Here at Bookish, it’s no secret that we’re huge fans of audiobooks. We’re in good company: Alice Berman, author of the Audible Original book I Eat Men Like Air (narrated by Elizabeth Evans), also loves to tune in to her stories. In Berman’s latest, a mysterious death at a mansion in New Hampshire rocks a group of friends. Here, Berman shares six must-listen mystery and thriller audiobooks she knows you’ll love.
I’ve been a fan of mysteries since I got my first Nancy Drew at an antiques store in upstate New York when I was eight. I am the annoying person who tries to solve everything I watch, read, or listen to; I often will look up from a book and tell whoever I’m with what I suspect happened. I think I developed this penchant for amateur sleuthing because it allows you to be a part of the story on a deeper level—you’re interacting with the characters more thoughtfully. This is also true of audiobooks: I find that narrators have a way of drawing you into the story, teasing out humor where you might have missed it on the page, or layering in elements of reality as the voice rises and falls. Below are some of my favorite mystery and thriller audiobooks, which blend the perfect amount of narrative drama with enthralling stories.
The Night Before by Wendy Walker, narrated by Gabra Zackman and Saskia Maarleveld
Wendy Walker is the kind of author who writes an utterly chilling story that is also somehow completely relatable to your own life. I find myself thinking about her characters when I’m going through my daily routine; they really stick with you. All of her novels keep you up until 2am because you just have to know what happens, but her most recent, The Night Before, about two sisters recounted in parallel timelines—the night before a disappearance and the morning after —was so compelling that I actually listened to it all in one sitting (I reorganized my closet while it played). Walker’s quick pacing and intricate plotting keep you moving rapidly through the book, trying to spot the misdirection she so deftly utilizes.
Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie, narrated by David Suchet
Audible has a truly stellar collection of Agatha Christies, including a performance of Murder on the Orient Express that employs a wide variety of actors who will make you feel as though you’re listening to a play unfolding. It’s hard to pick just one Hercule Poirot novel for this list, but Sad Cypress stands apart for me. Narrated by David Suchet, the wildly talented actor who portrayed the Belgian detective on screen for years, the classic English feel of the novel shines through while Poirot himself sounds in your ears. This tale of Elinor Carlisle employs one of my favorite strategies of a good mystery: a guilty party indicted by virtue of being the only person with motive. The book begins with Elinor claiming her innocence at her own trial, where she stands accused of murdering her rival. Only one person believes her: Hercule Poirot.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, narrated by Robert Petkoff
This book is one of those that I switched between reading and listening to, because I couldn’t stand to put it down (one of the many pros of audiobooks: You can listen while you’re driving, cooking, walking, folding laundry…). It begins with Detective Colborne telling our protagonist, Oliver Marks, that he doesn’t believe Oliver, who has just served ten years in jail, is guilty of the crime for which he was interred. Set at an arts-focused boarding school, this novel beautifully weaves in the Shakespearean stories that its characters inhabit, and, aided by Robert Petkoff’s letter-perfect annunciation, you will find yourself lost in this story about what betrayal means and how life can imitate art. Be warned: There is no moment in this novel that you will feel comfortable pausing.
The Secret Place by Tana French, narrated by Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson
Picking one Tana French novel is like picking one Agatha Christie: It’s virtually impossible, because they’re all of incredibly high quality—beautifully written, thoughtfully plotted, and gripping until the last page. I usually recommend In the Woods to people who are new to the Dublin Murder Squad, but The Secret Place on Audible has a performative feel that I find consuming, as it employs Stephen Hogan, whose strong Irish accent mimics the first-person voice of Detective Stephen Moran with such accuracy that you will feel he is actually sitting across from you, telling his story. A female narrator comes in for the chapters narrated by the St. Kilda’s girls, providing a nice juxtaposition as we move around in the timeline. This is another boarding school mystery (I didn’t do this on purpose! But I did go to boarding school, so maybe that’s why I have two school stories on my list), focusing on the year-old unsolved murder of Chris Harper, who comes back into the spotlight after a student arrives at the police station with evidence that someone at St. Kilda’s “[knows] who killed him.”
Marlena by Julie Buntin, narrated by Emma Galvin
This stunning debut novel may not technically be classified as a mystery, but it certainly felt like one to me, with an underlying question—hat happened to Marlena?—that informs every turn of the story. Buntin has the deft handling of suspense that Ruth Ware or P.D. James exhibit, but with a level of thoughtful intimacy that is beautifully exemplified by the narration of it, which puts you squarely inside the head of Cat, the first-person protagonist who tells us the story of her dramatic, addictive friendship. I found this book through the wonderful online book club Belletrist, of which I am an avid member; this was their first pick, and, since then, I have come to anticipate their monthly recommendations eagerly. This is a great starter book for people new to audio (it’s easy to follow) or those interested in joining a no-strings-attached book club, as I’ve found it to be incredibly indicative of Belletrist’s excellent taste!
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, narrated by Gabra Zackman
Sometimes true crime is truly a mystery, and this wildly fascinating story is, for me, the leading example of that. Journalist Michelle McNamara spent years researching the mysterious Golden State Killer, and her vivid prose brings you not merely into the crime scenes, but on the path of the obsessive group of people committed to finding the man who terrorized California for over a decade. McNamara died during the writing of this book, and her husband and friends completed it for her, which is told in an utterly moving way: They wanted to continue her search. In fact, shortly after McNamara’s death, the Golden State Killer was apprehended, in large part through the help of tireless searchers like the author (and with the aid of DNA testing). This book is emotional, terrifying, intense, and, in the end, rewarding.
Alice Berman is a New York City-based author whose first Audible Originals book, I Eat Men Like Air, will be published September 2019. The fiction author sold her book, Lost Boys and Technicolor Girls, to ABC, where it is currently in development to become a show with Freeform. Hailing from a political family in Washington, D.C., Berman attended Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, winning the Gibson Peacock Award for creative nonfiction. Post-grad, Berman lived in London and Los Angeles where she co-founded the app, Shopfeed, and served as Creative Director for Pop & Suki. Today, Berman writes from her Tribeca loft. Alice is a founding board member of animal advocacy group Creatures Great and Small; she serves on the Young Collectors Council Acquisitions Committee at the Guggenheim and the Blair House Restoration Fund, and she is a Young Lion Conservator at the New York Public Library. Find her on Instagram at @alicecanaryplum. Alice is represented by Inkwell Management and Anonymous Content.