There are so many kinds of mystery suspense books out there, from classic detective stories to psychological dramas. Perhaps the buzziest subset of mystery books right now is dark academia—books that explore the shadowy side of academia. Here you’ll find books about shady institutions and murders at elite prep schools. Whether you’re looking for a mystery novel that takes place at a mysterious school hidden deep in the woods or a story about a college reunion gone terribly wrong, these books will plunge you right into the grim underbelly of academia.
The Reunion is a mystery thriller set at an elite prep school on the French Rivera. Twenty five years ago, in the midst of a raging snowstorm, nineteen year old Vinca Rockwell disappeared. Now, in the present, her three best friends return to the school for a reunion. But they've got an ulterior motive: the gym is being renovated, and there's a body hidden in its walls. They know because they put it there. This novel will have you flipping pages as fast as you can as the truth of what happened on that long-ago night slowly unravels.
If you're looking for a dark academia true crime book, you'll want to pick up We Keep the Dead Close. In this haunting memoir, Becky Cooper picks apart the layers of truth and myth in the story of Jane Britton, a Harvard graduate student murdered in 1969. Cooper first heard rumors about Jane as a Harvard undergrad: that Jane was having an affair with a professor, who then murdered her when she threatened to talk about it. As Cooper delves into the murky details of the case, she uncovers a complicated story about misogyny, entitlement, and institutional secrets.
If you like books about creepy, mysterious schools, you're going to love Inspection. Deep in a remote forest, J is one of twenty six students at a school that trains prodigies. All of them consider the school's founder their father; the school is the only home they know. But J is starting to ask questions about the true purpose of the school. And on the other side of the forest, at a school eerily similar to J's, a girl named K is asking the same questions. In the course of unraveling the secrets of their schools, J and K discover each other, which changes their lives forever.
Catherine House is another creepy novel about a mysterious school hidden deep in the woods. Ines is thrilled when she's accepted at Catherine House, an elite school known for producing powerful leaders, famous artists, and prize-winning scientists. Once accepted, students are required to remain at the school for three years, with absolutely no contact with the outside world. But as Ines settles into her new life, she begins to suspect that the school's gilded exterior hides a much more sister purpose. She sets out to discover the truth, which ends up being more dangerous than she ever imagined.
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Confessions is a deliciously dark and twisty novel that beings with a middle school teacher delivering a lecture to her students on her last day of teaching. She's telling them a story about her young daughter's death. From there, the book cycles through several different points of view, as various students recall the events of the day their teacher's daughter died.
Black Chalk tells the story of a harmless game gone horribly wrong. In their first year at Oxford, six friends devise a game among themselves, something fun, with silly dares and forgettable consequences. But the stakes slowly get higher, and the dares more dangerous. Soon, the game itself slips out of the control of those playing it, with tragic consequences. Fourteen years later, the remaining players are still competing to win. And it's no longer a game at all.
An epic family saga, The Emperor of Ocean Park begins after the death of Judge Oliver Garland, a brilliant legal mind whose nomination to the Supreme Court ended in disaster years earlier. He leaves a series of mysterious clues for his son Talcott, a law professor at a prestigious university. It's up to Talcott to determine whether his father may have been murdered—and the truth of the scandal that upended his career.
What to Read Next