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All Thriller Coverage

Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild

Promising Young Woman meets “Dexter” in this highly suspenseful and strangely empowering thriller from an Emmy-nominated screenwriter.

Blood Sugar jacket

The Cage by Bonnie Kistler

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

The Cage jacket

Geiger by Gustaf Skördeman

Geiger is a truly excellent first novel: deeply researched, painstakingly crafted and thrilling on every page.

Geiger jacket

The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley

With unexpected twists, a paranoid atmosphere and a fascinating narrator, The Half Life of Valery K is a superb work of historical fiction and an excellent mystery.

The Half Life of Valery K jacket

Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen

Mystery lovers will be thoroughly entertained by this thoughtful noir that examines midcentury LGBTQ+ life through a cast of dynamic characters.

Lavender House jacket

Little Sister by Gytha Lodge

A teenage girl covered in blood interrupts Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens’ afternoon pint—and Gytha Lodge’s mystery only gets more unpredictable from there.

Little Sister jacket

Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson

Simon Stephenson’s darkly hilarious Sometimes People Die harks back to classic English satire a la Kingsley Amis or Evelyn Waugh—just with more murder.

Sometimes People Die jacket

Winter Work by Dan Fesperman

Dan Fesperman’s intense post-Cold War mystery savvily addresses both the personal and political pressures facing an East German spy.

Winter Work book cover

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Readers are treated to an inventive and expertly crafted mystery-within-a-mystery in Sulari Gentill’s The Woman in the Library.

The Woman in the Library jacket

You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa

This thoroughly satisfying and beautifully plotted thriller deconstructs the trope of the crazy ex-girlfriend.

You're Invited jacket

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

2022 was a year marked by meta mysteries, Cold War thrillers and complicated women.
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Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six

If I had to sum up Lisa Unger’s Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six in 10 words, I would say “Cast of ‘Friends,’ dark and stormy night, soundtrack by Disturbed.” This friend group is much more disturbed than Ross, Chandler, Monica, et al., but there are parallels: a sister/brother pair; a female friend from the past; some canoodling that is, shall we say, detrimental to the group dynamic. Siblings Hannah and Mako are celebrating Christmas at their parents’ house when their father finds an unusual gift under the tree: DNA genealogy kits for the whole family, from an anonymous Santa. A few months later, when Hannah, Mako, their respective spouses and another couple head up to a remote cabin to unplug, the other shoe drops. Some of them did the kit and were unexpectedly proven to be the progeny of the same man, and they are not happy to know who (and what) their biological father was. Secrets abound in this psychological thriller; even the cabin itself harbors a hidden history, giving off unnerving vibes to renters and readers alike. At 400 pages, it’s a long book for a one-sitting read, but you’ll be sorely tempted.

1989

1989 is Val McDermid’s second installment of a trilogy (which this reviewer hopes will become a quadrilogy or even a quintology) featuring Scottish investigative reporter Allie Burns. The series began with 1979, and in the sequel, readers are mired with Allie in the late ’80s, when mobile phones were the size of lunchboxes, when AIDS was ravaging the U.K., when a jetliner was bombed out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, and when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. All in all, not a time to be nostalgic for, and true to form, McDermid spins the tale without a whiff of sentimentality. Allie works for media mogul Ace Lockhart, who bears more than a passing resemblance to newspaper publisher Robert Maxwell (father of Ghislaine, of Jeffrey Epstein-associate infamy): flamboyant, bullying and destined for disgrace. Lockhart, who has a number of business ventures based in the Eastern bloc, senses the upcoming upheaval and sends his daughter to secure his interests in the changing political landscape. When she is kidnapped in East Berlin, Lockhart sends Allie Burns on a rescue mission, and in short order, things careen out of control. You don’t need to read 1979 to hit the ground running with 1989, but you will want to have Wikipedia open to look up all the fascinating historical and cultural moments McDermid references along the way.

Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man

Emily J. Edwards’ Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man is, hands down, this month’s most entertaining mystery. Set in 1950 New York City, it chronicles the adventures of a plucky Pennsylvania country girl, the titular Viviana Valentine. Upon arriving penniless in the Big Apple, Viviana sweet-talks her way into a girl Friday job for Tommy Fortuna, a Philip Marlowe-esque private investigator who calls her dollface. But after Tommy goes MIA and a dead body is found on his office floor, Viviana is forced to take the helm of the agency, clear Tommy’s name and crack the case he was working on. Whatever she lacks in experience, Viviana more than makes up for with her in-your-face attitude, wicked sense of humor and snappy one-liners. Her friends and acquaintances include high society debutantes, models, mobsters, cops both arrow-straight and morally flexible and a host of other ’50s types that would slot neatly into a black-and-white detective film. Edwards nails the tone, with dialogue and milieu evocative of classic noir, and presents the era warts and all: conversations that are a bit politically incorrect; men behaving toward women in ways that are borderline or flat-out predatory; and a towering amount of smoking and drinking.

The Devil’s Blaze

In the same fashion that Sean Connery is the quintessential James Bond for many cinema aficionados, Basil Rathbone is widely regarded as the definitive silver screen Sherlock Holmes, even though the most famous films in which he took on the role are not set in the original Victorian and Edwardian eras but smack in the middle of World War II. Author Robert J. Harris expands upon those midcentury films with his Sherlock Holmes in WWII series, the second volume of which (after 2021’s A Study in Crimson) is The Devil’s Blaze. The Germans have developed a truly insidious weapon to use against their English adversaries, a death machine of some sort that causes people to spontaneously erupt into flames. As usual, there are only two people in England clever enough (or devious enough, depending on your point of view) to approach a mystery of this magnitude: Sherlock Holmes (natch) and his longtime archnemesis, Professor James Moriarty. There is certainly no love lost between the pair, but they are forced to forge an uneasy alliance to try and save England from this terrifying new weapon. Harris never lets readers forget that this is a Sherlock Holmes novel, with the narrative turning on a dime—or a twopence, if you prefer—such that only an experienced fishmonger would be able to sort through all the red herrings. Holmes is as cerebral and arrogant as die-hard fans would expect, and Watson hews closely to actor Nigel Bruce’s portrayal in the Rathbone films: thoughtful, taciturn and usually a step behind his mentor. And Moriarty, well, he should be giving TED Talks on the subject of villainy.

Lisa Unger will make you think twice about dabbling with DNA ancestry kits, plus Val McDermid returns with a new Allie Burns novel in this month’s Whodunit.

The stock character of the crazy ex-girlfriend has undergone a significant reevaluation in recent years, resulting in nuanced stories that unpack the misogynist nature of the trope. (Look no further than Rachel Bloom’s musical TV series of the same name if you have any doubt.) Sri Lankan author Amanda Jayatissa follows up her award-winning debut, My Sweet Girl, with a brilliant new take on the figure. A psychological thrill ride that takes place during the fanciest of fancy nuptials, You’re Invited explores class divides, social media scandals and family drama, all through the eyes of a “crazy” ex-girlfriend who might be the sanest character in the book.

Amaya Bloom lives alone in Los Angeles, far from Sri Lanka where she came of age amid lavish surroundings as part of the country’s 1%. The 20-something keeps her past firmly to herself, except during vulnerable phone calls with her friend Beth and gratifying encounters with Alexander, Amaya’s once-a-month, no-strings-attached lover. When Amaya receives a wedding invitation from Kaavi Fonseka—her former best friend who’s now an accomplished philanthropist, wildly successful influencer and rich girl about town back in Sri Lanka—she’s not sure what to think. After all, the two haven’t spoken in five years. Then Amaya learns that Kaavi is marrying Amaya’s ex-boyfriend. Her mission? Stop the wedding, even if someone has to die.

Fans of Crazy Rich Asians and Gone Girl should look no further: Jayatissa spins a twisted tale of glittery parties, meddling aunties and a friendship between two young women that went horribly awry once a man got involved. The novel’s opening sentence—“I woke up with bruised knuckles and blood under my fingernails, more rested than I have been in years”—is but a taste of the horror to come, all bedecked in yards of the finest fabric and studded with gems from the Fonseka family’s jewelry empire. Both Amaya and Kaavi are fascinating characters, foils with a shared history and much more to each than meets the eye. You’re Invited is a thoroughly satisfying and beautifully plotted thriller, featuring characters you won’t soon forget and a head-spinning twist to top it all off.

You’re Invited is a thoroughly satisfying and beautifully plotted thriller that deconstructs the trope of the crazy ex-girlfriend.
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True crime writer Gage Chandler, the protagonist of John Darnielle’s Devil House, jumps at the opportunity to live at the “Devil House,” a building where two gruesome, possibly satanic murders took place in 1986. Blamed on some rebellious teenagers, the case remains unsolved. Once Gage moves in and starts researching the murders, he’s drawn into a deeper examination of the significance of his own work. At once a magnetic thriller and an intriguing look at the true crime genre, Darnielle’s novel is filled with rich themes for discussion, including the slippery nature of crime reporting and the demands of the artistic process.

In Gilly Macmillan’s I Know You Know, Cody Swift seeks closure regarding his two childhood friends’ murders, which occurred 20 years ago in Bristol, England. Undertaking his own investigation, Cody returns to Bristol in search of new information and launches a podcast to share his story. But then a body is discovered in the same place Cody’s friends were found, and soon a new homicide investigation is underway. Macmillan incorporates flashbacks to Cody’s childhood and episodes of his podcast in this sophisticated, multilayered mystery.

Denise Mina’s Conviction tells the story of Anna McDonald, who loses herself in true crime podcasts as she struggles to put her painful past behind her. After Anna’s husband leaves her for her best friend, Estelle, Anna connects with Estelle’s husband, singer Fin Cohen. Together they delve into the murder case that’s the subject of Anna’s favorite podcast and start a podcast of their own. When Anna realizes that she is linked to the case, a tragic chapter from her life is reopened. Mina’s skillful development of multiple plot lines and crack comic timing will give reading groups plenty to talk about.

In Megan Goldin’s The Night Swim, Rachel Krall, host of the popular true crime podcast “Guilty or Not Guilty,” travels to a small North Carolina town to report on the trial of swimming champion Scott Blair. Accused of raping the teenage granddaughter of the local police chief, Scott and his case have attracted national attention. While in North Carolina, Rachel is also drawn to a cold case involving the drowning of a 16-year-old that took place more than two decades before. As she works to unravel the two cases, she realizes that they share disturbing parallels. Goldin builds a mood of intense suspense in this searing look at how crime can impact a small community.

Go meta with one of these mysteries starring true crime podcasters and writers.

Katherine St. John is a pro at crafting escapist thrillers: Her often gorgeous protagonists find themselves in remote settings, surrounded by people they’re not sure they can trust. It all makes for loads of nail-biting suspense as said protagonists realize they’d better figure out how to, well, escape before something truly terrible happens. 

Fans of her previous books, The Lion’s Den and The Siren, will devour St. John’s latest, The Vicious Circle, which conjures up that same life-or-death urgency amid opulence. This time, the setting is a wellness center named Xanadu, deep in the Mexican jungle. The luxurious compound offers much fodder for suspicion. (The bedrooms have no doors? What’s with all the chanting?) It also serves as the locus for St. John’s exploration of shared beliefs-turned-toxic groupthink and the fuzzy line between enigmatic mysticism and subtle manipulation. 

Former model Sveta Bentzen is shocked to learn that her estranged uncle, the famous self-help guru and Xanadu founder Paul Sayres, left his entire estate to her instead of his wife, Kali. All her life, Sveta has felt that she’s not enough, either for her loving but distant mother or her wealthy fiancé’s influential and scornful family. When she learns of her uncle’s death, she grieves the relationship they didn’t have and is determined to make the long, treacherous journey to Xanadu for the memorial service Kali will host there. Sveta’s confidence falters when lawyer (and handsome former flame) Lucas joins the trip, but she perseveres, hoping to reach an understanding with Kali while Lucas handles the finances. The Xanadu residents welcome them, but Sveta suspects that hostility may lurk beneath Kali’s serenity—and that the circumstances of her uncle’s death may have been misrepresented, too.

Fans of “The White Lotus’ and Nine Perfect Strangers will relish Sveta’s race to find a way to escape Xanadu before it’s too late. Her hard-won journey to realizing her self-worth is as compelling as it is deliciously ironic: Who knew all you had to do to win confidence, love and inner peace is escape a creepy wellness center?

Fans of “The White Lotus” and Nine Perfect Strangers will relish Katherine St. John’s latest escapist thriller.

When the main characters in these two novels return to their hometowns after long absences, mysteries past and present collide.

Jackal

In Jackal, 30-something Black woman Liz Rocher reluctantly returns to her childhood home for the wedding of her longtime friend Melissa Parker. While she’s overjoyed at Mel’s newfound happiness and upcoming marriage, she’s less than enthusiastic about her return to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains that immediately rekindles haunting memories.

Years ago, Keisha Woodson, one of Liz’s only Black friends, disappeared after a party in the woods. She was discovered dead, her heart ripped from her chest. Police were quick to close the book on the case, concluding that Keisha died from exposure and that her body was ravaged by a bear. But Liz has always had doubts. When Mel’s daughter, Caroline, also goes missing, Liz launches an investigation into the other Black children who have disappeared over the years. As suspicion, racial tension and even irrational fears of a legendary creature in the woods grow, Liz desperately tries to discover the truth and save Caroline before it’s too late.

In her debut novel, Erin E. Adams transcends the typical hometown mystery with an effective blend of social and supernatural terrors that build in intensity and mystique throughout. Liz’s first-person narration accentuates the emotional stakes of what’s happening in Johnstown, drawing readers in as they sympathize with her plight.

The Witch in the Well

Norwegian author Camilla Bruce’s The Witch in the Well revolves around popular spirituality influencer Elena Clover, whose return to her hometown (referred to only as F”) ignites a feud with her former childhood friend Cathy over their town’s local legend, the titular witch.

Cathy had been researching and blogging for years about Ilsbeth Clark, who was accused of being a witch, then arrested and tried for the deaths of numerous children in 1862. Ilsbeth was eventually acquitted, but believing the court made a mistake, the townsfolk threw her in the local well and drowned her.

Elena, who believes that each person has a voice in their head that can converse with their soul, is convinced that Ilsbeth is that voice for her. She returns to F” to write her next book about Ilsbeth, which prompts Cathy to exact a series of petty retaliations.

The book begins with an open letter to the community from Cathy, who contends that she has been wrongly implicated in Elena’s death. Bruce, who earned accolades for her previous thriller You Let Me In, expertly unravels the trio’s stories, jumping back and forth in time via Elena’s journal, Cathy’s blogs and Ilsbeth’s own archived accounts. The Witch in the Well is a compelling, creepy story of angst, obsessions and lost friendship.

In Erin E. Adams' Jackal and Camilla Bruce's The Witch in the Well, the places you know best are the ones that pose the greatest threat.
Review by

Inspired by true events, The Half Life of Valery K takes readers to 1963 Soviet Russia, where a secret project threatens nuclear disaster.

Scientist Valery Kolkhanov has spent years in a Siberian gulag focused only on his own day-to-day survival. When he is summoned for a special assignment, he assumes it will be his execution, but instead he finds himself in the strange community of City 40. The top-secret city is surrounded by a forest ravaged by radiation, and Valery’s former mentor wants him to assist her in studying the long-term effects of radiation on the environment.

Elated to be free of the gulag, Valery embraces his assignment at first, but eventually he begins to suspect he’s not being told the truth about City 40. The radiation appears to be much more severe than it’s said to be, and Valery believes the residents of the city and potentially the entire Soviet Union are in danger.

Valery’s every move is monitored by KGB agent Konstantin Shenkov, an enigmatic man who becomes an unlikely ally. As Valery uncovers more secrets surrounding City 40, he and Shenkov find themselves drawn together in a forbidden attraction.

Natasha Pulley reveals the secret Soviet towns that inspired ‘The Half Life of Valery K.’

Natasha Pulley expertly reveals the mysteries of City 40 piece by piece, along with the secrets Valery himself is keeping. Valery knows his feelings for Shenkov would get him thrown back in the gulag if discovered, and the two men play a dangerous game hiding both their relationship and their investigation from the authorities. Valery is also something of an unreliable narrator, often questioning his own sanity as the events around him become more bizarre. Readers will be forced to question whether his insights into City 40 are accurate or the result of a mind plagued by nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Based on the Kyshtym nuclear disaster of 1957, The Half Life of Valery K is a compelling window into a terrifying and lesser-known aspect of the Cold War. With unexpected twists, a paranoid atmosphere and a fascinating narrator, this novel is a superb work of historical fiction as well as an excellent mystery.

With unexpected twists, a paranoid atmosphere and a fascinating narrator, The Half Life of Valery K is a superb work of historical fiction and an excellent mystery.
Behind the Book by

In The Half Life of Valery K, the titular Soviet scientist is released from a Siberian prison and transported to a town called City 40, which seems to be absolutely suffused with unhealthy levels of radiation. The most frightening thing? As Natasha Pulley reveals, towns like City 40 really did exist.


In the 1960s, across the Soviet Union, there were cities without real names. Instead, they had numbers that corresponded to P.O. boxes in towns miles away: Semipalatinsk 21, Chelyabinsk 40. Sometimes, even more ominously, they had code names like the Installation, the Terminal and the Lake. These cities did not appear on maps, the people who lived there couldn’t leave—many couldn’t even contact relatives on the outside—and they absolutely could not discuss what went on there.

These places were atomgrads: secret cities that hid the Soviet nuclear program.

It sounds like the plot of a Bond novel, but this system was actually an answer to the biggest problem the Soviet Union ever faced: how to keep the Americans from doing to Moscow what had been done to Hiroshima. The Soviet Union had a formidable nuclear arsenal, but the atomgrads made it so that very few people knew where all the parts were, how they fit together—or what the consequences would be if someone tried a hot war instead of a cold one.

 “The truth is so bizarre that it doesn’t sound like it can be right . . .”

I didn’t know about any of this until recently; I just stumbled over it. When the TV show “Chernobyl” came out a couple of years ago, I loved it so much I read Serhii Plokhy’s brilliant Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe for background. In it, he mentioned something that nearly knocked me off my chair. One of the reasons the scientists at Chernobyl had some idea about what to do when the plant’s nuclear reactor melted down was that this had happened before, at a place called Ozersk. Plokhy didn’t say anything else about it in his book, so I started looking into it.

Ozersk is a code name, derived from the Russian word ozero, which just means “lake.” Its other name is Chelyabinsk 40, meaning City 40. It was—and still is—part of that network of secret atomgrads. In the ’60s, City 40’s speciality was producing weapons-grade plutonium.

Late in 1957, something happened in City 40. We still don’t know exactly what. But we do know that thousands of kilometers of land around City 40 were irradiated. We also know that hundreds of people in a city 90 kilometers away were admitted to the hospital with radiation sickness. If people that far away were that sick, the amount of radiation released must have been enormous.

But unlike Chernobyl, hardly anyone in the West has heard of City 40, even today. In fact, when Soviet scientist Zhores Medvedev broke the news of it to the Western press in the 1970s, nobody believed him. A lot of Western scientists outright rubbished what he said. Nobody could accept that there had been a major nuclear disaster that stayed secret. But it did.

Read our starred review of ‘The Half Life of Valery K’ by Natasha Pulley.

After I read Medvedev’s book about the disaster, and saw the declassified CIA documents he attached to it, I started writing. I started learning Russian and looking at archive footage and poking through the website for Rosatom, Russia’s current nuclear agency, which has plenty of information about City 40. I did a course on nuclear physics so I could actually understand the documents I was finding. The picture that emerged was so strange it could have been from a comic book, and I think that’s partly how it stayed secret. The truth is so bizarre that it doesn’t sound like it can be right: hundreds of thousands of people exposed to radiation and radioactive land that remains dangerous today; widespread health problems even now because of it; and at the heart of it, a facility called Mayak—the Lighthouse—that actually produced the polonium that killed Alexander Litvinenko, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in 2006.

All this led to The Half Life of Valery K, which is about a scientist sent to work at City 40 in 1963, and what happens when he starts staring too hard at its secrets.

Photo of Natasha Pulley © Jamie Drew.

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union covered up a Chernobyl-level nuclear disaster. Natasha Pulley's new thriller, The Half Life of Valery K, reveals the truth.
Review by

Megan Miranda knows how to land a twist, and her latest thriller demonstrates that to dizzying effect. Set in an isolated and hazardous pocket of the Appalachian Mountains, The Last to Vanish elegantly builds a near-gothic atmosphere as it tells the story of an inn with a troubled past and the locals who are keeping deadly secrets.

Abigail Lovett loves her quiet job at the Passage Inn in Cutter’s Pass, North Carolina. The inn butts up against the Appalachian Trail, catering to guests looking to lose themselves in nature. Unfortunately, Cutter’s Pass has a dark history of people becoming lost for good. Decades ago, a group of college students, dubbed the Fraternity Four, vanished while on a hike. Over the years, two women also disappeared. Most recently, a journalist named Landon West set out to write about the strange history of Cutter’s Pass only to disappear himself. Now Landon’s brother, Trey, has arrived at the Passage Inn to try and find clues to his brother’s whereabouts. Most of the town’s residents attribute the mysterious goings-on to accidents on the trail, but Landon’s disappearance unsettled Abby, and now she’s starting to wonder if they are all connected.

A pervasive sense of unease runs throughout The Last to Vanish, whether Abby is facing the dangers of the mountains or the sneaking suspicion that the locals are monitoring her every move. The Passage Inn is a character in itself with quirks, secrets and dark basement rooms. Facing all these strange happenings at what used to be her comforting, calm place of work further spooks Abby: The phones keep going down, and one of her co-workers quits with only a brief note explaining her departure.

As the novel progresses, Miranda slowly gives readers more information about Abby, which only leads to more questions: Where did she come from before she, rather suddenly, arrived in Cutter’s Pass, and why did she decide to live and work at the inn in the first place? She’s not quite an unreliable narrator but rather one whose personal details are revealed with careful precision by Miranda, who ensures that Abby is fascinating, not frustrating. 

A perfectly balanced cross between a cold-case mystery and a psychological thriller, The Last to Vanish‘s expert plotting and surprising twists will delight readers.

Megan Miranda's latest is a perfectly balanced cross between a cold-case mystery and a psychological thriller that features a fascinating amateur sleuth.
Review by

In Sarah Gailey’s latest thriller, a woman returns to her childhood home and comes face to face with the trauma of her youth.

Just Like Home opens with Vera Crowder returning to the house her father built to care for her ailing mother. Daphne Crowder—who insists Vera call her Daphne, not Mom—is barely alive, a pale imitation of the strict mother figure readers get glimpses of through Vera’s flashbacks: “The cold authority had drained out of Vera’s mother like brake fluid from a cut line.”

It is immediately apparent that something violent and bizarre, something far worse than standard mother-daughter tension, has ruptured Vera and Daphne’s relationship. When people recognize Vera in town, they react with horror, and when her past is revealed at work, she loses her job almost immediately. Just Like Home reveals the facts of the Crowder House tragedy early on but unearths the emotional fallout of the events expertly and slowly, meditating on the possible culpability of everyone involved.

In addition to being an excellently crafted thriller, Just Like Home is scary enough to satisfy horror fans, particularly those who revel in disturbing images and suffocating settings. Gailey lends the Crowder House all the intensity of a living being as claustrophobic scenes unravel within its dilapidated walls.

An excavation of tense and toxic family dynamics, Just Like Home uses atmospheric scenes of supernatural horror to unpack the impact of a traumatic event. And Gailey goes even further, observing throughout their terrifying tale that any of us could be haunted—whether by gender ideology, the weight of secrets or the actions of our family members—while bravely refusing to offer clear-cut answers about the nature of good and evil.

An excavation of toxic family dynamics, Sarah Gailey's Just Like Home uses atmospheric scenes of supernatural horror to reveal the terrors that haunt us all.

A Riley Sager novel is a guaranteed wild ride, and the New York Times bestseller’s hotly anticipated sixth book, The House Across the Lake, is no different. Sager is the literary equivalent of a master chef, using a deft hand to configure tasty ingredients—a complex, grieving woman with alcoholism; a missing supermodel with dangerous secrets behind her dazzling smile; and the picturesque lake that brings them together—then adding a generous pinch of pulp and a delicious surprise at the end. The result is an addictive beach read that fans will devour in one sitting and leave feeling thoroughly sated.

Rear Window meets Lake Placid in the story of Casey Fletcher, a character actress with a complicated legacy. Her mother, legendary musical theater performer Lolly Fletcher, who prefers hoofing it on stage to providing emotional support, has shipped her off to the family cottage and ordered Casey to relax and reflect. Casey is also supposed to stay sober, which is all but impossible given her grief over the recent accidental death of her husband, Len, in the lake right next to the cottage. Enter Tom and Katherine Royce, a tech mogul and retired model, respectively, who are staying in the glass house across the lake. A tentative friendship between the women ensues, but soon after, Katherine disappears without a trace. Is Tom responsible? How about hunky handyman Boone? Or do the answers lie in the body of water that claimed the love of Casey’s life?

Sager (Survive the Night, Home Before Dark) balances the novel’s short timeline and limited setting with rich characterization for all, especially Katherine, whom the reader meets as she nearly drowns in the dark, freezing lake, and Casey, whose never-ending supply of snarky one-liners and wisecracks never quite camouflages the deep emotional turmoil that ended her once-successful acting career. The House Across the Lake is a psychological thriller that’s thoroughly personality-driven, following women whose motives, means and opportunities are as murkily fascinating as the titular loch.

Riley Sager’s latest thriller is an addictive beach read that fans will devour in one sitting—and leave feeling thoroughly sated.

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Leif Enger’s third novel, Virgil Wander, centers on the eponymous protagonist who lives in the quaint, rustic town of Greenstone, Minnesota. By day, Virgil begrudgingly works as the town clerk, but by night, he is the proprietor of the Empress, a fledgling movie theater that specializes in projecting its exclusive and illegal film collection. During a drive one snowy evening, Virgil’s car skids off the road and crashes into Lake Superior. Luckily, he is a saved by Marcus Jetty, the owner of the local junkyard. Virgil emerges from the accident with a fleeting grasp of language and flickering memories of his former life.

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