Sara Hildreth is a reader, writer, and educator, as well as the co-host of Novel Pairings—a bookish podcast dedicated to diversifying the canon and putting contemporary literature into conversation with the classics. Find her on Instagram at @fictionmatters!
It’s almost beach-reading season, but, even if you can’t make it to an actual beach, there’s something about flying through an unputdownable book that feels quintessentially summer, no matter where you are. I’m not sure there’s any genre that’s more compulsively readable than a good mystery or thriller. Once the stage is set and you’re hooked on the plot, it’s hard not to keep reading until every twist and turn is worked out. For that reason and more, I love experiencing my mysteries and thrillers as audiobooks.
Whether you’re looking to intensify the atmospheric quality of your next gothic mystery or you’re hoping to (for once!) avoid guessing your thrillers’ twists, here are five reasons to read your next mystery or thriller on audio:
1. The narrator’s choices add to the mystery.
Voicing the narration for a mystery can be a particularly tricky task. Audiobook narrators know the twists and turns of the plot before they step into the recording booth, but they can’t let their voice work give anything away. Choosing to give the ultimate villain a threatening voice can make a mystery too predictable, but making him sound too sympathetic means the reveal won’t be believable.
These readers are experts, though, and a great audiobook narrator can add to your sense of uncertainty in the very best way.
Through subtle changes of tone, they have you suspecting everyone and uncertain of your bearings from cover to cover. Thanks to incredible voice work in Tim Johnston’s The Current and When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole, I was kept guessing about characters’ true motives until the final page.
By Tim Johnston • Narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christensen
By Alyssa Cole • Narrated by Susan Dalian & Jay Aaseng
2. Audiobooks enhance the mood.
Mysteries and thrillers are often put in the plot-driven category, and for good reason. They’re written to be fast-paced and addictive, and nothing keeps readers turning pages like an unsolved crime.
But these books are also all about the atmosphere, and listening to a mystery on audio is a great way to sink further into a novel’s eerie mood.
The style, accents, and pacing audio narrators use can instantly transport you to the scene of the crime. Audiobooks helped bring to life the sparse Texas setting of Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke and made every dark nook and creaky floorboard in Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway all the more vivid.
By Attica Locke • Narrated by J. D. Jackson
By Ruth Ware • Narrated by Imogen Church
3. It might help you avoid predictability (or play along more easily).
If you’re one of those readers who always guesses the twists in your thrillers and the murderers in your mysteries, it might be time to try one on audio.
While listening to an audiobook uses the same part of your brain as reading on the page, it’s also true that we readers process information differently depending on how we take it in.
I tend to occasionally miss minor details when I’m listening to an audiobook, which can make the twists in thrillers even more deliciously surprising. I did not see the final twist of Maxine Mei-Fung Chung’s The Eighth Girl coming at all, and I loved the book all the more for it. But if you process detailed information better when you hear it out loud, you may enjoy the experience of listening to a thriller for the opposite reason. You may find it easier to play along with a puzzle-like mystery such as The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton if you pick one up in audio format.
By Maxine Mei-Fung Chung • Narrated by Jo Mei & Frazer Douglas
By Stuart Turton • Narrated by James Cameron Stewart
4. Listening ups the thrill factor.
Remember the utter terror of sharing scary urban legends at a sleepover? Or taking turns telling ghost stories around a campfire? Listening to a mystery or thriller on audio can bring back all of those sensations and heighten the thrill you get from reading your thrillers. While I’m not looking to be utterly petrified when I read a mystery, I do enjoy that edge-of-my-seat anxiety about how everything is going to work out.
The sensory experience of audio versions can add an additional layer of urgency to the emotions mysteries and thrillers are already creating.
By Louisa Luna • Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
By Stacey Abrams • Narrated by the author & Adenrele Ojo
5. You won’t be able to stop listening.
One of the reasons mysteries and thrillers make for the best summer reads is that they’re unputdownable. Once you’re immersed in a good whodunit, you won’t be able to focus on anything else. The same is true for getting hooked on a thrilling audiobook, but what I love about being engrossed in an absorbing listen is it motivates me to take on any activity that allows me to keep listening.
When I’m in the middle of a great thriller on Libro.fm, I’ll add another block or two onto my walk or decide that it is the right time to clean the kitchen.
I cleaned out my closets while listening to Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, and Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia actually got me to weed my backyard. What could be better than pairing something you actually want to accomplish with the perfect form of entertainment?
By Gillian Flynn • Narrated by Ann Marie Lee
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia • Narrated by Maria Liatis
Looking for more?See more mysteries & thrillers