Crooks, murderers, detectives, and spies — a lover of mystery and suspense, Kim is a crime novel enthusiast.
In the latest installment of Louise Penny’s beloved Quebecois detective series, recently suspended Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache discovers that an elderly woman he never met named him an executor of her will. It bequeaths millions of dollars and buildings in Geneva and Vienna to her three adult children, none of whom thinks it is remotely possible that these assets actually exist. But when a 160-year old contested will is discovered in Germany, and a dead body is found in the deceased woman’s house, Gamache is suddenly investigating a murder that may have very deep familial roots. Meanwhile, a motherlode of lethal opioid is about to hit the streets of Montreal. As Gamache desperately tries to find the drug before thousands die, he makes some shocking choices. Do the ends always justify the means? Penny digs deeper into Gamache’s complex psyche, and she explores both the devastation of drug addiction and the dangers of festering anger and resentment with her usual insight and compassion. The heart-stopping ending is worthy of a Bond film. Highly recommended for fans of classic whodunits, police thrillers, and the quirky, flawed, and lovable characters of Three Pines.
Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson
Go to My Grave is a modern Gothic thriller set in a posh bed-and-breakfast on the Scottish coast. Twenty-five year-old Donna Weaver and her mother have just renovated and renamed the old mansion, and their first booking is a set of fractious cousins who are celebrating a tenth wedding anniversary. The guests soon realize that they were all here before, 25 years ago, when something terrible occurred that all of them swore they would keep secret forever. The group of guests is already on edge when strange things start to happen. The “pranks” become increasingly disturbing, and fear and accusations mount. Then a dead body is discovered. Who will be next? Guilt and revenge are the prominent themes of this eerie, Agatha Christie-esque story, and McPherson deftly uses alternating timelines, eccentric characters, and clever twists to drive the suspense. The ending will knock your socks off. Highly recommended for fans of classic country house mysteries and Gothic thrillers. -Kim
The first book in a reverse trilogy, The Darkness is a chilling suspense novel set in Iceland. It features Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir, a prickly 64-year old who receives the unwelcome news that she is being replaced by a younger colleague and forced into early retirement. Hulda tries to make the most of her remaining days by examining the cold case of a young, Russian asylum-seeker, Elena, whose drowning was ignored by the press and ruled a probable accident or suicide, after minimal investigation. Hulda strongly suspects foul play, and the tension builds as she distractedly starts to make mistakes, with devastating consequences. Hulda is hiding some very dark secrets, and an ominous sense of fatalism and foreboding inexorably builds to an ending that is truly shocking. Highly recommended for fans of Nordic noir and classic detective fiction, served ice-cold.
French’s first standalone novel, The Witch Elm, is a haunting whodunit mystery that explores the life-altering effects of trauma. Twenty-eight year-old Toby is an easy-going, charming, and handsome Dubliner whose happy life is ripped out from under him when he is severely beaten during a robbery. He is left with physical and cognitive damage that fragments his sense of self. Fearful, depressed, and humiliated, Toby moves in with his beloved Uncle Hugo, who is struggling with his own physical and mental deterioration. All hell breaks loose when the skeleton of one of Toby’s former high school classmates is found in the garden, and Toby and Uncle Hugo become suspects in a murder investigation. French uses the ensuing family drama to examine the fragility of identity, the fallibility of memory, and the intertwinement of luck and privilege, as Toby bewilderedly questions everything he thought he knew about himself, his family, and the past. Toby isn’t the only victim in this story, and French astutely probes the link between powerlessness, rage, and vengeance. Is murder sometimes justifiable? The ending is an existential tour-de-force. Highly recommended for fans of atmospheric whodunits, psychological suspense, and family drama.
Wrecked by Joe Ide
Isaiah Quintabe (“IQ”), and his side-kick, Dodson, are back in another madcap detective thriller set in gritty East Long Beach, LA. Isaiah’s skills are being sought for cases ranging from missing cats to blackmail and kidnapping, and when an intriguing young artist, Grace, asks for his help, he eagerly agrees to take on her case. Grace wants him to find her mother, who disappeared 10 years ago, the night after her father was murdered. As the story unfolds, a secret video from the notorious Abu Graib military prison surfaces, and Isaiah and Dodson come up against the owner of a powerful private military organization, in addition to the usual pimps, thieves, and gangsters. Torture, PTSD, revenge, and racism figure prominently, with Isaiah and Dodson also facing the personal challenges of loneliness, romance, and new fatherhood. The narrative is unfailingly cinematic and action-packed, and Ide adroitly balances the novel’s seriousness with side-splitting dialogue and devastatingly funny prose. Highly recommended for readers with an interest in hip, Sherlockian detective fiction laced with a very dark episode from America’s war on terror. -Kim
Lies by T. M. Logan
T.M. Logan’s debut novel, Lies, is a gripping psychological thriller, involving a young family in London. Joe is a well-liked schoolteacher, devoted husband, and loving father, whose life suddenly falls apart when a trove of sexting photos provides irrefutable evidence that his wife is having an affair with her best friend’s husband, Ben. Things get worse when Ben disappears, foul play is presumed, and Joe becomes the chief suspect in a murder case. It is obvious to Joe that Ben, a rich tech entrepreneur, is alive and framing Joe for his murder, but the sophisticated hacking of his phone, computer, and social media accounts is undetectable to law enforcement experts. Terrified of going to jail and losing his young son, Joe desperately tries to prove that Ben is still alive, but Ben is always one step ahead of him. Logan writes convincingly about the confusion, pain, and heartbreak of marital infidelity and about the consequent dissolution of trust and love. His final twist is jaw-dropping. Highly recommended for fans of domestic thrillers. –Kim
Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson
In Depth of Winter Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire goes rogue to save his kidnapped daughter from a vicious Mexican drug lord. After crossing the border against the explicit instructions of the US Government, Longmire begins his formidable journey with a colorful set of companions. In order to “blend-in” they set off in a 1959 pink Cadillac, with 6-foot-5, 250-pound Longmire pretending to be Bob Lilly, the legendary Dallas Cowboys football star. Things go well for a while, but then his cover is blown, the road ends, and the journey to the remote Chihuahuan village where his daughter is being held becomes an arduous trek through the desert in 110-degree heat. The brutal terrain and the action-packed encounters with narco henchmen nearly kill him, but Longmire never loses his wry wit and humanity. Johnson contrasts the evilness of the drug trade with the bravery and compassion of Longmire and his allies, always confident that good ultimately conquers evil. Highly recommended for fans of pulse-pounding thrillers, honorable heroes, and great storytelling. -Kim
Debut author Caz Frear’s Sweet Little Lies is a superb police procedural with a generous dose of familial dysfunction. When Cat Kinsella was 8 years old and on vacation with her family in Ireland, she met Maryanne Doyle, a beautiful, bubbly 17- year old, who disappeared and was never found. Cat had worshipped her, and her raffish father had flirted with her, but during the police inquiry he had lied about ever meeting her. Eighteen years later, Cat is a 26-year old member of London’s murder investigation team when she discovers that the murder victim in a recent case is Maryanne Doyle. As the team of detectives tries to solve both Maryanne’s disappearance and her murder, Cat keeps quiet about her prior knowledge of Maryanne and her father’s deceit. Frear is an accomplished, clever and engaging storyteller, and fans of domestic noir, strong female leads, police whodunits, and unusually talented new authors will savor this book. – Kim
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Pieces of Her is an intense, adrenaline-fueled thriller involving a mother-daughter relationship and past secrets. The action begins when Laura and her daughter, Andy, are celebrating Andy’s 31st birthday at an upscale restaurant in Georgia and a mass shooter opens fire. Laura, a 55-year old speech therapist with no known military or self-defense training, takes out the shooter, killing him with his own weapon. A video of the incident goes viral, and a shocked Andy suddenly wonders how well she actually knows her mother. The excitement continues, and Andy, a shy and insecure underachiever, soon finds herself on the run, trying to stay alive and slowly piecing together her mother’s past involvement in a terrorist cult. The story alternates between events from Laura’s life 30 years ago and Andy’s present-day challenges, and abusive relationships, corporate greed, social injustice, revenge, and the power of a mother’s love are prominent themes. Expertly written, shocking and addictive, Pieces of Her is highly recommended for readers who enjoy action-packed suspense, twisty thrillers, and underdog female protagonists. -Kim
After a private plane crashes at the base of Desolation Mountain in a remote area of northern Minnesota, local residents of the Iron Lake Reservation are the first people on the scene. But the mountain is soon swarming with an alphabet soup of federal agencies, and the locals and other first responders are told to go home. The plane was carrying a U.S. senator known for her pro-environment, anti-mining position, and there are no survivors. Local private investigator Cork O’Connor is already suspicious when some of the first responders begin disappearing. Cork and his old friend, former Secret Service agent Bo Thorson, team up to try to find the missing locals and determine what is really going on. Krueger ably blends a suspenseful, real-world mystery with Native American mythos, filling his story with haunting atmosphere, conflicted characters, and timely themes. Another winner in Krueger’s popular Cork O’Connor series, Desolation Mountain is highly recommended for mystery lovers interested in Native American culture and the Upper Midwest.
Swift Vengeance by T. Jefferson Parker
Swift Vengeance is a riveting thriller involving a killer who targets a team of military drone operators. San Diego private investigator Roland Ford becomes involved when one of the fliers asks for his help after receiving a chilling death threat in the mail. Ford contacts local FBI terrorism specialist Joan Taucher, and things get serious fast when one of the drone operators is beheaded. A note left at the murder site promises more vengeance killings, and an urgent hunt for the killer begins. The vagaries of the war on terror and the soul-crushing work of drone fliers are vividly portrayed in this engrossing story, and guilt, justice, and retribution are prominent themes. World-weary and kind-hearted Ford is a sympathetic narrator with a heart-breaking backstory, and readers who enjoyed Parker’s The Room of White Fire will welcome him back. Highly recommended for fans of cat-and-mouse suspense, geopolitical thrillers, and San Diego-based detective fiction. -Kim
Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould
Last Looks is a scorchingly funny debut thriller by screenwriter Howard Michael Gould. It features former top LAPD detective, Charlie Waldo, who has been living as an ascetic recluse in penance for his role in a terrible mistaken conviction. He reluctantly agrees to come out of seclusion to help with a case involving Alastair Pinch, an acclaimed Shakespearean actor-turned cheesy TV star accused of murdering his fourth wife. It does not look good for Alastair, a blackout drunk, who found his dead wife in their locked and alarmed LA mansion the morning after she was bludgeoned to death with a vase. The story follows Waldo’s investigation as he dodges threats to his life, while valiantly and hilariously trying to maintain a zero net carbon footprint and ownership of no more than “100 Things.” Along the way, Gould skewers everything from Hollywood and the criminal justice system to the off-grid subculture. Waldo is an engaging hero, but virtuoso Alastair steals the show. For fans of zany, fast-paced detective thrillers and modern day satire.
Watch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe
Watch the Girls is a campy, creepy and fun debut thriller. Liv Hendricks is a 32-year old former child star whose youngest sister disappeared 15 years ago. After Liv loses her job on a reality TV series, she posts a video on a crowdfunding site, offering to investigate an unsolved missing person case, chosen by the highest contributor. Her highest donor is Jonas Kron, a legendary horror film director, whose bizarre, highly disturbing films have a rabid cult following. He wants Liv to investigate a series of disappearances in the California small town where he shot his films. The chapters alternate between Liv’s investigation and the events surrounding her sister’s disappearance 15 years ago, and the unfolding narrative is by turns comical and very dark. Wolves, fires, sacrificial rituals, hidden cameras, sibling rivalry, stage mothers, revenge, and buried memories all feature in this highly original thriller, and the shocking, twisted and totally unbelievable finale is a fitting homage to horror films, reality TV and the devastating power of online video and social media. Highly recommended for fans of dark thrillers, campy horror films and refreshingly inventive storytelling. -Kim
A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay
A Noise Downstairs is a deviously plotted psychological thriller featuring an ordinary man who becomes increasingly fearful that he is losing his mind. When he stumbles upon a colleague disposing of two dead, female bodies in the middle of the night, Paul Davis is attacked with a shovel, suffering a head injury. Dealing with the consequent neurological deficits and PTSD, Paul struggles to understand how a former mentor and well-liked college professor in a Connecticut small town could become a killer. Then Paul starts hearing tapping noises in the middle of the night and finding messages from the dead women on his antique typewriter. But no one is there, and his home is securely locked. Paul starts to worry that either he is leaving the messages himself or that a supernatural phenomenon is occurring. Complex, richly drawn characters, including Paul’s wife, therapist, friends, and the killer himself, add to the drama, as Paul becomes increasingly distressed and the pace accelerates. Is someone trying to drive him crazy? The stunning, tragic ending is full of surprises. Highly recommended for fans of psychological suspense and small town whodunits. -Kim
Slowly We Die by Emelie Schepp
Slowly We Die is a riveting police procedural/thriller by Emelie Schepp, winner of the Swedish Crime Writer of the Year Award in both 2016 and 2017. When the story begins, public prosecutor Jana Brezelius, a child trafficking survivor, receives the shocking news that her adoptive mother died. She returns home to find Sweden’s most wanted narcotics smuggler in her living room, demanding refuge and threatening to reveal her horrific past as a child soldier. Meanwhile, the local police are dealing with a twisted serial killer who appears to be targeting health care workers. Compounding her difficulties, Jana is appointed prosecutor on the case. Using short, punchy chapters, Schepp alternates between the serial killer investigation and the complicated personal lives of Jana, the police officers, and the paramedics. The multifaceted characters are dealing with everything from infertility, infidelity and sleeplessness to drug abuse and demons from the past. Multiple intersecting plot lines and taut chapters make this thriller hard to put down, and it is well worth the lost hours of sleep. The third book in a series that keeps getting better, I hope it is not the last. Highly recommended for fans of police procedurals, page-turning thrillers, and Nordic noir. -Kim
London Rules by Mick Herron
London Rules is a mordantly funny British spy novel set in present day London. The fifth installment of the superb Jackson Lamb series, it features a group of oddball, defunct MI-5 agents relegated to Slough House, the Secret Service equivalent of Siberia. Their boss is the politically incorrect Jackson Lamb, a former top field operative who hides his brilliance and humanity under a thick layer of repugnance. Their dull world is shaken-up when one of them realizes that a series of recent, bizarre terrorist attacks are related to a leaked document containing dark secrets from MI-5’s past. The Slough House group bumbles into action, and we are treated to an ingenious plot, brilliantly crafted characters, absurdly clever dialogue, and scathing political satire. Herron’s prose is sublime, and his mix of serious themes, current events, biting social commentary, dry humor, and empathy is unparalleled in modern spy fiction. Highly recommended for fans of espionage and dark comedy. -Kim
Death Notice by Zhou Haohui
Death Notice is a gripping cat-and-mouse thriller by China’s foremost suspense writer, Zhou Haohui. The story pits an elite Chengdu police task force against an elusive vigilante assassin who crowdsources his victims. The killer calls himself Eumenides, after the Greek goddesses of vengeance, and, prior to each assassination, he sends the police a “death notice,” detailing his next victim’s name, alleged crimes and date of execution. The constantly shape-shifting plot includes a series of similar murders that occurred 18 years ago. Moral dilemmas and the quest for retribution are prominent themes, and the modern Chengdu setting is an uncommon treat. Death Notice is the first book in a hugely popular trilogy, and the online series based on these novels has over 2.4 billion views in China. Highly recommended for fans of cinematic police thrillers and international crime fiction. -Kim
How It Happened by Michael Koryta
How It Happened is a masterful whodunit thriller featuring FBI interrogation specialist Rob Barrett. Barrett was sent to rural Maine to work on a murder case that the state police had been unable to crack. A heroin-addicted 22-year old, Kimberly Crepeaux, had implicated herself to acquaintances, but she refused to talk to the police. Barrett extracts a shocking confession, detailing a young couple’s murder and her role in hiding the bodies afterward. Although many people are skeptical of Kimberly’s story, Barrett is convinced that she is telling the truth. Unfortunately, compelling new evidence disproves Kimberly’s account. A disgraced Barrett is reassigned to a non-homicide post, but he resumes his investigation on the sly. As he tries to find evidence against the “upstanding citizen” Kimberly implicates in the murders, he is drawn deeper into the opioid crisis ravaging the area, endangering both of their lives. Koryta’s vivid characters, perfect evocation of rural Maine, and timely and compelling plot make this story exceptional and unforgettable. Readers who enjoy page-turning thrillers, coastal Maine, and the talented Mr. Koryta will savor this book. -Kim
The Perfect Mother is an ingeniously plotted domestic noir thriller with a generous side of spot-on social commentary. The action begins when a group of Brooklynite new mothers are enjoying a baby-free “moms’ night out” and one of their babies is abducted. The story focuses on three of these young mothers as they are engulfed by the ensuing police investigation and media frenzy. Marriages are stressed, careers are in jeopardy, painful secrets become public media fodder, and no one is getting much sleep. Intermittent chapters feature an unreliable mystery narrator, providing more clues to the case. Molloy’s meticulously crafted puzzle ends with a shocking plot twist that deliciously confounds the reader. A movie version is already in the works. Highly recommended for fans of psychological suspense and astute social commentary.
Sunburn is a modern rendition of a classic noir crime novel. It is the summer of 1995, and Private Investigator Adam Bosk follows the woman he was hired to investigate, Polly Costello, to a sleepy Delaware town. They begin a torrid love affair, and a cunning game of cat-and-mouse unfolds. Polly is a formidably complicated femme fatale, and the plot slow-burns for awhile, then ignites. This retro novel has it all: seduction, deception, corruption, greed, murder, betrayal, and plenty of moral ambiguity. One of Lippman’s best. For fans of psychological thrillers, hardboiled detective novels and classic noir.
The Cutting Edge is a masterful forensic thriller, featuring quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme. After a gruesome triple murder in Manhattan’s diamond district, Rhyme is recruited by his former NYPD partner to help with the investigation. The killer left no clues, and the single witness who called 911 has disappeared. Rhyme and his partner, Amelia Sachs, begin investigating, and numerous plotlines unfold. Geothermal drilling, diamond-rich kimberlite, Manhattan earthquakes, gas-leak fires, a captured Mexican drug lord, a Russian lunatic, and a villainous mastermind in Paris all feature. Rhyme and Sachs use their Sherlockian deductive skills, vast knowledge of forensic science, field expertise, and state-of-the art technology to connect the dots in this intricate thriller. The final plot twist is spectacular. Another home run in the Lincoln Rhyme series, this installment will appeal to fans of puzzle mysteries, page-turning thrillers and C.S.I.
Sometimes I Lie is a mind-bending, Hitchcockian British thriller complete with a cliffhanger ending. It features a woman in a coma with amnesia, and she is the poster child for unreliable narrators. Events from the present and her ambiguous past comprise the story. As the labyrinthine plot unfolds, the truth repeatedly unravels amid the characters’ dysfunctional relationships, secrets, and lies. The provocative and enigmatic ending has already spawned online conjecture and discussion. A beautifully crafted, taut and diabolically twisty literary thriller, Feeney’s debut is on par with best of the genre. Not to be missed, if you like surprises.
The Sandman is a brilliant, terrifying thriller by Swedish superstar Lars Kepler. It features a young police inspector, Saga Bauer, who goes deep undercover as a patient in a maximum-security psychiatric unit where Sweden’s most dangerous serial killer, Jurek Walter, is serving a life sentence. Her goal is to get him to reveal something that will help the police find one of his victims, who is still alive thirteen years after being buried. But can she outwit him? And survive? Replete with shocking plot twists and the horrifying backstories of the two detectives who caught Jurek thirteen years ago, you may want to sleep with the lights on. Connoisseurs of Scandinavian crime fiction are in for a treat.
Force of Nature is an outstanding atmospheric thriller set in the remote Australian bushland. It involves five women who go on a corporate wilderness survival retreat. Only four of them return. The missing woman is a whistle-blower in a money-laundering scheme involving the accounting firm she works for. The tension builds slowly as the story alternates between the police investigation and the women’s recollections of the harrowing retreat. None of them tell the same story, but it was clearly a cold, wet and terrifying experience fraught with the dangers of both mother nature and human nature. Secrets gradually unfold in this twisty, layered novel, and Harper’s measured reveal and gorgeous prose are a treat. For fans of psychological suspense, wilderness survival, the Australian Outback, and Harper’s previous novel, The Dry.
The Scarred Woman features the cantankerous Carl Morck’s unusual and likable cold-case team, Department Q. In this book Copenhagen’s Department Q is tasked with investigating the murder of an elderly woman that is suspiciously similar to a cold case from a decade ago. Concurrently, a hit-and-run murderer of young women on welfare is on the loose, and Department Q’s smart and erratic Rose has a breakdown and disappears. The plot lines come together as Carl and his team investigate these cases and frantically search for Rose, before it is too late to save her. This book touches on a number of themes, including welfare system abuse, prostitution, physical disability, psychological abuse, and mental illness, but it is also laced with dark humor, kindness and love. For fans of Nordic noir, cranky detectives, dark humor, and social satire. – Kim