Our picks for best crime, mystery and thriller books of August 2020 include highly anticipated titles such as The Hollow Ones by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan, and European favorites like The Less Dead by Denise Mina.
These mystery and thriller books will surely bring joy to avid crime fiction and mystery readers. (Note: For our coverage of best crime, mystery, and thriller books of July 2020, please visit here.)
White Out (Badlands Thriller, Book 1) by Danielle Girard. After surviving a car accident on an icy road in Hagen, North Dakota, Lily Baker regains consciousness with no idea where or who she is. Scattered Bible verses and the image of a man lying in a pool of blood haunt her memory.
The same night of the accident, a young woman is murdered and tossed in a dumpster. Kylie Milliard, Hagen’s only detective, doesn’t immediately recognize the victim, but Kylie soon discovers that Lily and the dead woman share a dark past…if only Lily could remember what it was.
Lily and Kylie both want answers. But Kylie has to play by the book. Lily has to play it safe. And the more Lily learns about her identity, the more she fears the truth.
Murder at the Natural History Museum by Jim Eldridge. 1895. When the newly dubbed ‘Museum Detectives’ are asked to investigate deliberate damage to a dinosaur skeleton at the Natural History Museum there is evidence that the fossil-hunting mania of the notorious Bone Wars in America may have reached their shores. But for Daniel Wilson, famed for his involvement in the Jack the Ripper case, and renowned archaeologist Abigail Fenton, events soon take a sinister turn…
A museum attendant is found dead in an anteroom by none other than the infamous theatre manager Bram Stoker, who it seems may have had a personal connection with the deceased. Facing pressure both from an overseas business and local celebrity, Wilson and Fenton must rely on their talents and instincts to solve their most puzzling case yet.
Lone Jack Trail by Owen Laukkanen (August 11). When a body washes up outside Deception Cove, Washington, Jess Winslow-once a US Marine, now a trainee sheriff’s deputy-is assigned to investigate. But when she realizes it’s “Bad” Brock Boyd, a hometown celebrity lately fallen from grace, things become complicated. The last person seen with Boyd was her own boyfriend, Mason Burke.
An ex-convict and newcomer in town, Mason is one of the only people who can understand Jess’s haunting memories of her time in Afghanistan-and her love for Lucy, her devoted service dog. Finding one another in Deception Cove has been the best thing to happen to either of them in years. So Jess knows Mason could never be guilty of murder-doesn’t she?
As the facts of the case point ever more squarely at Mason, Jess must face that everything she thinks she knows about him might be wrong. A thrilling sequel to Deception Cove, and a heart-pounding adventure all its own, Lone Jack Trail pushes Jess and Mason to a shocking confrontation and will test everything they’ve come to love and trust in Deception Cove.
The Less Dead by Denise Mina (August 18). Dr. Margo Dunlop is at a crossroads. Her adoptive mom just passed away, and Margo misses her so much she can’t begin to empty the house-or, it seems, get her brother on the phone. Not to mention she’s newly single, secretly pregnant, and worried about her best friend’s dangerous relationship.
In an effort to cheer herself up she goes in search of her birth mother. Instead she finds Nikki, her mother’s sister. Aunt Nikki isn’t what Margo expects, and she brings upsetting news: Margo’s mother is dead. Worse, she was murdered years ago, and her killer is still at large-and sending Nikki threatening letters.
Margo is torn. Should she stay out of this mess, or try to find justice? But then Margo receives a letter, too. Someone out there has been waiting and watching, and in Margo sees the spitting image of her mother…
Darkly funny and deeply affecting, The Less Dead is a sharply modern new thriller from the bestselling author of Conviction, and a surprisingly moving story of daughters and mothers, secrets and choices, and how the search for the truth-and a long-hidden killer-will lead one woman to find herself.
The Hollow Ones by Guillermo del Toro; Chuck Hogan. A horrific crime that defies explanation, a rookie FBI agent in uncharted territory, and an extraordinary hero for the ages: an investigation spirals out of control in this heart-pounding thriller.
Odessa Hardwicke’s life is derailed when she’s forced to turn her gun on her partner, Walt Leppo, a decorated FBI agent who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defense, shakes the young FBI agent to her core. Devastated, Odessa is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation. But what most troubles Odessa isn’t the tragedy itself — it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.
Questioning her future with the FBI and her sanity, Hardwicke accepts a low-level assignment to clear out the belongings of a retired agent in the New York office. What she finds there will put her on the trail of a mysterious figure named Hugo Blackwood, a man of enormous means who claims to have been alive for centuries, and who is either an unhinged lunatic, or humanity’s best and only defense against unspeakable evil.
From the authors who brought you The Strain Trilogy comes a strange, terrifying, and darkly wondrous world of suspense, mystery, and literary horror. The Hollow Ones is a chilling, spell-binding tale, a hauntingly original new fable from Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro and bestselling author Chuck Hogan featuring their most fascinating character yet.
The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan. We all have our reasons for being who we are―but what if being someone else could get you what you want?
After a devastating betrayal, a young woman sets off on an obsessive path to justice, no matter what dark family secrets are revealed. What she doesn’t know―she isn’t the only one plotting revenge.
An affluent daughter of privilege. A glamorous manipulative wannabe. A determined reporter, in too deep. A grieving widow who has to choose her new reality. Who will be the first to lie? And when the stakes are life and death, do a few lies really matter?
Bestselling and award-winning author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan delivers another twisty, thrilling cat and mouse novel of suspense that will have you guessing, and second-guessing, and then gasping with surprise.
Hunter Killer by Brad Taylor (August 6). Pike Logan and the Taskforce were once the apex predators, an unrivaled hunting machine that decimated those out to harm the United States, but they may have met their match. While Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill prepare to join their team on a counter-terrorist mission in the triple frontier—the lawless tri-border region where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet—they are targeted in Charleston, South Carolina.
A vicious explosion kills a friend, and the perpetrators have set it up to look like an accident. While the authorities believe this was not foul play, Pike knows the attack was meant for him.
When he loses contact with the team in South America, Pike is convinced he and the Taskforce are under assault. His men are the closest thing to family that Pike has, which means he will do anything, even ignore direct orders to stand down, to find them. Pike and Jennifer head to Brazil to investigate their disappearance and run headlong into a crew of Russian assassins.
Within days they are entangled in a byzantine scheme involving Brazilian politics and a cut-throat battle for control of offshore oil fields.
Forged in combat, the Russians are the equal of anything the Taskforce has encountered before, but they make a mistake in attacking Pike’s team, because Pike has a couple of elite Israeli assassins of his own. And Pike will stop at nothing to protect his family.
Auntie Poldi and the Handsome Antonio by Mario Giordano. All the beloved, irascible Auntie Poldi wanted from her Sicilian retirement was time to enjoy sunshine, a free-flowing supply of wine, and a sultry romance with Chief Inspector Montana. But then her idyll is rudely disrupted by the last person she wants to see on her doorstep–John Owenya, detective inspector with the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs, who is also her estranged lying cheat of a husband.
Not only is John’s sudden reappearance putting a kink in Poldi’s dreamy love affair with Vito Montana, but his presence also comes with a plea for help–and unwanted clashes with Mafia.
Where is John’s half-brother? What is the ten-million-dollar “it” that John’s brother was last seen with that has both the Sicilian and Tanzanian mobs in a frenzy? With only a postcard that has a phone number and a name, “Handsome Antonio,” on the back, Auntie Poldi hops begrudgingly (albeit with a great deal of gumption and panache) back into the saddle (in this case, an immaculate red Maserati Cabrio from the 80s with cream leather upholstery).
The faster she finds Handsome Antonio, the sooner she can get John Owenya out of her hair and love-life. But the people Poldi discovers along the way may very well knock her immaculate wig askew.
The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi (August 4). There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked all the rules out – and wrote seven perfect detective stories to demonstrate. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.
Until Julia Hart, a brilliant, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past and an editor keen to understand it.
But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget.
But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s own nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.
They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.
Corrupted Humours by Donald Friedman. Corrupted Humours, a literary mystery told in two braided narratives, opens with the unexplained explosion of Albert Snaedeker, a psychiatrist, on the operating table during routine surgery. His cousin, an oil heir and publisher of Angle magazine, pressured by Snaedeker’s sister, assigns his reporter and sometime novelist, Owen Berk, to investigate.
Berk not only pursues the whodunnit, howdunnit questions but, intrigued by the bizarre death and the people surrounding it, turns them into characters in a new novel. In it, Snaedeker’s surgeon’s depressed wife has an imagined flowering when she is indoctrinated into the world of S/M.
We read Berk’s novel in alternating chapters with the framing novel, uncertain of the interior novel’s relationship to the larger narration, until they converge and Berk falls in love with the now-divorced wife of the surgeon, wondering how much of his passion is for her, how much for the fantasy figure he has turned her into.
The Buffalo Pilot: A Ford Stevens Military-Aviation Thriller (Book 3) by Lawrence A. Colby. More military pilots die in training than at war.
Air Force Reserve Major Ford Stevens is a veteran military pilot, upholding the prestigious family practice of service to the nation in the face of danger.
His younger brother, Charlie, a fresh Lieutenant out of pilot training, joins the family tradition seeking to prove himself. With the rivalry still strong, all he wanted to do was follow his big brother’s footsteps. Now, Charlie joins his brother Ford in the same flying squadron, both men putting their lives on the line each time they strap in the jet, whether in peace or war.
It will be an initiation by fire as they hunt a saboteur killing aircrew, uniting the competitive brothers in the ultimate test of life and death.
15 Minutes of Flame by Christin Brecher. When Stella’s friend inherits a creaky, abandoned home in Nantucket, she knows it’s the perfect setting for the town’s annual Halloween fundraiser. A deserted, boarded-up building on the property—once used as a candle-making shop—adds to the creepy ambiance. But as Stella explores the shack’s dilapidated walls, she discovers a terrible secret: the skeleton of a Quaker woman, wrapped in blood-soaked clothing and hidden deep within a stone hearth.
While police investigate, Stella wastes no time asking for help from friends with long ties to Nantucket’s intricate history.
The key to the murder may lie within a scorching 18th century love triangle that pit two best friends against one another over a dubious man. But before the case is solved, another life will be claimed—leaving Stella to wonder who in Nantucket is friend, and who is foe.
The Ancestor by Lee Matthew Goldberg (August 21). A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.
After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson.
Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.
A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future. The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice.