2019 ITW Thriller Award Nominees: A Complete Overview
The International Thriller Writers Awards are awarded by International Thriller Writers (ITW) at the annual Thrillerfest conferences for outstanding work in the field since 2006. For 2019, finalists include established names such as Jeffery Deaver and Duane Swierczynski, as well as international authors including Jane Harper and C. J. Tudor.
What follows is the complete list of finalists for the 2019 ITW Thriller Awards:
BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL ITW NOMINEES
November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow). Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.
Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.
A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.
Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.
For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.
It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.
Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.
Another rule—fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunters are closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.
Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but now Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love. And it might get them both killed.
Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin (Ballantine Books). Years ago, her sister Rachel vanished. Now she is almost certain the man who took Rachel sits in the passenger seat beside her. He claims to have dementia and no memory of murdering girls across Texas in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures.
To find the truth, she proposes a dangerous idea: a ten-day road trip with a possible serial killer to examine cold cases linked to his haunting photographs. Is he a liar or a broken old man? Is he a pathological con artist—or is she? You won’t see the final, terrifying twist spinning your way until the very last mile.
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books). When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.
But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.
To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.
For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.
While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.
How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter (William Morrow). What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all?
Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?
But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.
The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them.
The Cabin At The End Of The World by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow). Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.
One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”
Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined.
BEST FIRST NOVEL
The Terminal List by Jack Carr (Atria/Emily Bestler Books). On his last combat deployment, Lieutenant Commander James Reece’s entire team was killed in a catastrophic ambush. But when those dearest to him are murdered on the day of his homecoming, Reece discovers that this was not an act of war by a foreign enemy but a conspiracy that runs to the highest levels of government.
Now, with no family and free from the military’s command structure, Reece applies the lessons that he’s learned in over a decade of constant warfare toward avenging the deaths of his family and teammates. With breathless pacing and relentless suspense, Reece ruthlessly targets his enemies in the upper echelons of power without regard for the laws of combat or the rule of law.
Need To Know by Karen Cleveland (Ballantine Books). Vivian Miller. High-powered CIA analyst, happily married to a man she adores, mother of four beautiful children. Until the moment she makes a shocking discovery that makes her question everything she believes.
She thought she knew her husband inside and out. But now she wonders if it was all a lie. How far will she go to learn the truth? And does she really NEED TO KNOW?
Caged by Ellison Cooper (Minotaur Books). FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair hunts for evil in the deepest recesses of the human mind. Still reeling from the death of her fiancé, she wants nothing more than to focus on her research into the brains of serial killers.
But when the Washington D.C. police stumble upon a gruesome murder scene involving a girl who was slowly starved to death while held captive in a cage, Sayer is called in to lead the investigation. When the victim is identified as the daughter of a high profile senator, Sayer is thrust into the spotlight.
As public pressure mounts, she discovers that another girl has been taken and is teetering on the brink of death. With evidence unraveling around her, Sayer races to save the second victim but soon realizes that they are hunting a killer with a dangerous obsession…a killer who is closer than she thought.
Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman (Ballantine Books). If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?
Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .
Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?
Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .
Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?
Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.
The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor (Crown). In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get.
The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL ITW NOMINEES
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Pan Macmillan Australia). Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet for the first time in months at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback. Their third brother, Cameron, lies dead at their feet.
In an isolated belt of Australia, their homes a three-hour drive apart, the brothers were one another’s nearest neighbors. Cameron was the middle child, the one who ran the family homestead. But something made him head out alone under the unrelenting sun.
Nathan, Bub and Nathan’s son return to Cameron’s ranch and to those left behind by his passing: his wife, his daughters, and his mother, as well as their long-time employee and two recently hired seasonal workers.
While they grieve Cameron’s loss, suspicion starts to take hold, and Nathan is forced to examine secrets the family would rather leave in the past. Because if someone forced Cameron to his death, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects.
The Good Samaritan by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer). She’s a friendly voice on the phone. But can you trust her? The people who call End of the Line need hope. They need reassurance that life is worth living. But some are unlucky enough to get through to Laura. Laura doesn’t want them to hope. She wants them to die.
Laura hasn’t had it easy: she’s survived sickness and a difficult marriage only to find herself heading for forty, unsettled and angry. She doesn’t love talking to people worse off than she is. She craves it.
But now someone’s on to her—Ryan, whose world falls apart when his pregnant wife ends her life, hand in hand with a stranger. Who was this man, and why did they choose to die together?
The sinister truth is within Ryan’s grasp, but he has no idea of the desperate lengths Laura will go to. Because the best thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can get away with murder.
The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne (Thomas & Mercer). Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.
As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students.
As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue…or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?
Gone Dark by Kirk Russell (Thomas & Mercer). When a series of coordinated blasts takes down several Los Angeles power stations, FBI bomb tech Paul Grale is tapped to investigate. That means leaving his vulnerable niece, Julia, behind in Las Vegas. The sole survivor of a homeland bombing that killed her parents, Julia’s still struggling through grief and trauma. An avowed pacifist, she’s being trolled as anti-American.
And entangled in an affair with the wrong man, she’s facing the fallout from his crimes: stolen military-grade ammunition found in her car.
But Grale has no choice but to head to LA. The sabotage is growing more sophisticated, and with assaults on the telecommunication grid itself, the potential for destruction has never been higher. Now, as rolling blackouts sweep across the West, Grale is following clues that point alarmingly close to home. Especially when Julia disappears.
If Grale can’t stop the attacks from escalating, the grid will go down for good, leaving everyone in the dark. But it’s Grale who could be facing the darkest reality of all.
Mister Tender’s Girl by Carter Wilson (Sourcebooks Landmark). At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn’t exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice’s own father in a series of popular graphic novels.
Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but Mister Tender is never far behind. He will come with a smile that seduces, and a dark whisper in her ear…
Inspired by a true story, this gripping thriller plunges you into a world of haunting memories and unseen threats, leaving you guessing until the harrowing end.
BEST SHORT STORY ITW NOMINEES
“The Victims’ Club” by Jeffery Deaver (Amazon Original Stories)
“10,432 Serial Killers (In Hell)” by Emily Devenport (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
“Window to the Soul” by Scott Loring Sanders (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
“Nana” in Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology #2 by Helen Smith (Killer Women Ltd.)
“Tough Guy Ballet” in Foe The Sake of The Game: Stories Inspired By The Sherlock Holmes Canon by Duane Swierczynski (Pegasus Books)
BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL ITW NOMINEES
Girl At The Grave by Teri Bailey Black (Tor Teen). In Girl at the Grave, debut author Teri Bailey Black unearths the long-buried secrets of a small 1850s New England town in this richly atmospheric Gothic tale of murder, guilt, redemption, and finding love where least expected.
A mother hanged for murder. A daughter left to pick up the pieces of their crumbling estate. Can she clear her family’s name if it means facing her own dark past?
Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother’s legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.
Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end.
The Lies They Tell by Gillian French (HarperTeen). Everyone in Tenney’s Harbor knows about the Garrison tragedy. How an unexplained fire ravaged their house, killing four of the five family members. But what people don’t know is who did it.
All fingers point at Pearl Haskins’ father, who was the caretaker of the property, but Pearl just doesn’t believe it. Leave it to a town of rich people to blame “the help.”
With her disgraced father now trying to find work in between booze benders, Pearl’s future doesn’t hold much more than waiting tables at the local country club, where the wealthy come to flaunt their money and spread their gossip. This year, Tristan, the last surviving Garrison, and his group of affluent and arrogant friends have made a point of sitting in Pearl’s section. Though she’s repulsed by most of them, Tristan’s quiet sadness and somber demeanor have her rethinking her judgments.
Befriending the boys could mean getting closer to the truth, clearing her father’s name, and giving Tristan the closure he seems to be searching for. But it could also trap Pearl in a sinister web of secrets, lies, and betrayals that would leave no life unchanged…if it doesn’t take hers first.
Warcross by Marie Lu (Penguin Young Readers/G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers). For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit.
Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job.
With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
People Like Us by Dana Mele (Penguin Young Readers/G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers). Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit.
But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation.
But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.
Debut author Dana Mele has written a taut, sophisticated suspense novel that will keep readers guessing until the very end.
The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). When recent high school graduate Cameron Carter lands an internship with Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC, he thinks it is his ticket out of small town captivity. What he lacks in connections and Beltway polish he makes up in smarts, and he soon finds a friend and mentor in fellow staffer Ariel Lancaster.
That is, until she winds up dead. As rumors and accusations about her death fly around Capitol Hill, Cameron’s low profile makes him the perfect candidate for an FBI investigation that he wants no part of. Before he knows it—and with his family’s future at stake—he discovers DC’s darkest secrets as he races to expose a deadly conspiracy. If it doesn’t get him killed first.
BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL ITW NOMINEES
Murder on The Marshes by Clare Chase (Bookouture). Samantha Seabrook – an ambitious young woman with a chequered past – is found drowned in the ornamental fountain of a locked Cambridge courtyard. The only clue is an antique silver chain wound tightly around her throat.
It’s local reporter Tara Thorpe’s job to discover what happened to Miss Seabrook – but the case becomes personal when she learns that Samantha had been receiving threatening messages… rather like the one that landed on the doorstep of Tara’s little cottage the night the woman died.
Together with Detective Inspector Garstin Blake, Tara follows a lead that takes her to the deep and watery fens on the outskirts of the city. But there’s something Tara can’t quite admit to Blake about her past – and it could make all the difference to whether they crack the case before the killer strikes again.
Executive Force by Gary Grossman (Diversion Books). The fourth standalone thriller in The Executive Series finds Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke on a serial assassin’s trail—one that leads to a clandestine North Korean plot and a nuclear standoff.
Instability and fear seize the nation. Local and national political figures are systematically assassinated. A growing secessionist movement stirs up anti-government fervor. The combination creates nationwide unrest and lack of confidence in leadership. With the clock ticking toward a monumental constitutional crisis, President Morgan Taylor assigns Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke to investigate the assassinations.
Meanwhile, Roarke’s fiancée, an assistant to the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, is tasked with researching the separatists. Attorney Katie Kessler goes rogue to gather evidence for the court. Roarke hunts a lone assassin across two continents. Their paths lead them both to a decades-old plot hatched at a private school in Switzerland, now leading to North Korea.
With the assassin ready to make his greatest kill and critical destabilizing votes occurring state-by-state, the president must decide whether to activate America’s own secretive, long-incubating active measures against an enemy that can’t be exposed, but must be stopped. Timely and revealing, with an inside-out view of real and present dangers, Executive Force brings a political reality to the page that feels like breaking news.
The Reunion by Samantha Hayes (Bookouture). They were all there the day your sister went missing. Who is lying? Who is next?
THEN – In charge of her little sister at the beach, Claire allowed Eleanor to walk to the shop alone to buy an ice cream. Placing a coin into her hand, Claire told her to be quick, knowing how much she wanted the freedom. Eleanor never came back.
NOW – The time has finally come to sell the family farm and Claire is organising a reunion of her dearest friends, the same friends who were present the day her sister went missing.
When another girl disappears, long-buried secrets begin to surface. One of the group hides the darkest secret of them all.
The Memory Detective by T.S. Nichols (Alibi). Cole remembers what it’s like to be murdered. That’s how he does his job. The operation takes eight hours with a dead body on the table next to his; when it’s over, he’s flooded with images, thoughts, recollections, some hazy, some crystal clear. They all come straight from the victim’s brain—right up until his or her final chilling moments.
Cole’s career in homicide has wreaked havoc on his personal life. As usual, his new case—a young runaway battered to death with a hammer—consumes all his waking moments . . . and then some. Haunted by the Jane Doe’s hopes, desires, and fears, Cole mentally retraces her every move, from Kansas to New York City, to track down a killer.
But Cole has a terrible suspicion that someone is using the same memory-transfer science for a very different purpose. In fact, he’s already being watched. Because Cole’s the only one standing in the way of a ruthless corporation that’s harvesting people for their most intimate memories—and eliminating anyone who stands in the way.
Pray For The Innocent by Alan Orloff (Kindle Press). Can former best-selling novelist Mathias King–now a rumpled, grizzled English professor–save America from a terrorist of his own making?
In the shadow of the Pentagon, a secret DoD brain research experiment goes terribly wrong, and an ex-Special Ops soldier escapes, believing he is Viktor Dragunov, the Russian operative from the 80’s thriller novel, Attack on America. To capture him, the Feds turn to the person uniquely qualified to predict his next moves, the man who created the fictional character, best-selling author Mathias King.
Now a reclusive English professor, King is reluctant to get involved, having sworn off the culture of violence after a deranged fan murdered his wife. But when innocent people start dying, King is thrust back into that dark world. With help from his enthusiastic graduate assistant Emily Phan, King must outsmart his own creation–while outmaneuvering the cover-up-loving Feds–before Dragunov succeeds in his hell-bent mission. To destroy America.
ITW will announce the winners at ThrillerFest XIV on July 13, 2019 at the Grand Hyatt, New York City.