Summer is breaking into fall. Backpacks are stuffed with new books–and so heavy. Teachers are learning their students’ names. Old friends are getting reacquainted and new friends are being made. Someone is murdered. Wait, what?! One of those may not be like the others, but we’re talking about great campus crime novels, so here we are with school supplies and murder.
Okay, so this one isn’t so much on campus as explosively starts off with a Hammel College senior driving a visiting professor to a conference when their trip ends in a tragic car accident. While everyone thinks Tara Beckley, the senior, is in a vegetative state, she isn’t. But she can’t let anyone know that because she has locked-in syndrome—she can hear, see, and think; she just can’t move or speak. Abby Kaplan is assigned to investigate the accident for insurance purposes, but since it wasn’t actually an accident, she’s also in danger. Run, woman, run!
If She Wakes is a great thriller with a fast-moving plot, teen assassin(!), awesome women, and a good audiobook narrator (Robert Petkoff). Basically, just wins all-around for readers.
This is a twisty ride that follows a man returning for his school reunion not to mingle with old acquaintances but because the gymnasium is going to be torn down, thus revealing the dead body he knows is hidden in the building. I know! And we have the added mystery element that two people disappeared from the school and they only know one is dead, but what happened to the other? Have fun changing your guess every few chapters for this starts in one place and takes you onto a whole other ride. Fun!
by Kanae Minato
Translated by Stephen Snyder
An excellent Japanese crime novel about a teacher on her last day of work who has quite a story for her seventh-grade class: The true story about her young daughter’s death. We then get other characters' stories about that tense day in the classroom and the young girl’s death, until we eventually get the full picture. This is a suspenseful, unique crime novel about grief and revenge that should not be missed.
Marcie R. Rendon
This is a fantastic crime novel, with suspense, about 19-year-old Chippewa woman Renee Blackbear, known as Cash, who has just enrolled in college in Fargo during the 1970s. She does not get hippies, or most of the ways other students behave and interact, so she decides to test out of the classes she can and spend more time hustling at pool and drinking. But then white girls keep disappearing and calling to her in her dreams…
While this isn’t the type of mystery where the lead is actively trying to solve the case, there is a mystery that runs throughout–and is solved at the end–and Cash finds herself fully caught up in a crime. If you’re looking for a new character to love, run to this one.
This is a delightful series with past and present mysteries that take place entirely on a campus! Stevie Bell is a true crime aficionado who has nothing in common with her family and looks forward to attending the elite, and unique, Ellingham Academy. She may be there to learn, but she’s also put herself on an unsolved case from the ’30s when the school’s founder’s wife and daughter were kidnapped. But that case may get in the way of her solving the recent murder on campus–dun dun dun!
This is a lot of fun and is almost a love letter to old-school mysteries. Pro tip: Have the second book, The Vanishing Stair, on hand while you’re reading the first, because I promise you you’re going to need to start it immediately. The third installment, The Hand on the Wall, goes on sale January 21st, 2020.
Whether you love school or are glad to never ever go back, you’ll enjoy these crime novels set on school campuses in the U.S. and Japan—but maybe sharpen a pencil just in case you need a weapon to defend yourself. I mean, just a thought.
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Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor and Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator who always has a book in one hand. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and spends way too much time asking her goat-dog “What’s in your mouth?!” Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.