Locked Room Mysteries

Photo by Tom D’Arby from Pexels

It was a dark and stormy night

This past weekend I had the enormous pleasure of attending the New England Crime Bake writing conference in Dedham, Massachusetts as a debut author. Getting there required a four-hour drive through absolutely sheeting rain–rain so bad we couldn’t see the cars in front of us most of the time.

After we arrived, we made a beeline for the much-needed bar, along with all the other wonderful and travel-weary writers. Friday night was a blast, but it got me thinking about locked room mysteries. Here we all were, several hundred people who, on a regular basis, imagine awful, nasty, dark stuff. For pleasure!

As a group, we arguably know more about how to kill someone than most conference goers, and many of us are, for sure, on some kind of government watch list for our Google searches alone. And here we were, hiding from what seemed to be an epic deluge, in a hotel.

Nowhere to go but the bar

Now… where have I read this premise before?

Locked room mysteries are awesome because they usually present the environment as an oppositional adversary. It’s easy to imagine oneself trapped with a killer, and how delicious to burrow under a blanket and know you’re safe, while reading about people who most certainly aren’t.

So, here are some locked room mysteries I’ve read lately that are chilling, thrilling, and all around awesome.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

A group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead. . . and another of them did it.

I mean… what’s not to love? Hidden resentments, the Scottish Highlands, an isolated estate. All kinds of bad behavior.

Make yourself a hot toddy, light a fire (or a candle), and enjoy.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some come to lose weight, some to get a reboot on life, some are searching for meaning.

And then things go off the rails, culminating in a real, honest-to-god, locked room.

I love me a larger than life story and bonkers characters, and this book overflows with both. For this one, I suggest an ice cold pilsner or IPA, or, better yet, a fishbowl glass brimming with a tropical cocktail.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Leonora, known to some as Lee and others as Nora, is a reclusive crime writer, unwilling to leave her “nest” of an apartment unless it is absolutely necessary. When a friend she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years unexpectedly invites her to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Forty-eight hours later, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive, with the knowledge that someone is dead, wondering not “what happened?” but “what have I done?”

Yowza! Creepy English glass house? Old friends and older resentments? I’m there! Definitely an Irish Coffee kind of read, with plenty of whisky and gobs of whipped cream.

What are your favorite locked room mysteries?

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.


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