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 August 2020, please visit here.)
An Inconvenient Woman by Stéphanie Buelens. In this debut psychological thriller, two women on opposite sides of the law delve into the heart of a years-old crime in order to stop a future one.
Claire Fontaine is convinced that her ex-husband killed their teenage daughter all those years back and believes he’s capable of killing again. When she sees him move in with another woman, to play step-father for a girl the same age as the one she lost, Claire tries desperately to warn the new bride of the danger her family is in. But when the woman dismisses her admonishments, she feels she must take matters into her own hands and stop the crime she failed to stop before.
Sloane Wilson left the LAPD to work as a “sin eater,” a contractor for hire who specializes in cleaning up inconvenient situations—situations which, for whatever reason, are better handled outside the law. Like, for example, an ex-wife who stalks her former husband, throws paint on his door, and makes vague, violent threats to his new wife. A domestic dispute like that can get messy when the cops are called; plus, there is a risk that their presence will aggravate the woman in question.
As Sloane investigates her newest mission, however, she finds that there is more to it than meets the eye, uncovering a history of trauma that casts aspersions on the stories of both Claire and Sloane’s client. In a case where objective truth is increasingly muddled by passions, suspicions, and fears, she soon loses the ability to distinguish fact from fiction. But Sloane knows one thing for certain: sometimes the only way to prevent a crime is by committing one.
A Deception at Thornecrest by Ashley Weaver. Amory Ames is alone at her country house Thornecrest, enjoying her last few weeks of peace and quiet as she prepares for the imminent arrival of her baby. Her husband, Milo, is in London on business, and Amory is content to catch up on her correspondence, organize the nursery, and avoid the well-meaning if rather overbearing company of the ladies in the village as they prepare for the Springtide Festival. But then a woman appears on her doorstep, claiming to be another Mrs. Ames, Milo’s wife.
Amory’s marriage has had its ups and downs in the past, but her faith in her husband has been restored, and Milo has been nothing but thrilled about becoming a father. Though the alleged second Mrs. Ames seems earnest, Amory is convinced she must be mistaken, a belief that Milo confirms upon his homecoming. However, when another unexpected visitor arrives at Thornecrest, secret identities and whirlwind romances appear to be becoming par for the course.
It’s not until the day of the festival, when Milo’s stable hand Bertie is found dead, that the strange characters appearing in town begin to seem more sinister, and Amory is determined to uncover the killer in the crowd.
The Sleeping Nymph by Ilaria Tuti. In the highly anticipated follow-up to Flowers Over the Inferno, Superintendent Teresa Battaglia, expert criminal profiler with four decades of experience on the Italian police force, returns for a chilling cold case.
A decades-old murder investigation has landed on Superintendent Teresa Battaglia’s desk. DNA analysis has revealed that a painting from the final days of World War II contains matter from a human heart. Teresa is able to trace the evidence to Val Resia, one of Italy’s most isolated, untouched regions.
When Teresa’s investigation hits too close to the truth, a fresh human heart is hung at the valley’s entrance, a warning not to cross its threshold.
As she hunts a ruthless killer, Teresa must face down her own rapidly deteriorating physical and cognitive abilities, as well as someone she hoped never to see again—a man who has just become her supervisor.
The Pandora Deception by David Bruns; J. R. Olson. To effectively combat the rise of global terrorism, the U.S. military must now rely on more than traditional weapons and tactics. Don Riley of the U.S. Cyber Command is given charge of a brand new effort: a new team in the CIA Operations Directorate called Emerging Threats.
To establish this team he recruits three talented recent commissioned naval officers—Janet Everett, Michael Goodwin, and Andrea Ramirez—and together they uncover a new terrorist group. The group is going under the name of the Mahdi, a messiah figure of Islamic mythology, and is operating in the geopolitical tinderbox that is the Nile River basin.
But the Mahdi is no ordinary terrorist group. Their stock in trade is not the usual suicide bombings and surprise attacks. In fact, the Mahdi has created and is about to release the worst kind of weapon: a hugely destructive bioweapon, known as Pandora, with a devastating fatality rate.
And it will take all the resources that the U.S. can bring to bear—intelligence assets, cyber warfare and military assaults—to not only find out who is really behind the Mahdi, but to stop them before they successfully destroy the balance of power in the Middle East.
Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons by David Stafford. Mary Dutton is accused of killing her husband by poison, though there aren’t many who dispute her involvement in his death. The police see it as an open-and-shut case, and even those protesting for her freedom believe she committed the act, but is innocent of wrongdoing after suffering years of domestic abuse.
Since his recent success in the high-profile Dryden case catapulted him to the front pages of the national press, unassuming Yorkshireman Arthur Skelton is now one of the most celebrated and recognisable barristers in the land. His services are much in demand and, despite the odds, he agrees to represent Mary Dutton.
Yet with a general election on the horizon and both sides of the political divide keen to turn the Dutton case to their advantage, as well as long-held secrets within the Dutton family itself, can Skelton ever really expose the truth?
Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards. 1930. A chilling encounter on London’s Necropolis Railway leads to murder and a man escapes the gallows after a witness gives sensational evidence. After this string of strange, fatal events, journalist Jacob Flint discovers that he has been framed for murder. To save himself, he flees to Mortmain Hall, a remote estate on the northern coast.
There, an eccentric female criminologist hosts a gathering of eclectic people who have all escaped miscarriages of cruel justice. This strange group puts Jacob a little on edge, but they may be his only hope to clear his name.
When a body is found beneath the cliffs near the house, it seems this gathering might be an ingenious plot to get away with murder.
Are these eccentrics victims or are they orchestrators of the great deception? Jacob must now set out to uncover the labyrinthine of secrets within Mortmain Hall, alongside Rachel Savernake, woman whose relentless quest for the truth might just bring down the British establishment.
Next to Last Stand (A Longmire Mystery) by Craig Johnson (September 22). One of the most viewed paintings in American history, Custer’s Last Fight, copied and distributed by Anheuser-Busch at a rate of over two million copies a year, was destroyed in a fire at the 7th Cavalry Headquarters in Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1946. Or was it?
When Charley Lee Stillwater dies of an apparent heart attack at the Wyoming Home for Soldiers & Sailors, Walt Longmire is called in to try and make sense of a piece of a painting and a Florsheim shoebox containing a million dollars, sending the good sheriff on the trail of a dangerous art heist.
The Secret of Rosalita Flats by Tim W. Jackson. Cal’s a hapless watchmaker. Marina’s a beautiful scuba instructor. They were friends as kids. Now, not so much. Together they’ll solve the secret of Rosalita Flats. If the sharks don’t get them first.
The Secret of Rosalita Flats follows a man trying to unload the football-shaped house he inherited, while dodging the backwater Blacktip Island’s quirky collection of con artists, smugglers and other ne’er-do-wells: an ornery housekeeper who refuses to be fired, a rum-soaked attorney with his own agenda, a chair-wielding resort manager who thinks he’s an avenging angel, and a self-styled psychic who may be able to see the future.
There’s also a mysterious someone–or something–trying to scare Cal off the island. Cal has to figure out what his old man was mixed up in, fast, if he’s to sell the house and get off the crazy little rock alive.
Written with Hiaasen-esque humor, The Secret of Rosalita Flats is a beguiling mystery for anyone who’s ever dreamed of chucking it all and running off to the Caribbean. From the author of the award-finalist Blacktip Island.
The Ninja’s Blade by Tori Eldridge. Lily Wong—a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja—has more trouble than she was bargaining for when controlling grandparents arrive in Los Angeles from Hong Kong at the same time she goes undercover in the dangerous world of youth sex trafficking. As she hunts for a kidnapped prostitution victim, a missing high school girl, and a sociopathic trafficker, the surviving members of a murderous street gang hunt for her.
Life would be easier if Lily knew who to trust. But when victims are villains, villains are victims, and even family is plotting against her, easy is not an option. All Lily can do is follow the trail wherever it leads: through a high school campus polarized by racial tension or the secret back rooms of a barber/tattoo/brothel or the soul-crushing stretch of Long Beach Boulevard known as The Blade.
She relies on her ninja skills to deceive and infiltrate, rescue and kill—whatever is necessary to free the girls from their literal and figurative slavery. If only those same skills could keep Lily’s conniving grandparents from hijacking her future.
One Step Behind by Lauren North. Jenna is a wife, a mother, a doctor. She’s also the victim of a stalker. Frightening “gifts” are left on her doorstep, her home is broken in to, and when she leaves her house to take her children to school, he’s waiting. She feels powerless, and the police are unable to help.
Then her stalker is brought into the emergency room after a terrible accident, and Jenna has to treat the man who’s been tormenting her for months.
With her stalker in a coma, Jenna is desperate to understand the life of this seemingly normal man. When she finds startling images on his phone, she is consumed by her need for answers–and her own obsession leads her down a twisting path of destruction.
Just how far is Jenna willing to go to take back control of her life?
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (September 22). In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
The Last Agent by Robert Dugoni (September 22). Betrayed by his own country and tried for treason, former spy Charles Jenkins survived an undercover Russian operation gone wrong. Exonerated, bitter, and safe, the retired family man is through with duplicitous spy games. Then he learns of a woman isolated in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison.
If it’s Paulina Ponomayova, the agent who sacrificed her life to save his, Jenkins can’t leave her behind. But there’s no guarantee it’s her. Or proof Paulina is still alive.
To find out, Jenkins must return to Russia. Next move: blackmail Viktor Federov, a former Russian officer with his own ax to grind, into helping him infiltrate Lefortovo. The enemy who once pursued Jenkins across three continents is now the only man Jenkins can trust.
Every step of the way—from Moscow to Scandinavia to the open ocean—they’re hunted by a brutal Russian agent on a killer quest of his own. Out of loyalty to Paulina—dead or alive—Jenkins is putting everyone’s life on the line for a new mission that could be his last.
Death in Tranquility by Sharon Linnea (September 29). No one talks to the cops. Everyone talks to the bartender. And Avalon Nash is one hell of a bartender.
Avalon is on the run from her life in Los Angeles. Having a drink while waiting to change trains in the former Olympic town of Tranquility, New York, she discovers the freshly murdered bartender at MacTavish’s. A bartender herself, she’s offered the position with the warning he wasn’t the first MacTavish’s bartender to meet a violent end.
Avalon’s superpower is collecting people’s stories, and she’s soon embroiled in the lives of artists, politicians, ghost hunters and descendants of Old Hollywood. Can Avalon outrun the ghosts of her past, catch the ghosts of Tranquility’s past and outsmart a murderer?
A Christmas Carol Murder by Heather Redmond (September 29). London, December 1835: Charles and Kate are out with friends and family for a chilly night of caroling and good cheer. But their blood truly runs cold when their singing is interrupted by a body plummeting from an upper window of a house.
They soon learn the dead man at their feet, his neck strangely wrapped in chains, is Jacob Harley, the business partner of the resident of the house, an unpleasant codger who owns a counting house, one Emmanuel Screws.
Ever the journalist, Charles dedicates himself to discovering who’s behind the diabolical defenestration. But before he can investigate further, Harley’s corpse is stolen.
Following that, Charles is visited in his quarters by what appears to be Harley’s ghost—or is it merely Charles’s overwrought imagination? He continues to suspect Emmanuel, the same penurious penny pincher who denied his father a loan years ago, but Kate insists the old man is too weak to heave a body out a window.
Their mutual affection and admiration can accommodate a difference of opinion, but matters are complicated by the unexpected arrival of an infant orphan. Charles must find the child a home while solving a murder, to ensure that the next one in chains is the guilty party.
Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder by Tina Kashian (September 29). Not even her impending nuptials can keep Lucy Berberian, manager of her family-owned Kebab Kitchen, from the Jersey Shore’s annual Polar Bear Plunge. But her dive into the icy ocean is especially chilling when she finds a fellow swimmer doing the dead man’s float—for real.
Who would kill a man in cold blood during Ocean Crest, New Jersey’s most popular winter event? When Lucy learns the victim is Deacon Spooner, the reception hall owner who turned up his nose—and his price—at her wedding plans, she can’t help wondering who wouldn’t kill the pompous caterer.
Perhaps the culprit is the wedding cake baker whose career Deacon nearly destroyed? Or the angry bride whose reception he ruined? With her maid of honor, Katie, busily planning Lucy’s wedding without her, Lucy will have to get to the bottom of this cold-hearted business in time for Kebab Kitchen’s mouthwatering Christmas celebration—and before her hometown’s holiday spirit washes out to sea.
The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson (September 29). Stranger Things meets World War Z in this heart-racing thriller as a group of teenagers attempt to survive the night in a town overcome by a science experiment gone wrong.
A small town nestled in the hills of central Oregon becomes the epicenter of an epidemic of violence when the teenaged children of several executives from the local biotech firm become ill and aggressively murderous. Suddenly the town is on edge, and everyone must do everything it takes just to survive.