How to Read a Murder Mystery Book: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re a fan of suspense, thrills, and twists, then chances are you’ve picked up a murder mystery book or two. But with the wide range of sub-genres, structures, and formats available, it’s easy to find yourself lost in the labyrinth of whodunits, red herrings, and suspicious characters.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about how to read a murder mystery book, including the format, rules, structure, and tips to help you start your own journey into the world of detective fiction.

What is the Format of a Murder Mystery Book?

Before we dive into the tips and tricks, let’s first clarify what exactly constitutes a murder mystery book. At its core, a murder mystery book is a work of fiction that revolves around a central crime – usually a murder – and follows the investigation, often led by a detective or amateur sleuth, to identify the culprit.

But within this simple framework, there are many variations and sub-genres that can affect the format of a murder mystery book. Some common sub-genres of murder mystery books are:

  • Cozy mysteries, which typically feature amateur detectives, minimal violence, and a focus on small-town settings and communities.
  • Police procedurals, which focus on the step-by-step process of investigating a crime, often seen through the eyes of the law enforcement team.
  • Hard-boiled detective novels, which typically feature gritty, realistic settings, and cynical, tough-talking protagonists who are often private investigators.

Additionally, murder mystery books can be divided into several formats based on the narrative point of view, such as:

  • First-person, where the story is narrated by one of the characters involved in the investigation.
  • Third-person, where the story is narrated by an outside observer who is not part of the events being described.
  • Multiple narrators, where the story is told through the perspectives of several different characters, giving the reader a more comprehensive view of the events.

Understanding the format and sub-genre of a murder mystery book can help readers approach the story with the right expectations and mindset.

What are the Rules of a Murder Mystery?

While there’s no single set of rules that all murder mystery books must follow, there are a few guidelines that most authors adhere to. These rules help create a sense of fair play and allow the reader to solve the mystery along with the detective.

Here are some common rules of murder mystery books:

  1. The murderer must be introduced early in the story, so that the solution doesn’t rely on any last-minute plot twists or hidden characters.
  2. Clues should be distributed throughout the book for the reader to find and interpret. Ideally, these clues should be presented in a way that allows the reader to solve the mystery using only the information provided.
  3. The solution should make sense based on the clues and information given. All loose threads should be tied up neatly, and the reader should feel that the conclusion is both satisfying and logical.
  4. The detective or amateur sleuth who’s pursuing the investigation must not have any secret supernatural powers, such as telepathy or mind-reading. Their deductions should be based solely on the facts presented.

Keeping these rules in mind can help readers appreciate the effort and craft put into a well-crafted murder mystery book.

How to Read a Murder Mystery Book for Free

Reading can be an expensive hobby, with new books often costing upwards of $20 or more. But fear not, because there are plenty of ways to read murder mystery books for free.

Here are some options:

  1. Public libraries: Most libraries have a wealth of murder mystery books available to borrow for free. All you need is a library card, which may require proof of residency or other identification.
  2. Online libraries: Platforms like Project Gutenberg, Open Library, and ManyBooks offer thousands of free ebooks, including murder mystery books that are no longer protected by copyright.
  3. Mobile apps: Apps like Wattpad, Goodreads, and Libby offer free access to a wide range of reading material, including murder mystery books.
  4. Book swap groups: Joining a book swap group on Facebook or other social media platforms can connect you with other readers who are willing to trade their own copies of murder mystery books.

By taking advantage of these free resources, you can satisfy your thirst for mystery and suspense without breaking the bank.

How to Structure a Murder Mystery Book

In order to create a compelling murder mystery book, authors must carefully structure the plot to keep readers engaged and guessing until the final reveal. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to structuring a murder mystery book, there are some common elements that most books of this genre share.

Here’s an overview of the typical structure of a murder mystery book:

  1. Introduction: The book begins by introducing the main characters, setting, and the central crime. The murder usually occurs within the first few chapters.
  2. Investigation: The main character – often a detective or amateur sleuth – begins the investigation, gathering clues and interviewing suspects.
  3. Red herrings: The author plants a series of false clues and suspects to keep readers guessing and prevent the solution from being too obvious.
  4. The twist: Around the midpoint of the book, the author introduces a major twist or revelation that changes the direction of the investigation.
  5. The reveal: The detective or amateur sleuth finally gathers all the evidence and reveals the identity of the murderer, often in a dramatic final confrontation.
  6. The resolution: The story ends with a resolution, as loose ends are tied up and the characters’ fates are revealed.

While some murder mystery books may deviate from this structure, keeping these elements in mind can help writers create a satisfying and well-crafted story that keeps readers hooked from start to finish.

How to Start a Murder Mystery Book

If you’re interested in writing your own murder mystery book, the first step is to develop a basic outline. This outline should detail the primary elements of your story, including the setting, characters, and central crime.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Choose your sub-genre: Decide which sub-genre of murder mystery you want to write – cozy, procedural, or hard-boiled – and research the conventions and expectations of that genre.
  2. Choose your setting: Select a setting that will both provide a compelling backdrop for your story and allow for a plausible crime to occur.
  3. Develop your characters: Create a cast of characters, including a central protagonist and a series of suspects. Be sure to give each character a unique personality and motive for committing the crime.
  4. Create your crime: Choose a central crime that’s both plausible and captivating. This should be a puzzle that the reader can solve along with the detective, using the clues provided.
  5. Plan your plot: Develop a rough outline of the plot, including the major events and twists that will occur throughout the story.
  6. Write: Finally, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start writing!

While the process of writing a murder mystery book can be challenging, following these tips can help ensure that your story is both engaging and satisfying.

How to Read a Murder Mystery Book

Now that we’ve covered the basics of murder mystery books, let’s turn our attention to the most important question of all: How do you actually read one?

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your murder mystery book reading experience:

  1. Pay attention to the details: Murder mystery books often contain a wealth of clues and details that are easy to miss if you’re not paying close attention. Take time to read carefully, and make note of any important bits of information.
  2. Keep track of the suspects: Create a list of suspects and their potential motives, and update it as you read new information.
  3. Look for the red herrings: Remember that the author may plant false clues or suspects in order to keep you guessing. Stay vigilant for these tricks.
  4. Use your intuition: While murder mystery books are designed to be solved using the information provided in the text, some level of intuition and instinct can be helpful in identifying the killer.
  5. Have fun: Above all, remember to have fun! Murder mystery books are designed to be entertaining, so enjoy the ride and see if you can solve the crime before the detective.

By following these tips, you can make the most out of your murder mystery book reading experience.


Murder mystery books are a staple of the literary world, offering readers endless thrills, suspense, and excitement. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or a newcomer to the genre, following these tips can help you get the most out of your reading experience.

Remember to pay attention to the format, rules, and structure of the book, as well as the tips for starting and reading a murder mystery book. By doing so, you can become an expert on how to read a murder mystery book and enjoy the thrill of the hunt for clues and the ultimate reveal of the killer.