Apple Cider and Alibis: the Best Murder Mysteries to Read this Winter

Blood stains. Books. Winter Break. Name a more perfect combination. If you’re in need of some bloodcurdling entertainment this holiday season, the following books are sure to send a non-weather-related chill down your spine.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Series by Holly Jackson

Ravi Singh had barely begun growing peach fuzz when his older brother, Sal, kidnapped and gruesomely murdered his girlfriend before taking his own life in what would become the small town of Fariview’s biggest tragedy in decades. The Fairview community is quick to exile the Singhs and condemn them as the family whose son robbed a beautiful, beloved girl of her bright future. But five years later, high school senior Pip is on a mission to reopen what was quickly deemed a never-to-be-spoken-of-again case. Though initially hesitant to reopen barely scabbed-over wounds, Ravi is quickly taken with the pushy, altiloquent, know-it-all girl who Ravi feels is the only one who may finally be able to clear his brother’s name from the crimes he’s positive Sal didn’t commit. As Pip and Ravi go from house to house confirming alibis, paper to police station fact-checking dates, and cobwebbed-over crime scene to crime scene mapping out possible murder zones, it becomes clear that the murder-suicide that disgraced the Singh family isn’t as clear cut as it once appeared to be. If you find yourself as taken with this book as Ravi is with Pip, there are two even more chilling sequels in the series. As far as trilogies go, this one is one of the most complex and well-thought-out, which will indubitably leave you wondering how Holly Jackson – and Pip – did it.

The Lost Causes by Alyssa Schwartz and Jessica Etting

There are three rooms you need to know about. First, there’s the cabin in the woods with a dead woman, Lily, rotting inside. She was a local artisan who sold hand-poured candles for a living and was found with skin so scorched law enforcement couldn’t envision a man-made tool powerful enough to mutilate skin like that. Then, there’s the classroom a few miles away, where a middle-aged woman, Patricia, and a fresh out of high school young man, Nash, are assembling the school’s five least-cared-about students – Gabby, Z, Andrew, Sabrina, and Justin – with the hopes of conducting an experiment so illicit, so top-secret, that only students that everybody has long ago given up on are capable of participating in. And, finally, there’s the FBI lab a few states and decades away where a significantly younger Patricia and significantly more alive Lily developed a serum with the powers to turn troubled teenagers into invaluable FBI assets with supernatural abilities. The Lost Causes by Alyssa Schwartz and Jessica Etting is a thrilling, at times chilling, story of unlikely friends who will turn over every rock in their town if they have to in order to uncover a decade of deception and what appears to be a string of crime and death. Schwartz and Etting’s characters aren’t necessarily inspiring, nor is the writing fantastic; the multilayered, continually thickening plot, however, more than makes up for the novel’s deficit areas.

If you find yourself in the mood for a page-turner that will leave you scrutinizing everything you thought you knew about how the world deals with a murder case, then Lost Causes might just be the book for you.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

Monica Rayburn has it all: a secretive stepdad, judgmental friends, and a dead sister. Jennifer Rayburn, a girl with numerous post-high school aspirations and a deep dedication to her school and her cheer squad, took her life five years ago, following the deaths of four other cheerleaders who Jen considered her friends. Now a junior in high school, Monica begins to consider that there might be more to her older sister’s death than meets the eye. Though the members of Monica’s little town of Sunnybrook consecutively decided that the deaths of the five cheerleaders were three tragic, unrelated events (two girls dying in a brutal car accident and another two horribly murdered prior to Jen’s death), suddenly Monica isn’t quite so sure, leading her to investigate a topic that might lie just a little too close to her heart. New clues present themselves to the ever-curious protagonist as she finds herself making new ties with people who were previously involved in her sister’s life – though for better or worse Monica has to decipher herself – in this gripping and simultaneously terrifying novel.

Happy reading.