Mystery & thrillers: Our editors’ recent favorites

Vannessa Cronin on August 02, 2020

Mystery & thrillers: Our editors’ recent favorites

One of the constants in 2020 so far has been reading to escape. And the mystery genre offers so many possibilities. From crime writers to crime show hosts, from FBI agents to suburban moms; from tales of real estate horror to gritty, Southern noir, from New England to Bora Bora, and from psychological suspense to romantic suspense. Whatever your preferred escape, there is— thankfully—a mystery or thriller to help you make that getaway. Here are some of our favorites.

Camino Winds by John Grisham

You couldn't make it up: when mystery writer Nelson Kerr decides to ride out the arrival of Hurricane Leo to Camino Island, his only thought is of saving his home. But when authorities come to assess the damage and find Nelson murdered, they're too overwhelmed by the hurricane's aftermath to tell clue from carnage. It's up to Nelson's friends and neighbors—a cadre of fellow thriller writers, some of whom themselves have shady pasts—to do what the law can't.

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

A large cast of characters—a TV crime show host, her grandson, a committed teacher, and a man with a mysterious past—all get in on the action when a bullied girl in the grandson's class goes missing, and no one—not even her father—appears to be concerned, let alone looking for her. As usual, Coben excels at bringing the pot to boil, then delivering a smart, unexpected ending.

Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman

A secluded thriller writer retreats to her remote home in rural Minnesota to grieve the loss of her entire family. When a young runaway turns up at her door, and tells her he's just witnessed a brutal murder the police want kept quiet, she will try to do for him what she was unable to do for her loved ones: save him. It's cliché to talk about thrillers and reveals but there is nothing cliché about the jaw-dropping reveal in Thief River Falls.

And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

When a rich doctor wants PI Grayson Sykes to find the girlfriend who ran off with his dog, the task seems simple enough. But the more Gray finds out about the missing girlfriend, the more she suspects that not finding her may be the best outcome.

Under Currents by Nora Roberts

When Zane Bigelow returns to the town he grew up in, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, he's facing down his past and the painful memories he has of his parents. One of the people he reconnects with, a landscape artist named Darby, has some ghosts from the past herself. Romance and suspense blend as together, they try to make sense of their past, and set old ghosts to rest.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Described as Rear Window meets Get Out, this was one of the most anticipated thrillers of the year, judging by the advance reviews. Describing the plot, where gentrification takes a decidedly scary turn, fellow author Marian Keyes says: "Dread builds and mutates into near-horror... It was eye-opening, sad, shocking, gripping, I devoured it in one go."

Don't Look for Me by Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker's specialty is taking ordinary, suburban families and putting them in "what-would-you-do" high-stakes situations, and then ratcheting the suspense up to 11. Here, a fractured family is left to wonder if mom abandoned them, or was taken, until her teenage daughter decides to get answers, come what may.

A Killer's Wife (Desert Plains Book 1) by Victor Methos

The author of The Neon Lawyer is back, with A Killer’s Wife, a psychological thriller with a legal thriller at its heart. Jessica Yardley's past appears to be catching up with her when the FBI asks her to get involved in the hunt for the person behind a rash of homicides, homicides that appear to be the work of a copycat killer. Are the copycat kills a brutal valentine from the ex who ripped her life apart or is there a new, even greater, danger in Jessica's life?

Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby

Racism, poverty, and the longing to be the kind of father and family man he never had, drive Beauregard "Bug" Montague to dip back into his former life, as the best getaway driver from North Carolina to Florida. But the diamond heist that promises to make him enough money to finally go straight for real could rob him of the life he dreams about.

The Woman in the Window: A Novel by A.J. Finn

The best-selling thriller of 2018, soon to be a movie starring Amy Adams. Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. When she sees something in an adjacent apartment that she shouldn’t see, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

Last Day by Luanne Rice

Twenty years ago, following the theft of the famous painting Moonlight and the murder of their mother, Detective Conor Reid vowed that he would protect Beth Lathrop and her sister Kate. So when Beth is found strangled in her home, and Moonlight is missing again, a devastated Conor feels like he's failed. Conor's investigation must shift to others in this picture-perfect New England town, as family secrets, broken marriage vows, and dubious motivations drive this twisty domestic thriller.

Something in the Water: A Novel by Catherine Steadman

What starts out as a dream honeymoon in paradise goes seriously sideways when newlyweds, experiencing some financial issues back in real life, go scuba diving and make a shocking discovery. Blame it on the heat, but they consequently make some questionable choices. Aside from the stunning Bora Bora location, the appeal of this Reese pick is putting yourself into their shoes and wondering, if the life you dreamed of were within your grasp, how far would you go to grab it?

Masked Prey (A Prey Novel Book 30) by John Sanford

Sanford's customary blend of action and suspense adds to a timely plot centering on digital crimes. When a blog starts targeting the children of prominent politicians, posting illicitly-taken photographs and posing a threat, the FBI is called in. But in the absence of what the law considers an actual crime the FBI’s unable to do much. Only one person can operate outside the FBI's constraints: Lucas Davenport.

The Outsider: A Novel by Stephen King

“Evil has many faces” is how HBO teased their screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider and that pretty much sums it up. The discovery in a town park of an eleven-year-old local boy’s violated corpse, the Little League coach accused of being the monster who committed the crime, and a seemingly airtight alibi. How to reconcile the three? Let's just say it wouldn't be King without a twist to leave readers—and viewers—reeling.

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