30+ Mystery Books that Take Place in Missouri (That Must Be on Your Reading List)

Ever since I moved to Missouri, I’ve been fascinated by the state’s rich literary landscape. After all, this is the birth state of Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, T. S. Eliot and many more authors.

And what better way to delve into its essence than through the captivating lens of mystery novels?

As a lifelong reader, I’ve always been drawn to stories that tantalize the mind and keep you guessing until the very last page. And here in Missouri, there’s a treasure trove of such tales waiting to be discovered.

From the seemingly endless plains that whisper secrets under the vast sky to the deep, dark woods of the Ozarks, where shadows dance and secrets hide, the Missouri setting breathes life into each mystery. It’s like the land itself is conspiring with the authors, weaving intricate plots that leave you breathless with anticipation.

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Mystery Books that Take Place in Missouri

Mystery Books that Take Place in Missouri

But what is it about Missouri that makes it such a fertile ground for mystery? Is it the stark contrast between the bustling cities and the quiet countryside, where secrets can fester in plain sight? Or is it the Ozark mystique, a place shrouded in legend and folklore, where reality and imagination blur?

Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Missouri’s mysteries have a way of captivating readers and transporting them into a world where suspense hangs heavy in the air. So, if you’re looking for an escape into a world of intrigue and hidden truths, then look no further than the Missouri-set mysteries waiting to be discovered.

Join us as we embark on a literary journey through Missouri, exploring the captivating mysteries that lie within its borders.

Gillian Flynn Novels

Flynn’s novels explore a variety of dark paths set in places around Missouri, all with women at the center.

Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn (2012)

Gone Girl by Gilliam Flynn

Main Location: North Carthage, Missouri

Plot Summary: On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears, leaving behind a series of clues that point to her husband, Nick, as the prime suspect. As the investigation unfolds, secrets and lies surface, revealing a complex web of deception that keeps readers guessing until the shocking truth is unveiled.

Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn (2006)

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Main Location: Wind Gap, a fictional town in Missouri

Plot Summary: Reporter Camille Preaker returns to her hometown to cover the murder of two young girls. As she investigates the case, she confronts her own troubled past, unravels family secrets, and gets entangled in a psychological thriller that explores the dark underbelly of small-town life.

Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn (2010)

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Main Location: Kansas City, Missouri, and fictional towns in rural Kansas

Plot Summary: Libby Day, the sole survivor of a brutal massacre that claimed her family’s lives, is forced to confront the past when a group of amateur investigators known as the Kill Club approach her with questions about the incident. As she delves into her family’s dark history, she uncovers startling truths and faces the ultimate test of her survival.

"Nothing More Dangerous" by Allen Eskens

Nothing More Dangerous” by Allen Eskens (2020)

Main Location: Jessup, a fictional town south of Jefferson City, Missouri

Plot Summary: Set against the backdrop of the scorching Missouri summer, this gripping novel follows Boady Sanden, a high school student in Jessup. When a black family moves into town and racial tensions escalate, Boady becomes entangled in a mystery that involves corruption, murder, and the secrets of his own community. As he navigates dangerous waters, he discovers the true meaning of courage and the power of standing up for what is right.

Guilty Pleasures” by Laurell K. Hamilton (2004)

"Guilty Pleasures" by Laurell K. Hamilton

Main Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Plot Summary: “Guilty Pleasures” introduces readers to Anita Blake, a tough-as-nails vampire hunter and necromancer operating in St. Louis. As a licensed vampire executioner, Anita is responsible for keeping the city’s vampire population in check.

However, when a series of vampire murders occur, Anita finds herself caught in a deadly conspiracy that threatens her own life. As she delves deeper into the twisted underworld of vampires and supernatural creatures, Anita must navigate politics, alliances, and her own conflicted feelings to uncover the truth behind the killings and bring the culprits to justice.

“Guilty Pleasures” is the first book in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series of 30 books.

Bloody Bones” by Laurell K. Hamilton (2008)

Bloody Bones by Laurell K. Hamilton

Main Location: Branson, Missouri

Plot Summary: In the fifth installment of the Vampire Hunter series, “Bloody Bones,” the quaint town of Branson, Missouri, is gripped by a deadly wave of unsolved murders.

The air is thick with unease, and it becomes clear that something sinister lurks beneath the surface. Fortunately for the frightened locals, Anita Blake, an expert in the supernatural, is on the case.

With her unique abilities and a special connection to the alluring master vampire Jean-Claude, she is determined to unravel the mysteries behind the killings and bring the culprits to justice. As the investigation unfolds, Anita finds herself entangled in a web of danger and temptation, where dark secrets and forbidden desires collide.

Only the Strong” by Jabari Asim (2015)

Only the Strong by Jabari Asim

Main Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Plot Summary: Set in the 1970s, this gripping novel follows the life of young Booker T. Bledsoe, who becomes entangled in a murder investigation that threatens to disrupt the fragile balance of power and loyalty within his community.

“In the Dark Places” by Peter Robinson (2015) Main Location: Eastvale, a fictional town in Yorkshire, England, and Kansas City, Missouri Plot Summary: When Detective Inspector Alan Banks receives a chilling message on his car windshield, he becomes entangled in a complex case that connects his current investigation in England with a decades-old mystery in Kansas City, Missouri. As he navigates both sides of the Atlantic, Banks must confront a dark and twisted truth that spans continents and time.

The Weight of Blood” by Laura McHugh (2015)

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Main Location: Henbane (fictional Missouri town in the Missouri Ozarks)

Plot Summary: In the secluded town of Henbane, Lucy Dane searches for answers surrounding her friend’s disappearance and her own mother’s mysterious vanishing years ago. As she delves deeper into the secrets lurking within her community, Lucy unearths a dark history and uncovers shocking revelations that put her own life in danger.

No One Knows” by J.T. Ellison (2016)

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

Main Location: Nashville, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri

Plot Summary: Aubrey Hamilton’s husband vanished without a trace five years ago, and she’s left with unanswered questions and a cloud of suspicion. When new evidence emerges that may bring her husband back from the dead, Aubrey finds herself entangled in a web of deception and danger, as she seeks the truth in a thrilling race against time.

The Twenty-Seventh City” by Jonathan Franzen (2021)

The Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen

Main Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Plot Summary: When a charismatic Indian woman named S. Jammu assumes the position of the twenty-seventh city’s police chief, she introduces a reign of fear and manipulation that gradually unravels the city’s social fabric. As tensions rise, a detective named Martin Probst becomes determined to uncover the truth and restore order.

A Good American” by Alex George (2013)

A Good American by Alex George

Main Location: Historic town of Beatrice, Missouri

Plot Summary: This multigenerational saga traces the journey of the Meisenheimer family, German immigrants who settle in Missouri. Amidst the backdrop of historical events, secrets, love, and tragedy, the family navigates the complexities of life, creating a captivating tale that blends mystery, romance, and the pursuit of the American dream.

Killshot” by Elmore Leonard (2011)

Killshot by Elmore Leonard

Main Location: Kansas City and Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Plot Summary: Leonard’s crime thriller follows the story of a married couple who become entangled with a pair of hitmen. As they go on the run, the couple must outsmart their pursuers and confront the dangers lurking within the criminal underworld.

Francesca Vierling Mystery Series by Elaine Viets

Backstab book from the Francesca Vierling Mystery Series By Elaine Viets

Main Location: St. Louis

Plot Summary: The Francesca Vierling Mystery follows the captivating adventures of Francesca Vierling, a talented columnist for the St. Louis City Gazette. Known for her sharp intellect and relentless determination, Francesca embarks on a quest to unravel perplexing mysteries, track down elusive killers, and delve into the depths of intrigue.

With each installment in the series, readers are introduced to a new case that challenges Francesca’s investigative skills and puts her in the crosshairs of danger. Armed with her wit, resourcefulness, and an unwavering commitment to justice, Francesca immerses herself in the shadows of St. Louis, uncovering secrets, unmasking suspects, and piecing together clues that lead her closer to the truth.

Book number one in the series is Backstab.

The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton” by Jane Smiley (1998)

The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton by Jane Smiley

Main Location: Missouri-Kansas border during the Civil War era

Plot Summary: Lidie Newton, a fiercely independent woman, finds herself immersed in the turmoil of the Civil War. As she joins her husband in the abolitionist movement, Lidie becomes embroiled in dangerous undertakings, uncovering secrets, and confronting the mysteries of love, loyalty, and justice.

Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell (2007)

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Main Location: The Ozarks, Missouri

Plot Summary: Ree Dolly, a determined and resourceful teenager, embarks on a dangerous quest to find her missing father in the harsh and insular world of the Ozark mountains. As she confronts criminal elements and family secrets, Ree’s resilience is tested in this gripping and atmospheric tale.

Mark Twain Mysteries book series by Peter J. Heck & Will Damron (ongoing series)

Death on the Mississippi

Main Location: Hannibal, Missouri

Plot Summary: This series of mystery novels pays homage to Mark Twain’s literary legacy, with each book featuring intrepid detective Tom Sawyer as he unravels perplexing cases in the quaint river town of Hannibal. With engaging storytelling and nods to Twain’s characters and themes, these mysteries capture the spirit of adventure and wit associated with the beloved author.

The first book in the series is Death on the Mississippi.

Clown in a Cornfield” by Adam Cesare (2020)

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Main Locations: Fictional town of Kettle Springs, Missouri

Plot Summary: In the town of Kettle Springs, a once-thriving factory town struggling to reinvent itself, a group of teenagers find themselves in a nightmarish scenario.

When a sinister figure dressed as a clown starts terrorizing the town, leaving a trail of bloodshed in its wake, the teens must band together to survive. As fear and paranoia spread, they uncover dark secrets about their town’s past and the identity of the clown, leading to a climactic battle for survival against a relentless force of evil lurking in the cornfields.

Additional Mystery Series That Take Place in Missouri

More Great Books by Missouri Authors or That Take Place in Missouri

Sisterland” by Curtis Sittenfeld (2013)

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Main Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Plot Summary: This novel explores the lives of twin sisters, Violet and Kate, who possess psychic abilities. When Violet predicts a devastating earthquake, the sisters’ bond is tested, and they face conflicting paths. As their divergent lives unfold, secrets emerge, leading to unexpected consequences and raising questions about destiny and the power of intuition.

Note: Author Curtis Sittenfeld lived in St. Louis for over a decade.

There You Are” by Mathea Morais (2019)

There You Are by Mathea Morais

Main Location: Kansas City, Missouri

Plot Summary: In the vivid backdrop of 1980s St. Louis, where author Mathea Morais herself grew up, “There You Are” delves into the lives of black and white teenagers as well as a few adults, exploring the challenges they face due to the color of their skin. Octavian Munroe and Mina Rose, drawn together by their shared love for music, discovered a world of possibilities at Rahsaan’s Records. Immersed in the rhythms of Prince and A Tribe Called Quest, their bond grew, but circumstances of grief and heartbreak pushed them apart, leading them to leave the city in search of new beginnings.

Less mystery and more novel, it’s a great read from a Missouri author!

Betsey Brown” by Ntozake Shange (1985)

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange

Main Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Plot Summary: Set in the 1950s, this coming-of-age novel follows Betsey Brown, a young African American girl navigating the complexities of race, family, and identity in St. Louis. Against the backdrop of segregation and social change, Betsey’s journey explores the mysteries of adolescence and the quest for self-discovery.

Note: Born Paulette Williams, writer Ntozake Shange lived in St. Louis from 8 to 13 years of age on Windemere Place in The Ville.

“Stoner” by John Williams (1965)

Main Location: Columbia, Missouri

Plot Summary: William Stoner, a humble university professor, navigates the challenges of academia, personal relationships, and societal expectations throughout his life. This contemplative novel delves into the mysteries of human existence, love, and the pursuit of knowledge against the backdrop of the University of Missouri.

Note #1 that while these books have ties to Missouri, they may also explore other locations or alternate between different settings throughout the story.

Note #2 that some of the titles listed may explore themes beyond traditional mystery genres, incorporating elements of historical fiction, social commentary, or other literary genres.

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1 thought on “30+ Mystery Books that Take Place in Missouri (That Must Be on Your Reading List)”

  1. Lately, my daughter hasn’t been able to stop checking out thriller novels because they capture her attention a lot. Going through this article makes me realize a mystery book could provide a more impactful experience to its readers if it’s set in the right place. Well, I suppose she could examine this factor to help her buy an appropriate material later.

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