Elyse Discher

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Joanna Schaffhausen’s fifth book in her Ellery Hathaway series, Last Seen Alive, focuses on the horror of its central sleuth’s past. As a child, Ellery survived being kidnapped by the notorious serial killer Francis Coben—she was the only person to ever do so. Decades later, she’s changed her name and found purpose as a police officer, but she has never escaped the nightmares about her time as Coben’s captive. Now on death row, Coben makes an offer to reveal the location of the remains of his other victims, but only to Ellery and only in an on-camera interview. She initially refuses, disgusted with Coben’s desire to manipulate her even behind bars. But when a woman is found killed in Coben’s style, Ellery realizes that he is working with someone on the outside and that their meeting will affect more than just cold cases.

This gritty police procedural doesn’t flinch at violence, but spends as much if not more time exploring its effects and how they are compounded by sensationalist media. Ellery knows she must agree to the interview but struggles to reconcile this fact with the approach of the Nancy Grace-esque broadcaster, who is desperate to conduct it. While the special purports to celebrate Ellery’s survival, the coverage focuses on the torture she endured, to the point of zooming in on Ellery’s physical scars. 

Schaffhausen keeps the reader firmly in Ellery’s perspective as she follows Coben’s twisted clues, making the tension nearly unbearable. Fans of darker mysteries that don’t shy away from the gory details will enjoy this well-crafted and thoughtful whodunit.

Like Ellery, Micah Wilkes is looking to leave the past behind in Catch Her When She Falls by Allison Buccola. When Micah was in high school, her boyfriend, Alex Swift, killed her best friend, Emily Winters. Alex has spent 10 years in prison, and Micah has spent that time trying to escape being known solely as the ex-girlfriend of a murderer, a footnote in true crime history.

Alex was convicted on largely circumstantial evidence, and now a podcast is revisiting the case. Soon internet commenters are questioning her stoicism during the trial and wondering if she had something to do with the crime. When she receives threatening texts and someone breaks into her apartment, Micah starts to wonder if the media attention on Alex’s case has driven someone to harass her or if Emily’s real killer is still out there. She begins her own investigation, even as those closest to her criticize her need to unbury the past, making her feel attacked by both those she loves and those she’s never met. 

Buccola dives into the anxious, painful workings of Micah’s mind as she pieces together the bits of her past that she’s locked away. Readers will find themselves doubting reality along with Micah as she questions the narrative she’s always believed about her friend’s death. While not scary, Catch Her When She Falls is wildly suspenseful and almost gothic in tone, making it the perfect book for a reader looking for thrills without any gritty or gory aspects.

Both Last Seen Alive and Catch Her When She Falls show incredible empathy for the mental and emotional toll the media takes on not only victims of a crime, but also their friends and family. It’s a humanizing view of women’s trauma that’s not always found in a genre practically built upon their pain.

These two mysteries thoughtfully examine how the media commodifies female trauma, resulting in whodunits that are equal parts thrilling and empathetic.
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Set amid the glitz and glimmer of showbiz, these historical mysteries expose the corruption and abuse that exists after the shine of spotlights go out. But even more than that, they examine critical periods during which women’s roles were shifting as they demanded more freedoms.

As a teenager, Willowjean “Will” Parker literally ran away to join the circus. Stephen Spotswood’s Murder Under Her Skin (the sequel to 2020’s Fortune Favors the Dead) finds her as an adult in 1946 New York City, working at a detective agency with her mentor, the brilliant Lillian Pentecost. Fresh off an arson investigation, Will gets a telegram that her friend Ruby Donner, the tattooed lady of Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus, has been murdered and that another performer, Valentin Kalishenko, has been arrested for the crime. Will believes Valentin is innocent, and she and her boss set off for small-town Virginia to meet up with the circus and clear Valentin’s name.

Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus allowed Will to escape her abusive father and safely explore her sexuality as a lesbian. Now that she’s returning as an outsider, some of that closeness is gone and, in a melancholy but emotionally realistic twist, Will finds herself trapped between two worlds: She’s no longer completely trusted by her former peers, and she’s still working to gain the approval of her intrepid boss. 

As they work the case, Will and Lillian find the world in flux around them, which Spotswood ably explores without distracting from the central mystery. In the wake of World War II, U.S. veterans are dealing with displacement and PTSD, women are being shunted into more restrictive roles now that GIs have returned, and movie theaters are filling up while circus arenas are emptying. None of the characters in this mystery quite know how to cope with these seismic cultural changes, setting Murder Under Her Skin apart from more simplistic stories set in the same time period. Despite the cultural angst swirling around them, Will and Lillian focus on finding justice for Ruby, a woman many of their contemporaries don’t consider respectable or worthy of their compassion.

Elly Griffiths jumps ahead a few decades (and across the pond) in her snappy new Brighton mystery, The Midnight Hour. It’s 1965, and when theatre impresario Bert Billingham is murdered with rat poison, his wife, actress Verity Malone, is a natural suspect. Worried that the police will look no further than her, Verity hires PIs Emma Holmes and Sam Collins to clear her name. Among their suspects is magician-turned-actor Max Mephisto, who is filming a remake of Dracula along with Billingham’s son and is rumored to have had a fling with Verity.

Much like Murder Under Her Skin, this mystery focuses on a tightknit group of performers. Many of the actors, directors and costume designers in Billingham’s orbit worked together during the war, and everyone seems to have a story illustrating Billingham’s nastiness, giving Emma and Sam no shortage of suspects. 

As they navigate the complex showbiz web around Billingham and his family, Emma and Sam team up with 20-year-old rookie police constable Meg Connolly, which allows Griffiths to explore the experiences of three women at very different stages in life. The growing feminist movement has created more opportunities for women like Meg, but her male-dominated workplace still treats female sleuths as novelties. While Meg is just starting out, Emma struggles to balance her career with being a wife and mother, and she is frustrated that her detective work is treated like a hobby rather than a profession. Sam, meanwhile, worries that her own romantic interest in Max Mephisto could be clouding her judgment.

The sixth book in a series, The Midnight Hour is also full of secondary characters who have appeared in previous Brighton mysteries, so readers may want to start at the beginning before taking a stab at this one. But those who are already fans of the Brighton mysteries will be well satisfied with this installment, which tracks the evolution of Emma and Sam’s characters and careers without sacrificing one bit of Griffiths’ wit and charm.

Beyond being tantalizing whodunits, both Murder Under Her Skin and The Midnight Hour feature dynamic, complicated female characters who unapologetically stand up to and outshine their male contemporaries.

Set amid the glitz and glimmer of showbiz, these historical mysteries examine two critical periods during which women demanded more freedoms.
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Rachel Kapelke-Dale tackles everything from abortion to sexual abuse in The Ballerinas, an unflinching, unapologetically feminist glimpse into the world of professional ballet.

The daughter of a famous ballerina, Delphine studied ballet intensively for most of her life at the famous Paris Opera Ballet. Along with her friends Lindsay and Margaux, she was poised to become a star—until she suddenly left France for Russia and gave up performing in favor of choreography. 

Now Delphine is 36 and has returned to Paris to stage a ballet of her own creation with Lindsay as its star. Delphine feels she and Margaux wronged Lindsay somehow, and flashbacks to their teenage years reveal how these three young women were stretched to the breaking point by a demand for perfection from their teachers, peers and, in Delphine’s case, her mother.

Kapelke-Dale, who studied ballet herself, grants readers rare insight into a grueling world that, despite being largely female, is still dominated by men. Male teachers, choreographers and dancers hold power over their female counterparts, and gendered violence is embedded in the culture. Ballet is portrayed as an institution that fails the women it supposedly celebrates. For example, Delphine is betrayed at one point by a fellow dancer in a particularly horrific way, and he is immediately protected by the institution. 

The patriarchal structure of ballet prizes youth and beauty, which affects Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux in new ways in their mid-30s. Lindsay is nearing an age at which she will have to retire from performing to make way for the teenagers coming onto the scene. Kapelke-Dale shows how these women’s bodies are breaking down due to years of demanding dance training, making the pressure to appear thin, glowing and youthful feel even more cruelly ironic.

Despite all of this, The Ballerinas is not a bleak novel. Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux begin to push back against the system that has oppressed them, coming to terms with their past and moving forward into a world in which they have agency over their bodies and careers. It is to Kapelke-Dale’s credit that this empowering ending feels earned, rather than naively optimistic.

Rachel Kapelke-Dale tackles everything from abortion to sexual abuse in The Ballerinas, an unflinching, unapologetically feminist glimpse into the world of professional ballet.
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Conflicting memories of the past converge like a fever dream in Flora Collins’ riveting debut thriller, Nanny Dearest.  

Though only in her mid-20s, Sue Keller is an orphan. Her mother died when she was a child, and after the loss of her father, Sue descends into a depressive funk.  She struggles to leave the house, relying on delivery and work from home options. On a rare outing she meets a woman named Annie, who recognizes Sue and claims to have been her childhood nanny—but Sue has no memory of her at all. Craving a connection to her lost parents, Sue continues to meet with Annie, desperate for stories about a period of her childhood her mind has mysteriously blacked out.

Toggling between Sue’s present and Annie’s past, Nanny Dearest explores how the need for family and connection can become toxic, even deadly. Annie longs to escape her abusive father, so a live-in nanny position with the Keller family seems like the perfect escape. Mr. Keller is a successful novelist, sequestered away as he works on his latest book, and Mrs. Keller is focused on a career of her own, as well as her position as a socialite. So Annie and young Sue are left largely to themselves, leading Annie to bond immediately with her young charge, to the extent that she will do anything to remain with the Kellers indefinitely.

Decades later, Sue can’t figure out why she has no memory of Annie. Her former nanny’s photographs and stories confirm she was Sue’s caregiver, but Sue obviously can’t ask her late parents why Annie left almost immediately after Mrs. Keller’s death or why her father never talked about Annie in the years after her mother’s death. When Annie’s grasp on Sue’s life begins to feel suffocating, Sue launches to research her past in a desperate search for answers.Collins, a lifelong New Yorker who based her story partially on her own experience with a childhood babysitter, leans on the intense psychological drama of the caregiver-child relationship to keep the reader turning pages, never depicting violence on the page. The perfect choice for those who want thrills without the gore, Nanny Dearest is as compelling as it is unnerving.

Conflicting memories of the past converge like a fever dream in Flora Collins’ riveting debut thriller, Nanny Dearest.
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Straddling the line between suspense and historical fiction, Lori Rader-Day’s Death at Greenway is an unsettling murder mystery that gives readers a nuanced look into life on the British homefront during World War II. 

Student nurse Bridget “Bridey” Kelly made a horrible mistake on duty, resulting in the death of an officer in her care. Her only hope for redemption is to take an assignment caring for 10 children who are being evacuated from London and sent to Greenway House, the country home of Agatha Christie. Christie makes only the briefest of appearances, although her library of books on murder makes for a chilling backdrop.

Like the children, Bridey experiences the effects of PTSD, so she struggles to care for them, especially when her fellow nurse, Gigi, proves to be less than enthusiastic (or knowledgeable). From the moment they settle into Greenway House, things feel amiss. Items go missing, and one of the children reports seeing a man lurking outside at night. After a body washes up in the quay, Bridey is asked to help and realizes the victim’s injuries were the result of homicide, not accidental drowning. All the while, the mysterious Gigi’s stories of her life before Greenway House fail to add up. When she goes missing, Bridey knows something foul is afoot.

Told from multiple perspectives (even those of individual children), Rader-Day’s novel is in many ways a portrait of grief and trauma. Each character is suffering due to displacement, rationing and German bombings. There are no real monsters, just people forced into circumstances they never thought possible. Bridey is a particularly compelling character—the reluctant detective, longing to move on with her life, but unable to let sleeping dogs lie.

Far from a cozy mystery, Death at Greenway is as taut as a bow string, with every character capable of snapping at a moment’s notice. 

Far from a cozy mystery, Death at Greenway is as taut as a bow string, with every character capable of snapping at a moment’s notice.
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A good gothic novel leaves the reader unable to trust anything—certainly not the narrator and often not even the conclusion. It’s this uncertainty that makes for two thoroughly electric reads. 

Set on a bleak stretch of Cornish coastline, Laura Purcell’s The House of Whispers blends madness, disease and violent folklore together with truly terrifying results. Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House, the remote home of Louise Pinecroft, to serve as nurse and maid. In the aftermath of a stroke, Louise is a silent and eerie patient. She sits in a frigid room, watching her collection of bone china as if she expects it to run off. Adding to Hester’s unease is Creeda, a member of the staff whose obsession with folk tales of cruel, vengeful faeries is as bizarre as it is chilling.

Hester is not the naive, virginal heroine that gothics of the 1970s and ’80s relied on; she is often selfish, dependent on the praise and attention of her employers in a way that feels alarmingly co-dependent, and increasingly reliant on gin and laudanum to numb herself. Hester fled London after her rash behavior led to a tragedy, and as events at Morvoren House become more frightening, she has nowhere else to go. Through Hester, the reader experiences an atmosphere of increasing claustrophobia and desperation that makes this novel both terrifying and impossible to put down.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia begins as a dreamy gothic mystery but quickly unfolds into a visceral, almost hallucinogenic nightmare. Noemí Taboada is enjoying life as a young socialite in 1950s Mexico City when she receives a bizarre letter from her newlywed cousin, Catalina Doyle. Catalina insists that her husband, Virgil, is poisoning her, and Noemí travels to their estate of High Place to investigate.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Silvia Moreno-Garcia on how her family history inspired the character of Noemí.

Symbols of rot are everywhere in Moreno-Garcia’s writing; mold and mushrooms seem to grow on every surface, and Noemí feels like the estate is decaying under her feet. Worse yet, Catalina’s madness seems to be contagious, and even as Noemí tries to convince herself that her cousin is merely ill, she begins to experience vivid nightmares. The Doyle family’s strange rituals and total isolation from their community similarly unnerve Noemí, preventing her from ever feeling safe.

Like characters in The House of Whispers, the family featured in Mexican Gothic is hiding some truly vile secrets. But while much of the violence in The House of Whispers takes place off-screen, Moreno-Garcia puts it front and center, delivering a distinctive and cinematic horror novel that is not for the faint of heart.

A good gothic novel leaves the reader unable to trust anything—certainly not the narrator and often not even the conclusion. It’s this uncertainty that makes for two thoroughly electric reads.  Set on a bleak stretch of Cornish coastline, Laura Purcell’s The House of Whispers blends madness, disease and violent folklore together with truly terrifying results. Hester Why […]
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From foggy moors to gritty city streets, the setting of a mystery often tells the reader what to expect in terms of tone. In A Stranger in Town and Black Widows, isolated settings keep the reader off balance, unsure and ill-at-ease, creating an extra layer of tension that dials up the suspense to 11.

The sixth book in Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series, A Stranger in Town brings the reader to the small Yukon town of Rockton, population 150. This is not a cozy mystery small town—Rockton is completely off the grid and populated entirely by people who need to shed their old lives.

Rockton exists within our world but apart from it in a way that’s almost reminiscent of science fiction. Those looking to start fresh in the town need permission from a mysterious town council, and those who are accepted face threats not only from the wilderness, but also from a nomadic group of almost feral humans known as “hostiles” that lurk outside its borders. All of this could feel too surreal, but Armstrong makes her fictional town seem grounded in reality.

When a badly wounded hiker stumbles upon Rockton while looking for aid. Casey Duncan, the town’s resident detective, manages to save the woman’s life, but her presence only brings more questions. Casey and her husband, Eric Dalton, go looking for the woman’s companions only to find a scene worthy of a horror novel. Her fellow hikers have been killed, literally torn apart, with monstrous brutality. Casey’s careful observations lead her to believe that the murders were staged to look as though the hostiles were responsible.

Adding to her worries, Casey has noticed that fewer residents are being admitted to Rockton, and those that wish to stay beyond their two-year term are being denied an extension. The town council is silent on the matter, and Casey can’t help but feel boxed in by threats from within the town and outside it.

Armstrong’s detailed world building allows the reader to immerse themselves in the narrative, though new readers may want to orient themselves by starting with the first Rockton novel, City of the Lost.

While A Stranger in Town offers up an odd community, Black Widows by Cate Quinn relies on a sense of otherness to create its atmosphere. When Blake Nelson is strangled and his body mutilated, detectives look to the most common perpetrator—the wife. The problem is Blake had three of them. Rachel, Tina and Emily lived with Blake on their family compound in the Utah desert, 40 miles from their nearest neighbor.

Their polygamous marriage was as fraught with tension as it was unconventional. Rachel is the first, most obedient wife, but she has a past so traumatic her mind has blacked some of it out. Tina is a reformed drug-addict and sex worker who met Blake when he preached at her rehab center. She’s all too aware of how dark and cruel the world can be. Emily is the youngest, naive to point of being childlike and existing largely in a fantasy world she’s created for herself. Living in a small house in the middle of a huge desert, the women’s differing personalities and the family’s poverty make for a fraught existence.

Each chapter of this gripping and, at times, graphic psychological thriller is told from the point of view of one of the wives, and the reader is never certain if the narrators can be trusted. As the police poke into their lives, secrets are revealed, suggesting that Blake’s death may be part of something larger and darker than just a domestic conflict. Quinn does a masterful job of creating a world where her characters are isolated—both physically due to their home and socially due to the fact that they are outcasts from their church and community. Polygamy is not sanctioned by the Church of Latter-day Saints, so even Blake’s family has shunned his wives and disapproves of his choice of lifestyle. All of this means that Rachel, Tina and Emily can only rely on each other for support when their world collapses around them. With a wonderfully twisty end, Black Widows is the type of thriller you read in one sitting.


In A Stranger in Town and Black Widows, two unique and isolated settings keep the reader off balance, adding extra layer of tension that keeps the suspense dialed up to 11.

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Historical mysteries truly allow amateur sleuths to shine. Without modern technology, forensic analysis or instantaneous communication to aid them, the historical detective must rely on their powers of deduction and observation to solve the crime.

Deanna Raybourn delivers wit and humor aplenty in her sixth installment of the Veronica Speedwell series, An Unexpected Peril. Fresh from her last case chasing Jack the Ripper, lepidopterist and amateur sleuth Veronica Speedwell is assisting with an exhibition on the small country of Alpenwald for a naturalist club in London—and enjoying some downtime with her partner turned lover, Stoker. 

Trouble is never far from Veronica, however. As the club assembles items donated by the late alpinist Alice Baker-Greene’s estate, Veronica uncovers evidence that Alice was murdered, rather than dying in a climbing accident. Princess Grisela of Alpenwald, who is visiting London and the exhibition, is less than enthusiastic about the discovery. Her small nation relies on tourism for its income, and the murder of a famous English mountain climber would cause a scandal. Veronica is undeterred, and as she and Stoker investigate Alice’s murder, they find themselves embroiled in a second mystery when Princess Grisela vanishes. 

Irreverent, funny and with a razor-sharp intelligence, Veronica is a delightful narrator and a keen detective. Her total disregard for the opinions of “good society” and her vicious wit in cutting down her detractors are a joy to read. As An Unexpected Peril unfolds, we see her relationship with her longtime partner, Stoker, develop as well. Fans of the series have waited five novels for their will-they-won’t-they attraction to resolve, and now that the pair are together, they must navigate the tiny irritations and frustrations that come with any new relationship. Veronica, as always, rushes headfirst into danger, while Stoker tries to maintain a tempering influence.

Best read in order, Raybourn’s Victorian-era series is never bleak, always funny and wonderfully fast-paced. An Unexpected Peril has the perfect blend of action, romance and mystery. 

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis is the complete opposite in terms of atmosphere. The second Brontë Sisters mystery is set in bleak, frozen West Yorkshire and begins when a neighbor of the Brontës, the eccentric Clifton Bradshaw, finds the skeleton of a young child interred in a fireplace in his late wife’s rooms. 

Rumor has it that Clifton went mad after his wife’s death, selling his soul to the devil and shutting off her rooms completely. The discovery of the bones 13 years later certainly implies that something sinister occurred before her death, and the Brontë sisters are determined to identify the child and how it came to be hidden in the fireplace.

Ellis carefully weaves biographical details into her mystery, and readers familiar with the Brontës’ story will see the beginning of Branwell Brontë’s decline as well as the first glimpses of Charlotte’s relationship with Arthur Bell Nicholls. Ellis portrays Charlotte as a fierce and dynamic figure, Emily as a dreamer and recluse and Anne as the mediator between them. Isolated in their Yorkshire village, these three brilliant sisters yearn for intellectual stimulation, and solving the mystery of the bones is too intriguing for them to resist. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates their meddling. 

Easily read as a standalone, The Diabolical Bones tackles subjects as bleak as the frigid February moors where it is set, from the cruelties of child labor in Victorian England to the limitations of women at the time, as the sisters often have to drag their begrudging brother with them on their investigations. Fans of gothic mysteries will find this novel wonderfully creepy and suspenseful, even if they are unfamiliar with the work or lives of the Brontë sisters. 

With espionage, secret love affairs and hidden treasure, The Dark Heart of Florence by Tasha Alexander offers a mystery set in Florence, Italy in both 1903 and 1480. Jumping in with the 15th novel in the Lady Emily mystery series may seem intimidating, but Alexander provides enough context for characters and events referenced from previous books in the series that very little is lost for newcomers. 

When Lady Emily Hargreaves’ husband, Colin, is summoned to Florence, she knows it’s on secret business. Tensions are rising in Europe, and while Colin cannot admit it, Emily knows he is a spy for England. When a man is killed in their palazzo, Emily and her best friend, Cécile, launch a parallel investigation, determined not to sit by on the sidelines as danger surrounds them.

Interspersed are chapters set in the 15th century, where a young woman named Mina struggles to align with the gender roles traditionally assigned to her while the wonder of the Renaissance surrounds her. Mina enters into a forbidden affair with a young priest that will change the course of her life and entangle her in the fanatical puritan campaign of Girolamo Savonarola. 

Mina’s actions directly impact the murder that Emily and Cecile are investigating in 1903, which is intensified by the increasingly tenuous political situation and the frustration Emily feels at being left in the dark as to her husband’s intrigues. The Florentine setting, both in the Renaissance and early Edwardian eras, is explored in rich detail, allowing the reader to travel vicariously through Mina’s and Emily’s eyes.

With gothic chills, laugh-out-loud humor and international intrigue, these three mysteries whisk the reader off to the past and ensnare them with carefully crafted plots and plenty of suspense.

Historical mysteries truly allow amateur sleuths to shine. Without modern technology, forensic analysis or instantaneous communication to aid them, the historical detective must rely on their powers of deduction and observation to solve the crime.

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Cottonwood Estates seems like an idyllic neighborhood to raise a family in. It’s affluent, populated by overworked dads and over-involved moms, and thanks to the gossipy monthly book club, everyone knows everyone else’s business. In The Neighbor’s Secret, author L. Alison Heller scratches away at this suburban facade to reveal secrets that are slowly bringing the small community to the verge of collapse.

Through brief, interstitial passages, the reader learns that not only is a murder about to be committed, but also that another one was covered up years ago. The question remains: Who are the killers?

Annie is harboring a secret from 15 years ago and worrying that her eighth grade daughter, Laurel, might be destined to repeat it. Laurel is acting out, getting drunk with friends at the annual Fall Fest and keeping secrets from her ever-vigilant mother. Jen is similarly worried about her young son, Abe, with good reason: Abe has been expelled from school and diagnosed as a sociopath. Jen struggles with fear of her own son and guilt over her abilities as a parent, all while hiding his diagnosis from the teachers at Abe’s new school as well as from her friends and neighbors. Finally, there is Lena. A widow and empty nester, Lena watches the neighborhood but keeps apart from it socially. She understands that nothing in their peaceful community is what it seems. When a vandal begins targeting homes, the petty property crimes set off a chain of events that will end in one explosive, deadly night.

Heller excels at the complex characterization required to engage readers, resulting in a book that’s truly impossible to put down. The myriad anxieties her characters feel—fear for their children, their reputation, their community—are entirely relatable. A sense of dread and foreboding permeates the narrative. We know a murder is coming; Laurel, Abe and Lena all seem on the verge of imploding. With such a wonderful buildup and a truly surprising finish, The Neighbor’s Secret is a delight to read.

Cottonwood Estates seems like an idyllic neighborhood to raise a family in. It’s affluent, populated by overworked dads and over-involved moms, and thanks to the gossipy monthly book club, everyone knows everyone else’s business.

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College freshman Chloe Sevre has two secrets: 1) She’s a psychopath, and 2) she’s plotting to kill frat boy Will Bachman. Chloe has no sense of empathy or remorse, but she is acutely aware of being wronged.

Chloe thought Will was her friend, but he hurt her in an especially devastating way when she was just 12 years old, and she’s spent years plotting her revenge. Chloe got into Adams University, the same college Will attends, by enrolling in a special study. Along with seven other students who have been diagnosed as psychopaths, Chloe will get a free ride if she agrees to group therapy and biometric monitoring. For Chloe, this is purely a means to an end—access to Will—until someone begins murdering the students in the group. Suddenly, Chloe is in a cat-and-mouse game with a killer, even as she continues with her own murderous plot for justice.

While Chloe isn’t empathetic per se, she is vicariously fun to read about in a way that brings to mind Villanelle from “Killing Eve,” and author Vera Kurian gives readers two equally suspenseful plotlines to follow. First is Chloe’s mission to kill Will. Even though her actions are illegal and morally wrong, Will’s crime is so heinous that it’s not hard to understand why Chloe would resort to murder rather than turn to an unreliable justice system.

And then there’s the catch-me-if-you-can secondary plot of Chloe trying to discover who is killing members of the study she belongs to. She aligns with two other members of the group to flush out the killer, but her companions are as untrustworthy as she is. The fact that Never Saw Me Coming has multiple characters that lie and manipulate without issue makes detecting its central killer all the more challenging. All of this adds up to a unique reading experience: Even though there aren’t necessarily any “good guys” to root for, Kurian compels her readers to be deeply invested in Chloe’s success regardless.

With a satisfying (if bloodthirsty) quest for vengeance and a twisty mystery to solve, Never Saw Me Coming will tempt readers into staying up all night to get answers.

College freshman Chloe Sevre has two secrets: 1) She’s a psychopath, and 2) she’s plotting to kill frat boy Will Bachman. Chloe has no sense of empathy or remorse, but she is acutely aware of being wronged.

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Phryne Fisher fans will fall in love with Kiki Button, the gossip columnist and sleuth of Autumn Leaves, 1922 by Tessa Lunney. While this historical mystery can easily be read as a standalone, odds are readers will immediately seek out Kiki’s first adventure, April in Paris, 1921, after being enchanted by Lunney’s charismatic heroine.

Kiki has returned to her beloved Paris after a year spent sorting through her late mother’s estate in Australia. Kiki is struggling under the weight of her grief, both for the mother she never really understood and for a world that’s still recovering from the traumas of World War I. As a wartime nurse and spy, Kiki personally witnessed indescribable suffering, and those images have stayed with her.

She’s looking forward to returning to her glamorous life, reporting on parties and society scandals, but she finds herself pulled back into the world of espionage by her former handler, Fox. Fox holds evidence that could clear Kiki’s childhood friend and current lover from charges of desertion and treason, and he uses this to force Kiki back into his shadowy world. Using her society connections, Kiki must diffuse a scandal related to the growing fascist movement in Europe, which could implicate the Prince of Wales.

As engaging and suspenseful as Kiki’s mission is, Lunney makes the mystery of the mother Kiki barely knew equally fascinating. As she reads her late mother’s diaries, Kiki realizes that the woman who always seemed cold and distant was actually living a secret life not unlike Kiki’s own.

Kiki rubs shoulders with artists, deposed Russian princes and expats like Ernest Hemingway, all while keeping a bevy of lovers on standby. Seemingly living on a diet consisting solely of cigarettes and champagne, she navigates high society, the bohemian art scene and the Paris underworld with ease. Lunney’s prose is beautifully atmospheric, capturing a collective sense of postwar trauma but also hope as Europe enters a new age.

Phryne Fisher fans will fall in love with Kiki Button, the gossip columnist and sleuth of Autumn Leaves, 1922 by Tessa Lunney.

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