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November 08, 2007



I agree about Agatha Christie. Also look into Ellis Peters. And depending on the family's political persuasion, Julia Spencer-Fleming's "cozy thrillers."

Sandra Seamans

If she's looking for the old time kid's mysteries, there's the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, and The Timber Trail Riders series. The last one combines horses with mysteries and were written by Michael Murray. The Hardy boys were always fun too.

patti abbott

All of the early then called mysteries are pretty suitable. I read them when I was that age. Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers are three that I devoured as a teenager.

David Montgomery

I thought of Julia Spencer-Fleming, but wasn't sure of my memory regarding their content. I have to ask, though...What political persuasion do you have to be to enjoy her books?


I started reading mysteries when I was about that age.

I read everything by Agatha Christie and all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories (I'm surprised no one has mentioned them here). Though I'd be careful of non-ACD Holmes books. Even though they're authorized by the estate, many of them are less suitable for younger readers.


Jacqueline Winspear's terrific Maisie Dobbs series might suit someone of that age.


I'd like to recommend Lilian Jackson Braun, author of the of "The Cat Who..." series of mystery novels. They have been described (in a positive and supportive manner) as a light-hearted alternative to a genre devoted more and more to focus on sex, violence, and foul language.


I may be out of place recommending a kid's book for a kid, but how about Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations?
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"


I may be out of place recommending a kid's book for a kid, but how about Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations?
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"


The Claire Malloy series by Joan Hess, the Cece Caruso series by Susan Kandel, the Jill Churchill series, and, Summer of the Redeemers by Carolyn Haines (which should open up her Southern mysteries) are all great choices for a 14 year old mystery reader


Mary Higgins Clark's mystery series books might be a suitable choice for a 14 yr. old.


Re: political persuasion and Julia Spencer-Fleming's novels: I could see very conservative families being offended by some of the ideas Clare Fergusson espouses!

In general, though, while she does write some pretty hair-raising scenes, nothing in her books is gratuitous. Everything has a consequence, and the morals are strong even if the characters are not always. But I think you get the same in some Agatha Christie works.


Hardy Boys! I loved Nancy Drew growing up, and it didn't bother me one bit that the Hardy Boys were, um, boys.

Maybe she'll be able to forgive that flaw, too? :-)


I would highly recommend Susan Wittig Albert's Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. Really excellent mysteries that would be great for a 14-year-old. Also the Joe Grey mysteries by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. Joe Grey is a cat that talks & solves mysteries (sounds odd if you haven't read the books, but they are good). I highly recommend the Aunt Dimity mysteries by Lori Atherton. Sister Carol Anne O'Marie writes a great series with a nun as the protagonist. Last, but definitely not least, I'd recommend Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason books. I think I was about 12 when I started reading them!


My 12 year old daughter loved the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horwitz, is currently reading the Venus Spring series by Johnny Zucker. My elder daughter read the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer at that age (but didn't like Half Moon, recommended above), also Meg Cabot has written lots of books for teens under various names.
Sherlock Holmes is popular with both of them. A great intro to detective fiction, when I was about 12 I loved them all but the one that sticks in my mind was the Dancing Men because of the code angle.

My 12 year old is currently reading a book at school (with rest of class) "nineteenth century mystery stories" including Poe (bit scary I would have thought) and in particular The Signalman by Dickens.


I'm all for letting young people read adult books. I did when I was that age. However, perhaps with some of the recent crime novels caution is advisable. Christie, Sayers, Wentworth, Marsh are all good and clean. I emphatically do not like Winspear (wordy and stilted), Spencer-Fleming (too issue-oriented), and Braun (too cute).

Clea Simon

I'm with I.J. Parker re: adult books. For more contemporary writers, why not Elizabeth Peters? Fun, funny, some double-entendre (not much) but very clean, nonviolent, and with some history mixed in.

Felicia Donovan

At 14, I was still devouring every single Nancy Drew I could get my hands on! What about Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax series? Or Susan Conant's dog mysteries? I'd offer my own series, THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY, because there's no violence, but it does have S-E-X, so I guess that's out.

Felicia Donovan

Elizabeth Foxwell

The mysteries of the late Charlotte MacLeod (aka Alisa Craig) are funny and non-sexy. Richard Peck is always excellent. Dorothy Gilman started out writing for children; in addition to the Mrs. Pollifax series that one person mentioned, I recommend _Nun in the Closet_. Other options: Georgette Heyer's mysteries, Joan Lowery Nixon, Rex Stout, Barbara Michaels's _House of Many Shadows_.


I was thinking of her today. Disney released a mystery based on the National Treasure movies, geared towards a younger audience. It appears to me to be the start of a series, and it looked like it might be worth a look-see for her!


Run--do not walk--to the bookstore to buy this 14yo mystery fan THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE by Laurie R. King, in which 15yo Mary Russell nearly falls over the retired Sherlock Holmes while walking on the Sussex Downs in 1915 and becomes his apprentice, then partner. While you're at it, you might as well go ahead and get the sequel, A MONSTROUS REGIMENT OF WOMEN, because I can almost guarantee that she'll want to immediately dive into that one after turning the last page of BEEKEEPER. If she likes those two, she can follow the character on into the series there is a whole series following. These are smart, well-written books with an intelligent, strong-willed female protagonist, fun literary references and even a good bit of history education hidden in plain sight. And the content is very restrained, so I think they'd pass muster with dad.

I'd have given anything to have had these books when I was a teenager. I could have used a Mary Russell in my reading life back then. As I can't turn back the clock, I'll just have to recommend them to up-and-coming young'uns. Good luck with the book recommendations--you're a good uncle to do that for her!

S Clardy

I am the 14 yr old's aunt. Thanks for all of your wonderful comments. As for the exposing kids to read whatever they CAN actually read, I agree..sadly I am not the parent...smile.

Elaine Flinn

Shirley Rousseau Murphy's cat series are a delight - and all age friendly.

Wish I could suggest more-but other than my fictional Emma- I don't know many kids that age. Except my grandson, and he's into baseball. :)

D. Pask

How about J. A. Jance's Sheriff Joanna Brady books. Sheriff Brady's novelistic family includes a 14yo girl and a new baby and I don't remember any mad passion between Brady and her husband. Just affection ,lots of affection and family issues.


I'm not sure about the father, but I bet the daughter would love Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swenson series.



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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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