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All Thriller Coverage

The pull of shared history is incredibly strong, as demonstrated in this trio of new sister-centric thrillers. There’s strangeness and estrangement, intertwining and unraveling, joy and terror as these sets of siblings revisit the past in hopes of forging a better, less frightening future. 

Blood Will Tell

In Blood Will Tell, a tense new thriller by Heather Chavez (No Bad Deed), a quick trip to the gas station kicks off a chain of increasingly frightening events that thoroughly upend Frankie Barrera’s life.

The single mom and middle school math teacher has no idea why other customers are glaring at her as she pays for her gas. She figures it’s due to mistaken identity or perhaps just a case of the grumpies. Then a text alert brings everything into sharp, shocking focus: Her pickup truck was included in an Amber Alert. Her first reaction? Utter confusion. Her second? Curiosity about whether Izzy, her impulsive and unpredictable younger sister, had anything to do with it. 

Frankie soon realizes Izzy was indeed involved, but figuring out how and why will require upsetting trips back into long-suppressed memories of a chaotic night five years earlier when a scared, drunk Izzy had called Frankie for help because she had been in a terrible car crash and wasn’t sure what had happened. Chavez does an excellent job of conveying both the disorienting haziness of a painful past and the push-pull of the sisters’ desire, and reluctance, to face the truth. 

Criminals circle and legal issues loom as the sins of the past collide with those of the present. Time is running out, and Frankie and Izzy must decide: Can they end their codependence while solving the mysteries of that fateful night once and for all? Through its unflinching focus on the unhealthiness of entrenched familial roles, Blood Will Tell shines a light on the ways loyalty can become more damaging than nurturing, more misguided than wise.

I’ll Be You

If you had to guess which identical twin and former child TV star would be the one to disappear at the beginning of bestselling author Janelle Brown’s I’ll Be You, you probably wouldn’t pick Elli.

She and her twin, Sam, have had a painfully tumultuous relationship for many years. Sam’s struggles with addiction made it impossible for them to maintain the closeness they reveled in as children, and their former-manager mother’s insistence on reminding them of their so-called good twin/bad twin personalities (that would be Elli and Sam, respectively) has never been helpful either. 

But even when things were at their worst, Elli was always there, ready to help or listen. She wouldn’t just check herself into a spa for an indefinite amount of time, leaving everyone, including her recently adopted toddler daughter, behind . . . right? Despite her mother’s refusal to acknowledge that harm might’ve come to Elli, Sam decides to follow her instincts and investigate her estranged sister’s life in hopes of bringing her back home. 

After all, Sam thinks, “Who else had ever studied her as closely as I had? Who had ever seen me the way that she did?” But as Sam pores over Elli’s files and tries to talk to her prickly new friends, a distressing pattern emerges, and she realizes the Ojai spa Elli is visiting might not be a place for relaxation but something more sinister, even cult-like. Even worse, the Elli with whom she had swapped places many times has now become an enigma. Elli might not even want to be found.

Readers will enjoy the on-tenterhooks feeling of I’ll Be You as Sam tries to simultaneously maintain her sobriety, fend off her mother’s barbs and track down the elusive Elli. Brown’s depiction of addiction and the toll it takes on Sam, Elli and their family is empathetic and affecting, as are the sisters’ attempts to establish individual identities while keeping a close connection—an eternal struggle for all of us, certainly, but especially challenging when the singular intimacy of twinhood is involved. 

The Children on the Hill

What if intimacy that once was a balm for trauma transformed into something twisted, perhaps even deadly? Jennifer McMahon explores this painful possibility in The Children on the Hill, her follow-up to 2021’s bestselling The Drowning Kind. Deliciously gothic details and eerie vibes set the stage for a supremely creepy, often incredibly sad tale inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

In 1978, Violet “Vi” Hildreth and her brother, Eric, enjoy an idyllic childhood on the grounds of Vermont’s Hillside Inn, a psychiatric hospital presided over by their beloved Gran, the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Helen Hildreth. The kids have created a monster club, even collaborating on The Book of Monsters, which is all about the beings they believe are lurking in the darkness. 

When Gran brings an orphaned patient named Iris to stay with them, Iris and Vi form an intense bond. Vi resolves to help the traumatized Iris figure out where she came from, even if (especially if) subterfuge and sneaking around are involved.

In a parallel storyline set in 2019, returning to Vermont is the last thing Lizzy Shelley wants to do. She’s a popular author and podcast host who travels the country in pursuit of scary creatures. She believes that monsters are real, and that her long-lost sister is one. 

McMahon’s teasingly gradual reveal of the event Lizzy is referring to provides copious thrills as bizarre goings-on unspool, bit by bit. (And yes, a secret basement laboratory is involved.) The alternating timelines converge in shudder-inducing ways that invite readers to ponder these questions from The Book of Monsters: “Don’t we all have a little monster hiding inside us? A little darkness we don’t want people to see?” 

Through its innovative take on Shelley’s tragic and memorable classic, The Children on the Hill offers an absorbing contemplation of a sisterhood forged in shared pain, in longing to feel less alone even under the most monstrous of circumstances.

Family secrets and sins cast a long shadow in these thrillers, which center on the relationship between sisters.

The Wild Life

Joe Brody, aka “The Bouncer,” actually holds a more important position in the New York Mafia than that title might suggest: He serves as the in-house “sheriff” for an organization not exactly noted for enlisting the aid of conventional law enforcement. Indeed, Joe even wears a sheriff’s badge, though not the bronze sort that gets pinned to an elected official’s khaki shirt pocket. His is tattooed on his chest, a lifetime appointment, albeit one with perhaps a shorter life expectancy than his counterparts on the other side of the blue line. In David Gordon’s The Wild Life, Joe goes in search of some missing sex workers. Their profession may be known for its high turnover, but this time it’s more troubling: The women have disappeared without a trace, leaving behind their passports and savings. High on the suspect list are Jim Hackney, a well-connected property developer with a history of employing prostitutes, and his namesake son, a daddy’s boy with a penchant for big-game hunting. Joe’s smart-aleck attitude quickly gets him crosswise with the pair, and the situation deteriorates rapidly. Complicating matters is Joe’s budding romance with FBI agent Donna Zamora, a situation that must be kept secret from both their employers—which is not easy when they are investigating the same case from opposing perspectives. I must admit to being partial to mysteries in which one of the protagonists works within the framework of the law and the other suffers no such constraints. I usually find myself more drawn to the outlaw of the pair, especially if they’re as gritty and funny as Joe Brody.


At the beginning of Overboard, Sara Paretsky’s 22nd V.I. Warshawski novel, the Chicago PI has just lost control of her two large dogs while walking them alongside Lake Michigan. Scuttling down some treacherous rocks in pursuit of the disobedient doggies, V.I. is horrified to find a battered teenage girl barely clinging to life. At the hospital, the victim’s vital signs are stabilized, but she has no identification and seems unable or unwilling to converse in any language. It is clear that she is terrified of something or someone, and she escapes from the hospital at her first opportunity. As V.I. looks into the case of the missing girl—pro bono, which she can ill afford—disturbing connections come to light in relation to some questionable legal shenanigans involving a synagogue and a prime piece of Chicago waterfront property. And then the murders begin. The COVID-19 pandemic plays a key role in the story’s backdrop, something we will certainly see more and more often in literature as the pandemic wears on. V.I., who narrates in the first person, has some strong left-leaning feelings on how the crisis has been handled in America, but they never detract from Paretsky’s compelling, fast-paced and original mystery.

The Dark Flood

South African writer Deon Meyer returns with The Dark Flood, the seventh installment of his series featuring Cape Town police detective Benny Griessel. Griessel, a confirmed disobeyer of orders from above, is once again in the soup. The commissioner wants to see Griessel sacked, but cooler heads prevail, and he is instead demoted and reassigned to a suburban outpost where nothing much happens. Well, nothing much until Griessel arrives, and then—as has been known to happen before—all hell breaks loose. First, a college honor student goes missing, and then there’s the disappearance of a businessman who allegedly engineered an economy-toppling scheme, but the forensic accountants have yet to sufficiently untangle the multilayered mess. In a parallel storyline, we follow the financial woes of Sandra Steenberg, a young real estate agent who has fallen behind on her mortgage, her car payments and the tuition for her young daughter’s school. Sandra needs some quick cash, and she is willing to bend a few rules to facilitate that end, even if it means covering up an unexpected death. As with the previous entries in the series, The Dark Flood is a character-driven novel, and Griessel’s history of alcoholism is one of the main characters (albeit one without a speaking role). Larceny abounds, and in at least a couple of the cases, readers will almost hope that the perps get away with it. Even the book’s villains are laden with backstory, and it is borderline impossible to avoid feeling some level of sympathy for one and all. Fans of Jo Nesbø’s similarly character-driven Harry Hole mysteries will find lots to like here.


Gustaf Skördeman’s debut novel, Geiger, is a first-class story of the modern-day repercussions of Cold War espionage—not the first thing you’d expect from a thriller set in Sweden, which was a decidedly neutral country for most of that conflict. The story centers on the murder of a retired TV personality, Uncle Stellan, who was at one time the Johnny Carson of Sweden, beloved by adults and children alike. The book is not a whodunit in the true sense of the word, as we know who the killer is from the moment the bullet exits the gun. What we don’t know is the reason Agneta, Stellan’s wife of 50-odd years, chose to kill him after answering the phone and hearing a one-word message: “Geiger.” Detective Inspector Anna Torhall has been assigned to the case, and she brings Officer Sara Nowak on board since Sara has known Uncle Stellan’s family since she was a child. The two friends attended police academy together, and they value each other’s insights, at least to a point. Sara and Anna initially presume Agneta was either abducted by the killers or perhaps dead herself, and for quite some time, nobody even floats the notion that she might be the murderer. But as their investigation wears on, some disturbing connections to Communist East Germany come to light—connections that may lay the groundwork for an act of terrorism that would make 9/11 pale by comparison. Geiger is a truly excellent first novel: deeply researched, painstakingly crafted and thrilling on every page.

This month’s top pick in mystery, Gustaf Skördeman’s debut novel, Geiger, has a beginning you’ll never forget: A woman shoots her husband of 50 years after hearing the titular word on a mysterious phone call.

Super-close friends, a begrudgingly blended family and a passel of A-listers all contend with the scary side of wealth.

Cherish Farrah 

It’s not unusual for teen friendships to be intense, even all-consuming, but Bethany C. Morrow’s compelling and disturbing Cherish Farrah takes things to a whole new level. 

As the only Black girls in their affluent school and community, Farrah Turner and Cherish Whitman have been drawn to each other since meeting in the third grade. Although Farrah’s family lives just blocks away from Cherish’s, their lives have always been very different. Cherish’s extravagantly adoring adoptive parents are white, and they have the kind of wealth that buys them an opulent home with a triple-tiered backyard—and Cherish a privileged life that Farrah characterizes as WGS, or “white girl spoiled.” 

When readers first meet the young women, Cherish is sighing about her parents throwing a fancy party for her 17th birthday, while Farrah struggles with the foreclosure of her family’s home. The Whitmans have invited Farrah to stay with them for a bit, which is a no-brainer for Farrah. Although her internal monologues are riddled with scorn for Cherish, she considers Cherish “sometimes obtuse, often insufferably spoiled, but always mine.” 

That sense of superiority is central to Farrah’s increasingly tortured thought processes. She’s long felt unseen and frequently refers to the “meticulously crafted mask” she maintains as a form of control—a word so often used it becomes a twisted mantra central to Farrah’s existence. She wants to control and manipulate her relationships and feel as special as the undeserving Cherish does every day.

But Farrah’s been slipping a bit lately. Cherish resists her guidance when she never did before. Farrah’s parents aren’t as enthused about her staying with the Whitmans as they once were. And Farrah’s been feeling ill, too, suffering nausea and dizziness as well as ominous dreams. Is she still the danger—or is she in danger? 

Morrow’s tale tips from slow-building suspense into horror as the story progresses, and she does an excellent job of illustrating the ways in which envy and power can corrode relationships and reality even as she carefully, mercilessly immerses readers in Farrah’s singularly unsettling worldview.

The Younger Wife 

Sally Hepworth’s The Younger Wife kicks off with narration by an uninvited—and unidentified—wedding guest who witnesses a distressing turn of events. Has someone been hurt on this hitherto lovely day? Why? At whose hand? 

It’s a deliciously intriguing beginning to this entertaining tale set in Melbourne, Australia. The rest of the book is mainly told from the perspectives of three 30-something women: sisters Tully and Rachel, daughters of wealthy cardiac surgeon Stephen Aston, and Heather, Stephen’s wife-to-be. 

The sisters are shocked when 69-year-old Stephen announces his impending nuptials. After all, his wife and their mother, Pamela, is still alive; Stephen recently moved her to a nursing home for dementia treatment and never mentioned any plans for a divorce until now. It’s also discomfiting that Heather is their age, and they don’t love that the couple met when Stephen hired Heather as an interior designer for the home he and Pamela shared—the home Heather will soon move into.

Plus, Pamela’s been making comments indicating that Stephen may have been abusive. In what way and to what extent, Rachel isn’t sure, and she knows it won’t help to talk to Tully, who’s even more anxious and snide than usual. Unbeknownst to Rachel, there’s more to Tully’s behavior than her disapproval of Heather: Her family is in financial trouble, but she’s too ashamed to talk about it. For her part, Rachel is also struggling with repressed trauma that has begun to resurface.

The secrets pile up and up (Heather’s got some doozies, too) as Hepworth skillfully plumbs the characters’ pasts and builds pressure in the present. She seeds their musings with tidbits that will tantalize readers as they try to discern whether people are sinister or misunderstood; what happened at the wedding; and why the heck Pamela had thousands of dollars squirreled away in a hot-water bottle. Beneath all the suspense, Hepworth’s exploration of trauma and its aftermath is sensitively and compellingly done, as is her subtle examination of the ways in which wealth—having it, wanting it, losing it—can color relationships, perspectives and self-worth. 

The Club

Wealth is practically a main character in The Club by Ellery Lloyd, aka the married British co-authors Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos. Wealth is the arbiter of who belongs and who doesn’t, who matters and who is of no import in the world of The Home Group, a collection of exclusive membership clubs that cater to the exceedingly rich and fabulously famous. 

The newest club, Island Home—an opulent private island outside London dotted with cabins, restaurants, spas and more—is opening with a huge three-day celebration, invitations for which are highly coveted. Ned Groom, the bombastic and temperamental CEO of Home Group, hands them out with calculated glee.

The prologue reveals that a body will be found on the island after the big bash; as one of the faux Vanity Fair articles sprinkled throughout the book notes, “the party of the year turned into the murder mystery of the decade.” It’s initially unclear who’s been killed or why, but as Lloyd counts down the days leading up to the murder, it becomes evident that Ned’s an excellent candidate, although plenty of the guests are odious, too—some laughably (and murder-ably?) so. 

Working behind the scenes to wrangle the guests is an art in and of itself, one that grows more frustrating as opening day approaches. Colorful dispatches from a rotating cast of staff offer juicy behind-the-scenes details while hinting at dangerous secrets galore. There’s Jess, head of housekeeping; Annie, fixer extraordinaire; Nikki, Ned’s assistant; and Adam, Ned’s almost-as-obnoxious brother. They all have their own ulterior motives and unmet desires, a difficult state of affairs when surrounded by people who have so much yet are so ungrateful. 

Like Lloyd’s debut, People Like Her, The Club is a clever murder mystery that provides thrills and gasps galore, as well as a pointed and clear-eyed cautionary tale about the downsides of money and fame. Is all the jockeying for power and catering to terrible people (while, one assumes, trying not to get murdered) worth it? Membership in The Club has its perils right alongside its privileges.

While money may not necessarily be the root of all evil, privilege certainly leads to peril in three exciting thrillers from Bethany C. Morrow, Sally Hepworth and Ellery Lloyd.

The Cage is a psychological thriller that’s tailor-made to be read in one breathless session. It’s so fast-paced and wide in scope that it feels almost cinematic.

After working late on a Sunday night, Human Resources Director Lucy Barton-Jones and recently hired attorney Shay Lambert get in the elevator to leave the headquarters of fashion empire CDMI. The power goes out, trapping them both. After a frantic 911 call, the power returns and Lucy is dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

According to Shay, Lucy had a panic attack while stranded in the elevator and killed herself. But her story doesn’t quite add up to the police, especially when they dig into Shay’s past and discover that her resume is full of omissions and lies. The story certainly doesn’t work for Ingram Barrett, CDMI’s senior vice president and general counsel, given the bad press it will bring the company. He hired Shay only months before, and he’s willing to sacrifice her rather than risk the police looking too closely at Lucy’s recent activities.

As the novel alternates between the events of the past and the present investigation, we learn how Shay came to be in the elevator that night. Shay is an unreliable narrator, and through her actions, rather than her words, it becomes apparent that her circumstances—financial, romantic and legal—are very different from what she projects. The way author Bonnie Kistler (a former attorney) portrays the contrast between what Shay tells the people around her and what the reader actually sees happening is captivating. You can never fully believe Shay, and as the mystery of Lucy’s death gains more momentum, readers are forced to rely on clues in the background to understand what happened.

Lucy’s death isn’t the only mystery here: What were Lucy and Ingram involved with that makes him so eager for the police to arrest Shay for murder? Who is Shay really, and what’s her endgame? Part locked-room mystery, part legal thriller, The Cage weaves these separate plot lines together so seamlessly that readers will be genuinely shocked by the finale. This thriller is the perfect book for readers who value mind games over violence but still want an explosive ending.

Part locked-room mystery, part legal thriller, Bonnie Kistler's The Cage is tailor-made to be read in one breathless session.

Love gone terribly wrong is at the heart of two paranoid thrillers that ask: Is a fresh start possible if you don’t fully reckon with the past? Two female protagonists contend with corrosive lies, nefarious intentions and gaslighting galore as they struggle to drag long-buried secrets into the light.

Reading Darby Kane’s The Replacement Wife is like looking at the world through a window that’s blurry with the lingering fingerprints of traumas past and suspicions present.

Narrator Elisa Wright spends her days feeling fragile and distressed, still reeling from a horrific event at her workplace 11 months ago. But things have been looking up: She’s focusing on caring for her son, Nate, and has even ventured out of the house for an occasional errand or lunch with her husband, Harris.

Despite these improvements, Elisa grapples with a disturbing question that her gut won’t let her push aside. Is her brother-in-law Josh a good guy with very bad luck . . . or is he a charming sociopath with a penchant for murdering women he professes to love? 

Elisa knows it’s a wild-sounding train of thought, one Harris is extra-loath to entertain because his and Josh’s lives are so enmeshed. But she’s always wondered if there was more to the story Josh told them when his fiancée, Abby, disappeared seven months ago, leaving without a goodbye to Elisa, her close friend. Now Josh has a new girlfriend named Rachel with whom he’s already quite serious. Does Rachel know about Abby—or Candace, Josh’s wife who died in an accident at home? 

Determined to protect Rachel, Elisa struggles to appear supportive of the new relationship while searching for clues and clarity. It isn’t easy, especially with everyone looking askance at her whenever she wants privacy (read: an opportunity for serious snooping). She can’t tell if she’s paranoid, or getting close to a terrible reality.

Kane has created a compellingly claustrophobic thriller rife with gleeful misdirects, possible gaslighting and plenty of damaging secrets. Readers will feel dizzy and disoriented right along with Elisa as she tries to discern whether her instincts are steering her in the right direction or putting her in the path of danger, all while hoping against hope that she’ll figure it out before it’s too late for Rachel—or herself.

The three women in Leah Konen’s The Perfect Escape venture farther from home than Elisa does, but not as far as they’d like. 

Sam, Margaret and Diana don’t know each other that well, but they’ve bonded over a few months of intense venting and drinking sessions concerning the sad state of their respective relationships. A Saratoga Springs girls’ weekend, complete with spa treatments and margaritas, sounds like a logical next step in their quest to shake off the tarnish left by love’s demise. What could go wrong?

The trio merrily sets off from New York City, but just a couple of hours north in the small town of Catskill, Margaret loses the keys to their rental car. No others are available nearby, so Diana suggests a pivot: They’ll rent a house for the night, go out for some fun and figure out the rest of their trip in the morning. 

It’s not what they had planned, but it’ll distract them from their crumbling relationships nonetheless, so they go to a local bar called Eamon’s for booze and adventure. Sam is especially enthused; she knows her ex-husband, Harry, lives in Catskill and is likely to see a strategically tagged Instagram post. In the meantime, Margaret grooves with a sexy local guy named Alex, and Diana sashays out to the patio.

The next morning, Sam and Margaret awake to hangovers and confusion as they realize Diana is missing. To their horror, they learn that blood has been found at Eamon’s—and suddenly, skeptical police officers are asking questions the women don’t want to answer.

Konen pulls the reader into Margaret’s and Sam’s perspectives in turn as they reluctantly reveal their sad backstories and unseemly secrets and try to figure out just who they should be scared of. This twisty, creepy and increasingly disturbing story has a delicious, unhinged energy, hinting at all manner of suspects as the women’s motives are gradually revealed to be even deeper—and perhaps darker—than they first seemed.

Love gone terribly wrong lies at the heart of two paranoid thrillers.

Find Me

Three women take center stage in Alafair Burke’s latest thriller, Find Me: NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher, attorney Lindsay Kelly and amnesiac Hope Miller, who remembers nothing of her life prior to a devastating car crash she survived 15 years ago—or so she says. Now, sans ID or history, Hope works under the radar for a real estate agent, getting paid under the table to stage houses for prospective buyers. Then, as often happens in novels about amnesiacs, a random aha! moment triggers a memory, and we’re off to the races. Hope disappears, blood is spilled and the DNA found at her last-known location matches that of unidentified blood found at an old crime scene halfway across the country. The crime in question is one of a spate of killings thought to be the work of a serial killer, and the case was supposedly solved 15 years ago. Lindsay, who has been Hope’s friend ever since her accident, begins to investigate her disappearance and eventually draws Ellie into the fray. Ellie’s father, who was also a cop, was assigned to the same serial killer case that’s somehow connected with Hope’s disappearance. The two women feverishly piece together the disparate parts of the story, and Burke’s masterful control over pacing and plot reveals will make readers just as anxious to uncover the truth. 

A Narrow Door

Joanne Harris’ darkly humorous and deliciously evil A Narrow Door is a quintessential and unputdownable English mystery. Rebecca Buckfast, headmistress of noted Yorkshire boarding school St. Oswald’s and one of the first-person narrators of this tale, is nothing if not straightforward. She recounts the steps she had to take to become the first female head of the school in its 500-year history. Rebecca doesn’t sugarcoat anything, including the two murders she committed (“one a crime of passion, the other, a crime of convenience”), and yet it is difficult not to respect her motivations and even like her. Sort of. Meanwhile, a parallel tale is offered up by St. Oswald’s teacher Roy Straitley, in the form of a diary that outlines the discovery of what appears to be human remains in a construction site on the school grounds. As Roy’s and Rebecca’s stories unfold, both of the narrators take satisfaction in the secrets they are hiding from each other—or, more precisely, the secrets they think they are successfully concealing. A Narrow Door is an exceptionally good novel, such a masterpiece of storytelling that when Rebecca likens herself to a modern-day Scheherazade, it doesn’t feel like hyperbole in the slightest.

Silent Parade

By all accounts, 19-year-old Saori Namiki was on track to become the next big thing in the world of J-pop music. And then, inexplicably, she vanished, and stayed missing until her remains were discovered three years later in a suburban Tokyo neighborhood. Another body is found at the same place: Yoshie Hasunuma, an unremarkable woman save for her stepson, Kanichi, who is widely believed to have skated away from a murder charge years ago and looks pretty good for this latest double homicide as well. In the same way that Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade often sought the assistance of supersleuth Sherlock Holmes, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Chief Inspector Kusanagi regularly summons brainiac physicist Manabu Yukawa, known as Detective Galileo, to consult on particularly difficult homicides. Keigo Higashino’s Silent Parade showcases the fourth such pairing, and is in many ways the most intricate. Detective Galileo must reconsider his theory of the crime again and again, tweaking it repeatedly until he is more or less satisfied with his assessment. He is a very clever man, smart enough to stay a step or two ahead of the police department, the perpetrator (or perpetrators?) and the reader, and that is no mean feat.

BOX 88

The title of Charles Cumming’s latest espionage thriller, BOX 88, refers to a fictional clandestine ops organization that is jointly operated by the United States and the United Kingdom. BOX 88 does not possess a license to kill a la James Bond, but the management certainly utilizes a “license to look the other way” on occasions when wetwork is required. BOX 88 begins a series starring Scottish spy Lachlan Kite, who in this book must come to grips with a very cold case: the 1988 downing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Close to half the narrative consists of flashbacks to immediately after the plane crash, when Lachlan was a green recruit. In the present day, Lachlan lets down his guard at the funeral of his old friend, with disastrous results. He is kidnapped by an urbane-seeming Iranian man who turns out to be anything but urbane when it comes to securing intelligence from a perceived enemy combatant. Worse yet, the kidnapper’s team has also captured Lachlan’s very pregnant wife. If torture will not get them what they want, perhaps threats to Lachlan’s family will do the trick. Despite his mistake at the funeral, Lachlan is a seasoned operative and, if anything, more dangerous to his captors than they are to him. Meanwhile, British intelligence agency MI5 is in hot pursuit, not to help Lachlan but rather to out him as an operative of a rogue agency. The suspense is palpable, the characters flawed but sympathetic in their own ways and the story gripping. In a month of really excellent reads, BOX 88 is a clear standout.

In a month overflowing with superb mysteries and thrillers, a deliciously evil boarding school-set thriller and a pitch-perfect espionage novel rise to the top.

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