5 Must-Read Urban Fantasy Mysteries

Almost all urban fantasy books have an element of mystery. Private detective protagonists abound, as do shadowy conspiracies and mysterious killers. So what puts a book into the urban fantasy mystery subgenre?

It’s the mystery, of course. Urban fantasy mysteries focus on the investigation first and foremost. The book can have action and romance, but the mystery needs to be the main focus. The protagonist searches for clues and interviews suspects, but if they find the answer too soon, it’s not really a mystery. There needs to be red herrings, false leads, and a number of twists and turns. The protagonist may use magic to help solve the case (This is urban fantasy, after all.), but detective skills and research are more crucial.

So if you love a good whodunit that’s steeped in the paranormal, then you should add these five mysteries to your reading list ASAP.

Urban fantasy mysteries

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The Quarter Storm (Mambo Reina, Book 1)

by Veronica G. Henry

The Quarter Storm book cover

Book Description

A practitioner of Vodou must test the boundaries of her powers to solve a ritual murder in New Orleans and protect everything she holds sacred.

Haitian-American Vodou priestess Mambo Reina Dumond runs a healing practice from her New Orleans home. Gifted with water magic since she was a child, Reina is devoted to the benevolent traditions of her ancestors.

After a ritual slaying in the French Quarter, police arrest a fellow vodouisant. Detective Roman Frost, Reina’s ex-boyfriend—a fierce nonbeliever—is eager to tie the crime, and half a dozen others, to the Vodou practitioners of New Orleans. Reina resolves to find the real killer and defend the Vodou practice and customs, but the motives behind the murder are deeper and darker than she imagines.

As Reina delves into the city’s shadows, she untangles more than just the truth behind a devious crime. It’s a conspiracy. As a killer wields dangerous magic to thwart Reina’s investigation, she must tap into the strength of her own power and faith to solve a mystery that threatens to destroy her entire way of life.

Book Review

Lots of urban fantasy books are set in New Orleans, but The Quarter Storm has the best, most immersive depiction of the city I’ve read in the genre. It gives you a sense of the community, history, and social issues of New Orleans, which serves as a fascinating backdrop for the mystery. Reina is our guide to the city, and she’s a fantastic protagonist: extremely likeable but not perfect. The book’s portrayal of Vodou is interesting and obviously well-researched, Reina’s magic a nice change of pace from the usual fireballs and lightning bolts in the genre. And since The Quarter Storm tops my list of urban fantasy mysteries, the mystery plotline is obviously great too.

Overall, this is an excellent book and will probably end up on my top 10 list of the year.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop

The Night Raven (Crow Investigations, Book 1)

by Sarah Painter

The Night Raven book cover

Book Description

Meet Lydia Crow…

Lydia has always known she has no power, especially next to her infamous and more-than-slightly dodgy family. Which is why she carved her own life as a private investigator far away from London.

When a professional snafu forces her home, the head of the family calls in a favour, and Lydia finds herself investigating the disappearance of her cousin, Maddie.

Soon, Lydia is neck-deep in problems: her new flatmate is a homicidal ghost, the intriguing, but forbidden, DCI Fleet is acting in a distinctly unprofessional manner, and tensions between the old magical families are rising.

The Crows used to rule the roost and rumours claim they are still the strongest.
The Silvers have a facility for lying and they run the finest law firm in London.
The Pearl family were costermongers and everybody knows that a Pearlie can sell feathers to a bird.
The Fox family… Well. The less said about the Fox family the better.

For seventy-five years, a truce between the four families has held strong, but could the disappearance of Maddie Crow be the thing to break it?

The Night Raven is the first book in Crow Investigations, an exciting paranormal mystery series from bestselling author of magical fiction, Sarah Painter.

Book Review

This is another book with an excellent, well-developed setting. It’s a great read if you want to visit London–though this London hides a dangerous, magical criminal underworld. Lydia is an outsider in her mafia-like crime family because she supposedly has no magic (except for a mysterious power she keeps secret). This means she relies on her mundane skills as PI rather than any convenient spells to investigate the mystery–which has plenty of fun twists and complications to keep the reader invested.

While I wish Lydia had had a little more to do in the book’s climax, it’s a great story overall and leaves some dangling threads to entice readers to continue the series.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play | Scribd | Bookshop

Dragon & Detective (Keeley & Associates Book 1)

by Layla Lawlor

Dragon & Detective book cover

Book Description

Hard boiled? More like hard luck.

It’s not easy being a human private detective in a city with dragons, shapeshifters, and fae.

James Keeley has a magic gun (that never does what he wants) and a 1920s flapper’s ghost haunting the basement of his office, and the first decent case he’s had in a long time is a dragon hiring him to solve a locked-room mystery. James never could resist a puzzle, but this one has a good shot at getting him killed…

Book Review

Dragon & Detective is just plain fun. It’s a novella rather than a full-length novel, which makes it a quick, easy read. James is an interesting hero because he has no special powers of his own, though he carries a magic gun. His narration is funny, and he’s a competent detective. But the real draw of the Keeley & Associates series is the associates: James’s ghostly flapper informant and the literal dragon who hired him. If you want a fun urban fantasy mixed with a noir mystery, then this is the perfect book for you.


Death of a Fairy Tale (The Mari Fable Mysteries, Book 1)

by Emily Fluke

Book Description

Send cheesecake and a lot of coffee, because I swear I just heard a wolf’s howl in the middle of San Francisco.

I was a skeptic about the supernatural…until my baby’s birth sparked storybook murders around the city and each body led closer and closer to my grandma’s house.

As an investigative journalist, I’ve solved a lot of mysteries, but now I’m a sleep-deprived mother. I have no clue how to balance my baby in one hand and my job in the other while I hunt a supernatural stalker. Can I find the killer and uncover the truth behind these children’s stories before dark fairy tales determine my daughter’s fate?

To-do list:

  1. Nurse my baby.
  2. Investigate fairytale murders
  3. Save our family from the wolf.

Chock-full of classic stories, murder, and sarcasm, Death of a Fairy Tale, is filled with heart-stopping danger and gripping mystery. For fans of The Dresden Files, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural, and Grimm.

Book Review

Mari is a fantastic heroine. The story deals with gruesome murders and scary situations, but it never feels too dark because Mari’s inner monologue is absolutely hilarious. Her background as an investigative journalist gives her the skills to solve the mystery (though the paranormal aspect is new to her), and she’s doing it all while sleep-deprived, sore, and stressed from taking care of a baby.

As someone who recently gave birth, I appreciated all the realistic details. And Mari’s sense of humor definitely helped. She feels like a really unique main character, and the fairy tale-based worldbuilding is something you don’t see in every urban fantasy book either. It’s an excellent book all-around.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Scribd | Bookshop

Goblin Mischief (Supernatural Investigators Urban Fantasy Series Book 1)

by Kyler Anne Ford

Book Description

A goblin and an FBI agent walk into a bar…

The only reason I’m not in federal prison for domestic terrorism is because the FBI can’t arrest someone for being a goblin.

It turns out, I’m not just any goblin. My estranged father was the king of goblins. The rest of the magical world is, shall we say, not thrilled. Because I know nothing about magic, and a supernatural creature is threatening the entire world order and the highest echelons of government. It’s not me, but no other supernatural or law enforcement believes that.

I have only days to escape from jail, clear my name, and figure out how to bring him down before he destroys the world as we know it.

Oh, and flambés an insignificant goblin and the one person who’s earned my trust.

Book Review

Urban fantasy books are full of protagonists who are “sexy” magical creatures: vampires, witches, shifters, etc. You don’t see too many goblins. But Orange (Yes, the heroine’s name is Orange.) is half-goblin, and her magic works in unique and interesting ways. She’s mostly clueless about the supernatural but is trying her best, and she has a fun buddy-cop dynamic with the FBI agent she’s assisting to pay back for saving her life.

The books feels more like a second installment in a series rather than a first, since a lot of plot apparently happened in the prequel, but Goblin Mischief recaps what took place so you don’t feel lost. And you can get the prequel for free by signing up for the author’s mailing list, which is a plus. Overall, it’s a great read if you like fantasy, folklore, and a touch of political thriller in your mysteries.


What’s your favorite urban fantasy mystery? Do you agree with my definition of the genre? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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