(Cozy) Mystery Book without a Murder (?!?)

I have received a few comments and letters asking for help in coming up with mystery books that don’t focus on murders. I know, I know, the first thing I also think of when thinking of a mystery novel is… death, and that’s death – as in not natural! But when you think of it, there are all sorts of things that could be the basis of a mystery book: stealing, forging, cheating, cooking… well not really cooking as in the culinary theme sense – but definitely poisoning – but that usually ends in murder, which this theme is NOT about!

If you know of an author who prefers his/her mysteries without a requisite corpse, please tell us about him/her via a comment. Also, if you know of an author who generally deals with death, but has one or more mystery books that don’t require a mortician, please post a comment as well.

Mystery Books without Murders:

Susan Wittig Albert: The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter Mystery Series

Susan Wittig Albert: The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose.

Nancy Atherton: Aunt Dimity Mystery Series

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey

Kathleen Bacus: Tressa (Calamity) Jayne Turner Mystery Series (books 2,3,4,& 5)

Baxter Black: Ride, Cowboy, Ride: 8 Seconds Ain’t that Long

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

Dorothy Cannell: The Thin Woman

Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands

Carol Higgins Clark: Regan Reilly Mystery Series

Beverly CochranThe Housekeeper AND The Visit

Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone AND The Woman in White

Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes Mystery Series

Frances Devine: Miss Aggie’s Gone Missing

Alice Duncan: Daisy Gumm Majesty Mystery Series

Janet Evanovich: Lizzy & Diesel Mystery Series

Monica Ferris: A Stitch in Time

Earlene Fowler: Mariner’s Compass & Steps to the Altar

Dick Francis: Decider (“Accidental deaths but no Murder.”)

Dorothy Gilman: Mrs. Pollifax Mystery Series

Jan Gleiter: A House by the Side of the Road

E.W. Hornung: Raffles, the Gentleman Thief Mystery Series

Laura R. King: Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes Mystery Series

Virginia Lanier: Death in Bloodhound Red

Maurice LeblancArsène Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar Mystery Series

Lisa Lutz: Izzy Spellman Mystery Series

Peter Mayle: Chasing CezanneAnything Considered, AND The Vintage Caper

Donna McLean: The Butterfly Caper

Gladys Mitchell: Mrs. Bradley Mystery Series

Elizabeth Peters: Borrower of the Night

Ellis Peters: An Excellent Mystery

Ellery Queen: only some

Spencer Quinn (aka Peter Abrahams): Chet and Bernie Mystery Series

Ellen Raskin: The Westing Game (“Technically a Children’s/YA novel, but suitable for adults.)

Patricia Rockwell: Bingoed

Ann B. Ross: Miss Julia Mystery Series

Ian Sansom: Mobile Library Mystery Series

Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night

Maria E. Schneider: Sedona Mystery Series AND Haven Mystery Series

Alexander McCall Smith: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Mystery Series

Josephine Tey: The Franchise Affair

Edgar Wallace: The Black

Donald E. Westlake: John Dortmunder Mystery Series

Mildred A. Wirt: Penny Parker Mystery Series

(When I have the names of the authors without a specific book listed, this means that generally, their books don’t include murder. This is not to say that they absolutely never include a body, or two.)

Comments

  1. *Susan says

    This actually came up on a book forum I belong to, some time ago. Most of the suggestions were teen mysteries (Nancy Drew et al) but somebody pointed out that Dorothy L. Sayers’ ‘Gaudy Night’ doesn’t actually contain a murder.
    Also there is “The Black” by Edgar Wallace, which focuses on blackmail. (It’s a collection of short stories about a private detective who specializes in blackmail cases. It’s very good.)
    Also one of the books we’ve been discussing on here, recently – ‘The Franchise Affair’ by Josephine Tey, is another one. Alleged kidnapping, but no murder.
    I’ll see if I can find the thread on the other site, and see if anybody had any other ideas.
    Cheers,
    Susan.

    P.S. My apologies if this has been posted twice, Danna! My connection dropped out just as I posted the first time, and I wasn’t sure if it had gone through.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      *Susan, I wonder if that’s why I go the letters and comments…

      Thank you for telling us about Edgar Wallace’s and Josephine Tey’s mystery books. I have added them to the list.

      P.S. I’m glad you re-posted your comment, the first was lost somewhere out their in internet airwaves.

      • *Susan says

        Okay, I found the forum thread I mentioned earlier. I don’t know if I can put a link on here, so I’ll summarize.

        ‘No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series by Alexander McCall Smith. (I’d forgotten about these. Unusual. Set in Africa.)
        ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ by Erskine Childers.
        ‘Decider’ by Dick Francis (Accidental deaths but no Murder.)
        The Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes Series by Laurie King. (Some, not necessarily all.)
        Dame Beatrice LeStrange series by Gladys Mitchell (Some, not necessarily all.)
        ‘The Westing Game’ by Ellen Raskin (Technically a Children’s / YA novel, but suitable for adults.)
        ‘Mariner’s Compass’ and ‘Steps to the Altar’ from Earlene Fowler’s ‘Benni Harper’ series.
        ‘Loose Among the Lambs’ by Jay Brandon (WARNING: No murder but plot apparently revolves around Child Abuse!)
        ‘To Love and Be Wise’ by Josephine Tey.
        ‘An Excellent Mystery’ by Ellis Peters.
        The ‘Mrs Pollifax’ stories by Dorothy Gilman. (Technically they’re spy stories, and there is sometimes a (non-graphic) death or two, but it’s not the point of the book, and they’re FUN!!)
        Cheers!

        • Marilyn says

          Hi,
          I’m new to this site.. Our Library in Ocean County NJ has a Homeborrowers volunteer division. We bring books to homebound people. One lady was having a problem with mysteries that had “murder” in them. I’m not an avid reader so it’s been difficult for me to find much in this category I now have so much more info to help me. I have found this sight so helpful. I’ve checked the boxes so I get notification of new posts and comments by e-mail
          Not sure how to post a general “thank you” to all. Hope you know how and will pass this on.
          Again…Thank you.
          Marilyn

          • Danna - cozy mystery list says

            Marilyn, welcome to the Cozy Mystery site!

            A mystery without a murder – who’d a’thunk it?!? As you can see from all of the comments, LOTS of Cozy Mystery readers made up this great list!

  2. Deahna says

    Oh, yes!

    Many (older?) teen and YA mystery sereies seem to get along very well without a dead body. In the past weeks I’ve been reading the Penny Parker Mysteries (Mildred A. Wirts) and I can’t remember that even one had a corpse in it. Then there were The Three Investigators (original author?) and the Finder-Outers (Enid Blyton) which I loved as a teenager.

    In adult mysteries I recall an Agatha Christie or two where the death was natural due to old age but the inheritance couldn’t be found. Sorry I can’t be more specific but it’s ages since I read that.

    One of Monica Ferris’ Needlecraft Mysteries also wasn’t about a murder. I think it’s A Stitch In Time where they restore an old tapestry and someone tries to keep Betsy from finding out about the secret it carries.

    I can’t name any more just from memory but I’m sure there are several books in series which does not have an actual murder in it or being the basis for the investigation. I’ll let you know if I find any more in my bookcase later on.

      • Deahna says

        Here’s another one I remembered: Miss Aggie’s Gone Missing by Francis Devine. There’s a bank robbery and at the same time Miss Aggie, who is a senior living in a boarding house, goes missing. The owner and the other seniors search for her, always in mind she might be dead. She isn’t, otherwise there wouldn’t have been more Miss Aggie books 😉 Those do have murders in them though.

          • Deahna says

            One more: Bingoes by Patricia Rockwell. There’s no body to investigate but a collapse at Bingo, followed by a coma. I’m not sure there was no death in the book but if so it didn’t play any immediate role.

  3. Barbora says

    Maurice Leblanc. As far as i remember main character Arsène Lupin was a thief. Also I think not all Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories are about murder.

  4. Meredith says

    Carol Higgins Clark writes the Regan Reilly series. These books are very light and humorous, and usually involve theft, kidnapping or generally bumbling criminals. There have been no murders as far as I can remember.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thanks, Meredith. I saw a Carol Higgins Clark & Marie Higgins Clark television movie last year on TNT (Deck the Halls) that was exactly as you describe. I really enjoyed it.

  5. Carrie says

    Whilst not cozy mysteries as such, I’m wondering whether E.W. Hornung’s books about Raffles, the Gentleman Thief would suit the your blog readers asking the question.

  6. Laurel says

    On Amazon, a reader reviewed a book by Donald E. Westlake (What’s So Funny, I think it was called). He commented that this author wrote an entire series of myteries without murder. I think it’s the Dortmunder series.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thanks, Laurel, I just added Donald E. Westlake’s John Dortmunder Mystery Series to the list.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Jean, I would have thought I could have remembered the Miss Julia Series. I’m glad you did!

      • linda c says

        I can’t remember which book of Miss Julia it was but if I do remember right one particular book had a dead body show up in an old shed belonging to a teacher. love this series. One of my all time favorites.

  7. says

    Victoria Lanier’s first Bloodhound book does not deal with a murder (lost child) but it is not cozy. It’s a WONDERFUL series and I highly recommend it, but it is much closer to thriller than cozy.

    The first Vicky Bliss mystery “Borrower of the Night” is a “treasure hunt.” The historical aspects discuss a long ago murder, but it’s not the thing under investigation. I just re-read the book for a buddy read for my blog. I don’t recall the other books in the series, but I don’t think most of them have a murder as the central plot. They are mostly art theft type mysteries. Hilarious too. Highly recommended.
    (Author is: Elizabeth Peters)

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Maria, I just added Death in Bloodhound Red and Borrower of the Night to the list. Thanks!

  8. marion says

    Someone who posts here, I think maybe one of the Lindas, recommended Elizabeth Peters to me as often having non-murder plots.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Marion, Maria mentioned Borrower of the Night as not containing a murder victim. It’s the first in the Elizabeth Peters Vicky Bliss Mystery Series.

  9. marion says

    I believe that Wilkie Collins’ ‘The Moonstone’ and ‘The Woman in White’ are not primarily murder mysteries. Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ and Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ have mystery aspects which are not murder mysteries. Some of Poe’s and Edith Wharton’s short stories were not murder mysteries.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Marion, I would have never thought of these classic mysteries. They are good additions to the list.

  10. Kay says

    The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell. I don’t want to say more because that would be a spoiler, but it’s the book I wish I’d written.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Here’s another book, Kay, that I read years and years ago. Thank you for remembering it.

  11. marion says

    For people who enjoy romantic stories, I used to read the books written by Victoria Holt when I was in college. They probably would be considered gothic romances rather than mysteries but there was always some kind of mystery or secret at the bottom resolved by amateurs. I don’t know how many are still in print but they are available at my library. There were other such authors such as Dorothy Eden and more names can be found on line, I’m sure. Such novels were popular in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Holt also wrote a historic/gothic series under the name of Phillipa Carr which all had a secret of some sort at the bottom of the plot. Barbara Michaels, who is also Elizabeth Peters is still writing such things. Phyllis Whitney wrote such things as well. These are more or less melodramatic which does not appeal to me as much now but I still reread them from time to time with enjoyment. I was nuts about them when I was a college student- great escape reading.!

    • linda c says

      marion, I use to love the older type Victorian gothics. Victoria Holt was an old time favorite. Catherine Cookson is another. I loved Phyllis A. Whitney books too. I remember reading a lot of the older books that were set in Victorian England. Those were great reads. I can’t remember right off hand but there were several books during those long ago times that were set during the Christmas holidays. great books. Quite a few were in paperbacks, which was also great!! The bigger the book the better for me! I could stash those in my purse and take them with me wherever I went.

  12. Angela says

    If I remember correctly I believe at least one of Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper stories does not involve murder. I want to say it was “Mariner’s Compass”. Benni inherits a house with some strange conditions and has to figure out why the guy left her everything.

    Also, Janet Evanovich’s new Wicked series doesn’t focus on murder, which is not to say nobody dies it’s just not the focus of the mystery. For that matter many of the Plum series are that way as well, murder may happen but it’s not always the main reason for the action.

  13. Chelsea says

    I found this book very interesting and funny. It is a mystery in a subject matter I had never considered before but glad I did. The author has written poetry as well. The book title is “Ride, Cowboy, ride!: 8 seconds ain’t that long (a rodeo novel) by Baxter Black.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Chelsea, with a crazy title like that, I absolutely had to read the reviews! You’re in good company with Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist apparently loving it.

  14. says

    Beverly Cochran a Scottish writer only wrote two books but they are mysteries without murders and very well written!
    The Housekeeper and The Visitor. Sadly you have to find used copies but they are attainable.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thanks, Peggy Ann, for telling us about Beverly cochran’s mysteries without murders. I’ll go add them to the list.

  15. Rebecca says

    Chasing Cezanne- Mayles, humor and mystery, art theft/forgery. Also his Anything Considered and The Vintage Caper are really good non murder mysteries. A House by the Side of the Road (Gleiter) has a murder, but it is before the characters in the story get introduced to us. So the reader spends the story trying to figure out who did it.

  16. marion says

    I started reading ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins tonight. I read it once, more than 10 years ago and I really can’t remember much about it other than it was pretty good and seemed to take an awful long time to read as do most Victorian novels. But I DID finish it which is saying something with my attention span being what it is. Goodness knows how long it will take me or even if I’ll finish it this time but I’ll let you know. I’m sure it’s worth my time even if I only read part of it. I also think it may be time to revisit Victoria Holt. I enjoyed those so much in college- 30 years ago!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Keep us posted, Marion. These days, a long book has got to be a really good read for me – to be able to stay with it. I find myself losing patience with authors who see to have the “300 pages or more” rule… especially when the book could have (or should I say “should have”) taken only 200 pages.

      • marion says

        Danna, I thought you’d like to know this. At the library today, I saw a lady checking out a bunch of mysteries and I asked her if she knew about this website. She was nodding her head and smiling before I finished my sentence. She says she relies on you for ideas on what to read and we agreed that you have created a great site. She was interested to know that you just live down in San Antonio. Did not get her name unfortunately!

  17. Krystal says

    Susan Wittig Albert’s Beatrix Potter Series has some books that are not about murder. Though her books would also feature under animal lovers as well because the animals in the books also have mysteries of their own to solve.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thanks, Krystal, I just added Susan Wittig Albert’s Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter Mystery series to the list.

  18. BB says

    What a great list! I’m glad so many folks have remembered good mysteries that don’t involve murder since that sometimes gets boring.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      BB, isn’t it a great list? I am so lucky to have so many knowledgeable Cozy Mystery readers who are willing to help the rest of us!

  19. Jackie says

    How about the Chet & Bernie Mysteries by Spencer Quinn? Those I remember are about a kidnapping – I think? That Chet is such a good story teller, even for a dog!

    • BB says

      Hi Jackie, good timing for you to mention the Chet and Bernie series – the first book “Dog On It” is 99¢ on Kindle right now. They look like interesting stories, especially with a dog narrator!

  20. Julie says

    It’s the first time I’ve been on this great site. I just wanted to add an author for the person looking for a non-murder cozy series. I just finished reading it. It’s the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton. Ms. Atherton lives in the U.S. but her cozies take place entirely in the English countryside. Very good reading.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Welcome to the site, Julie! Thanks for the tip about Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity Mystery Series.

  21. marion says

    Hi, Danna. I just finished Peggy Webb’s ‘Double Tropical Trouble’. In this one, a murder in the long past is referred to and there is worry that another murder may be commited but there is not another actual murder. I must say that Webb’s novels strike me as very far out and madcap. Almost too much for me but while I kept thinking about returning it, I also found myself wanting to finish it just to find out what else the characters are going to do next. In my opinion, the mystery is the least part of the plot. I found myself thinking of it as a really far out and silly Nancy Drew type story. In the end, I enjoyed it but it was quite outrageous to my way of thinking. I believe I will read the rest of the series when I am in the mood for that type of story although I wouldn’t want a steady diet of such books. One or two a month might be pleasant. Also, there are a great many referrals to sex but no actual sex. I would certainly suggest to others that they try out Webb’s series to see if they are appealling.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thanks, Marion, for the Peggy Webb recommendation. It sounds like it fits the bill if you are looking for a fun mystery book to read.

  22. Mel says

    Kathleen Bacus’ Tressa Jayne Turner mysteries have several books without murder. The first and the 6th book do feature a murder, but the rest are about other crimes.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thank you, Mel. I have added Kathleen Bacus to the list of authors who don’t always feature murder in their mystery books.

  23. Angela says

    Hey Danna,
    I have a new one for this list…The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose by Susan Wittig Albert.

  24. Judy says

    I use your site a lot to keep up with the mysteries published by Guideposts, and I know that you have many of these listed under faith based/no profanity. Nearly all of those would also fit in this category, but I was looking for the list for Mysteries of Sparrow Island and couldn’t find it here or under faith based. You used to have it, where has it gone? Thank you for your list making, I appreciate it very much!

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