Sophie Green’s top 7 favourite mystery stories for a middle grade audience

Published on: 22 September 2019 Author: Sophie Green

Writer and librarian Sophie Green gives us the lowdown on the best children's books to keep 8 to 12 year olds guessing and turning those pages with excitement...

Full of twists, turns and whodunnits, your kid is going to love these fun adventures...

1. The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Ted Spark is an excellent narrator and a formidable detective whose brain runs on ‘its own unique operating system’. This is a classic "locked room" mystery (where a crime happens in seemingly impossible circumstances), and a great introduction to deductive reasoning. 

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2. The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

First published in 1973, this was recently re-issued with illustrations from Nathan Collins. If you like your mysteries to be rich in magic, then this story is for you. I love the friendship between Uncle Jonathan and Mrs Zimmerman, and the timely sense of menace from the ticking clock as it counts down to the apocalypse.

3. A Place called Perfect by Helena Duggan

Not only a deliciously sinister spectacle-related mystery but also brilliantly illustrated by my Potkin and Stubbs partner-in-crime, Karl James Mountford. Words and pictures combine to give Perfect the innocent charm of a witch’s gingerbread house.

4. Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Mysteries abound in Eerie-on-Sea, a coastal town which feels oddly familiar and yet like nowhere you have ever been. A fantastic cast of locals help or hinder Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma as they try and get to the truth about the legendary sea creature and their own hidden pasts. This story also features one of my favourite inventions, a mechanical mermonkey that dispenses book prescriptions.

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5. The Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

Illustration by Jim Kay

Who betrayed James and Lily Potter? This is by far my favourite book of the series and the one that got me hooked: Patronuses, Time-turners, Animagi, footsteps on the Marauders Map and the infamous escapee Sirius Black make for a rich and thrilling whodunit.

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6. A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

The Bad Beginning is very humorously macabre and the first of A Series of Unfortunate Events as the resourceful Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with their hilarious, but cruel, amateur dramatics-loving guardian Count Olaf.

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7. Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner

This was my all-time favourite book of any kind for years. Alone in an unfamiliar city and robbed of his belongings, Emil joins forces with a gang of street-wise young Berliners to recover the stolen money. It’s the fellowship of the children that makes this book; I would have loved to have been one of ‘the Detectives’.

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Topics: Mystery, Features

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