Six Books About Motherhood and Crime ‹ CrimeReads | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

If I could have one person with me in an emergency, it would be a mother. Mothers, shepherds of the toddlers, the most chaotic group to herd. Mothers, whose bags are filled with every conceivable tool plus snacks. Mothers, whose transition into motherhood is such a total and radical transformation, and yet, they find ways to adapt.

While my debut novel, The Perfect Ones, centers on the mysterious disappearance of an online influencer on a promotional trip to Iceland, I think the heart of the book is motherhood and the profound effect it has on women. I wanted to explore how motherhood drives the women in my story—and how, sometimes, it doesn’t. Because as a mother, I think it’s important that mothers are portrayed in fiction as the immensely complex beings we are. We exist as mothers, but we also exist as people outside of our children. It’s a delicate, oftentimes maddening balance, but in my opinion, it’s what makes moms magical.

In this list, I’ve rounded up my six favorite mysteries with moms smack-dab at the center. The women in these novels are resourceful, funny, sharp, brave, and uniquely flawed. They are powerful, but they’re also human. They are moms.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Let’s start with the queen of mom-mysteries: Liane Moriarty. She has authored several winners, but I think Big Little Lies sits at the top. The story follows a group of upper-class mothers after the shocking death of a fellow parent at their children’s prestigious elementary school. As the mystery unfolds, the web of the mothers’ sometimes shocking, sometimes shockingly ordinary personal lives begins to tangle. Liane Moriarty is known for her laugh out loud humor, and this novel is no exception, but where this novel really shines is the balance between these upper-class antics and deeper conversations about motherhood.

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

I Have Some Questions for You is an ode to the incredible versatility of mothers—including the parts of a mother that have nothing to do with her child. Rebecca Makkai tells the story of a popular podcaster, Bodie, who returns to her elite boarding school as a teacher and instead finds herself embroiled in the reinvestigation of the decades-old murder of her former roommate. It’s a gripping mystery with the lightest touch of social commentary as Bodie navigates the question every working mother inevitably hears: who’s watching your kids?

The Husbands by Chandler Baker

The Husbands follows an overworked and stressed-out attorney named Nora as she balances motherhood, pregnancy, and a wrongful-death lawsuit over a fatal house fire at a peculiar community called Dynasty Ranch. Somewhat of a “reverse Stepford Wives,” the story is both tense and funny, veering into magical realism while still feeling unexpectedly real. The mystery of the fire (and the motives for its potential coverup) keep the reader turning pages, but I think Chandler Baker’s real strength is her ability to give voice to all the things we as mothers know but often feel we can’t say. Perhaps no mother will experience what Nora does, but nearly all will feel seen.

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

In The School for Good Mothers, a Chinese immigrant to the US named Frida finds herself at a state-run facility for bad mothers after a “very bad day.” I’ll be upfront: this book made me tear up. As a mother, I found the ending particularly difficult to read. And yet, despite this—or maybe because of it—I consider it a must-read. The story itself is compelling, and the characters are all so wonderfully awful, but the heart of this book is the conversation happening between the lines. Jessamine Chan forces a critical eye on what makes a “good mother” in our society and whether we have created a standard that no woman can live up to.

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

In Northern Spy, Flynn Berry examines The Troubles of Northern Ireland through the lens of Tessa, a single mother who finds herself unexpectedly involved in the conflict when her sister goes missing. As someone who knew very little about The Troubles before starting this novel, I found this intimate perspective both captivating and unexpectedly heartbreaking. I wasn’t learning about history from a distance; I was there. I could feel the simmering nature of a country on the brink, and when Tessa is faced with certain decisions—particularly those involving her baby—it felt almost too real. I don’t think it is necessary to be a mother to enjoy this story, but for a mom, it really hits home.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 

The Golden Couple begins with golden couple Marissa and Matthew seeking the help of unlicensed (and highly unconventional) therapist Avery to save their marriage. Told from the perspectives of both Marissa and Avery, the story is a master class on slow burning tension. There are multiple twists, some of which made me audibly gasp, and the ending made me rethink everything I had just read. It’s a story that doesn’t hinge on Marissa’s motherhood, although this aspect of her life certainly plays a large part. Like any mother, Marissa often puts her child’s safety above everything else, including herself.


Featured image: On the Beach, Joaquín Sorolla


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