I love the charm of small town setting, and they have the bonus aspect of being perfect for crime novels. Not only do I get a group of characters that all know each other, gossip, and a set group of suspects to point figures at, but there are always secrets. And secrets always come out. If you too love a small town read I have thrillers, mysteries, a little bit of romantic suspense, and even a dash of zombies—they’re solving a murder mystery, it totally counts.
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
But menace skulks beneath the surface of this exclusive enclave, making its residents prone to outrage. When the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbors’ worst fears. Dad Arlo’s a gruff has-been rock star with track marks. Mom Gertie’s got a thick Brooklyn accent, with high heels and tube tops to match. Their weird kids cuss like sailors. They don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself.
Though Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder–a lonely college professor repressing a dark past–welcomed Gertie and her family at first, relations went south during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, when the new best friends shared too much, too soon. By the time the story opens, the Wildes are outcasts. As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
Related: Read an Excerpt From Sarah Langan's Good Neighbors
Mark Novak is a recently-ish widowed Florida private investigator who ends up in a small Southern Indiana town, sent by the firm he may soon be fired from. In Garrison, under the ground, is Trapdoor Caverns: a dangerous and extensive system of caves. Ridley Barnes would like Novak to look into the old murder case of Sarah Martin, a teen girl he was suspected of murdering. The case closed the caves and killed the town's tourism, destroying their economy. But this small town isn’t inviting Novak in, nor helping him solve what happened…
Kimi Cunningham Grant
It’s a small-town filled with secrets so you know those secrets are gonna get out… In Fallen Mountains, Pennsylvania we follow a group of characters in the past and present: Transom, Chase, and Laney are friends who grew up together; Red is a widowed sheriff about to retire; Possum, recently released from prison, and was once the bullied kid. Now Transom is missing, and while the town is not concerned because that’s not unusual for him, his girlfriend is, and she convinces Red to find out where he is. All this leads Transom’s father to hire his own investigator and force Red to work with him. Once you get to know Transom, you realize that if he didn’t take off plenty of people had a reason to want him dead...
Welcome to Moila, a Hebridean island, where Rose Fenemore is staying in an isolated cabin. While she should be spending the week with her brother, he ends up delayed which leaves her to a peaceful week. That is until two unexpected visitors arrive: Charming Ewen Mackay who tells her he used to own the cottage and was unaware anyone was renting it and a stranger seeking shelter from the storm... Did I mention this is a romantic suspense story?
Here’s a fun and smart murder mystery set in a small town with a little bit of zombies. Mila Flores knows that her best friend Riley, didn’t die by suicide, and she’s going to prove it. She just needs to resurrect her best friend for a little bit to get the information. Except whoopsie, she also brings back two mean girls she did not like! Now they have limited time—before they’re dead-dead again—to find out who murdered them…
Here’s a past murder mystery that has haunted the community in this small Oklahoma town, DeClare, since the early ‘70s. Gaylene Harjo was murdered and her baby, Nicky Jack, was feared dead but never found. Now almost thirty years later Nicky Jack is back, looking for his family and as you can imagine everyone has got a whole lot of questions…
For a small-town mystery with some romance, we head to a sleepy Indiana town. Leigh Mitchell is the thirty-year-old sheriff who just hit the restless-in-life point and decides she needs change. So of course a mysterious man arrives in town. He’s sexy and she’s falling except he stays mysterious, revealing very little about himself which means he’s suspect numero uno when a crime is committed…
Here’s a small town thriller for fans of fictional serial killers. A year after the serial killer murders stopped in the small town of Camera Cove, the community is trying its best to find a new normal. Except Mac Bell, who lost his best friend to the killer and is now asked to finish the library mural he’d left unfinished. Cue Bell not leaving this alone and deciding to solve this murder-mystery. While figuring out his dating life a little too. If you like to root for your characters while they do the whole “these pesky kids” mystery solving you’ll enjoy this one.
Cage fighter Jack Boucher’s life is spiraling out of control in the Mississippi Delta. Between all his concussions and pain pills, chased with alcohol, his memory is at the point he needs to keep a list of names to keep straight friends from enemies. And that’s not even the worst of it: Big Momma Sweet is the loan shark he needs to pay back now, even if it means getting back into fighting to get the money. But will he survive?
Here’s a historical western mystery for those looking to check off three genres in one book. In the early twentieth century, East Texas was starting to see the oil boom, but also they just had a smallpox epidemic, which has orphaned Jack Parker and his younger sister Lula. Which is only the start of a difficult life for Jack seeing as his sister is kidnapped and his grandfather murdered by bank-robbing bandits. Time for Jack to roundup a ragtag team of heroes to get his sister back!
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Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor and Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.