Most years, July is when you notice the spike in out-of-office messages. Then the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts begin: sherbet-colored cocktails and pedicured toes posed in golden sands. Sigh. Even if few of us get to fly to exotic locations this summer, we can hop in the hammock, fire up the Kindle—or, if you're like me, the book—and escape.
This month in mysteries and thrillers, your travel options are to the Deep South, where a former getaway driver eyes that one last heist that may put him on Easy Street, to Stockholm, where the wife of a cheating billionaire gets her groove back; to Rome, where art restorer and legendary spy Gabriel Allon investigates the death of a pope, and finally to Tuscany, where a grieving widower and NYPD homicide detective gets enlisted to help solve a murder, even though the suspects include his in-laws. And don't forget to check out the rest of our best mysteries and thrillers of the month.
Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby
On the face of it, Blacktop Wasteland is one in a long list of books riffing on a popular trope: the career criminal who wants just one last bite at the cherry, one last job to set him up for peaceful, affluent retirement. Beauregard “Bug” Montage, however, is an African American man living in the rural South, which leaves him a few steps behind the starting line when it comes to getting ahead. He can’t afford to dream about mai tais on the beach. He needs money just to pay for his kid’s braces, to keep his mother from being evicted from her nursing home, and to pay the back rent on his auto body shop, which will be sold to the developers if he can’t catch up. Resurrecting his old life, as the best getaway driver on the east coast, and taking part in a diamond heist, may solve all of his problems. If it doesn't kill him. Blacktop Wasteland is a slick, rural, Southern noir caper threaded with what the author has referred to as “tragic masculinity,” which means it will thrill you and break your heart all at the same time.
The Golden Cage by Camilla Läckberg
Many of the reviews for the new Camilla Läckberg thriller will reference Gone Girl and Big Little Lies, and those comparisons are apt. The Golden Cage has plot points in common with each: from a wife setting up a Byzantine revenge plot against her faithless husband, to a woman relying on the friendship and camaraderie of other women as she reels from the blow of a life-changing setback. But as Faye sheds her housewife persona and slips back into her savvy businesswoman persona—ready to wreak revenge on her smug husband, Jack, and the woman he replaced Faye with—another plot point, that of the permanent damage that domestic abuse does to women, mentally and physically, comes to a head. And gives readers one more reason to cheer a smart, sexy, indefatigable woman in a smart, sexy, full-throttle thriller.
The Order by Daniel Silva
Israeli spy Gabriel Allon is back in a new thriller involving the murder of a pope, dark secrets within the Vatican, and a conspiracy that could change the shape of the religious and political world. Allon’s relaxing family vacation in Italy is interrupted when he gets a call from a dear friend, Pope Paul VII’s private secretary, Archbishop Luigi Donati, who needs Allon’s help to prove that the Holy Father did not die of natural causes. Just before his death, Pope Paul VII made a remarkable discovery deep within the Secret Archives of the Vatican library: a book of gospels that would confound centuries-old beliefs about the death of Christ and heal the rift between Christianity and Judaism. But a corrupt secret society within the Vatican—the Order of St. Helena—will do anything to keep that book from coming to light. The Order dives deep into the history of the Catholic church and the corruption within its most lauded ranks, while giving readers a fast-paced, twisty novel that keeps us guessing from beginning to end. —Seira Wilson
Murder in Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri
When Nico Doyle, a former NYPD homicide detective, heads to Tuscany, it's to disappear. He goes to his wife's hometown of Gravigna, looking for the peace and quiet he needs to grieve her death while in a place that meant much to her. Though he doesn't speak the language, Rita's family is there to help him out. His peace is shattered, though, when one morning he hears a gunshot and a dog's yelping somewhere near his cabin, and he discovers a dead body. He calls the police, gives them his statement, and decides to adopt the victim's fluffy white dog, while walking away from the murder investigation. But when the local maresciallo discovers Nico's NYPD credentials, he enlists him to help with the investigation. The problem is, there are a few suspects in this murder and they include Nico's in-laws. Family, wine-soaked secrets, and even a little romance make this a perfect summer mystery.
Pack up your hammock and find a socially distant spot to dive into this month's best mysteries and thrillers.