characters and some twists and turns. (not as dramatic as say, Gone Girl, but enough to keep you guessing). Audiobooks are all read by folks with nice English accents.

I also recently enjoyed two titles by Attica Locke - The Cutting Season and Bluebird Bluebird. Both are mysteries that have stories related to racial violence.

If you're open to true crime, you can't beat I'll Be Gone in the Dark
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:04 AM on September 16, 2019

I've found that Jane Harper's books have really scratched my twisty mystery itch lately. They are available as audiobooks but I read them in print so I can't comment on the quality of the audio. The Dry and Force of Nature feature the same investigator but can be enjoyed separately while The Lost Man is a standalone. If I recall correctly there is minimal gore but there are themes of domestic and child abuse.
posted by marshmallow peep at 9:04 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love the Cormoran Strike books too, and the books that scratch the same itch for me are Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series. They they fit your description of what you're looking for perfectly I think. There is some violence but nothing worse than Cormoran Strike. You do have to read/listen to them in order because relationships recur and build, time passes, children grow up, etc. The first one is Case Histories. I haven't listened to the audiobooks but they're narrated by Jason Isaacs who also plays Brodie in the tv show based on the books, so I think he'd be good.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:06 AM on September 16, 2019

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