Thriller roundup: 20 summer books sure to send chills down your spine
by Steve Cavanagh, out Aug. 13
“I did a lot of research into serial killers, which was fun,” Cavanagh told Publishers Weekly of his fourth Eddie Flynn novel. “My Internet search history would get me arrested in any jurisdiction.” This time, lawyer Flynn helps defend a famous actor facing murder charges — and one of the jurors is a serial killer. Has he committed the very murder Flynn’s client is charged with?
“This Storm” (Knopf)
by James Ellroy, out now
In the second book of Ellroy’s “Second LA Quartet” series, it’s 1942, and the finding of a dead body has surprising ties to the larger state of the world. As with many of his books — including “L.A. Confidential,” with which this one shares characters — Ellroy touches on the conundrum of police who do bad things for desirable ends.
“Cari Mora” (Grand Central)
by Thomas Harris, out now
The “Silence of the Lambs” author returns with his first thriller in 13 years — the tale of a 25-year-old Colombian woman, a former child soldier now overseeing the former mansion of Pablo Escobar, pitted against a psychopath in possession of a liquid cremation machine. The criminal monster might just enjoy eating people. Sound familiar?
“The First Mistake” (Minotaur Books)
by Sandie Jones, out now
Jones’ debut thriller, “The Other Woman,” hit the New York Times bestseller list and was a book-club pick from Reese Witherspoon. For her sophomore effort, the author tells a tale of a marriage turned love triangle gone awry.
“Backlash” (Emily Bestler Books)
by Brad Thor, out now
The works of Brad Thor have proven so effective at depicting realistic threats that the US government referred to his “Use of Force” when trying to impose new security restrictions on the Burning Man festival — depicted as a terrorist target in that 2017 book. “Backlash” concerns what happens when Thor’s hero, Navy SEAL turned covert counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath, is horribly double-crossed.
“We Were Killers Once” (Minotaur Books)
by Becky Masterman, out now
What if the two killers from Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” had a third accomplice who was never discovered? Citing an unsolved Florida murder from 1959, author Masterman notes that the real-life villains from Capote’s story were in the town the murder occurred in at the time. “Unanswered questions and discrepancies abound among Capote’s story, police reports, several confessions . . . and more than a thousand prison documents,” Masterman writes on her website.
by Denise Mina, out now
Mina’s 15th novel concerns a fan of a crime podcast who realizes she has a connection to the subject. Her life unravels, as she begins publicly investigating the case. Mina relishes the chance to deal with topics such as mental illness and addiction when laying out a story. “If you want abused women to be anything other than passive, then you need to tell stories about them as active characters,” she told The Guardian.
“They All Fall Down” (Tor/Forge)
by Rachel Howzell Hall, out now
This homage to Agatha Christie finds seven strangers invited to a remote island, purportedly to appear on a reality show. Once there, they learn they were really invited by their shared lawyer, who has passed away (unbeknownst to them) and had them summoned for the reading of his will. When people start dying, however, even that story is suspect. “As a kid growing up in church, I’d always been fascinated by sin and punishment, what happens to you when you do bad,” Hall told the book blog Don’t Need a Diagram.
“Saving Meghan: A Novel” (St. Martin’s Press)
by D.J. Palmer, out now
The writer is the son of the late Michael Palmer, a bestselling author of medical suspense novels who died in 2013. D.J. co-wrote several books with his father, but this is his first solo novel under the D.J. Palmer name. He continues his father’s themes with this look at a family with a sick teenager who may be a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
“Those People” (Berkley)
by Louise Candlish, out now
Candlish’s bestseller “Our House” told of how a woman had her house stolen out from under her by her ex-husband. Her latest is also a domestic thriller, this time about how a quiet suburban neighborhood reacts to the neighbors from hell. Why set her nightmares at home? “[One] reason is that our houses have gone up in value so much that they’ve almost taken on a dangerous kind of central role in a family,” she told Publishers Weekly. “In so many situations now, I think a family home is making the decisions for families rather than the people.”
“Girls Like Us” (Putnam)
by Cristina Alger, out Tuesday
When her father, a homicide detective, dies, FBI Agent Nell Flynn finishes one of his investigations, only to discover that he might have been the culprit. The crimes in the book were inspired by the real-life Gilgo Beach killings, where around 15 people were murdered and dumped along the South Shore of Long Island.
“True Believer” (Emily Bestler Books)
by Jack Carr, out July 30
James Reece, the hero of former Navy SEAL Jack Carr’s 2018 debut, “The Terminal List,” was based on the author’s own life as a SEAL. His latest finds Reece hunting a terrorist around the world —and the book itself required a seven-month Department of Defense review. “For ‘True Believer,’ the DoD redacted quite a bit more than they did in their review of ‘The Terminal List’ . . .” Carr wrote on his website, adding, “These redactions will remain blacked out in the published novel.”
“My Lovely Wife” (Berkley)
by Samantha Downing, out now
This hot debut — an instant bestseller that has been compared to “Dexter” and “Gone Girl” — is about a woman who kills in order to spice up her life and the husband who goes along with it.
“Temper” (Simon & Schuster)
by Layne Fargo, out Tuesday
A psychological thriller about deadly secrets in the Chicago theater scene, this book centers on the toxic relationship between an actress, the colleague who pushes her to extremes and the jealous director who sees the actress as a threat. “It was originally inspired by real events at a theater company in Chicago,” Fargo told the QueryTracker website.
“Lock Every Door” (Dutton)
by Riley Sager, out Tuesday
The pseudonymous Sager hit it big with his 2017 debut novel “Final Girls,” a bestseller now being developed into a film by Universal Pictures. “Lock Every Door” concerns a woman who is handsomely paid simply to live in a luxury apartment in a stately hotel. It becomes clear that the assignment is more deadly than anticipated, as neighbors disappear and dangers pile up.
“Miracle Creek” (Sarah Crichton Books)
by Angie Kim, out now
This debut centers around a murder trial after a hyperbaric therapy chamber explodes, killing two people. But the legal machinations are simply a framework for Kim, herself the mother of a child who used just such a device, to examine the complexities of truth and love — as in the moment where a mother of an autistic child says aloud that she wishes her child were dead.
“The Night Before” (St. Martin’s Press)
by Wendy Walker, out now
Told in shifting timelines, this book concerns a woman with a dark secret in her past, and her sibling’s fear for her after she fails to return from an Internet date. Eva Longoria recently announced she’ll be turning it into a TV series.
“Necessary People” (Little, Brown)
By Anna Pitoniak, out now
“Necessary People” concerns two best friends — one is the rich, admired life of the party; the other is the poor girl who spends their college years in her shadow. When the two meet again as adults, they wage an increasingly bitter rivalry that threatens to end in tragedy. Pitoniak said that she wanted to address “the corrosive effects of ambition,” and came up with the idea at a TV personality’s party.
“The Escape Room” (St. Martin’s Press)
by Megan Goldin, out July 30
A group of co-workers take an elevator to an escape room, only to find themselves stuck. The confined space, it turns out, is the escape room — and one of them won’t make it out alive. “Elevators . . . defy our natural human instinct,” Goldin told the website Sisters in Crime. “We often stand squeezed together with other people intruding into our personal space. We have to put our trust in steel cables to lift us sometimes hundreds of meters off the ground . . . So I felt it would be an interesting place to set a psychodrama.”
“The Chain” (Mulholland Books)
by Adrian McKinty, out July 9
A child is kidnapped. In order to save their daughter’s life, her parents must kidnap someone else’s child — then, those parents must do the same. Genre legends Stephen King and Tana French and Dennis Lehane have praised it, and Paramount Pictures reportedly already bought the screen rights to the book for seven figures.