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Top 10 Mystery Novels That Deserve A Movie Adaptation

by Lucas Hedinger
fact checked by Jamie Frater

As far as fiction goes, books have always been a great way for people to experience a solid mystery plot. In fact, most of the best mystery movies and series were either adapted from a book or inspired by one. With the genre making a vivid comeback in the last few years, a good number of amazing books have become top contenders for future adaptations. From psychological thrillers and supernatural tropes, to the more traditional “who-done-it” murder mystery, let’s take a look at 10 dark and twisted mystery novels that would make fantastic movies:

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10 Greywalker (2006)

Harper Blaine is a private investigator as ordinary as can be in the foggy and rainy streets of Seattle. But, when one of her cases goes wrong and she is savagely attacked by a maniac she was tracking down for a client, Harper is pronounced dead. For two minutes. As she tries to go back to her life after waking up and leaving the hospital, she notices that things are not the same. She sees things and hears things she is not supposed to see and hear, and when mysterious people begin following her, she knows it can’t all be a coincidence. Harper is now a Greywalker, a rare being capable of jumping between our world…and the other one.

This 2006 underrated and bizarre Kat Richardson novel is the first of a long series, and it has garnered a bit of a cult following over the years. The clever use of the noir detective genre mixed with a paranormal element creates a neat style full of action, and lead by an insanely charismatic, leather-jacket-wearing protagonist who tries to navigate her new reality as things get more dangerous. The format of the novels and the series as a whole would be perfect for a TV adaptation, in which every book would work as a season. Netflix, get on it.

9 Dear Daughter (2014)

This brilliant award winning thriller tells the story of Jane Jenkins, a former Paris Hilton like high-society IT girl, who is being released from prison 10 years after being convicted for the murder of her own mother. Having escaped a life sentence on a technicality, Jane decides to take matters into her own hands and solve her mother’s murder to prove her innocence. Her only clue being a private conversation she overheard on the night of the murder, she makes her way to a small town in South Dakota where many secrets from her past seem to have been hidden. As things unravel, she begins to question wether she actually is the killer she is trying so hard to catch.

Pitched as “Gone Girl” meets “Mean Girls”, this 2014 novel by Elizabeth Little is one of the most effective thrillers in recent memory. The plot is rather unique, following Jane as she tries to investigate this case while the whole world believes she got away with the murder she is trying to solve. Following her as she attempts to keep her fragile undercover persona to avoid the public eye would make for quite the anxiety-inducing film.

8 The Mystery Of The Yellow Room (1907)

When Mathilde Stangerson is found almost dead, alone and battered in her room (which is yellow, get it?), reporter Joseph Rouletabille is sent to investigate the violent assault. As he makes his way to the Stangersons’ castle, along with his lawyer and friend Jean Sainclair, Joseph quickly understands that this strange case will not be an easy one to solve. Because one thing doesn’t quite make sense: how did the attacker come in and out of a room that was locked from the inside?

“The Mystery Of The Yellow Room” is a classic of French literature. Written by legendary author Gaston Leroux, the 1907 novel has been adapted before, mainly as a French comedy back in 2003. That said, an updated, darker and grittier reimagining has long been talked about. A modern adaptation of the novel could make for an entertaining flick, as the sinister intrigue works in any setting and time period. Fingers crossed!

7 Now You See Me (2011)

No, it’s not what you think. “Now You See Me” is the story of London detective Lacey Flint, who finds herself with a strange case when a Jack The Ripper copycat begins to kill and send letters to the media to taunt the police. While it all seems very superficial at first, the investigation takes a real turn when the killer calls out Lacey by name. And the further down the rabbit hole this case goes, the more Lacey realizes the killer may be linked to a certain part of her past she worked very hard to keep secret. With five days left until the next murder, and accompanied by a DI who grows increasingly suspicious of her, Lacey knows she needs to find the killer herself, and before anyone else.

This award winning masterpiece of suspense, courtesy of British author Sharon Bolton, marked the beginning of a critically acclaimed series of novels. Since its release in, fans have been begging for a movie adaptation of the novel, which could eventually be turned into a full franchise. With its fast paced storytelling, captivating intrigue, and its set of well written character, “Now You See Me” is a story that would only be made better by a movie adaptation.

6 The Good Son (2018)

Since he was a young child, Yu-Jin has always had problems with his memory, but it never stopped him from living a perfectly normal life with his mother and his loving brother. But when, one morning, he wakes up to a voicemail from his mother asking if everything is okay at home, and realizes he is covered in blood and unable to remember the previous night, Yu-Jin’s life takes a turn he cannot come back from. Especially because, minutes later, he finds his mother’s dead body at the bottom of the stairs.

As far as psychological thrillers go, Korean author You-Jeong Jeong is a true master of the craft, and “The Good Son” is yet another proof of that. The unusual storytelling in this book is on a whole other level, and a movie following that structure would be unique, to say the least. And believe us when we tell you that you will never, ever see that final twist coming.

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5 The Last Widow (2019)

A scientist from the CDC is suddenly kidnapped by a mysterious group of people in a parking lot in Atlanta. Thirty days later, two massive explosions destroy an entire neighborhood in the city. As they make their way to the scene, GBI investigators Will Trent and Sara Linton are caught off guard by a violent car accident, and Sara is kidnapped by the same people who took the scientist. Will is left for dead at the crash site. Coincidences? Hardly. Everything is connected, and before they can even make any sense of it all, Will and Sara find themselves at the center of a disturbing conspiracy that could bring death to thousands.

This bone-chilling 2019 Karin Slaughter novel is unbelievably dark and twisted, and has the guts to go to places you wouldn’t expect. Following Will as he goes undercover in a world of corruption, terrorism and cults is a ride like no other. The book is raw, action-packed and thrilling all the way through, which could make for a highly entertaining movie in the vain of True Detective or Seven. Rumors have circulated about a The Last Widow adaptation being in the works, but as of right now, nothing has been officially announced or confirmed.

4 The Passenger (1995)

Etienne, a 28 year old college professor from Montreal, just got an exciting new job teaching a class in a nearby town. During one of his daily drives to work, he decides to take a hitchhiker named Alex in his car, to have some company. Alex appears to be friendly and ordinary at first, but things take a turn when he suddenly begins to lay out details of Etienne’s life, talking as if they have known each other for years. And when a series of murders starts happening way too close to them, Etienne is forced to accept that this seemingly random encounter with Alex was anything but a coincidence.

Patrick Sénécal is often referred to as Canada’s Stephen King, and this novel is one of the best examples of how true that is. The twists and turns that occur as the story and the truth behind Etienne and Alex’s relationship unravel are both disturbing and incredibly clever. A few French outlets reported that a movie adaptation of The Passenger was in the works a few years ago, with shooting slated to start in 2018, but no news ever came from it since, meaning the movie probably got stuck in development hell. Let’s hope it escapes its faith and finally comes to us on the big screen.

3 My Lovely Wife (2019)

Millicent and her husband have it all. A good marriage, a beautiful house in the suburbs, and two magnificent children. On the surface, nothing could be more perfect. But upholding a marriage is difficult, and some couples often decide to take on activities together to spice up their relationship and keep things fresh. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Wrong. You see, Millicent just so happens to be a cold blooded sociopath, and her marriage-saving hobby just so happens to be the art of getting away with murder.

Few words can describe how twisted and macabre this book is. From the very start, the petrifying nature of the story grasps you, as you discover the most intriguing serial killer in fiction since Dexter and Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal. Lucky for us, a movie adaptation of “My Lovely Wife” is already a done deal — Deadline reported in February 2020 that Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s company Blossom Films have partnered up to acquire the rights to Samantha Downing’s international bestseller. And while we don’t know if Kidman herself will portray the terrifying Millicent, we can still dream about it while we wait.

2 The Family Upstairs (2019)

On her long awaited 25th birthday, Libby discovers that she will inherit a giant mansion that belonged to her birth-parents before she was adopted. Confused, but excited, she brings a reporter along on her quest to uncover the enigmatic history of her family and the dark secrets of this mansion, which has been vacant for 24 years. But their investigation quickly takes a turn for the worst: it seems like Libby was not the only one excited about her 25th birthday, and it seems like a certain group of people has been waiting for her to arrive.

Lisa Jewells delivered a seriously complex and uncommon narrative with “The Family Upstairs”, one that could possibly go to great lengths on television. The book is grounded in a dark and disturbing sense of realism, which makes everything feel even creepier when the secrets of the story are revealed, but it also thrives in the format of dual timelines, which allows us to see both the past and the present while the plot unravels.

1 The Silent Patient (2019)

Alicia Berenson, a famous painter from London, has the ideal life. A kind and generous soul, she is madly in love with her husband, she lives in her dream house, she has everything she could have possibly asked for. Everything is perfect, everyone is happy. But then, one night, Alicia’s husband comes home after a long day at work…and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, before falling silent and never speaking another word to anybody ever again.

Theo Farber, a London criminal psychotherapist, becomes obsessed with Alicia’s case, and makes his way to the Grove, a psychiatric institute where Alicia has been for six years, during which she has not spoken a single word. As he takes her as his patient and tries to uncover her motives for murdering her husband, Theo begins a twisted search for the truth that will take him down a dark path. A path that may or may not be driven by his own agenda.

Alex Michaelides’ debut novel was widely praised by critics for its inventive narrative style (inspired by Agatha Christie), its dark tone and, most of all, its incredibly clever final twist that had people talking for months after the book’s release in 2019. Reminiscent of “Gone Girl”, the gritty atmosphere of this New York Times bestseller is perfectly suited for a movie adaptation, and we hope it happens sooner than later.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater