I became addicted to mystery books for tweens when I started driving my elementary-aged kids to and from the shore each weekend. I needed to find stories that were appropriate for them, that would keep me entertained too.
Since children can often understand books that are slightly above their reading level, I decided to try my hand at middle-grade mysteries. Soon, a deep obsession was born.
While we still love listening to all kinds of audiobooks on our family roadtrips, my personal favorites are the mysteries. We discuss what we think is going to happen next while trying to get the answer or solve the clues before the main characters.
While I’ve listened to tons of tween mystery books at this point, I wanted to highlight my family’s favorites below. I’d also like to recommend our list of mystery books for younger kids, if you think your kids won’t like the books below.
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Mystery Book Series for Tweens
This is a middle-grade book that all adults should read. It’s about a group of extremely gifted children who are sent to spy on an evil organization.
This is the first book in a series that is geared toward older middle-grade kids. It was funny and interesting and extremely clever.
Another middle-grade story that adults will enjoy too. Mr. Lemoncello’s library is one of a kind. It’s full of holograms, logic puzzles, and hidden games.
To officially open the new library, a few lucky kids get to spend the night inside as they try to win Mr. Lemoncello’s game and be the first team to escape.
The first in a mystery series about a group of orphans who live together in the Winterborne mansion is totally spellbinding. April is the newest arrival at the orphanage, but she’s convinced she isn’t going to be there for long.
As she starts to meet her foster family and get familiar with the mansion though, she uncovers a secret. As she makes friends, she digs deeper into the mystery behind the Winterborne family.
This one ends on a cliffhanger and my kids were desperate to start the next book right after finishing!
This story appears on our list of books about candy! I decided to read this book with my boys prior to our visit to Candytopia.
It was a lovely take on life at a candy factory and felt almost like an updated version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 4 kids are competing to win a candy-making contest to have their creation mass-produced.
But there are lots of secrets to uncover during the competition. This series is such a fun one.
The first of three books in the Book Scavengers series, this story is all about Emily and James. They are on the hunt to uncover the latest game by Garrison Griswold.
Griswold has recently entered a coma and it’s up to Emily and James to uncover who attacked him before they get attacked next.
For more books like this one, check out our list of books about books for kids.
Spy Books for Tweens
The first book in Gibbs’s series about Ben Ripley, a child CIA agent trying to defeat the evil organization Spyder. As he attends the secret junior CIA boarding school, he gets into loads of situations that put his espionage skills into good use.
In each book of the series, Ben and his fellow agents tackle a new problem. They take place at various new locations as the series progresses. It’s already 10 books deep.
MI6 has recruited a bunch of kids to be their newest spy group – the City Spies. They attend boarding school while learning various spy tactics.
Soon they get to go on a mission to Paris to put what they learned into action. Subsequent books take place in San Francisco and Beijing. At this point, this series is on our pre-order series list.
Harriet the spy has been a classic for over 50 years. The 11-year-old is never without her notebook to write her observations in. When the notebook falls into the hands of her friends, they all get very angry with Harriet.
Will she be able to right her wrongs? There is a reason this book has been adapted repeatedly for the screen. It’s got life lessons for every child.
Charlie Thorne is a child genius and the world’s best code breaker. So the CIA has dragged her into the hunt for Albert Einstein’s hidden code. She’s trying to get it before the Furies use it to destroy the world.
Charlie is hunting for something from Charles Darwin and Cleopatra in the subsequent sequels. Each story has her using her wits to outsmart everyone around her.
For more books like these, check out our list of kids’ books about spies.
Award-Winning Mystery Books for Tweens
A great middle-grade book about camp (and yet another that was adapted into a movie!) Holes should be on every child’s list.
When a boy under a curse is sent to a detention camp he’s taught to behave by digging holes all day, every day. It doesn’t take long for him to realize he’s digging for a reason – but what are the camp wardens looking to find?
This story enchanted me as a young girl. The 6 “Egyptians” play in the back lot of an antique store, dressing up, performing rituals, and speaking with Oracles.
Then, a murder happens in the area and trouble comes to the lot. Don’t worry, there is a happy ending and also a sequel about gypsies!
Don’t let the length of this book deter you. Even though it is on our list of long books, there are gorgeous illustrations on every other page and the writing is only a paragraph at a time.
This middle-grade mystery is an amazing story of Hugo Cabret. Hugo is an orphan in the Paris train station where he winds the clocks so that nobody will discover his secrets. Soon he discovers a drawing and a notebook that will lead him to the biggest adventure of his life.
The book that got me into mysteries as a child is great as an audiobook as well! When Mr. Westing dies, he leaves the residents of Sunset Towers are named in his will.
But they need to solve the mystery of his death in order to win control of his company and his vast fortune. Your family will love trying to work out what happened!
Fantasy and Sci-Fi Mystery Books for Tweens
We like to listen to books as a family when we are in the car together or doing a puzzle. The standout book for me this month was Winterhouse.
This middle-grade mystery was as enthralling to me as it was to my boys. I loved the slight bits of magic in the story and the captivating setting of an expansive ski hotel on a snowy mountain at Christmas time. If you love a cozy mystery, pick this one up!
This middle-grade mystery reminded me of Harry Potter in some ways. A child is trying to uncover the secrets of Greenglass House, a hotel for smugglers and spies before the adults do.
We read this as a family read-aloud and it was wonderful.
I listened to this sci-fi mystery with my kids on a covid road trip. The three Greystone kids have to go into hiding after their mother disappears and news reports suggest that 3 OTHER greystone kids that look just like them were kidnapped.
As they try to uncover the mystery, they get a little help from Natalie, the daughter of the woman who is helping them hide. Soon they find a secret passage to another dimension. Can they find their mother and figure out what is going on?
Art Heist Mystery Books for Tweens
When a famed Vermeer painting goes missing, Petra and Calder are thrust into the middle of a scandal! Can they solve an art mystery that’s stumped the F.B.I.?
The first in a 4 book series, this is a great book that is interactive too. There are hidden puzzles in pictures and a code for readers to break!
The first in a 3 book series, this first story captured the attention of my D.C.-obsessed son. After all, it opens in the National Gallery when a boy wakes up with amnesia.
Described as Dan Brown meets Jason Bourne, it lives up to those clever titles. It’s a fast-paced art caper that will keep your tween fully engrossed.
Animal Mystery Books for Tweens
Technically the sequel to Bunnicula, this one can really be read as a stand-alone. Chester and Harold are being boarded while their family is on vacation, but they are convinced they are staying in a haunted hotel!
I remember laughing out loud as I read this book as a child. This one stands the test of time.
The first book in the FunJungle series shows Gibbs at his best – funny and clever!
After a hippo dies at FunJungle zoo, it’s up to Teddy and his friend Summer to prove that the Hippo was actually murdered.
But investigating Hippo homicide is a dangerous affair. This funny story kept this former zoo employee quite entertained.
Do you have a reluctant reader that wants a funny story that isn’t too difficult? Enter The Great Pet Heist!
After Butterbean accidentally causes her own to take a spill, the pets enter crisis mode – HOW WILL THEY EAT? With her band of fellow animals, Butterbean decides to steal from a neighbor down the hall.
If your tweens love Ocean’s Eleven, they will love this one too!
Stand-Alone Tween Mystery Books
What a fun story about an orphan girl tasked by the U.S. Marshalls to keep a family alive. As she enters into witness protection with them, she puts her street smarts and pick-pocketing abilities to good use.
But can she keep her new family safe? Will she be able to hide from her own past? All while avoiding any C’s in school… You’ll just have to read it to find out.
Another great read in middle-grade books. This story is about a boy named Matthew who has severe OCD and has trouble leaving his house due to his anxiety.
Matthew is the last person to have seen the toddler next door before the four-year-old disappeared. I love the fact that this book looks at the world from Matthew’s point of view. It is very readable as well as eye-opening.