April 17, 2024

Mysterious Michigan Reads

Booksellers share their favorite Mitten State mysteries and thrillers
By Anna Faller | March 23, 2024

We can’t think of a better way to spend spring break than with a great book. Northern Express asked local booksellers to share their favorite set-in-Michigan (or written-by-Michiganders) titles to mystify readers of every age.

Get your tea and slippers ready, folks—it’s about to get frightfully cozy!

McLean and Eakin, Petoskey

Young Readers
Poltergeists of Petoskey (Michigan Chillers #3) by Johnathan Rand
They’re heerrree! Alex and Adrian couldn’t be more excited to explore their new Petoskey home—that is, until floating appliances and ghostly visions declare that they aren’t welcome. Turns out, they have a bad case of poltergeists, and there’s one angry spirit who won’t go quietly. The third installment in Johnathan Rand’s iconic Michigan Chillers series, this elementary-level read is perfect for a few late-night thrills!

Once on This Island by Gloria Whelan
It’s the summer of 1812 when British forces overtake Mackinac Island. For Mary O’Shea, though, the real battle is keeping her homestead safe while her father fights. But in a rugged frontier rife with conflict, danger lurks around every corner. From award-winning author Gloria Whelan, Once on this Island reimagines a piece of Michigan history in dazzling fiction. Jump into a classic with this timeless pick!

Young Adults
Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley
Bestselling author Angeline Boulley is upping the stakes in her newest novel! In it, we return to Sugar Island, where Perry Firekeeper-Birch is feeling lost. All she needs is a little direction, and she finds it in a complex heist to steal back the remains and sacred belongings of 13 Anishinaabe women and return them to their rightful communities.

Postcards from Summer by Cynthia Platt
Seventeen-year-old Lexi has spent her life longing for the mother she lost as a child. When she’s given a chest of her mother’s belongings, she discovers pamphlets from Mackinac Island and a postcard detailing a whirlwind romance. Could this northern Michigan paradise hold the key to all of Lexi’s questions? Part The Notebook, part Love & Gelato, this one’s reserved for our spring TBR!

Murder at Cherokee Point by Peter Marabell
The first installment of Peter Marabell’s Alex Russo tetralogy, Murder at Cherokee Point, is a full-on “mob showdown on Mackinac Island.” A local aristocrat has just met a dubious end, and it’s up to Petoskey lawyer Alex Russo to investigate. Old-money dealings, politics, and life-and-death danger are all in a day’s work in this whodunit.

August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones
Detroiter August Snow is everything a cop should be: he’s strong, street-smart…and was unceremoniously dropped from the force by corrupt higher-ups. But when a wealthy friend turns up dead, the investigation lands him in the grips of Detroit’s most notorious felons. This action-packed read is a McLean and Eakin favorite.

Bay Books, Suttons Bay

Young Readers
Tallulah: Mermaid of the Great Lakes by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
Tallulah doesn’t look like all the other mermaids in the ocean, and even though she loves her friends there, she doesn’t feel like she belongs. To find her true identity, she goes exploring in the Great Lakes, where she discovers a Petoskey stone that makes her shine in her own way. For early elementary-aged readers, it doesn’t get any sweeter than this!

The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs
After losing his parents in a car accident, 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt is sent to live with his mysterious and magical Uncle Jonathan. Even more mysterious, though, is the constant ticking sound in the house. Turns out, its previous owners have hidden a clock that could destroy mankind. Bursting with mystery and suspense, this novel is also the first installment of a twelve-book series (which earns it a gold star from Bay Books!).

Young Adults 
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never been able to find balance between her indigenous heritage with her mother’s white family. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, she’s thrust into an FBI investigation after witnessing a drug-fueled murder. But how far is she willing to go to expose the truth and protect her community? Packed with Ojibwe knowledge and politics, Boulley’s debut also deftly addresses weightier issues, like drugs and racism.

Color Tour by Aaron Stander
Stander really hits his stride in the second installment of his Sheriff Ray Elkins series. In it, Elkins is called upon to investigate a young teacher’s murder, which turns into a cat-and-mouse game wherein Elkins himself becomes the hunted. This novel is filled with suspenseful twists and turns, and—bonus!—it’s set during autumn in Michigan, which only makes solving the puzzle of Stander’s familiar settings all the more fun.

The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch by Marshall Thornton
When we meet Henry Milch, he’s a mess. After a night of L.A. mayhem goes wrong, he’s packed off to Michigan and his conservative grandma, just in time to discover a corpse on his first day at a conservancy job. The upside? There’s a hefty reward for information leading to the man’s killer, and Henry will do just about anything to get back to his “real” life in Hollywood. Murder most foul at its finest? Check!

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Helena Pelletier has a dark secret: her father’s a criminal kidnapper who abducted her mother and raised her in captivity. Fast forward more than 20 years, and he’s escaped from prison, killed two guards, and vanished into the Michigan forest—and only Helena knows how to find him. Bay Books couldn’t get enough of this novel’s detailed and emotionally-wrought storyline. (And yes, it is better than the movie!)

Brilliant Books, Traverse City

Young Readers
Enemies in the Orchard by Dana VanderLugt
The year is 1944, and with her brother off fighting in World War II, Claire’s father has just hired a team of German POWs to help with the apple harvest. Claire hates the idea—until she forges a friendship with one gentle soldier. Could these would-be enemies find common ground? Brilliant Books calls this poignant novel-in-verse a “fascinating look at wartime experiences and its many complexities.”

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie
When Ginny Anderson’s father takes a summer job in Saugatuck, the family is forced to bunk in a crumbling mansion known as Woodmoor Manor. Even worse, the nearby forest is supposedly home to unspeakable creatures; and as Ginny soon discovers, there’s always someone—or something—watching. From the award-winning author of Scritch Scratch comes the perfect middle-grade mystery. Prepare for goosebumps!

Young Adults
The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele
Set in the Upper Peninsula, this Michigan Notable Book of the Year (2019) follows aspiring journalist Penny as she prepares to spend the summer with her dad and—hopefully—drum up some essay inspiration. An increasing number of body bags and her own father’s disappearance, though, tell Penny there’s a larger, stranger, story afoot in this declining town. Funny and deliciously eerie, this paranormal mystery is recommended for older teens.

Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley
There’s a second northern Michigan vote for Boulley’s sophomore novel, dear readers! Once again, she’s expertly woven some heavier topics into the story; including the importance of NAGPRA (the North American Graves and Repatriation Act), reclaiming history, and perseverance—all of which play into this page-turning pick.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings
When Black college student Lena Johnson learns of her family’s crippling debt, she hangs up her dreams to help foot the bill. On paper, her new position in a secret program sounds like valuable research, but as Lena quickly discovers, the consequences are permanent (and deadly!). For fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this timely thriller is a no-brainer!

Meet Isabel Puddles: A Mitten State Mystery by M.V. Byrne
Isabel Puddles is a creature of habit. A Jane-of-all-trades on the Great Lakes coast, she stays busy with several part-time jobs, including the occasional stint preparing bodies at the funeral parlor. But when she finds an inch-long nail embedded in one corpse’s skull, Isabel immediately suspects foul play. Brilliant Books’ staff describes this quirky read as a “Golden Age-style mystery that’s lively and funny.”

Horizon Books, Traverse City & Cadillac

Young Readers
The Griffins of Castle Cary by Heather Shumaker
Michigan author Heather Shumaker’s middle-grade novel is packed with adventure—and maybe a heart-pounding puzzle or two! Griffin siblings Will, Meg, and Ariel can’t wait to visit their aunt in England. But they didn’t expect the town to have ghosts or that it would be up to them to stop them! Horizon staff calls it a charming read, perfect for fans of The Penderwicks series.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
The year is 1936, and it’s not easy being a kid in Flint. Things are looking up for 10-year-old Bud, though: he’s got his own suitcase, his own set of rules, and a flier that’s about to solve the mystery of his missing father once and for all. Christopher Paul Curtis is a literary icon, and this Newberry Prize-winning novel will have middle-grade readers hooked from the start.

Young Adults
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Holmes and Waston are at it again—at least, their great-grandchildren are. The brainchild of an Interlochen Arts Academy grad and bestselling author, this page-turner follows the trajectory of two young gumshoes destined to meet. The air is tense when readers first find Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes, but when a shared acquaintance turns up dead, they join forces to solve a sinister crime!

Deus X by Stephen Mack Jones
If you like action-packed mystery, Horizon Books’ COO, Juan Pineda, agrees that August Snow won’t let you down. Deus X is the fourth in line of Jones’ award-winning series. This time, everyone’s favorite ex-cop is putting his life on the line for a priest with modern-day Templars hot on his trail—but what’s he hiding, and who’s after it?

A Troubling Tail (Bookmobile Cat Mystery #11) by Laurie Cass
In the eleventh installment of Laurie Cass’s Bookmobile Cat Mystery series, mobile librarian Minnie Hamilton and her feline friend team up with police to investigate the murder of a candy shop owner. On the outside, the man was as sweet as can be, but the truth is far from savory. Set in charming Chilson, Michigan, this cozy read begs for an afternoon on the couch!


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