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9 Mysterious Detective Stories for Kids: Move Over Enid Blyton

For many people, Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ mysteries automatically jump to mind when thinking of detective stories for kids. However, I tried to find some children’s detective books you hopefully don’t know yet. Let’s solve some mysteries with books such as ‘Secret Breakers’, ‘Dead Man’s Cove’ and, best of all, ‘The Invisible Detective’.

Children’s Mystery Stories Have Come of Age

As a mother and a book reviewer, I love encouraging children to read.

Detective, crime and mystery books are wonderful for this purpose as they challenge, make you curious and constantly wondering ‘just who did it’?

Even though I admire Enid Blytons ‘Famous Five’, I somehow feel they have been superseded by some brilliant stories designed to challenge and make children think.

‘Secret Breakers – The Power of Three’ (H L Dennis, 2009)

Image Source: Scholastic

Recommended for ages 9+, this is an unusual slant on mystery and detection stories. 3 children are summoned to join a secret team of code breakers at Bletchley Park. Their task is to solve a mysterious code that baffled their parents and grandparents. At every stage they are forced to solve problems – even to enter the building they have to solve riddles to find the key!  

Hidden among school groups visiting the site, they train quietly and learn new skills. Danger soon begins to emerge. Someone has sought to prevent previous generations solving the code – now someone is out to kill Brodie, Tusia and Hunter. Bletchley Park was the site of code breakers in the Second World War, and makes the book much more believable.  

Believable setting, challenging clues and the idea of solving problems that your parents and grandparents couldn’t solve make this a fantastic story.

‘The 39 Clues: One False Note’ (Gordon Korman, 2008)

Image Source: Wikimedia

Two teams are trying to solve 39 clues that safeguard a great power. Amy and Dan, helped by their au pair Nellie, are in competition with their power hungry relatives Hamilton, Madison and Eisenhower. All belong to the Cahill family, who have the ability to use a centuries old power as long as they can solve the clues that lead to it.  

World domination is the prize in treasure hunt covering a range of countries. Each book in the series takes in a different country thus providing insights into the world around us as well as following an interesting plot. In ‘One False Note’, they are hunting through Mozart’s music in Austria. There are lots of entertaining scenes such as the episode of the parakeets on the train where Hamilton, Madison and Eisenhower chase Amy, Dan and Nellie. Ideal for children aged 10+.

This series is entertaining, offering insights into different cultures, ideas and concepts while providing challenging clues that you feel you have to try and solve.

‘Dead Man’s Cove’ (Lauren St John, 2010)

Image Source: Blogspot

This is the story of an orphan girl sent to live in a tiny village in Cornwall with an uncle she had not known existed, after spending many years in foster homes and children’s homes. Laura quickly finds herself confronted by a variety of mysteries including the fact that her uncle is trying to erase his past.

Why is everyone afraid of Dead Man’s Cove and just who is Tariq? Laura is determined to investigate because she wants to be a detective when she grows up. It quickly puts her in danger.  

The story encourages readers to begin to consider issues of people smuggling, identity crises and environmental issues. Laura is a lovely character: ‘What I want is to have a life packed with excitement like some of the characters in my books’.  Ideal for children aged 7+.

Interesting, challenging and well written – this story provokes readers into considering topical issues while having the fun of trying to solve a mystery.

‘Guinea Pigs Online’ (Jennifer Gray & Amanda Swift, 2013)

Image Source: Bookswarm

Children aged 6+ will love this book.

Two lively guinea pigs enjoy exploring and using the internet. Invariably it gets them into trouble. They think they have found the guinea pig hotel of their dreams but discover that a holiday at Furry Towers is not quite what it seems. They are put in a smelly hutch with soggy lettuce and some rather nasty humans in charge.

It is time for Fuzzy and Coco to investigate, helped and sometimes hindered by Heroic Eduardo, Soldier Fat and Lazy Lulu. This is a light, entertaining story that makes you giggle. There are lovely black and white illustrations to help reluctant readers keep track of the plot.  

Good for reading aloud to younger children, while older ones can read it for themselves with the aid of the lovely illustrations.

‘The Deadly Fire’ (Cora Harrison, 2010)

Image Source: Rediff

Part of the ‘London Murder Mysteries’ series, this is the story of a gang of orphaned children led by Alfie who are trying to survive in Victorian London.  The group includes Alfie’s younger brother Sam who is blind but has a stunning voice. His singing helps them earn money for food. All the children attend a Ragged School to lean to read and write.  

Problems quickly appear when the teacher attempts to help people cope with money problems by warning them against the extortionate interest rates charged by a local moneylender. The school goes up in flames and the teacher, Mr Elmore, is found dead.  

Alfie and his gang are convinced it is murder and set out to investigate. They find themselves embroiled in property speculators, family tensions as well as the money lender. Solving the murder is not easy.

It is interesting seeing how creative the children become both in terms of their attempts to identify the murderer as well as making a living. Ideal for children aged 8+ who are beginning to study Victorian life in school.

The book brings Victorian London to life, allowing kids to get an impression as to what life was like for children at the time, including the role of the Ragged Schools and the problems of poverty.

‘The Mystery of the Cursed Ruby’ (Helen Moss, 2011)

Image Source: Googleapis

This series of books dealing with a variety of imaginative mysteries are ideal for children aged 8+, and are best described as Enid Blyton brought up to date and made relevant for modern kids. Each book features three children – Scott, Jack and Emily plus Drift their dog. In ‘The Mystery of the Cursed Ruby’, a circus has arrived in town and a trapeze artist has been injured in a fall.

Luckily, the children remember their first aid training and manage to save her from severe injury. This allows them to make friends with the circus folk and hear the tale of an ancient ruby that is said to bring luck. Unfortunately that luck is deserting them as problem after problem occurs.

The children investigate the truth behind the curse by asking questions and seeking information, and having adventures along the way.

Entertaining and relaxing, it shows children taking part in activities outside ordinary life yet part of modern society.

‘The Search for the Sunken Treasure’ (Geronimo Stilton, 2006)

Image Source: R10s

You cannot help but giggle at this entertaining series designed for children aged 6+.  

It features a mouse detective called Geronimo Stilton who finds himself on a tri to the Ratlapagos Islands in search of buried treasure. Lots of clues have to be solved along the way and rat opponents have to be outwitted. Kids love the play on words.

This is a light, entertaining story which is designed to help children learn to read – but is also ideal for reading aloud at bedtime. Other stories in the series include ‘The Attack of the Bandit Cats’, ‘The Mona Mouse Code’ and ‘The Secret of Cacklefur Castle’.

Well laid out with lots of coloured pictures, exclamation marks and different fonts and colours used to highlight phrases making it easy for young children to follow the words and learn to read themselves.

‘The Invisible Detective’ (Justin Richards, 2003)

Image Source: Amazon

During a heavy rainstorm, 14-year-old Arthur Drake takes refuge in a dusty shop. Picking up a dusty book, he finds it is in his own handwriting – but written in the 1930’s. This is the casebook of the Invisible Detective, a front for four children who use special skills to solve mysteries and crimes.  In this case, a touring exhibition has taken over their meeting place.  

People are disappearing, bodies are being found that have no faces and puppets are proving somewhat deadly. The story flicks from period to period, and you left until the very end to discover just what the link between Arthur Drake and Art and the Invisible Detective actually is. This is imaginative, different, and attention grabbing.

This book teaches about detective methods from the 1930’s, and keeps the reader constantly wondering what is going to happen next. Perfect for aged 12+ readers.

‘Arsenic for Tea’ (Robin Stevens 2015 Random House)

Image Source: Day Dreamers Thoughts

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are staying at Daisy’s home for the holidays. When guests are poisoned during a birthday party, the girls are determined to investigate – no matter what the consequences may be.

Lively, entertaining and amusing, it is well written and makes the reader think, and want to try to solve the mystery before Daisy and Hazel do.  


These lovely characters appeal to children aged 9 and over, occupying a believable setting that makes you want to smile at their activities.


A New Challenge with Every Step

Detective stories make kids think, assess and consider new ideas. Every new adventure will challenge their imagination and reasoning abilities.  

When combined with fascinating plots, lively writing and wonderful locations, they makes memorable reading.

Which other detective books for kids can you recommend?

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