Excellent book-centric mysteries and thrillers always hit the sweet spot for big whodunit readers. This year has given readers several standouts, from creepy authors to cozy bookshop owners:
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
"King has long been interested in literary obsessions, and the divide between author and fan or creator and creation—think Misery, The Dark Half or Secret Window, Secret Garden. Finders Keepers continues to explore these ideas and adds another dimension: Pete and Morris are both willing to do a lot to hold on to Rothstein’s works. At what point does the hero become the villain?" Read the rest of our review.
Antiques Swap by Barbara Allan
"The mother-daughter writing and sleuthing team in Antiques Swap may share genes, but their methods are poles apart. Fans of the Trash'n'Treasures Mystery series will recognize the entertaining way level-headed narrator Brandy Borne’s sensible tone clashes with her mother's cheerful disregard for the rules." Read the rest of our review.
Pride v. Prejudice by Joan Hess
"Semi-retired bookstore owner Claire Malloy is back with her signature snark in this witty 20th installment of Joan Hess’ series. Though the distractible Claire can’t be bothered to address the alarming rate at which her bookstore inventory walks out the door on its own, she is more than willing to throw herself into a murder investigation when the prosecutor makes a grievous error: He humiliates Claire in public." Read the rest of our review.
Don't Go Home by Carolyn Hart
"Best-selling author Alex Griffith has mined his childhood home, Broward’s Rock, for all it’s worth, fictionalizing the island’s secret affairs, dirty deals and suspicious deaths in his novel Don’t Go Home. The golden boy is out of ideas, though, which is how he lands in the hands of bookstore owner Annie Darling." Read the rest of our review.
The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
"Most readers probably imagine their favorite author as thoughtful and deep—someone bursting with insight into life and empathy for all creation. From the outside, that’s what Henry Hayden appears to be. Modest despite the five-and-counting bestsellers that bear his name, he seems to be devoted to his wife, loyal to his friends and eager to sign books for the fans who travel to his remote village just to meet him. But he’s a fraud: Every word of his novels was written by his publicity-shy wife, Martha." Read the rest of our review.
Disclaimer by Renée Knight
"It seems the reading world can't get enough of these psychological thrillers starring deceptive, unreliable female characters. Knight plays with our allegiances in this juicy domestic noir, already in the works to become a film with 20th Century Fox. Her debut tells the story of Catherine, a successful documentary filmmaker who receives a manuscript that describes in excruciating detail a day from her life she has tried so hard to forget." Read more, plus an excerpt from Disclaimer.
Coming soon: Trust No One by Paul Cleave
Cleave's new novel, coming August 4 from Atria Books, stars a well-known crime novelist, Jerry Grey, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, the line between reality and fiction becomes fuzzier, and soon he's convinced that his novelized murders actually happened.
It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! All month long, we’re celebrating the sinister side of fiction with the year’s best mysteries and thrillers. Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass for a daily dose of murder, espionage and all those creepy neighbors with even creepier secrets.
Historical mysteries work double-duty, entertaining readers with whodunit twists while transporting them to another time. But there's something especially enjoyable about a book that includes real-life historical figures—especially when those fictional portrayals feel authentic and exhaustively researched, as with historical fiction by Paula McLain and Nancy Horan. This year's crop of historical mysteries star a number of real-life people, in roles big and small. Check out a few of our favorites:
The Harvest Man by Alex Grecian and I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter
It seems that Jack the Ripper may haunt us forever through literature. The serial killer is a secondary figure in the newest in Grecian's Scotland Yard Murder Club series, but you can dive deep into his twisted, bloody mind in Hunter's standalone. Read our reviews of both novels.
The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons
What if Henry James, author of The Turn of the Screw, teamed up with one of literature’s most beloved characters, Sherlock Holmes, to solve a murder mystery in turn-of-the-century America? It's a fantastic mix of history and literature, including a cameo by Clover Adams, granddaughter-in-law of John Quincy Adams. Read our review.
Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews
In real life, author Ian Fleming was an assistant to Britain’s director of naval intelligence; in the new novel from the author of Jack 1939, he's caught up in a plot to assassinate all three Allied leaders at a conference in Tehran. Read our review.
Second Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy
Brooklyn's first woman detective, Mary Handley, finds herself tangled in a mystery in the late 19th century, just as the notorious Edison/Tesla feud over the electricity market unfolds. Go Behind the Book with Levy.
Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon
To clear his Communist past, Jewish writer Alex Meier must clear his name by becoming a spy stationed in Berlin. You can expect major doublecrossing and bloodshed in this stellar espionage thriller—as well as real-life characters such as poet/playwright Bertolt “Bert” Brecht. Read our review.
Ostland by David Thomas
Equal parts police procedural and courtroom thriller, this novel is based on the horrifying true story of Georg Heuser, one of the Holocaust's worst Nazi war criminals. It's a truly fascinating mix of fact and fiction. Read our review.
It seems to be the year of the mother-daughter mystery. I'm not talking about cozy mother-daughter sleuthing teams, solving crimes amid witty banter and little squabbles. No, these ladies are about as trustworthy as any Gone Girl character, and it's rare the reader knows what they've got up their sleeves.
It's the multigenerational bad girls club, and it's easily this year's hottest mystery trend.
Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
Paranoia reaches new heights in this psychological thriller. Holly Judge wakes up on Christmas morning, suddenly convinced that there's something very wrong with her adopted teenage daughter. "Something followed them home Siberia," she thinks, and starts ticking off all the disturbing evidence. An obsessive and twisted tale where reality threatens to slip away. Read an excerpt.
I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy
Oliver Lane’s murder looks like a simple case of a woman scorned—in this case, his wife, Diana. But investigators soon discover Oliver had two more families as well. So who really killed Oliver? Multiple points of view keep this thrilling mystery from every giving too much away. The most interesting POV comes from Oliver's daughter Picasso, who has seen plenty. Watch out for these ladies, and whatever you do, don't cross them. Read our review.
Don't Try to Find Me by Holly Brown
It's not initially clear who the victim of Brown's debut is. After 14-year-old Marley runs away from home, her mother launches a public campaign for her return. But people are fickle, and soon Marley's mom finds herself the target of public scrutiny. Why did Marley leave? Who is to blame? Secrets upon secrets. Read our review.
Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
This book's victim is pretty black-and-white, as Janie Jenkins was incarcerated 10 years ago for the murder of her mother. She's just been released from prison on a technicality—but she's also innocent and in need of some answers. Debut author Little has a great voice, and I wish her unapologetic heroine was my best friend. Look for a review in our August issue.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
This is another high-intensity thriller than unfolds through multiple points of view, but I can promise you'll never see this ending coming. The story jumps between events before and after Mia Dennett's abduction, when she was held in a cabin in the woods by a guy whose motivations don't quite make sense. Mia's mom is in on the investigation, and that's all I'm going to say about it. Look for a Q&A in our August issue.
A couple months ago, I commented on the creepy timeliness of Koethi Zan's debut thriller, The Never List. Coming July 16, The Never List tells a graphic, terrifying story with details similar to the real-life situation experienced by the three Ohio women who were rescued after being held prisoner for 10 years. Read our review of The Never List!
But as I look into the fall mystery titles, it's clear that The Never List was just a starting shot to what looks to be the most disturbing trend of the year: abduction thrillers. In September alone, three blockbuster thrillers bear distinct resemblance the terribly sad stories of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Each imparts graphic, intimate details of the mental and physical state of a woman held captive by a sadistic predator.
Alex by Pierre LeMaitre • MacLehose Press • 9/3
When Alex Prévost is kidnapped, beaten and trapped in a wooden cage hanging from the ceiling of an abandoned building, her only hope of escape is Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven. As Camille struggles to find the girl and her captor, he uncovers Alex's unusual past. With a 150,000-copy first printing, this is positioned to be a big one.
The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton • Minotaur • 9/10
Norton's true crime bestseller Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box was placed on the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit reading list. Now she steps into fiction with the story of Reeve LeClaire, who escaped her kidnapping six years ago. When she's asked to mentor another girl who experienced a similar situation, it's clear that the girl needs much more than guidance—she needs a protector from the villain that still watches.
Others of My Kind by James Sallis • Bloomsbury • 9/10
From the author of Drive comes the gritty, almost desensitized story of Jenny Rowan, who at age 8 was abducted and kept for years in a box underneath a bed. Years after her escape, a detective comes to her home and asks for her help with another young survivor. Of the four, this one might be the toughest.
Trends like this remind me of when I interviewed Therese Anne Fowler, who began writing Z, her novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, long before Jazz Age tales were back in vogue. Fowler had called it "radio waves in the zeitgeist," but this sadistic kidnapping thriller trend, coupled with coincidental recent events, pricks the spine.
Readers, I truly want to know your opinion: Why do you think all four of these authors—and probably many more—wrote on such similar topics? It this just a residual response to the popularity of last year's Room?
Do you think you'll be checking out any of these books?
Here's what stuck out today. Notice any similarities?
Out September 4 from Forge, you can buy Hank Phillippi Ryan's The Other Woman, the first in a new series. This breakneck first installment features a possible serial killer, a fallen-from-grace TV reporter, a Senate candidate facing a sex scandal—and much more.
The latest Joe O'Loughlin thriller from Michael Robotham is out from Mulholland Books on October 2. A husband and wife are murdered in their London home. Is the suspect just a troubled young man . . . or does he have something more to hide? The last O'Loughlin book was our Top Pick in Mystery in March 2012.
Japanese bestseller Keigo Higashino's latest book to hit U.S. shores, Salvation of a Saint, is on sale October 2 from Minotaur. Think murdered husband + a widow/suspect + a detective who has a thing for the woman. Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X was filled with terrific suspense and a complete twist ending. We expect no less from Salvation!
These are all thrillers set in cosmopolitan locales—Boston, London and Tokyo, respectively—and, of course, they all involve murder. But I'm grouping 'em together because of the book jackets. What is it about a long-haired woman wearing a red trench coat and running/walking away?
Have you noticed any funny trends on your book jackets lately? Is red going to be the big color for fall? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.