Top 10 Mystery Book Covers of 2020

This year’s crop of mysteries had some of the most chilling, intriguing, and–dare we say–mysterious covers of any so far. Here are the top ten, as judged by the editorial team. 

#10

Cut To The Bone

Ok, maybe it’s a little too on the nose, but the cuts that crisscross the cover of Ellison Cooper’s Cut To The Bone have a certain slasher appeal. Add to that, the foggy, creepy foreground wiht an obelisk poking bone-like in the back, and we believe this is a cover that will pull in even the most reluctant mystery reader.

#9

Burn Our Bodies Down

Let’s face it, hanging out in the corn is creepy. Getting lost in corn, is even creepier. And if that corn is a little bit on fire, well, count us out.

Between the color palette, the evokation of rural space, and Margot’s single eye staring us down, we found the cover of Rory Power’s Burn Our Bodies Down worthy of placement on the list of best mystery covers of the year.

#8

Invisible Girl

“On Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.” The back-cover copy for Lisa Jewell’s Invisible Girl sums up the flavor not just of the book, but also the cover. Here, we see the Valentine roses under ice, thorns that could almost be barbed wire, and the sense of disappearance as the flowers freeze beneath the surface.

#7

And Now She’s Gone

The cover of Rachel Howzell Hall’s And Now She’s Gone is the first of two face-cut-out covers on this year’s best mystery books of 2020 cover awards. Not quite enough to be a cliche, but enough to get our attention.

Still, this one is done well enough we overlook it. Particularly well done isn’t just the way the woman’s (Isabel Lincoln) face is scratched out, but the little square of sticky label adhesive that’s just above her forehead. We’ve all been there, trying to scratch off a sticker, and just given up before the job is done.

#6

One of Us Is Next

The second of two face-cut-out motifs for the 2020 best mystery cover of the year awards, Karen M. McManus’s One of Us Is Next evokes high school fun through photo booths. But four faces are missing, which will lead the reader to guess that four are dead and one of the teens is on the chopping block.

Bonus points for continuity with the previous title in the series, One of Us Is Lyingwhich uses a similar effect (except with lined paper over faces).

 

#5

They Wish They Were Us

Charm bracelets on the background of a flannel skirt evoke the prep school atmosphere. Gold. Wealth. The kind of wealth you might find at an exclusive private school in Long Island, which is exactly where Jessica Goodman’s They Wish They Were Us is set. 

And we do, sort of wish we were them. We imagine the money. The gold. The youth. And then we see the broken chain. The “Us” snapped and bloody. And we don’t want to be them anymore.

Bonus for the almost imperceptible backsplash of blood on the letter “Were” above the “Us.” 

#4

The Sun Down Motel

In some ways, the cover of Simone St. James’ The Sun Down Motel is nothing spectacular. A motel in the background, with a sign in the fore. But it’s the small details. The color that evokes the story’s setting of the early eighties, the hopeful neon flowers that contrast with the not-yet-rundown-but-never-very-nice aesthetic, the vacancy sign that makes us wonder why there’s room still at the roadside motel… and if there should be. 

#3

Dead To Her

The first thing we see with this cover is a woman in subglasses, lipstick, maybe at the beach or out on the town. Then it slowly dawns on us that her skin is a little too pale, the glasses hiding eyes we might not want to see afterall. And finally, on deeper inspection, we see a figure reflected in both lenses. A woman, maybe, though it’s impossible to say for sure.

It’s because of the allure of the cover–the mystery of it–that we awarded Sarah Pinborough’s Dead to Her with our third place award for best mystery cover of 2020. There’s mystery here. Who is the first girl, and who is the second? And who is dead to whom? 

#2

All The Devils Are Here

Runner-up for the best mystery cover of 2020 is Louise Penny’s All The Devils Are Here. The cover, mixing Van Gogh’s Starry Night with the Eiffel Tower, gives a sense of place (Paris) and mood (forboding that borders on lunacy), all while maintaining a profile that’s as pleasing in thumbnail as it is in real life definition.

The cover promises what the story delivers: murder on the streets of Paris, locations that span the Eiffel Tower to the bowels of the Paris archives, and gruesome secrets some would prefer to keep buried beneath the cobbelstones forever.

#1

The Dark Corners Of The Night

What makes Meg Gardiner’s The Dark Corners of the Night cover our number one overall selection comes down to one thing: terror. The visceral reaction of most readers, picking up this book, is likely a spine-tingly-creep-factor that might feel more at home in a horror setting.

And while it’s true that The Dark Corners of the Night crosses multiple genres (it’s listed as Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological thriller, Crime Fiction, Hardboiled, Psychological Fiction and Police procedural) it’s still, at it’s core, a mystery.

Special credit for the blurbs by superstars Stephen King and Don Winslow (especially difficult to procure for Blackstone Publishing, outside of the “Big 5” publishing powerhouses). The Dark Corners of the Night is the Mystery and Suspense 2020 best cover of the year.