Well it’s time for Erin from Deep South Magazine to share the mystery list of all mystery lists for the summer. Prepare to have thrills and chills as Erin has found 12 of the HOTTEST books to talk about- even a pick from the book lover of all book lovers, Reese Witherspoon! Read on for Erin’s picks and prepare to have your summer TBR list overflow with mystery goodness!
With so many new titles by big names like Megan Abbott, B.A. Paris, J.P. Delaney, Riley Sager and Ruth Ware coming out this summer, a new mysteries list was just begging to be had. Of course, everyone loves a good beach read, but what about a summer thriller that has you afraid to go in the water? From spouses and friends disappearing on vacation to a creepy summer camp, sibling rivalry and a dream honeymoon gone awry, this list will have you shivering despite the 100-plus degree temperature outside.
Many of these books are out now, with several releasing in July and one in August to get you through the dog days of summer. Get ready for some twists and turns, unreliable narrators and lots of secrets. A staycation with these books might be just what you need to stay safe.
B.A. Paris’s third novel has a young couple on vacation in France. They stop at a service station to use the restroom, and Layla, the wife, disappears. Well, that’s what husband Finn told the police, but it’s not the whole story. Ten years later, Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. (Hard not to suspect him, right?) Not long before they are married, Finn gets a phone call saying that someone from his past has seen Layla. Other strange things keep happening, like a Russian doll of Layla’s turning up on the doorstep and emails from strangers who know too much. If Layla is alive, how much does she know? And should you suspect Finn, Ellen or someone else?
If you read: Fans of B.A. Paris’s past novels Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown will want to check out Bring Me Back, but reader reviews are mixed. Some say this book is over the top and too predictable, while others enjoyed the wild ride. You’ll have to decide for yourself. Just know you won’t look at Russian dolls the same again after this book.
It’s a good day when secret queen Emily Carpenter publishes a new novel. Readers are probably still reeling from last year’s The Weight of Lies, but Carpenter has managed to suck us in again. Her setting is another spooky house in Georgia, this time a Victorian in the mountains where couple Daphne and Heath go for a retreat. Heath is working with psychologist Dr. Matthew Cerny to treat his recurring nightmares, and Daphne agrees to go along for the ride. Once they arrive, things are not at all what they seem, and Daphne realizes she may never be able to escape her own nightmare.
If you read: Get ready to turn pages late into the night as you try to figure out what the heck is going on at this creepy retreat. Fans of Wuthering Heights will also want to know that Carpenter channeled Emily Bronte for this one, hence the themes of love and obsession. She also successfully created a feeling of being “trapped,” so you may want to read this book outdoors.
The author of In A Dark, Dark Wood and last year’s The Lying Game is back with another suspenseful thriller. The Death of Mrs. Westaway combines an inheritance with tarot cards, a rambling mansion and lots of secrets. Main character Hal Westaway will tug at readers’ heartstrings as she travels to Trepassen House—still devastated by the death of her mother—to try and claim an inheritance that is not hers. Even though young Hal desperately needs the money, she realizes something is very, very wrong once she arrives at the house. She’s not the only one keeping secrets, and one member of the Westaway family may be prepared to kill her to keep their own hidden.
If you read: The black and white cover for this book is not appealing, but look beyond it because this book is deeply layered inside. You’ll want to just give Hal a big hug and also a blanket, because that house is freezing cold. We liked the tarot card aspect as well. Ware has a lot going on in this book, but she pulls it together beautifully.
Riley Sager shocked readers last year with his first thriller Final Girls—and the fact that he’s a man. Now he’s back with a story about a creepy summer camp. Emma Davis played the game Two Truths and a Lie with her friends Vivian, Natalie and Allison in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. The last time Emma or anyone saw the girls was when they were sneaking out of the cabin in the dead of night. Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings, which catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.
If you read: Who doesn’t love a campy but deadly story? While Final Girls was definitely more slasher, Sager shows off his writing chops with this one and readers seem to like it more. His ending has also been called “genius,” but let us know what you think. Oh, and cancel that trip to summer camp.
We couldn’t resist this supernatural thriller Stephen King describes as “hypnotic and totally original.” Best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe share a bond so intense that it borders on the mystical. But before Jon can declare his love for his soulmate, he is kidnapped, his plans for a normal life permanently dashed. Four years later, Jon reappears bigger, stronger and with no memory of the time he was gone. He also suspects he may possess strange powers that could hurt the people he loves. Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island, healthy college students and townies with no connection to one another are suddenly dropping dead. A troubled detective suspects a serial killer at work, but when he starts asking questions is plunged into a whodunit worthy of his most outlandish obsessions.
If you read: Jon’s kidnapper leaves him with the H.P. Lovecraft book The Dunwich Horror, so that should tell you something, but Kepnes writes such rich characters that you’ll be more enthralled than scared. She wraps a coming of age love story into a thriller that Kirkus compares to “Beauty and the Beast.”
A Reese Witherspoon book club pick, this one takes us to Bora Bora, where Erin, a documentary filmmaker, and Mark, a handsome investment banker, embark on a dream honeymoon. While scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. 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? But their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events …
If you read: We’re inclined to listen to Reese Witherspoon if she says to read something, but her endorsement combined with the setting of Bora Bora? It’s almost too good to be true. Save this one for a long plane ride or beach chair. Just don’t go in the water.
We’re upping the creep factor with this book about a seven-year-old little girl who’s determined to destroy her mother. Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen decided to start a family with her husband Alex anyway. But Hanna proves to be a difficult child to say the least. She has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write, and is resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. Suzette can see the increasing hatred and jealousy in Hanna’s eyes and fears her very life may be in grave danger.
If you read: “The Bad Seed” reimagined, Hanna immediately calls to mind Rhoda, the pigtailed little girl who lies, cheats and kills in the original 1956 film. Because Hanna is nonverbal, only the reader knows her true thoughts and feelings. While you’ll feel some empathy for this misunderstood child, you’ll also agree that Suzette needs to get out of that house.
There’s always cause to celebrate when a new Megan Abbott book releases, and this one feels like it’s been a long time coming. Abbott once again shows us the terrifying side of high schools girls in Give Me Your Hand. Kit Owens harbored only modest ambitions for herself when the mysterious Diane Fleming appeared in her high school chemistry class. But Diane’s academic brilliance lit a fire in Kit, and the two developed an unlikely friendship—until Diane shared a secret that changed everything between them. Ten years later, Kit thinks she’s put Diane behind her forever, but the past comes roaring back when she discovers that Diane is her competition for a position both women covet.
If you read: What could go wrong in a story about secrets, rivalry and female relationships? “No one maps the thrilling and sometimes dangerous intensity of female friendships better than Megan Abbott,” says Tom Perrotta, and he’s absolutely right. This book has already been optioned for TV so more reason to celebrate.
If it’s twists and turns you’re after, then this is the book for you. As good as last year’s The Girl Before, Believe Me introduces us to struggling actor Claire, who works as a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers to make ends meet. Claire’s job is to entrap straying husbands, but then the game changes. When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession. Claire knows she can do this, until the lines get blurred and she’s no longer sure who is the decoy and who is the prey.
If you read: Get ready for lovable unreliable narrator Claire. This book is a wild ride and just when you think you know what’s going on, Delaney switches gears. It’s so smartly done that it works though. You may also want to get a companion book of Baudelaire’s poetry, but keep that one to yourself.
Debut novelist Alex Dahl brings us another unreliable narrator and a situation that will have you asking yourself: What would I do? Cecilia Wilborg has it all—a loving husband, two beautiful daughters and a gorgeous home in the affluent Norwegian town of Sandefjord. And she works hard to keep it all together, but one mistake from her past could bring it all crashing down around her. When someone forgets to pick up their little boy at the local pool, Cecilia agrees to take him home, only to find an abandoned, empty house. It’s the first step in the unraveling of her meticulously crafted life, causing her world to collide with that of junkie Annika Lucasson. There’s only one problem: Annika Lucasson knows her secret, and Cecilia is desperate to make it all go away.
If you read: Parents will struggle with their emotions reading this one and probably won’t be on Team Cecilia, but as she reveals more and more of her backstory, along with Annika’s, you’ll find yourself questioning her sanity and her motives. And you won’t be able to put this book down until the end, so it’s going to be a late night.
One of Traveling With T’s Beach Reads, Girls Night Out will draw you in with the cover alone, but the premise of a girls getaway to Mexico where one of the girls disappears will have you hooked. For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.
If you read: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke deliver on domestic drama. Instead of taking a gamble on your own girls trip, just read this book and live vicariously through these three friends. You’ll keep turning pages needing to know what happened to Ashley and at least you’ll still be alive.
Penny and Hattie are sisters in a small town, bound tight to the point of knots. They share a secret they cannot escape, even while it pulls them apart. One night, a match is lit, and Penny’s terrible husband is killed—a marriage going up in flames, and offering the potential of a new life. The sisters retreat into their family home, a house of secrets and memories, and try to live in the shadow of what they put in motion. But under a cloud of long-held resentments, sibling rivalry and debts unpaid, the bonds of sisterhood begin to crack.
If you read: Ahh, sisters. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Petrou captures the fragile bond that exists between sisters perfectly, and her imagery of their town and family home is both beautiful and stifling. There’s a twist at the end, so keep reading.
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*Which mystery will you pick up first?*
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T