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For those of us who grew up obsessed with books, making trips to the library every chance we got and memorizing the payment limit, books have always been our safe spaces. It’s where you go when you have too much to do, or you’re going through something, or you just need to get away from it all for a while. I’ve spent many hours with my head tilted to the side, reading every title on the library shelves or hunched over on the floor, flipping through a book before buying it at my favorite bookstore. Libraries, bookstores, these are my favorite places in the world!
With all that time spent in the quiet of a library or lost in the bookshelves on a darkening afternoon, I realize how quickly this setting can become spooky. A cry in the silence, eyes peering beyond the thorns. Calm is only comforting until you want – no, need – someone around you to help you.
And some authors have tapped into that fear, turning the places we love so much into accomplices to a crime. To have used darkness, silence and wandering as a means of increasing tension rather than relieving it. If you want to learn more about how a bookstore or library — not the books inside — can scare you, here are eight novels to get you started.
Marty Wingate’s Library Bodies
Lady Georgiana Fowling’s First Edition Library in scenic Bath, England is the perfect curatorial work for Hayley Burke. Despite protests from Lady Fowling’s former secretary, Haley is determined to modernize the space, bringing some people back to enjoy the library as it was meant to be. The first step? Invite a group of Agatha Christie fan fiction writers to meet there every week. But when a member is found dead in the library, Christie and Haley’s fandom must also channel the author’s penchant for detectives to find the murderer before he strikes again.
The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
When a scream shocks the quiet reading room of the Boston Public Library, security guards rush to investigate. People inside should stay where they are until the area is safe. Four researchers in the reading room are now trapped together, each with their own suspicions and fears. This story novel within a story is all about the scares and friends we can make within the walls of a library.
The Historian of Elizabeth Kostova
A historian’s daughter finds an old book of letters in her father’s library. As she reads, she realizes that the letters are full of secrets about both her parents that turn her world upside down. Secrets about Dracula, about evil, about the history of his parents. Told by letters, three different timelines converge to reveal a different take on the Dracula we’ve all heard of, and make you hesitate the next time you explore your parents’ library as well. Please note: you cannot re-read what you have already read.
Peng Sheperd’s cartographers
Nell always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a cartographer at the New York Public Library, just like him. After her father is found dead in his office with a cheap road map on his desk, Nell launches an investigation alongside old friends and new friends to shed light on her father’s death. The card, it turns out, isn’t so cheap after all. In fact, there is a long crime history attached to each of its copies.
Midnight at Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
Lydia returns to her hometown and finds a job at the Bright Ideas bookstore. She quickly gets to know the regulars as they come and go. When Joey dies by suicide in the bookstore, leaving his possessions to Lydia, she wonders why. Especially when she finds a picture of herself as a child among her belongings. Between encrypted messages and unexpected connections to her past, Lydia desperately searches for answers.
The plot is a murder of VM Burns
Who doesn’t dream of owning a bookstore full of mystery? Samantha Washinton is preparing to open just that while writing her own mystery. All his thoughts are mysteries and murders. But, when a real estate agent is found dead in his garden, suspicion is diverted. Certainly, she knows a lot about the crimes. Before she can open her dream store and finish her book, Samantha teams up with a group of retirees, including her grandmother, to solve the case.
The Secret Society, Book and Scone by Ellery Adams
Nora Pennington is the owner of Miracle Books, a place where tourists flock to heal themselves in the city’s hot springs. Nora is known for being able to recommend the perfect novel to anyone that will help them heal on the inside. When a businessman calls on her services, Nora doesn’t think twice. Then he finds himself dead on the train tracks. To solve the case, Nora gathers the Secret, Book, and Scone Society.
Mikkel Birkegaard’s Library of Shadows
Jon unexpectedly inherits his father’s used bookstore after his death. Once he takes over, however, he discovers a secret society that derives its psychic powers from the books. Their history goes back to the Library of Alexandria. As arson, murder and other crimes plague Jon’s bookstore life, he and his new friends must find out who’s after them and save themselves.
If you’re in the mood for more mystery, try these mystery romance books or mysteries set in apartment buildings.