The best mysteries and thrillers of October

Vannessa Cronin on October 08, 2020

The best mysteries and thrillers of October

So many titles have seen their publication date postponed in 2020 that selecting titles for Best of the Month has felt a bit like musical chairs at times. The good news is that it means that October offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to mysteries and thrillers.

The lawyer from A Time to Kill takes on a case no one else wants: defending a teenager accused of murdering his stepfather; a retired Chicago PD detective gets strong-armed into a murder investigation in Ireland; a suspicious wife proves the old adage that eavesdroppers never hear anything good, and much more.

Learn about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.

The Searcher by Tana French

Though its title recalls one classic Western, The Searcher has more in common with another classic: Shane. Ex-Chicago cop Cal Hooper rolls into town looking for a quiet life, but instead of Wyoming, this is a small, Irish mountain town. Soon, he’s strong-armed into finding the missing older brother of a local kid who’s formed an attachment to Cal. The Searcher is an atmospheric, detective story on island time, with a lesson to impart about not taking situations—or people—at face value.

A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

When a teenager shoots his stepfather at close range, many of the residents of Clanton, MS believe he should get the death penalty for killing a deputy. It’ll be up to Jake Brigance to take on the case that no other lawyer wants. Grisham’s storytelling gifts are on full display in A Time for Mercy as he keeps the reins tight on a complex courtroom thriller, a heartbreaking drama involving two families from opposite sides of the tracks, and a stirring tale of a small, Southern town divided on the question of justice versus loyalty.

Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

In her review, my colleague Al Woodworth has this to say about Dear Child: "In the hands of Romy Hausmann, an age-old premise—a woman goes missing, only to be found years later after escaping a windowless cabin in the woods—is given a modern twist, which will make your heart beat fast and your palms go sweaty. Burning with anticipation, fear, and the disquieting revelation that not all is what it seems, this thriller is impossible to put down—just read it with the lights on."

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

When 17-year-old Saffyre Maddox goes missing, and a creepy local man named Owen Pick is blamed for her disappearance, the resulting investigation uncovers truths about incel culture, infidelity, toxic masculinity, and more. Telling the story from several different points of view, Jewell does a masterful job creating sympathetic character portraits which, combined with the shifting perspectives and secret-guarding, will keep readers off-kilter to the very end.

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

Suspicion and misdirection make for a riveting read when a hot therapist and his Lexus disappear. Recently transplanted to the 'burbs to be closer to his ailing mom, Sam and his wife Annie appear to be happy. But Annie lies about how she spends her days, Sam is hiding something, too, and despite spying on her husband's therapy sessions, Annie is none the wiser. Having a husband go M.I.A. is a nice twist on the usual gender roles in domestic thrillers, and it's only one of many surprises Molloy springs.

Snow by John Banville

"Death," Detective Inspector Strafford opines, "makes everything difficult." That is especially true for the aristocratic Osborne family, in whose kitchen the mutilated body of Catholic priest Father Tom Lawless is found one morning, during the winter of 1957. Banville does a superb job of depicting two, usually-opposed, powerful forces in Ireland—the English aristocracy and the Catholic Church—on the same page for once. As they stonewall Strafford at every turn, he is left to scramble to find the chink in their armor in this atmospheric and suspenseful winter tale.

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