16 Best Crime, Mystery, And Thriller Books Of July 2020
Our picks for best crime, mystery and thriller books of July 2020 include classic Edgar-award winning titles such as The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis, exciting releases like More Better Deals by Joe R. Lansdale, as well as fun thriller reads such as Florida Man by Tom Cooper.
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 June 2020, please visit here.)
The Shadows by Alex North. You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.
Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and suffering from dementia, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.
It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Paul learns that Detective Amanda Beck is investigating another copycat that has struck in the nearby town of Featherbank. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.
It wasn’t just the murder. It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again.
Fools’ Gold by Dolores Hitchens. Two teenagers fresh out of stir set their sights on what looks like easy money in this classic thriller from 1958, only to get a painful education in how quickly and drastically a simple plan can spin out of control.
Dolores Hitchens wrote crime novels that were both tough and compassionate, with a sharp eye for the emotional scars that violence leaves. The basis for Jean-Luc Godard’s film Band of Outsiders, Fools’ Gold is a swift and unadorned tale of three young people–two boys just released after being incarcerated for a juvenile offense, and an orphaned girl living in a house full of secrets–whose lives are rapidly torn apart by what starts as a simple plan of robbery.
It echoes other classic American narratives of youth astray and on the run, and with its headlong pace catches the rhythm of adolescent crisis, as Hitchens’s protagonists find themselves caught up in a situation spiraling beyond their control.
She’s Got The Guns (A Suite #45 Novel) by M.O. Mack. What could possibly be worse than being beaten, broke, and on the run from a dangerous criminal? What if that criminal is your ex and works for the FBI?
Oh, and then there’s the tiny matter of landing a job. Not so easy for a woman on the run. Which is why when Emily Rockford gets a gig, answering the phone for a “pest control” company, she thinks her luck is turning.
Until…she discovers the business is a cover. For hit men. A big, dangerous, deadly group of them. It’s just about the last place Emily wants to be, but as she’s about to find out, once you’re in, you’re in. There is no out. There is no quitting.
Will she embrace the dangerous world she’s stumbled onto? Or will she find a way to outrun them all?
The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis. Helen Eustis’s The Horizontal Man (1946) won an Edgar Award for best first novel and continues to fascinate as a singular mixture of detection, satire, and psychological portraiture.
A poet on the faculty of an Ivy League school is found murdered, setting off ripple effects of anxiety, suspicion, and panic in the hot house atmosphere of an English department rife with talk of Freud and Kafka. This classic novel is one of eight works included in The Library of America’s two-volume edition Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s, edited by Sarah Weinman.
Survival Instincts by Jen Waite. FOURTEEN YEARS BEFORE THE CABIN: Twenty-something Anne meets the man of her dreams right out of college, but after they get married, Anne notices that her husband begins acting differently. Why is Ethan suddenly so moody? And will their marriage endure?
A WEEK BEFORE THE CABIN: Ten years later, Anne and her twelve-year-old daughter, Thea, are safely living in Vermont. Anne is a successful therapist, Thea has friends at her new school, and they receive an endless stream of love, support, and baked goods from Anne’s sweet mom, Rose. When Thea takes to brooding and showing classic signs of teen angst, a trip for the three women to the White Mountains of New Hampshire seems like the perfect chance to bond.
THE CABIN: A man follows the three women on a hike at a nature reserve and drags them at gunpoint to an abandoned cabin in the woods. And just like that their peaceful weekend away turns into a fight for survival. It isn’t clear what this man wants from these women or how he is connected to them if at all, but it is increasingly clear that they won’t all get out of the cabin alive.
Never Ask Me by Jeff Abbott. In a quiet neighborhood in the wealthy Austin suburb of Lakehaven, the body of Danielle Roberts is discovered on a park bench. Danielle was a beloved member of the community, an adoption consultant who delivered the joy of parenthood to a number of local families. Her murder shocks Lakehaven.
Perhaps no other family is as crushed as the Pollitts, who lived two houses down from Danielle and thought of her almost like family. Her death becomes the catalyst for a maelstrom of suspicion and intrigue. You have been told a huge lie, an anonymous email charges the son, Grant.
No one can learn the truth now, thinks the father, Kyle. Never ask me what I’d do to protect my family, resolves the wife, Iris. I’ll do whatever it takes to save him, vows the daughter, Julia, of Danielle’s grieving teenage son.
The Pollitts always thought they’d always be there for each other. When each begins to suspect the others of the unimaginable, the strength of their bonds will be tested in extraordinary new ways.
The latest from New York Times bestselling author Jeff Abbott ishis most suspenseful thriller yet: a riveting tale of the dangerous secrets one family has concealed — and what happens when the question each Pollitt hoped they’d never be asked threatens to expose their darkest truths.
The Black Cat Breaks a Mirror (A Bad Luck Cat Mystery #5) by Kay Finch (July 21). As the summer tourist season draws to a close in Lavender, Texas, Sabrina has invited her brother and nephews for the highly anticipated concert of Colt Jamison, whose hit song “Broken Mirror” is rising to the top of the Nashville charts.
But their stay begins on a sour note when one of the boys stumbles upon the dead body of Jamison’s former public relations manager—a man who’d long ago burned his bridges in town, leaving no shortage of suspects in the murder.
As Sabrina is reluctantly drawn into the investigation, she’s confronted with a country singer who may be harboring more than a few dark secrets, an overzealous fan club president who may be up to her ears in criminal activities, and someone leaving shards of broken mirrors scattered all over town.
Just as Sabrina narrows the list of suspects and closes in on the culprit, she realizes that seven years of bad luck may be the least of her worries.
Skin Deep by Sung J. Woo. Korean-American adoptee Siobhan O’Brien has spent much of her life explaining her name and her family to strangers, but a more pressing problem is whether to carry on the PI agency that her dead boss unexpectedly left to her.
Easing into middle age, Siobhan would generally rather have a glazed donut than a romance, but when an old friend asks Siobhan to find her daughter who has disappeared from her dorm, the rookie private detective’s search begins at Llewellyn College.
A women’s institution of higher learning in upstate New York, Llewellyn, for the first time in its two-hundred-year history, has opened its doors to male students. Fringe group The Womyn of Llewellyn are furious, but their ex-fashion-model president declares they have little choice due to financial shortfalls. But if that’s true, where did she get the money to build a brand new science center, and why is it under 24/7 surveillance by the town cops?
As Siobhan delves deeper into the search for her friend’s daughter, she encounters politely dangerous men in white turtlenecks, vegan cooking that might kill her, possibly deadly yoga poses, and a woman named Cleopatra who’s got more issues than National Geographic. This first in a new series introduces an endearing P.I. heroine in the tradition of classic female detectives like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski readers won’t be able to put down.
Dragonfire by Ted Bell (July 21). December 8, 1941, Washington, D.C. – The new Chinese ambassador to the United States, Tiger Tang, meets with President Roosevelt one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the next four years, China and the U.S. will be wartime allies, but the charming, sophisticated ambassador may be playing his own treacherous game.
Today, The Bahamas – Alex Hawke is recovering from serious injuries incurred during a battle with a malevolent enemy. His recuperation is interrupted by a desperate call from the Queen. Her favorite grandson has disappeared in the Bahamas. Lord Hawke is the only man she trusts with a mission this sensitive. All she knows is that the young prince was last seen at the exclusive Dragonfire nightclub owned by the nefarious Tang brothers, grandsons of Ambassador Tiger Tang.
More Better Deals by Joe R. Lansdale. From the Edgar Award-winning author of the Hap and Leonard series, a hard-boiled novel set in 1960s Texas in which a no-nonsense car salesman faces a tempting decision, a dangerous deal, and an alluring affair.
Ed Edwards is in the used car business, a business built on adjusted odometers, extra-fine print, and the belief that “buyers better beware.” Burdened by an aging, alcoholic mother constantly on his case to do something worthier of his lighter skin tone and dreaming of a brighter future for himself and his plucky little sister, Ed is ready to get out of the game.
When Dave, his lazy, grease-stained boss at the eponymous dealership Smiling Dave’s sends him to repossess a Cadillac, Ed finally gets the chance to escape his miserable life.
The Cadillac in question was purchased by Frank Craig and his beautiful wife Nancy, owners of a local drive-in and pet cemetery. Fed up with her deadbeat husband and with unfulfilled desires of her own, Nancy suggests to Ed — in the throes of their salacious affair — that they kill Frank and claim his insurance policy. It is a tantalizing offer: the girl, the car, and not one, but two businesses. Ed could finally say goodbye to Smiling Dave’s, and maybe even send his sister to college. But does he have what it takes to see the plan through?
Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson. The dangerous magic of The Night Circus meets the powerful historical exploration of The Underground Railroad in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s timely and unsettling novel, set against the darkly glamorous backdrop of New York City, where an assassin falls in love and tries to change her fate at the dawn of World War II.
Amid the whir of city life, a young woman from Harlem is drawn into the glittering underworld of Manhattan, where she’s hired to use her knives to strike fear among its most dangerous denizens.
Ten years later, Phyllis LeBlanc has given up everything—not just her own past, and Dev, the man she loved, but even her own dreams.
Still, the ghosts from her past are always by her side—and history has appeared on her doorstep to threaten the people she keeps in her heart. And so Phyllis will have to make a harrowing choice, before it’s too late—is there ever enough blood in the world to wash clean generations of injustice?
Meet Jay. Small-time dealer. Accidental jihadist. The one man who can save us all?
Meet Jay. Small-time dealer. Accidental jihadist. The one man who can save us all?
Javid – call him Jay – is a dope dealer living in West London. He goes to mosque on Friday, and he’s just bought his pride and joy – a BMW. He lives with his mum, and life seems sweet.
But his world is about to turn upside-down. Because MI5 have been watching him, and they think he’s just the man they need for a delicate mission. One thing’s for sure: now he’s a long way East of Hounslow, Jay’s life will never be the same again.
The End of Her by Shari Lapena. Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.
Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.
Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick–things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe.
As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth–is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?
Florida Man by Tom Cooper. Florida, circa 1980. Reed Crowe, the eponymous Florida Man, is a middle-aged beach bum, beleaguered and disenfranchised, living on ill-gotten gains deep in the jungly heart of Florida.
When sinkholes start opening on Emerald Island, not only are Reed Crowe’s seedy businesses—a moribund motel and a shabby amusement park—endangered, but so are his secrets. Crowe, amateur spelunker, begins uncovering artifacts that change his understanding of the island’s history, as well as his understanding of his family’s birthright as pioneering homesteaders.
Meanwhile, there are other Florida men with whom Crowe must contend. Hector “Catface” Morales, a Cuban refugee, trained assassin, and crack-addicted Marielito, is seeking revenge on Reed for stealing his stash of drugs and leaving him for dead (unbeknownst to Reed) in the wreckage of a plane crash in the Everglades decades ago.
Loner and misanthrope Henry Yahchilane, a Seminole native, has something to hide on the island. So does irascible and pervy Wayne Wade, Reed Crowe’s childhood friend turned bad penny. Then there are the Florida women, including Heidi Karavas, Reed Crowe’s ex-wife, now a globe-trekking art curator, and Nina Arango, a Cuban refugee and fiercely protective woman with whom Reed Crowe falls in love. There are curses. There are sea monsters. There are biblical storms. There’s something called the Jupiter Effect.
Ultimately, Florida Man is a generation-spanning story about how a man decides to live his life, and how despite staying landlocked and stubbornly in one place, the world nevertheless comes to him.
The Hooligans by P. T. Deutermann (July 28). The Hooligans fictionalizes the little-known but remarkable exploits of “The Hooligan Navy” that fought in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Loosely-organized in fast moving squadrons, PT (patrol torpedo) boats were the pesky nemesis of the formidable Japanese navy, dubbed “the mosquito fleet” and “devil boats” for their daring raids against warships, tankers, and transport ships.
After the Pearl Harbor raid plunges America into war, young surgical resident Lincoln Anderson enlists in the Navy medical corps. His first deployment comes in August 1942 at Guadalcanal, when after a brutal sea battle and the landing of Marines on the island, Anderson finds himself triaging hundreds of casualties under relentless Japanese air and land attacks.
But with the navy short of doctors, soon Anderson is transferred to serve aboard a PT boat. From Guadalcanal to the Solomon Islands to the climactic, tide-turning battle of Leyte Gulf, Anderson and the crew members of his boat confront submarines and surface ships, are attacked from air by the dreaded Kawanishi flying boats, and hunted by destroyers.
In the end, Anderson must lead a division of boats in a seemingly-impossible mission against a Japanese battleship formation—and learn the true nature of his character.
Strong from the Heart by Jon Land (July 28). The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose. On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.
When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.
The power base she’s up against—comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors—has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.
At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed to them. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.
Mystery Tribune’s collection of best reading lists across a wide spectrum of sub-genres within crime, mystery and thriller space are available here.