A thriller isn’t just a catch-all term that encapsulates aspects of crime fiction, mystery and its adrenaline-pumping hybrids—it’s a state of mind. Or rather, states of mind. A page-turner that induces feelings of anxiety, suspense, impatience and incredulity—sometimes all at once—these are the defining characteristics of the binge-iest of all literary genres.
With those qualities in mind, here are nine new fall thrillers guaranteed to put you through the gamut of emotions.
After an ugly divorce and embarrassing career misfire, former meteorologist Allison Simpson is looking to press reset on her life. Hoping to turn things around, she takes a job housesitting in a posh beach community outside Philadelphia called Opal Beach. Before she’s unpacked her bags, however, she’s pulled into a decades-old cold case involving a missing girl. The first novel from the award-winning Virginia-based short story writer, Laskowski’s debut bears all the hallmarks of a spicy whodunit with enough twists and turns to make you wonder if the book should come with a GPS.
Out now. Harlequin Books.One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski
Elevators are going into freefall in midtown Manhattan, killing their occupants in gruesome ways, and no one quite knows why. Are these tragedies the result of mechanical failure or something more sinister? And how do these events link up with an alt-right group and the city’s shady mayor? Dubbed the “thriller king” and praised by no less than Stephen King himself, Toronto-based author Linwood Barclay has fashioned a buzzy noir-ish tale, complete with hard-as-nails journos, anxious detectives and shady politicos. (There’s even a corpse with a cobra tattoo.) This reader will be taking the stairs from now on.
Out now. Penguin Random House.
Leilani Santiago has come home to Kaua’i to care for her mother, recently diagnosed with MS, and to help out at the family’s “shave ice” store. One night, she discovers the body of a young man in the back of the store, a shocking crime incident that throws her extended family into chaos. The irreverent, Croc-wearing Santiago is an unlikely amateur sleuth, but that’s Hirahara’s specialty (she’s the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series, which focuses on a Japanese-American gardener/sleuth). The story has something of a millennial Jessica Fletcher in Hawaii vibe–complete with a tight-knit community filled with unique portraits of individuals concealing secrets of their own.
Out now. Prospect Park Books.
Rain Winter survived a terrifying near-abduction by a violent offender as a child, but has had to live with the fact that her two young friends weren’t as lucky. Now a doting mother, the former journalist finds herself obsessed by the murder of another brutal killer by what appears to be a vigilante. The acclaimed bestselling author of 16 novels, Unger reinvigorates a familiar crime fiction plotline (it’s been compared to Mystic River) and invests it with insights into the nature of violence and real psychological suspense (I binged this one). An intense, often-hypnotic split narrative, Stranger Inside offers a compelling and compassionate view into minds both broken and re-formed by trauma.
Out now. Park Row Books.
Naomi is the “child finder,” an investigator that specializes in finding missing children. (This is the second novel that centres on Naomi. The first, The Child Finder, was published in 2017.) For Naomi this is a vocation, not a job–a way to discover her own “missing” past. At age nine she escaped the clutches of a serial sexual predator who also held her younger sister in an underground bunker. Trauma has “wiped her memory clean,” and twenty-five years later she returns to the Oregon town from which she fled all those years ago in the hopes of reclaiming her past and learning what happened to her sister. If you hadn’t guessed already, the award- winning author’s third novel is a pitch-dark tale full of trauma and trouble (and one that is no doubt inspired by Denfeld’s real-life experience as investigator for a public defender). Mercifully, however, the narrative doesn’t get stuck in those shadows but chases the light.
Out now. Harper Collins Canada.
L.A. investigator Aaron Gunner is working yet another case that looks like one thing but turns out to be another. A white woman has been shot and a former employee, a young Black army vet, is charged with the deed. At the same time, the 60-year-old PI, who runs his business from the back of a barbershop, is trying to come to terms with a murder-suicide in his family. The seventh novel in the Aaron Gunner series, Good Man is urbane and edgy. Reminiscent of classic noir PI tales, it draws you in with a cast of real-feeling characters and singular descriptions like “the bartender held her ground, looming from her side of the bar like a grizzly bear that had learned to cross its arms.” In the end, it goes beyond solving crime to meditate on the inexplicable: the point at which a good person goes bad.
Out October 9. Prospect Park Books.
Libby Jones is the only survivor of a death cult that claimed her entire family (or so she believes.) Rescued from the house of horrors as an infant and adopted by a loving family, on her 25th birthday she comes into a surprising inheritance: the multi-million-pound Chelsea house where the whole dark tragedy took place. (The story is set in London, England.) The 18th novel from the New York Times bestselling author, The Family Upstairs is a psychological thriller that focuses on the dark undercurrents that run along family lines. Carve out some serious sofa time. You may well want to finish this twisted tale in a weekend.
Out October 29. Simon and Schuster Canada.
Morgan Kincaid is having a day. The sorrowful young widow is just waiting for the subway when she’s approached by a distressed woman holding a baby in her arms. The woman hands the baby to Morgan, begs her to care for the child, and then inexplicably leaps into the path of the oncoming train. Who is this woman and why did she choose Morgan to take her baby? Did the woman jump or was she pushed? Such are the mysteries that begin this debut by Toronto-based writer Samantha Bailey. Like the subway train, this story races towards its final destination with breakneck speed.
Out November 26. Simon and Schuster Canada.
Who doesn’t love a prep school/secret society/inexplicable murders tale? Ellison’s follow-up to her bestselling Lie to Me, takes place at a tony private girls’ prep school in Virginia. The story centres on Ash Carlisle, an English teenager with a tragic backstory (both of her well-to-do parents died within weeks of one another and in suspicious circumstances) and her attempts to fit in among the elite student body. What seems like a fish-out-of-water story soon evolves into something much a lot more fishy, as Ash’s classmates starting turning up dead. Not a story you want to pause to parse for its plausibility, let this one take you on its lawless ride.
Out December 30. Mira Books.
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