The best mysteries and thrillers of May

Vannessa Cronin on May 11, 2020

The best mysteries and thrillers of May

This May, some of our favorite thrillers feature somewhat similar set-ups: there's a dear friend on trial for murder, an old law school classmate on trial for murder, the death of a beloved mother that may be murder, and the death of a beloved brother that may also be murder. One other thing these thrillers have in common: all four kept us turning pages until the wee hours.

Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar

In Sligar’s moody and atmospheric debut novel, Kate Aitken has recently left her journalist job in New York under unhappy circumstances, prompting a move to her aunt’s house in a small Northern California town. Theo Brand, the grown son of famed photographer Miranda Brand—whose mysterious and sudden death still inspires town gossip—hires Kate to sort through his mother’s work and personal effects. As Kate untangles the ephemera of Miranda’s life, she uncovers a largely unknown public figure dealing with the pressures of career, marriage, and motherhood—all while herself becoming more entrenched in the lives of Theo and his two young children. This psychological thriller will make you slightly uncomfortable—in the way only the best thrillers do—and the reader is rewarded with a satisfying ending. A uniquely feminist twist on a well-known and -loved genre. —Sarah Gelman

The Last Trial by Scott Turow

Bestselling author David Baldacci describes The Last Trial as "a brilliant courtroom chess match," and honestly, there's no more accurate summary than that. At eighty-five years old, Alejandro "Sandy" Stern is in the twilight of life and of a brilliant legal career. His health is failing and retirement is the next step. But then Dr. Kiril Pafko, a former Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, is charged with insider trading, fraud, and murder. Retirement plans are shelved as Sandy prepares to make one last foray into the courtroom to defend his longtime friend. But as the trial progresses and Sandy learns more about his friend's career in cancer research, he comes to question everything he thought he knew about Kiril. He even starts to question his own decades-long commitment to the principles of law. The justice system may be "one size fits all," but human nature comes in all shapes and sizes. How far will Sandy go to save a friend? And how far is too far? —Vannessa Cronin

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

Zach Grayson is desperate to have his old law school classmate Lizzie Kitsakis defend him against charges he murdered his wife. Who cares if he and Lizzie haven't had much contact since graduating law school? Or even that Lizzie is not a criminal defense lawyer? And she has troubles of her own: her marriage to Sam imploded recently, for reasons she still can't fathom. And so when it comes to looking into the dark secrets of Zach's marriage, the secrets that led to his wife Angela lying dead at the bottom of the stairs in their Brooklyn brownstone, neither Lizzie nor the reader can rely fully on her instincts for determining the truth. This adds an extra layer of suspense to this smart thriller, which meshes a murder mystery with a domestic thriller and litters the story with smart wrong-turns and red-herrings, all of which keep the reader off-balance until the reveal.—Vannessa Cronin

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

Cadence "Cady" Archer's life is shattered when her beloved brother Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia, commits suicide. And Cady's decision to follow in Eric's footsteps by visiting Harvard to retrace his final year and understand what may have led to his fateful decision only upsets her family. As she struggles with the pressure of Harvard and to make sense of the cryptic notes Eric left behind—the only window into his fragile state of mind—she hears three voices. And begins to wonder whether she shares Eric's mental illness or whether the ghosts of Harvard are directing her to the truth about her brother. But as she gets further and further from reality, will those voices lead her to make peace with the memory of her brother or send her down the same path as him? A psychological thriller and a ghost story all in one, Ghosts of Harvard will pull you in until the last page.—Vannessa Cronin

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