Best thrillers of 2022—so far

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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.
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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.

A decade ago, Kat Roberts was an L.A. Times rookie, part of a team working on a high-profile news story about a predatory high school principal. In hopes of jump-starting her career, Kat decided to conduct her own secret side investigation and wow her new boss with the results. But things went terribly wrong, and to this day, she blames the person who sparked her interest in the side story: a young woman named Meg.

Fifteen years ago, Ron Ashton rendered a teenaged Meg Williams homeless. Her mother fell in love with the successful real estate developer and was grateful when he agreed to help refinance their beloved home. Alas, he lied about the documentation as well as about his intentions; Meg’s mom died not long after, leaving her daughter alone to deal with unresolved grief and sudden housing insecurity. 

But an incandescently angry Meg determinedly clawed her way to solvency one con job at a time, with impeccably thorough research as her secret weapon and terrible men as her favored targets. She’s become very, very good at conning people: As she asserts in the opening pages of Julie Clark’s intricate and engrossing The Lies I Tell, “By the time you’re saying nice to meet you, I’ve already known you for months. Does this worry you? It should.” 

Why Julie Clark refuses to write unreliable female narrators.

In present-day Los Angeles, a Google alert lets Kat know that Meg’s returned to town, right in the middle of Ashton’s run for state senate. A strong researcher herself, Kat has some idea of Meg’s backstory, plus her current false identity as a real estate agent. Kat resolves to use that information to launch a con of her own: She’ll pose as a potential buyer, befriend Meg and twist trust into revenge. Or will she?

It’s an exciting premise, bolstered by intriguingly detailed descriptions of Meg’s various ruses, compelling character growth and lots of slow-building tension via complex manipulation. Clark, author of New York Times bestseller The Last Flight, has yet again crafted a fascinating pair of women who wrestle with trauma, sexism, identity and whether it’s ever okay to do bad things for good reasons.

Julie Clark's intricate and engrossing suspense novel is the story of a con artist, a reporter and whether it's okay to do bad things for good reasons.

What better to read on a hot summer day than a chilling thriller set in, well, Iceland? In Outside, Reykjavik native and internationally bestselling author Ragnar Jónasson turns the snowy “fjord-indented coastline [and] reindeer-haunted wilderness” of the Nordic island’s eastern highlands into an antagonist just as dangerous to the book’s central characters as the murderer (or perhaps murderers?) in their midst.

At first, there’s no thought of life-threatening peril when four college friends reunite for a woodsy weekend hike to hunt ptarmigan and catch up on one another’s lives. There’s Daniel, an aspiring actor who lives in London; Gunnlaugur, an argumentative lawyer; Helena, an inscrutable engineer; and Ormann, a wealthy tour company owner and leader of their trip.

An unexpected blizzard catches the quartet off guard, its fierce winds and zero visibility sending them into survival mode. Ormann knows of a hut they can hole up in until the worst of the weather passes—but just getting there is onerous as the snow piles higher, the air gets colder and the mostly amateur hikers’ nerves become frayed.

Once they get to the cabin, things get even scarier as frustration transforms into fear and life-or-death decisions are made more difficult by years-old resentments boiling up to the surface. Their paranoia grows in the cabin’s suffocatingly small space as Helena thinks to herself, “Guns, isolation, fear, and uncertainty—they were such an explosive cocktail.”

Jónasson inspires fast page turns via quick cuts among the four characters as they reflect on the past (so many secrets!) and frantically strategize about the present. Mini cliffhangers keep the story humming along; the author doesn’t shy away from ending chapters with lines like, “He had never been so afraid in his life.”

Spare prose and brisk pacing make for an immersive read that’s less about the individual characters and more about what they become when they’re forced together, no longer able to dissemble or hide. Will they work together to save themselves before it’s too late? Can they? Outside is an intriguing study of isolation, claustrophobia and the particular menace to be found in beautiful yet unforgiving terrain.

Outside is an intriguing study of isolation, claustrophobia and the particular menace to be found in beautiful yet unforgiving terrain.

There comes a point in many people’s lives when they wonder, what if I could start over? What if I could be someone else, free of the baggage and the travails that have accumulated until now? In Chris Pavone’s suspenseful new novel, Two Nights in Lisbon, recently married couple Ariel Price and John Wright have shirked their former identities for new lives unfettered by past encumbrances.

Or so they think.

Only Pavone knows their secrets, and he reveals them slowly and deliberately, expertly seeding the novel with intrigue and suspense, one page at a time.

Chris Pavone on why no one gets a fresh start in his new thriller.

While accompanying John on a business trip to Lisbon, Portugal, Ariel awakes to an empty bed. She immediately reports John’s absence to the police and, when they don’t appear to be overly concerned, the American embassy. The authorities have plenty of questions for which she only has vague answers, because John has his own secrets; decades of his life are unknown to her. Her panic intensifies as his absence lengthens, and then her worst fears are confirmed with the arrival of a ransom note. As Ariel learns more about John, and Pavone reveals more of Ariel’s secrets, the collision of both characters’ pasts and presents fuels the increasingly thrilling tension.

“We tell ourselves stories about each other, about ourselves too, our pasts. We construct our narratives,” Pavone writes. “Maybe she doesn’t know her husband at all.” Pavone himself had to reinvent his life in 2015, when he left a successful career as a book editor to move to Luxembourg with his wife. His Edgar and Anthony Award-winning debut The Expats explored this territory, and Two Nights in Lisbon proves that it’s still fertile ground, packed with stay-awake-all-night thrills for readers.

Chris Pavone's latest novel is packed with stay-awake-all-night thrills as it follows a recently married couple with no shortage of secrets.

Some people deserve to die. At least, that’s Ruby Simon’s mindset. The protagonist of Sascha Rothchild’s Blood Sugar isn’t your typical suspected murderer. She’s a Yale graduate and a successful psychologist in her home city of Miami, and she was happily married until her diabetic husband, Jason, passed away. Now Ruby is accused of Jason’s murder, with plenty of time to think back on her checkered history as she waits in a police station. What follows is a Promising Young Woman meets “Dexter” thriller that’s both highly suspenseful and strangely empowering.

Ruby’s always been a Type A personality, pulling top grades and volunteering with animal rescues even during her wild teen years of club-hopping, snorting cocaine and hooking up with older men. Every now and then, she’s brought it upon herself to correct the injustices she saw around her. When Ruby was 5, she made sure her older sister’s bully drowned beneath powerful ocean waves. In high school, she fought back against her friend’s father, whose hands would never wander again after that. But Ruby genuinely loved Jason, a gentle Georgia native she met at an antique shop—so why is she under suspicion for his untimely demise? Could it have something to do with Jason’s aptly named mother, Gertrude, who has never hidden her disapproval of their marriage?

Rothchild is both a memoirist and an Emmy-nominated screenwriter for shows such as “The Bold Type,” “The Baby-Sitters Club” and “GLOW.” Her debut thriller successfully executes all the elements of a crackling mystery: page-turning plot beats, snappy dialogue (especially between Ruby and Roman, her narcissistic college bestie-turned-defense attorney) and vividly drawn characters. Readers will root for Ruby’s acts of vigilante justice toward toxic male figures while also questioning her reliability as a narrator. For those who love a fascinating, complicated female lead with more than one ax to grind, Blood Sugar is an absolute must.

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

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.

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.
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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.

Do we ever really know those close to us? Author Kieran Scott probes this question deeply in the sharp and stylish Wish You Were Gone. A bump in the night leads to the horrific discovery of a loved one’s body, and the secrets just keep spilling out as suburban wife and mom Emma Walsh tries to unravel the complex web of lies that made up her “perfect” life.

When a noise jolts Emma awake in the wee hours, she doesn’t expect to find her husband James’ car crashed into the garage—and James deceased inside it. Though Emma’s life appears ideal, with a beautiful house in a tony New Jersey suburb, a spouse who runs a successful sports PR firm in Manhattan and two beautiful teens in private school, only Emma and her kids know it’s all a facade. James had alcoholism and was prone to fits of rage, getting into a physical altercation with his own children mere hours before smashing his prized BMW. But is his demise more than a simple case of drunk driving? Meanwhile, one of Emma’s best pals, single mom Lizzie, is struggling with her finances, while Emma’s other close friend, successful lawyer Gray, is dealing with a suddenly scarily unpredictable spouse. Are their problems intertwined, tied up in James’ complicated legacy?

In her debut thriller, Scott, who has previously published romance and YA, displays a whole new talent for complex adult suspense. Though Wish You Were Gone is a quick read, it’s also thought provoking and relatable. Emma’s not the only one hiding things; everyone has secrets behind closed doors, whether it’s a pile of unpaid bills, trouble with a peer group or a partner struggling with unexpected mood swings and irrational actions. Through bite-size chapters from the perspectives of her teenage children and her two closest friends, we learn the personal issues they all fight to cover up until it’s almost too late.

Each of Scott’s characters is multifaceted and realistic, from inquisitive Emma to relentless, Type A Gray, to Emma’s children: Gifted athlete Hunter is traumatized by his final encounter with his dad, and artistic Kelsey longs to escape a school she doesn’t fit into and harbors her own guilt over her father’s last day. Though we don’t get her perspective, Lizzie’s youngest daughter, Willow, a proud outsider and gifted magician with a penchant for taking what doesn’t belong to her, shines as well.

Wish You Were Gone has a fascinating mystery at its center, but it’s ultimately a character-driven story featuring real people with real problems.

Wish You Were Gone has a fascinating mystery at its center, but it’s ultimately a character-driven story featuring real people with real problems.

Lena Gereghty had a rough go of it in medical school, where burnout and mounting debt drained her motivation. When her Aunt Clare, a renowned specialist in medieval botany, offered her an internship in Italy, Lena pounced on the chance to escape and heal. For two glorious years she felt purpose, joy and even a flickering of renewed passion for medicine.

Alas, those halcyon days suffer an abrupt end at the beginning of debut author Kit Mayquist’s Tripping Arcadia when floundering family finances draw Lena back to Boston. Her father was injured at and fired from work, and her parents desperately need her help. She’s primed to take the first position offered, despite a parade’s worth of red flags at the weirdest job interview ever—assistant to Dr. Prosenko, family physician for the powerful Verdeau family..

Lena soon realizes the Verdeau family secrets go far beyond rich people-eccentric into the realm of downright depraved. While she’s ostensibly meant to help the doctor tend to Jonathan, heir to patriarch Martin’s massive fortune, Lena is soon on duty for debauched parties at the family’s Berkshires mansion. The outfits are stunning, the food plentiful, the drugs slipped into attendees’ drinks so liberally that there’s a room just for treating overdoses.

Lena struggles with culture shock heavily tinged with disgust and frustration: Martin is often cruel yet never challenged; Jonathan is quite ill yet drinks heavily; and his sister, Audrey, is magnetically appealing yet aloof. But Lena’s well paid so she goes along, despite becoming increasingly horrified at what she learns about the Verdeaus.

As Lena plots poisonous revenge (who says internships aren’t useful?), Mayquist embraces the gothic genre with delicious glee, peeling back a shimmery overlay of glamour to expose the rot beneath. With Tripping Arcadia, he has crafted a tale that thrums with eat-the-rich vibes and the exhilarating prospect of a have-not prevailing over the have-everythings. Its reckoning with the state of work in a capitalist society will energize readers, and they’ll be rooting for the flawed yet captivating Lena through every creative twist and dark detail.

Kit Mayquist’s debut is a gothic thriller that thrums with eat-the-rich vibes and the exhilarating prospect of a have-not prevailing over the have-everythings.

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.

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