Traditionally, summer is when readers are supposed to reach for undemanding page-turners to take on holiday, but – as sales figures bear out – many people prefer meatier, more challenging fare. I have tried to suggest books to suit as wide a range of tastes as possible: the only thing that these crime and thriller titles have in common is that they are all, in their different ways, excellent reads.
When East, a 15 year-old-lookout for a Los Angeles drug organisation, loses his watch house in a police raid, his boss recruits him for a very different job: a road trip straight down the middle of white, rural America to assassinate a judge in Wisconsin. This mash-up of rite of passage and road trip is a gripping literary crime novel.
Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about addiction. There they share their deepest secrets: stories of lies, regret, and above all, shame. Then one of them is killed – and it’s clear one of the circle was responsible… An intense, intriguing and insightful thriller from the creator of D.I. Tom Thorne.
For four long years, journalist Morgan Vine has campaigned for the release of her childhood sweetheart Danny Kilcannon – convicted, on dubious evidence, of murdering his 14 year-old stepdaughter. When a key witness recants, Danny is released from prison. With nowhere else to go, he relies on single mum Morgan and her teenage daughter, Lissa… But then Lissa goes missing. With a tense did-he-or-didn’t-he plot and plenty of cliffhangers, this is an assured start to what promises to be a splendid series.
Published in 1931, The Floating Admiral was the first of the Detection Club’s collaborative novels, with contributions from, amongst others, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and G.K. Chesterton. Now, eighty-five years later, fourteen members of the club have repeated this unique game of literary consequences to create The Sinking Admiral, an ebullient and archetypal whodunit that will keep readers guessing right up to the dénouement.
Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable lives are suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in…. Now, there’s something chilling in the air. Who secretly hates everyone? Who is tortured by their past? Who is capable of murder? This psychological thriller is sharp, unsettling and very tense indeed.
Stockholm 1856. An orphaned boy brought up to serve the state as a man. A rich young woman incapable of living by the conventions of society. Neither is prepared for the journey into the heat, mystery, violence and disorienting perpetual daylight of the far North to solve a murder. A strong historical mystery with subtle characterisation and an excellent sense of place.
Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her home in the mountains when her car breaks down. A stranger comes to her aid and Éliette offers him a lift, glad of the interruption to her humdrum routine. That night, her neighbours’ son is killed in a road accident. Could the tragedy be linked to the arrival of her good Samaritan? A small but perfectly formed piece of darkest noir fiction told in spare, mordant prose.
Amber Knight is London’s hottest ticket – pop star, film star, front-page, gossip. Nick Belsey is less celebrated. His career at Hampstead CID is coming to a dishonourable end, but a knock on the door is about to lead Belsey straight into the hollow heart of Amber’s glittering life – a world populated by the glamorous and the lonely, the desperate and the obsessed. A fast-paced, exciting and all-round tasty London thriller.
Dark secrets are revealed when a teenage girl disappears after causing a fatal car crash, leading D.I. Marnie Rome to the enigmatic Harm, collector of waifs and strays. Taut, intelligent and chilling, Hilary’s third novel more than lives up to its excellent predecessors.
Down-on-his-luck artist Scott Burroughs is offered a lift in the Bateman family’s private jet. Just minutes after take-off, the plane crashes into the ocean and of the eight passengers and three crew, only Scott and the Batemans’ small son, JJ, are left alive. The extraordinary nature of their survival, combined with the fact that David Bateman was CEO of a populist TV news channel, leads to a maelstrom of speculation, which soon overtakes the official investigation into the tragedy. Who else was on the plane? Was there a bomb? Who is Scott Burroughs? A stunning literary thriller.
One morning, Sophie wakes to find that the little boy in her care is dead. She has no memory of what happened, and whatever the truth, her side of the story is no match for the evidence against her. Her only hiding place is in a new identity and a new life, with a man she has met online – but Sophie is not the only one keeping secrets… A superb standalone from the author of the Brigade Criminelle trilogy.
Newly elected State’s Attorney Lousia Brant is prosecuting her first murder – a mentally disturbed homeless man who is accused of beating a woman to death. The case dredges up painful recollections of an incident in her childhood. Uncertain of her own memories, she begins to ask questions, and realises that the answers may be hard to live with… Engrossing and disturbing, this is one of Lippman’s best.
When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea. But what really happened to Coco? Over two intense weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father – the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed… A white-knuckle read that packs a hefty emotional punch.
Clare Riordan and her son Mikey are abducted from Clapham Common early one morning. Hours later, the boy is found wandering disorientated. Soon after, a pack of Clare’s blood is left on a doorstep in the heart of the City of London. Alice Quentin is brought in to help the traumatised child uncover his memories – which might lead them to his mother’s captors. But she swiftly realises Clare is not the first victim… nor will she be the last. Atmospheric and pacey, this is a splendid psychological thriller.
London, 1666. In the aftermath of the great fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in a tomb that should have been empty. Reluctant government informer James Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city, but at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, the investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman. Complex and evocative, this is both a thrilling mystery and a thoroughly-researched, vivid picture of a long-vanished city.
I hope you get to enjoy some uninterrupted reading time this Summer, and please do get in touch on twitter (@killerwomenorg) if you pick up any of the books on my list – we’d love to know what your favourite Beach Noir book is.
– Laura Wilson