11 Mystery Novels That Don't Open With A Dead Girl

by Charlotte Ahlin

Readers love dead girls. I mean you, specifically, dear reader, may have no particular preference about the gender or age of any said human remains. But when it comes to murder mysteries and heroic motivations, people love a good dead girl. As Edgar Allan Poe once put it in his essay "The Philosophy of Composition," beauty and death are always poetic, so "the death then of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world."


Look, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with a murder mystery that centers on a young, non-living lady. But every once in a while you might want to read a mystery novel that doesn't star a grizzled male detective hunting down the killer of a super hot female corpse. Maybe, maybe even a thriller where the non-male lead makes it all the way to the end without getting killed or horrifically brutalized at all. I know it's a lot to ask, but there are a few books out there that manage to be mysterious and gripping without killing a woman off in the first few pages. So if you're looking for a thrilling read that would bore Edgar Allan Poe to death, these might just be the books for you:

'Trespassing' by Brandi Reeds

Veronica's life is spinning out of control. Her fertility treatments have left her unbalanced, her three-year-old daughter's imaginary friend seems to know a little too much, and her husband hasn't returned from his last business trip. With little Bella insisting that her daddy is dead and Veronica questioning her own grasp on reality, it's up to her to find the truth behind her husband's disappearance (unless, of course, this is all in her mind).

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'The Secret Place' by Tana French

A year ago, a boy was found dead on the grounds of St. Kilda’s School for girls. No one ever solved his murder. But now someone has decided to reopen the Chris Harper case with an anonymous note, pinned to a "secret" bulletin board, proclaiming "I know who killed him." Hopeful detective Stephen Moran must team up with the abrasive Antoinette Conway for a deep dive into nasty boarding school cliques, where no one is free from suspicion.

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'Blanche on the Lam' by Barbara Neely

Blanche White has been stiffed by her employer. Faced with bouncing checks and nowhere to turn, she goes on the lam, taking up work as a maid to a wealthy family in the supposedly "post-racial" South. When there's a grisly murder, however, Blanche is suddenly the prime suspect. Now she's got to use her wide network of domestic workers and her own sharp wits to find the truth before she winds up behind bars.

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'The Elizas' by Sara Shepard

In The Elizas, novelist Eliza Fontaine is rescued from the bottom of a hotel pool. Her family assumes it's another suicide attempt on her part. But Eliza knows that she was pushed, and that someone out there wants her dead. Beginning with a non-murdered girl, The Elizas swiftly becomes a reality-bending thriller as Eliza's life starts to look a whole lot like the life of her fictional protagonist.

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'Garnethill' by Denise Mina

Maureen O'Donnell has decided to break things off with her (married) therapist boyfriend. But then she awakes the next morning with a killer hangover and her boyfriend dead in the living room. Maureen is the prime suspect in the case. But Maureen is also innocent, and determined to clear her name, even if it means following the clues back to entirely separate murder at the local psychiatric hospital.

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'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Little Daniel's father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books as a special treat, to pick out one book that carry a special meaning for him on his eleventh birthday. Daniel picks The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. He loves it so much that he decides to read the rest of Carax's work... except that someone has been systematically destroying everything that Carax has ever written, and Daniel's quest is about to land him in a world of magic, madness, and murder.

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'The Lost Ones' by Sheena Kamal

OK, OK, to be fair, The Lost Ones does start with a missing girl. Nora Watts receives a phone call one day, informing her that her daughter has gone missing... the daughter she gave up for adoption years ago. The daughter she'd hoped to never see again. And yet, in spite of herself, Nora takes the case. She sets off to find this strange girl with her DNA, coming face to face with her own terrifying past along the way.

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'The Widows of Malabar Hill' by Sujata Massey

It's 1921, and Perveen Mistry has just joined her father's law firm. She's been assigned to handle the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy man leaving behind three widows. But... something doesn't quite add up to Perveen. All three women has signed over their inheritances to charity, and yet they have no income of their own. Why give up all that money? What will they live on? And was Mr. Farid's death really as simple as it seems?

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'A Stranger in the House' by Shari Lapena

Karen and Tom have the perfect marriage, the perfect home, the perfect lives. At least until Karen's car accident. She doesn't die (don't worry), but she wakes up with no recollection of where she was or why she crashed. And when she returns home from the hospital, it seems as though a stranger has been in her house... a stranger with something to hide.

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'The Daughter of Time' by Josephine Tey

The Daughter of Time is a bit of an outlier when it comes to murder mysteries. The murder in question is not the death of a tragic cheerleader, but rather the disappearance of the historical "Princes in the Tower" during the English War of the Roses. The suspect is the long dead King Richard III. And the detective is stuck in a hospital bed the whole time. Nevertheless, Tey still manages to weave a brilliant, compelling mystery, and one that just might change your perception of historical fact.

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'Behind Her Eyes' by Sarah Pinborough

Single mom Louise is stuck in a rut. That is, until she meets a man one night at the bar, and sparks fly... until she walks into work the next morning and realizes that the man from the bar is David, her new boss. Her new married boss. Somehow, Louise finds herself pulled into the midst of David and his wife's bizarre relationship, where nothing is quite as it seems and Louise might be in danger of learning just a little too much.

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