Works of Nonfiction to Rival Any Great Thriller Novel

Who doesn’t love a good thriller? Whether a tale of murder and mayhem, a page-turning whodunit, dangerous family secrets, or a bit of good old fashioned espionage – there’s nothing quite like a great page-turner. Occasionally, however, life can prove stranger – and more thrilling – than fiction. Some of the best thrillers just happen to lurk in the pages of the nonfiction world. What better way to change up your usual suspenseful binge than to dive into the pages of a larger-than-life, stranger-than-fiction tale? Here are a few of our favorites.

In Cold Blood Book Cover PictureIn Cold Blood
Truman Capote’s true crime masterpiece is a classic for good reason. It is largely credited with igniting the trend of narrative nonfiction, particularly in true crime, and is lifted by Capote’s skillful storytelling. What truly makes In Cold Blood such a compulsive thriller, however, is Capote’s clear fascination with murderer Perry Smith.

Five Days at Memorial Book Cover PictureFive Days at Memorial
Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink spent six years investigating precisely what went on in a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and the desperate bid for survival amid the chaos within. Following the devastation of the hurricane, hospital power failed, temperatures soared, and floodwaters rose. Caregivers were forced to determine the order of patients for evacuation. Months later, several faced charges of injecting patients with drugs to speed their deaths. With Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink reconstructs the events with haunting precision.

The Looming Tower (Movie Tie-in) Book Cover PictureThe Looming Tower 
With a narrative spanning five decades, The Looming Tower breaks down the rise of Al-Qaeda and the disturbing failures in U.S. Intelligence in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. Lawrence Wright earned a Pulitzer Prize for his work and it remains the most in-depth account of the myriad events that led to the most deadly terrorist attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil. It is the definitive history.

Thunderstruck Book Cover PictureThunderstruck
Set against the backdrops of Edwardian London and the coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Erik Larson interweaves the tales of two men — one is creator of a revolutionary means of wireless communication, the other nearly commits the perfect murder. How their stories intersect is a tragic tale of love and betrayal and a suspenseful chase across the North Atlantic. Thunderstruck is Erik Larson at his best.

The Skies Belong to Us Book Cover PictureThe Skies Belong to Us
In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of ’60s idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when shattered Army veteran Roger Holder and mischievous party girl Cathy Kerkow managred to comandeer Western Airlines Flight 701 and flee across an ocean with a half-million dollars in ransom—a heist that remains the longest-distance hijacking in American history.

The Girls of Murder City Book Cover PictureThe Girls of Murder City
With a thrilling, fast-paced narrative, award-winning journalist Douglas Perry vividly captures the sensationalized circus atmosphere that gave rise to the concept of the celebrity criminal- and gave Chicago its most famous story. The Girls of Murder Cityrecounts two scandalous, sex-fueled murder cases and how an intrepid “girl reporter” named Maurine Watkins turned the beautiful, media-savvy suspects-“Stylish Belva” and “Beautiful Beulah”-into the talk of the town.

My Dark Places Book Cover PictureMy Dark Places
In 1958 Jean Ellroy was murdered, her body dumped on a roadway in a seedy L.A. suburb.  Her killer was never found, and the police dismissed her as a casualty of a cheap Saturday night. James Ellroy was ten when his mother died, and he spent the next thirty-six years running from her ghost and attempting to exorcize it through crime fiction. In My Dark Places, our most uncompromising crime writer tells what happened when he teamed up with a brilliant homicide cop to investigate a murder that everyone else had forgotten–and reclaim the mother he had despised, desired, but never dared to love. What ensues is a epic of loss, fixation, and redemption, a memoir that is also a history of the American way of violence.

Killers of the Flower Moon Book Cover PictureKillers of the Flower Moon
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.

The Brothers Book Cover PictureThe Brothers
On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon, killing three people and wounding more than 264 others. In the ensuing manhunt, Tamerlan Tsarnaev died, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured and brought to trial. Yet even after the guilty verdict and the death sentence, what we didn’t know was why. Why did the American Dream go so wrong for two immigrants? How did such a nightmare come to pass?

The Wicked Boy Book Cover PictureThe Wicked Boy
In the summer of 1895, Robert Coombes (age 13) and his brother Nattie (age 12) were seen spending lavishly around the docklands of East London — for ten days in July, they ate out at coffee houses and took trips to the seaside and the theater. The boys told neighbors they had been left home alone while their mother visited family in Liverpool, but their aunt was suspicious. When she eventually forced the brothers to open the house to her, she found the badly decomposed body of their mother in a bedroom upstairs. Robert and Nattie were arrested for matricide and sent for trial at the Old Bailey. With riveting detail and rich atmosphere, Kate Summerscale recreates this terrible crime and its aftermath, uncovering an extraordinary story of man’s capacity to overcome the past.

By Keith Rice, August 17, 2018, first appearing on Signature Reads
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All the World’s a Crime: Thrillers From Around the Globe

Pick up a book, burrow into an armchair and take yourself on some literary excursions to places like Laos, Poland, Chile and South Africa.

Africa, Australia, Asia & Europe

Credit: The New York Times

Africa

Botswana

[01] Gaborone: Alexander McCall Smith, “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”

Ghana

[02] Accra: Kwei Quartey, “Children of the Street”

Kenya

[03] Nairobi: Mukoma Wa Ngugi, “Nairobi Heat”

Morocco

[04] Tangier: Christine Mangan, “Tangerine”

South Africa

[05] Johannesburg: Jassy Mackenzie, “Random Violence”

Zimbabwe

[06] Harare: C.B. George, “The Death of Rex Nhongo”

Australia

[07] Sydney: Susan Geason, “Dogfish”

[08] Melbourne: Peter Temple, “Bad Debts”

Europe

Belgium

[17] Bruges: Pieter Aspe, The “Midas Murders”

Denmark

[18] Copenhagen: Jussi Adler-Olsen, “The Scarred Woman”

Finland

[20] Helsinki: Matti Joensuu, “The Priest of Evil”

France

[21] Fred Vargas, “Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand”

Germany

[22] Frankfurt: Nele Neuhaus, “Bad Wolf”

Britain

[23] Ludlow: Elizabeth George, “The Punishment She Deserves”

[24] Glasgow: Denise Mina, The Red Road

Greece

[25] Tinos: Jeffrey Siger, “Target”

Netherlands

[26] Amsterdam: Janwillem de Wetering, “The Corpse on the Dike”
Editors’ Picks

Iceland

[27] Reykjavik: Arnaldur Indridason, “The Shadow Killer”

Ireland

[28] Dublin: Tana French, “In the Woods”

Italy

[29] Michael Dibdin, “End Games”

Norway

[30] Trondheim: Jorgen Brekke, “The Fifth Element”

Poland

[31] Marek Krajewski, “The Minotaur’s Head”

Russia

[32] Siberia: Lionel Davidson, “Kolymsky Heights”

[33] Moscow: Stuart M. Kaminsky, “The Dog Who Bit a Policeman”

Slovakia

[34] Bratislava: Michael Genelin, “Dark Dreams”

Spain

[35] Barcelona: Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, “Dog Day”

Sweden

[36] Goteborg: Helene Tursten, “The Torso”

Middle East

Israel

[37] Jerusalem: Joel Stone, “The Jerusalem File”

Saudi Arabia

[38] Jeddah: Zoe Ferraris, “City of Veils”

Asia

Afghanistan

[39] Christopher Reich, “Rules of Betrayal”

China

[40] Shanghai: Qiu Xiaolong, “When Red is Black”

[41] Beijing: Wang Shuo, “Playing for Thrills”

India

[42] Bombay: Vikram Chandra, “Sacred Games”

Japan

[43] Hideo Yokoyama, “Six Four”

Laos

[44] Vientiane: Colin Cotterill, “Anarchy and Old Dogs”

Philippines

[45] Manila: Miguel Syjuco, “Ilustrado”

South Korea

[46] Seoul: Martin Limón, “Slicky Boys”

Thailand

[47] Bangkok: Timothy Hallinan, “For the Dead”

The Americas, Caribbean & Greenland

Credit: The New York Times

North America

Canada

[54] Ontario: Giles Blunt, “By the Time You Read This”

[55] Vancouver: Elisabeth Bowers, “Ladies’ Night”

[56] Quebec: Louise Penny, “A Rule Against Murder”

United States

[48] Texas: James Lee Burke, “Rain Gods”

[49] Alaska: Stan Jones, “Village of the Ghost Bears”

[50] Colorado: Nevada Barr, “Ill Wind”

[51] Montana: Christine Carbo, “The Weight of Night”

[52] Arizona/New Mexico: Tony Hillerman, “The First Eagle”

[53] Florida: John Lutz, “Burn”

Mexico

[14] Fictional city of Paracuán: Martín Solares, “The Black Minutes”

[15] Mexico City: Paco Ignacio Taibo II, “Return to the Same City”

Caribbean, Central & South America

Argentina
[09] Buenos Aires, Ernesto Sabato, “The Tunnel”

Brazil

[10] Rio de Janeiro, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, “Southwesterly Wind”

[11] Brasilia: Leighton Gage, “Every Bitter Thing”

Chile

[12] Santiago: Antonio Skármeta, “The Dancer and the Thief”

Cuba

[13] Havana: Leonardo Padura, “Havana Black”

Peru

[16] Mario Vargas Llosa, “Who Killed Palomino Molero?”

Greenland

[19] Peter Hoeg, “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”

By Tina Jordan, Aug. 10, 2018, first appearing on NYT > Books

Universal, but Personal: Hometown Settings in Thrillers

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

One of the most important elements of great literature is that it can be simultaneously personal and universal. It’s why each of us can pick up a book, no matter how different we may be, and understand precisely how a certain character feels. And when speaking specifically about great thrillers, they must also thrill us. The stakes must be high, the potential for loss higher. We must see our protagonist racing against a ticking clock, and each page must present her with new challenges, show her suffering failures and maybe rejoicing in a victory or two. New characters will arrive as the pages mount, others will be killed off. Plot points will roll past. But every page will include the setting. It’s the backdrop for everything that will happen, and as such, the decisions we make surrounding our setting can act to strengthen our plots by creating additional obstacles and challenges or be a wasted opportunity.

One example of a universal and yet personal storyline is the character who returns home after a long absence. We each have a hometown. We have memories of it—some good, some bad—and so we can understand the fear and apprehension built into such a homecoming. It’s why readers never tire of these stories. But our novel doesn’t only tell a story that is universal and personal, it’s also a thriller. The choices we make must ignite our settings with opportunities and challenges, because such obstacles set our protagonist in motion, make clear what she is working toward and firmly establish that she faces certain death if she isn’t shrewd enough, cunning enough and fast enough to overcome them.

Geography is perhaps the broadest choice we will make with our setting, and in making it, we get the benefit of some built-in obstacles. Is our hometown in the mountains or the desert? Each presents obvious obstacles. Is our protagonist’s hometown small? Will gossip plague her? Does everyone in town know every mistake she has ever made? Or does she return home to the big city? Will she remember being a lonely child upon her return? Will she remember suffering among the endless crowds and yet having no one to talk to? These are primarily examples of internal obstacles we’ve created with our choice of setting. Other decisions can add to the more external and tangible suspense we want to generate.  Will the river that runs alongside our protagonist’s hometown be raging and lead readers to fear she will be swept away at some point? Or will it be a lazy river, shrinking from lack of rain, which leads our readers to fear what or who might emerge as the water level continues to fall?

Not only is the part of the country or world in which we set our thriller important, but the time of the year in which we set it presents another opportunity to create suspense. There is no right choice, but once made, we must work to exploit the resulting details. If we choose spring, the rains should make our river rise and become a threat to our protagonist. If instead we choose winter, the snow that falls should make the main road into town hazardous and we should place our protagonist on it in the dark of night. The era, too, in which we set our novel is significant. Here again, our choices, if managed properly, will present us with opportunities to challenge our characters and thereby create internal and external strife. As writers, do we want to exploit the access to information that the present allows? Will our protagonist use a cell phone to find her missing daughter, or bank records to track down a cheating husband? Or do we want the physical challenges of life in the distant past for our characters? Our choice of era also gives rise to cultural conflicts and conflicts between the sexes. How, if at all, will those conflicts and obstacles differ if the novel is set in the present as opposed to the past?

Lastly, the history we weave into our setting does more than perhaps any other choice to define our protagonist, establish her wants and needs and generate conflict and suspense. In the case of our hometown setting, what our character chooses to remember of her home and its history tells us much about who she is and what she values. It will give us insight into the unique knowledge she might have that could aide her as she struggles toward whatever ultimate goal we have given her. The history we choose to include will establish what frightens our protagonist, what drives her and ultimately, what kept her away from home for so many years.

The setting, perhaps more than any other element, permeates every page of a novel. It’s the world our characters live in and the one thing they can never escape. It will always be present to challenge them and they will forever be struggling to overcome it or accept it. There is no right choice when it comes to settings, but it is a matter of understanding the opportunities that come with each choice as well as the pitfalls.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Lori Roy is the author of Bent Road, winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel; Until She Comes Home, finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel; and Let Me Die in His Footsteps, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her family.

5 Reasons Why the World of High Finance Is Ripe Territory for Thrillers

Photo by Anthony Tyrrell on Unsplash

Hear me out: “financial thriller” is not an oxymoron. If anything, financial thrillers can be timely, explosive and sophisticated, and original. While some may initially glaze over at the thought of reading about stocks and bonds, the world of high finance is ripe — and under-explored — territory for thrillers. Here are five reasons why:

1. Money fuels the highest-stakes crimes.

Behind every great criminal — drug lords, corrupt politicians, film producers who prey on young actresses — is a large sum of money, and behind every large sum of money is a bank. The most direct way to track a high-flying villain is by following his/her money — and the easiest way to stop him/her is to cut off his/her financial supply.

Sure, reading through bank statements can sound dry — unless those bank statements prove that a war is being secretly funded, a politician has been bought off, or illegal arms are trading hands. Bankers have access to enormous amounts of information. Bank statements can prove that all kinds of illicit relationships and transactions exist. By setting a thriller inside a bank, you allow yourself access to all that data — and you can use it as a jumping off point to explore anything from drug trafficking to war crimes to rigged elections. Money raises the stakes of all crimes. Any thriller could contain a financial element that would only serve to further the plot — and heighten the tension.

2. Finance is a world people don’t often get to see.

Part of the fun of reading is getting to peer into a world that you wouldn’t otherwise get access to. Finance can be exclusive and intimidating — and that’s why it’s perfect fodder for a thriller. Think of all the private meetings, the numbered accounts, the confidential conversations involved in finance. What could be more thrilling than being part of a clandestine world, if only for a few hundred pages?

3. The world of high finance is glamorous.

New York! Hong Kong! Geneva! The Cayman Islands! Thrillers set in the world of high finance get to explore all kinds of glamorous settings. And who doesn’t love a touch of luxury in their novels? After all, thrillers are meant to be entertaining — and a break from the mundane. In my latest novel, The Banker’s Wife, I got to globetrot from Geneva to Paris to London to New York — and fly private for much of the way. I also got to attend fabulous parties, ski in the Swiss Alps, drink the finest French wine, drive exotic cars, and discuss priceless art. The world financiers live in can be as beautiful and seductive as it is dangerous — and that’s what makes it so much fun to write (and read about).

4. It raises profound ethical questions.

All my novels explore the corrupting influence of money. When you set a thriller in the financial world, you inevitably raise questions about how money changes people. Digging deeper into these ethical questions elevates a novel from a run-of-the-mill page-turner into a more profound and thought-provoking read that stays with the reader longer.

5. It’s not often explored.

There are so many terrific legal and political thrillers out there, but finance remains largely unexplored territory. Since 2008, financial news has become much more mainstream — and shows like “Billions” (on SHOWTIME) and movies like “Arbitrage” are following suit. While there are plenty of terrific nonfiction books about finance (many of which read like thrillers) there still aren’t all that many novels set inside banks — or featuring a financier as either a villain or protagonist. Being part of the “financial thriller” niche sets a novel apart from the others on the shelves — and can catch the eye of readers who are increasingly interested in the topic.

10 Summer-Themed Thrillers to Add to Your Reading List

Photo by Jeremy Ricketts on Unsplash

When you think of beaches, resort towns, or vacation getaways, a thriller may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the truth is, a thrilling page-turner is the perfect pairing for your sunny escapades. And if the novel happens to be summer-themed, that’s all the better. Here are a few of our favorite suspense-fueled thrillers that keep the scorching summer heat front and center.

The cover of the book Into the WaterInto the Water

Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train, made a splash on the bestseller lists (pun totally intended) with her latest book. Once again showing her skill with dark psychological suspense, Hawkins’ latest effort centers on a teen girl whose mother is found dead at the bottom of an infamous river – the same river that claimed the life of another girl earlier in the summer. It’s a twisting thriller built on small town secrets and a community’s dark past.

 

The cover of the book Something in the WaterSomething in the Water

Catherine Steadman

Nothing says summer like beaches, sun, and an island paradise. Of course, even a summer paradise can harbor its own deadly secrets. With Something in the Water, Catherine Steadman turns an idyllic honeymoon getaway into a taut nightmare of suspense and ratcheting tension. A discovery while scuba-diving leads a couple through a devastating chain of events in this chilling page-turner.

 

The cover of the book JawsJaws

Peter Benchley

While Steven Spielberg’s iconic film is a largely faithful adaptation, there’s nothing quite like experiencing Peter Benchley’s original slice of seaside terror.  Benchley’s meticulous research gave the novel an unnerving sense of plausibility and elevated the suspense to a whole new level. It’s an unquestionable classic and continues to give readers a reason to stay out of the water.

 

The cover of the book Camino IslandCamino Island

John Grisham

A daring heist from a Princeton University Library, an unassuming bookstore owner in a Florida resort town who doubles as a black market book dealer, and a young novelist hired by a mysterious woman to infiltrate the bookstore owner’s inner circle – these are the pieces to John Grisham’s 2017 bestseller, Camino Island. It’s a literary-minded, summer thriller as only Grisham could imagine.

 

The cover of the book The SinnerThe Sinner

Petra Hammesfahr

Given the recent Emmy nomination for USA’s adaptation The Sinner, there’s no better time to dip your toes into Petra Hammesfahr’s gripping thriller. A small, lakeside community is turned upside down on a sunny summer afternoon when a young mother named Cora brutally murders a man for seemingly no reason and in full view of a host of witnesses. The apparently random act of shocking violence opens a window into Cora’s dark past and unsettling, long-buried secrets.

 

The cover of the book The Chalk ManThe Chalk Man

C.J. Tudor

In the summer of 1986, a group of friends use chalk stick figures as a secret code to deliver messages to each other. One afternoon, a coded message remarkably similar to their own leads the group to a dismembered body. Thirty years later, the friends each receive a letter emblazoned with a chalk stick figure, setting in motion a deadly chain of events tied to the body they found all those years ago. Alternating between 1986 and 2016, The Chalk Man is a finely crafted thriller sure to keep you guessing until the final page.

 

The cover of the book The GirlsThe Girls

Emma Cline

Set in Northern California in the 1960s, The Girls centers on a young and disenchanted teenage girl during one turbulent and fateful summer. Evie Boyd craves acceptance and eventually finds it with a bizarre group and their charismatic leader at a sprawling and run-down ranch compound. As the summer drags on and she is pulled deeper into the group’s inner circle, Evie is dragged into a world of violence and obsession beyond anything she could imagine.

 

The cover of the book We Were LiarsWe Were Liars

E. Lockhart

Set against a world of old-money families whiling away their summers on a private island just off of Cape Cod, We Were Liars is a sprawling and haunting tale of loss, dysfunction, bitter-sweet romance, and tragedy. For years, Cadence spent summers at her family’s vacation home with her four closest friends. But everything changes when tragedy strikes one summer and Cadence, who now suffers from amnesia, is forced to piece together the desperate events of that fateful summer.

 

The cover of the book Double WhammyDouble Whammy

Carl Hiaasen

Murder, high stakes bass fishing, the everglades, and a misanthropic recluse with a taste for roadkill – Double Whammy is a meandering mystery as only Carl Hiaasen can tell. Double Whammy introduces Hiaasen’s character Skink, a bearded poncho-wearing hermit who knows more than one would think. The story centers on a disgraced photographer turned P.I. who is hired to catch a cheating bass fisher, but ends up embroiled in a southern-fried murder mystery.

 

The cover of the book ItIt

Stephen King

Stephen King’s sprawling horror/thriller opus centers on a group of pre-teen friends who come up against an unimaginable evil over the course of a summer in 1958 in their hometown of Derry, Maine. Twenty-seven years later, the group returns as adults to defeat the malignant presence once and for all. It is the pinnacle of King’s nostalgia-fueled storytelling and pitch-perfect ode to summer through King’s particular brand of supernatural horror.

12 Chilling Reads for Hot Summer Days

The United States in the grips of a heat wave, and now is as good a time as any to stay in and read one of these great summertime horror and suspense titles.

The cover of the book JawsJaws

PETER BENCHLEY

Let’s go ahead and kick off our list with summer’s ultimate anti-beach read: Jaws. A big city cop accepts a job in a sleepy coastal town, only to arrive in time for an unprecedented string of shark attacks. The book and movie are different in a number of different ways. There’s an organized crime subplot, a little adultery, an unexpected death or two … It’s a great, pulpy read. Trust me: You won’t want to get into the water after you finish this thing.

 

The cover of the book The GirlsThe Girls

EMMA CLINE

Summer is a great time to get together with the family for a little fun — so long as that family is Charlie Manson’s. California teenager Evie Boyd joins what she thinks is a group of fun-loving hippies that turn out to be the acolytes of a charismatic criminal mastermind.

 

The cover of the book The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger

SARAH WATERS

How about a not-so-nice trip into the countryside? During the sweltering summer of 1948, a doctor is summoned for a house call at Hundreds Hall: a rambling Georgian mansion slipping into disrepair. The home’s occupants have a dark and tragic history — one hinted at by what might be a restless spirit roaming its halls.

 

The cover of the book Dark TalesDark Tales

SHIRLEY JACKSON

Summer vacation can be nice — just watch out for the locals. In Shirley Jackson’s story “The Summer People,” a couple vacationing at a lakeside cottage learns that lesson the hard way when they try to extend their stay past Labor Day. Nobody has ever lingered that long, and the locals are determined to see that it never happens.

 

The cover of the book The RuinsThe Ruins

SCOTT SMITH

A group of college kids partying away their summer in Mexico take a trip into the countryside to see some authentic Mesoamerican ruins. Their visit awakens an ancient menace — a very hungry one. Talk about a tourist trap!

 

The cover of the book ShadowlandShadowland

PETER STRAUB

Summers can be magical, but that’s not always a good thing. Two boys eager to learn magic decide to spend their summer with a relative who is a master of the art. Unbeknownst to them, he is a master of authentic black magic, and only one of them will live to see summer’s end.

 

The cover of the book Meddling KidsMeddling Kids

EDGAR CANTERO

Summer is for sleuthing, or at least it was until this group of mystery-loving teens had a run-in with real supernatural evil. Decades later, they’re still scarred by the experience, and the last thing they want to do is return to where it all started. Unfortunately, they’ve got no choice.

 

The cover of the book In the Dark of the NightIn the Dark of the Night

JOHN SAUL

It’s always nice to have a place to get away — as long as you have a way to get out. A Chicago family buying what they think is a nice summer home learns that they’re not the only occupants. Something evil lurks within its walls, and it has been waiting for them.

 

The cover of the book We Were LiarsWe Were Liars

E. LOCKHART

Who wouldn’t want their own private island: a place where you can enjoy your summer without worrying about what other people think … or whether they can see all the horrible things you’re  doing to the people who love and trust you? Shhhh!

 

The cover of the book Summer of Night Summer of Night

DAN SIMMONS

Good news: School is out, and it’s time for summer vacation. Bad news: Monsters are out there, and they want you dead. A group of school boys on the trail of a mystery learn that it leads to the doorstep of a supernatural horror in Summer of Night.

 

The cover of the book Summer, Fireworks, and My CorpseSummer, Fireworks, and My Corpse

OTSUICHI

This could be a summer to die for, if you’re not careful. Otsuichi’s “Summer” is the story of a young girl’s murder and her killers’ attempts to hide the body, as told from the perspective of the corpse. Nice and cheerful, right? Read it and two other tales of terror in this single volume.

 

The cover of the book Disappearance at Devil’s RockDisappearance at Devil’s Rock

PAUL TREMBLAY

Three boys having a summer sleepover slip out for a nighttime trip into a nearby national park. Only two of them return. Ghostly visions and frightening folklore add a hint of the supernatural to this already gripping tale of suspense.

9 Mystery and Thriller Books to Get You Hooked on the Rest of the Series

While there’s a lot to be said for digging into the intricacies of a good series – the overlapping storylines, the ongoing plot threads, the multi-arc character development – it can sometimes be difficult to find a good jumping-on point. This is particularly true for long-running series. Fortunately, there are several series structured to give you the opportunity to dive in wherever you’d like, and as a matter of fact, we have a few in mind. The novels below are all part of often much larger series, but nonetheless stand up well on their own. And while they can certainly be read as one-offs, there’s a pretty good chance one (or several) might become your new literary obsession.

The cover of the book Double TakeDouble Take

Catherine Coulter

Part of Catherine Coulter’s FBI Thrillers series, Double Take sees husband-and-wife FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock caught up in a pair of seemingly disparate cases: One involving the attempted murder of a dead psychic’s wife and the other the missing wife of a Virginia sheriff. These cases, and the threads that connect them, pull Savich and Sherlock deep into a world of psychic visions, communications with the dead, and dangerous connections.

 

The cover of the book The Cold DishThe Cold Dish

Craig Johnson

With “Longmire” heading into its sixth and final season on Netflix, now is as good a time as any to dig into the source material. The Cold Dish introduces fans to Walt Longmire, a widower and dedicated sheriff investigating the murder of a young man who two years prior had been involved in the rape of a local Cheyenne girl.

 

The cover of the book Royal FlushRoyal Flush

Rhys Bowen

The third entry in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness Mystery series is an excellent spot to dive into the world of Lady Georgiana, a clever amateur sleuth and member of the British Royal Family. Royal Flush sees the aristocratic detective working at the behest of the Queen Mary to save the Prince of Wales from two particularly determined, if very different, hunters.

 

The cover of the book MysteriesMysteries

Knut Hamsun

While not technically part of a series, Mysteries is, in many ways, a perfect introduction and distillation of the complex themes – man’s relationship to the natural world, biblical allegories, etc. – that served as a common thread throughout the celebrated works of Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun. Mysteries centers on Christ-like stranger who suddenly appears in a small Norwegian town, but is perhaps more sinister than he initially seems.

 

The cover of the book MysteryMystery

Peter Straub

Part of Peter Straub’s loosely connected Blue Rose Trilogy, Mystery nonetheless stands well on its own. The novel follows Toma Pasmore, a young boy who survives a near fatal accident, and an elderly man named Lamont von Heilitz, a once-celebrated detective. The two are drawn together to investigate an unsolved murder with implications far darker than either could anticipate.

 

The cover of the book Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill’s Secretary

Susan Elia MacNeal

Set amid the air-raid sirens and constant threat of bombings of 1940’s London, Maggie Hope, despite graduating at the top of her class, finds herself as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Fortunately, her remarkable gift for code-breaking and unparalleled intellect will place her front and center of a murderous plot aimed at newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

 

The cover of the book The Queen's AccompliceThe Queen’s Accomplice

Susan Elia MacNeal

Yes, we’ve got two Maggie Hope mysteries on this list; that’s just how much we love her. You can begin the Maggie Hope series with the above, or jump right into the thick of it with this one. The Queen’s Accomplice sees resourceful code-breaker and spy Maggie Hope dueling with a serial killer in the Blitz-weary London of 1942. A killer has been systematically attacking the women serving as spies and saboteurs of MI-5 in eerie recreations of the crimes of Jack The Ripper. At first assigned to find the murderer, Maggie soon finds herself squarely in the killer’s sights.

 

The cover of the book Murder in the Secret GardenMurder in the Secret Garden

Ellery Adams

In this third title in the A Book Retreat Mystery series, hotel manager and amateur detective Jane Steward is drawn into a murder mystery at her book-themed resort, Storyton Hall. When a member of an herbalist society is found dead in Storyton’s Secret Garden-themed garden, it’s up to Steward to figure out which of the society’s members committed the murder.

 

The cover of the book The Doll's HouseThe Doll’s House

M. J. Arlidge

With The Doll’s House, troubled detective Helen Grace finds herself on the trail of a calculating and very deadly serial killer. The body of a woman is found buried on a secluded beach. The kicker? The woman has been dead for years but no one even so much reported her missing. After all, the woman continues to send text messages to her family. With that, Grace is drawn into an intricate world of a deadly criminal mastermind and time is running short for the killer’s next victim.