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Mysteries and thrillers by Black authors

By Kobo • February 16, 2024Recommended Reading

Page-turning thrills, plot twists, and suspense by Black authors

We've gathered the best books by Black authors working in the many subgenres of crime fiction and suspense. Whether you're looking for a chilling thriller that'll keep you up at night, a gritty police procedural, desperate characters making bad decisions, or a claustrophobic domestic noir, we've got a book here for you.

Bad Men and Wicked Women by Eric Jerome Dickey

A sensual, suspenseful story from the late Eric Jerome Dickey. Blackmail, lust, family ties, and impossible decisions are all bearing down on Ken Swift on a day when he needs to focus on the job his shady bosses need him to get done. Or else.

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Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb

In Brendan Slocumb's second thriller set in the world of classical music, scholar Bern Hendricks discovers that the work of famous and beloved American composer Fred Delaney seems to have actually been written by a young Black woman working for Delaney without credit. As Bern and his assistant Eboni sift through the evidence—every new piece puncturing the myth of Delaney's singular genius—they draw the attention of powerful people who are determined to keep the historical record just as it is.

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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad (and many other acclaimed literary works), turns his talent to crime fiction in this story set in 1960s Harlem. Ray Carney is a family man of good repute, with a family history he'd like to leave in the past. But financial problems with his furniture store have Ray engaging with increasing frequency in the shady business of his forebears. Soon Ray is balancing on a knife edge between his need for money and his upstanding reputation—but the people Ray's gotten himself involved with don't do things halfway.

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The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

When Wagner Books hires Hazel—bringing their total count of Black employees to 2—it comes as some relief to editorial assistant Nella Rogers. But some strange, threatening notes start appearing on Nella's desk, leading her to wonder whether there really is safety in numbers.

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Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Come for the satisfying mystery, stay for the East Texas atmosphere and the depth of Locke's characters. Between his job and some ongoing family drama, Texas Ranger Darren Wilson has a lot on his plate, and being one of just a few Black detectives doesn't make any of it easier. When he's called in to investigate two murders in a tiny East Texas town—a Black lawyer and a local white woman—things get dangerous fast.

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And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

Rachel Howzell Hall's fresh take on the classic missing persons story has everything you could want in a mystery: fascinating characters, high stakes, plenty of twists and turns, and a jaw-dropping ending. Grayson Sykes is a new PI eager to prove herself, but her first case turns out to be a whole lot of complicated. She's tasked with finding a woman by the name of Isabel Lincoln, but as she soon realizes Isabel may not want to be found—and the family that's sent Grayson looking for her seems to have swallowed a mountain of lies.

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Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

Dead Dead Girls is the first volume in Nekesa Afia's Harlem Renaissance series. This beguiling mystery is set in 1926 at the height of the Harlem Renaissance and stars amateur sleuth Louise Lloyd, a young woman who's been trying to lie low ever since she survived a kidnapping as a teenager. She enjoys a life of waitressing at a local café and dancing the nights away with her girlfriend at Harlem's speakeasies. But when Black girls in the neighborhood start turning up dead, Louise has no choice but to get involved and face her past—if she wants a future.

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Fearless Jones  by Walter Mosley

No list of mysteries and thrillers by Black authors would be complete without at least one book by the great Walter Mosley. Though he's best known for his classic Easy Rawlins series, his other work is well worth checking out as well. This is the first installment in his Fearless Jones series, set in 1950s Los Angeles. Paris Minton, a used bookstore owner, busts his old friend Fearless Jones out of jail to come to his aid when he suspects that being assaulted and having his bookstore burned to the ground is only the beginning of his troubles.

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All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris

A fast-paced murder mystery with the feel of a legal thriller. Ellice Littlejohn is a rising star at her Atlanta law firm, enjoying a fun, no-strings, low-key relationship with her white boss. Things get a lot less fun when she arrives for a date one night only to find him dead. From there, Ellice's life starts to spiral out of control and all the dark secrets about her past come tumbling out.

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When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

If you're in the mood for a social thriller full of smart commentary and vivid characters, run to romance author Alyssa Cole's debut suspense novel. Sydney Green has lived in Brooklyn all her life and is becoming increasingly troubled by the signs of gentrification she sees all around her. Desperate to hold onto the neighbourhood she loves, she starts giving walking tours highlighting Brooklyn's history. But the deeper into history she dives, the stranger—and weirder—things get.

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Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

A high-tension, action-packed romp complete with daring heists and surgical-precision car chases. Bug Montage has settled down as a family man and successful business owner, leaving behind his past life as one of the best getaway drivers on the East Coast. But when an old friend offers him a job on a once-in-a-lifetime jewelry heist, domestic tensions and financial struggles send him back into the fray. This early book by S. A. Cosby brings voice and atmosphere as well as action, in a way that's fast becoming the signature style of this emerging master of crime fiction.

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Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Anyone who likes a bit of horror with their thrillers will appreciate this chilling, twisty novel about violence, bodily autonomy, and power. When her grandmother dies, Lena Johnson drops out of school to care for her ill mother. She takes a mysterious new job in the town of Lakewood, Michigan. It seems too good to be true, and all Lena has to do is lie to friends and family about the research she's participating in. Surely a good job with generous benefits is worth telling a few white lies.

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