Don’t look now—that’s the warning you’ll wish the heroines would heed in these two twisty thrillers, even as you’re urging them to uncover every clue to the sudden deaths of those closest to them. Secrets can only be avoided for so long.
In Heather Gudenkauf’s atmospheric Missing Pieces, Sarah Quinlan travels to her husband Jack’s rural hometown of Penny Gate, Iowa, only to find that it holds little of the quaint charm she had pictured. The reason for the visit is troubling—Jack’s beloved Aunt Julia has been badly hurt in a suspicious accident—but it’s nothing the long-married couple can’t handle together. Soon, though, Julia is dead, and small-town gossip tips Sarah off to some secrets in Jack’s past that don’t mesh with the man she’s known for decades. Gudenkauf expertly develops the story from Sarah’s perspective, so readers ask questions, doubt answers and seek the truth right along with her. What if Jack isn’t who he says he is? How did his parents really die all those years ago? And who’s next?
Gudenkauf’s cast of shady characters, from Jack’s mentally unstable sister to his grieving uncle, all have their mysterious moments, which sustains suspicion until the final pages. Gloomy, dark corners of barns and farmhouses, along with long, lonely stretches of back roads and cornfields, play equally large roles in keeping the tension rising. Sarah’s trail is a winding one, but one that we want to see through to the end.
Far from tiny towns like Penny Gate, K.A. Tucker’s He Will Be My Ruin takes readers to the crowded streets of New York City, though this heart-stopping urban thriller asks a similar question: How well do we really know the ones we love? Where Gudenkauf sticks with one perspective, Tucker alternates between the voices of humanitarian heiress Maggie Sparkes and aspiring antiques dealer Celine Gonzalez. The two were best friends when growing up in the Sparkes home, where Celine’s mother served as Maggie’s nanny. As adults, they’ve lived on opposite ends of the globe, but now Maggie has been called home by the unthinkable: Celine is dead, an apparent suicide.
Maggie doesn’t believe for a minute that Celine would do such a thing. When she finds the high-end wardrobe in thrifty Celine’s closet and the picture of the handsome—and very naked—man hidden in the modest woman’s treasure box, Maggie knows there’s more going on. Tucker gives us just enough of a glimpse into Celine’s life through diary entries to intrigue before returning to Maggie’s present-day perspective. As Maggie applies her considerable will and inexhaustible fortune to the case, she becomes entangled in Celine’s secret life. Soon, she’s seduced by the same men, has tea with the same nosy neighbor and doesn’t know whom to trust. Steamy sexual encounters may throw Maggie—and the reader—off the trail, but not for long. Tucker keeps Maggie moving forward at a relentless pace, and it seems she’ll meet the same fate as Celine, unless she can outsmart the true culprit at the very last minute.