17 Must-Read Mysteries & Thrillers for Summer 2021
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t enjoyed a good ‘beach read’ in years. Ever since I became a parent, to be precise. Between being a lifeguard, doling out snacks, applying sunscreen, and inflating an endless supply of water toys, there’s no way I can tuck into a good book.
For me, summer reads are best consumed in a shady hammock, or in a cool, dark bedroom as the heat rages outside and the kids are otherwise occupied. Maybe that’s why I’m more drawn to mysteries and thrillers than any other genre. If you are too, here’s a list of must-read sure to provide enough chills to keep you cool for summer 2021.
Dead Dead Girls, by Nekesa Afia
The first in a planned series of historical mysteries set during the Harlem Renaissance, Dead Dead Girls follows the story of Louise, who is trying to live a normal life and forget the trauma of her past. But Black girls keeps showing up dead near the café where Louise works, and near Harlem’s hottest speakeasy where she and her girlfriend Rosa Maria are regulars. Now the police want Louise to help them solve the crimes, forcing her to relive the horrors of her past while confronting a brutal criminal mastermind.
The Hunting Wives, by May Cobb
Sophie O’Neill is restless and bored living in the small Texas town she and her husband and young son have just moved to. That is, until she discovers an elite, secret society called the Hunting Wives. Late night target practices are nothing compared to what else these rich socialites get up to after dark. Before long, Sophie finds herself fully immersed in their wicked web, and when the body of a teenage girl turns up in the woods where the Wives meet, Sophie must confront the fact that her new life is spiraling out of control.
The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Named one the most-anticipated books of 2021 by Time, the Washington Post, People, Marie Claire, and others, The Other Black Girl is part mystery thriller, part social commentary, and entirely fantastic. Nella Rogers is thrilled when (finally!) another Black girl starts working at Wagner Books. But is Harlem-born and bred Hazel everything she seems? When threatening notes start showing up on Nella’s desk just as Hazel ascends to the status of office favourite, Nella realizes much more than just her job might be at stake.
The Photographer, by Mary Dixie Carter
As a photographer, Delta Dawn has unique access to the lives of New York’s most elite and seemingly perfect families. But after Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday party, Delta Dawn decides she doesn’t want to be behind the camera anymore. Before long, her status is elevated to friend, babysitter, and Straub family confidant, and Delta Dawn realizes that photos aren’t the only thing she’s good at manipulating.
The Girls Are All So Nice Here, by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Who can resist a juicy thriller about youthful mistakes and secrets long kept? The Girls Are All So Nice Here follows college besties Ambrosia and Sloane as they reunite for their 10-year reunion. But the women soon realize that someone knows what they did in their freshmen year, and that person wants more than just the truth. The Girls Are All So Nice Here captures the sometimes venomous and brutal nature of female friendships, desire, and ambition, and what happens when the games we play become a matter of life and death.
Hostage, by Clare Mackintosh
Set during the inaugural non-stop flight from Sydney to London, flight attendant Mina tries to focus on her job but concerns about her young daughter and cracked marriage make it difficult. Then someone hands her a note, someone who intends to stop the plane from reaching its final destination. A master of suspense, Clare Mackintosh’s books just keeps getting better. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out I Let You Go, her blockbuster thriller from 2016.
Arsenic and Adobo, by Mia P. Manansala
Food and crime? Yes please! When Lila Macapagal moves home to recover from a nasty breakup she has no idea what she’s in for. First there’s the failing restaurant she’s asked to take over, then the constant attempts at matchmaking. But the real problem comes in form of the untimely death of a poison-pen food critic who just happens to be Lila’s ex. In order for Lila to prove she’s not a murderer (and save the family business) she begins her own investigation. Could Lila’s own neck be the next one on the chopping block?
What’s Done in Darkness, by Laura McHugh
There is only one silver lining following seventeen-year old Sarabeth’s horrific abduction: she can now leave her family’s home in the Ozarks where the rules are too strict, the dresses too long, and everyone treats her like damaged goods. But five years later, when Sarabeth is still struggling to get on with her life, another girl goes missing under similar circumstances. And when FBI agent Nick Farrow forces Sarabeth to return home, the place she fears most, Sarabeth must confront not only her estranged family but her deepest fears.
The First Day of Spring, by Nancy Tucker
Eight year-old Chrissie has just killed a boy. It’s a secret, of course, one that makes her belly feel fizzy, like her favourite soda pop. The killing makes Chrissie feel powerful and helps her forget about the things happening at home. But twenty years later, after Chrissie changes her name and goes into hiding, terrifying phone calls prove the past has finally caught up her. All Chrissie wants is to give her young daughter the life she never had, but will she be able to protect them both? Balancing both humour and horror, Nancy Tucker’s debut novel is perfect for fans of The Push and Babyteeth.
Madam, by Phoebe Wynn
At 26-years-old, classics teacher Rose Christie still can’t quite believe that Caldonbrae Hall, a prestigious all-girls boarding school, has chosen her to be its new department head. Perched high above the treacherous Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has been a beacon of excellence and elitism for more than a century. But Rose can’t stop wondering what really happened to her predecessor. Soon, she’s forced to come to terms with the truth about this illustrious institution, and her own role in perpetuating its secrets and dark purpose. With its haunting backdrop, biting feminism, and fascinating cast of characters, Madam is must-read for anyone who’s a sucker for dark gothic mysteries, with a twist.
Coming Soon: June/July 2021
Survive the Night, by Riley Sager (June 29)
Charlie’s best friend has just been murdered, the third victim of the terrifying campus killer. Charlie needs to get away so she heads home to Ohio, sharing a ride with Josh, who she meets via the campus ride board. Josh seems nice, but why won’t he let Charlie look in the trunk, and why are there so many holes in his story about the sick father he says he’s on his way to visit? Together, Josh and Charlie travel a series of twisting, deserted highways in the dead of night and soon, Charlie will have to decide if she’s sharing a car with a killer, or if her nerves and imagination are getting the better of her. Before too long, the only question that matters will be, will Charlie survive the night?
Kill All Your Darlings, by David Bell (July 6)
After English professor Connor Nye loses his wife and son, he struggles for years to publish his first book: a thriller about the murder of a young woman. But Connor’s problems really begin when the book’s true author, his missing student, turns up on his doorstep making threats about exposure. Before long, Connor is implicated in an unsolved murder from two years ago and he must choose between admitting his lies or keeping silent and risking everything. With echoes of the 2020 blockbuster My Dark Vanessa, Kill All Your Darlings explores the consequences of lies and betrayal, as well as sexual harassment in academia and the attempts of the powerful to cover it up.
The Stranger in the Mirror, by Liv Constantine (July 6)
Years after Addison is found bleeding and alone beside a New Jersey highway, she’s preparing for her upcoming wedding while still struggling to come to terms with the fact she doesn’t know who she is. While fully recovered physically, Addison has no memory of what happened before she was found, and she can’t shake the feeling she may have done something really, really bad. Miles away in Boston, Julian can’t stop obsessing over what happened to his loving wife Cassandra who disappeared without a trace two years ago, leaving him alone with their seven year-old daughter. As these two lives intersect, the result is a psychological thriller with twists and turns aplenty.
Such a Quiet Place, by Megan Miranda (July 13)
It’s been 18 months since the murders of Brandon and Fiona Truett, and the once-idyllic enclave of Hollow’s Edge has become a prison. Unable to sell their houses, the residents struggle to get past not only the brutal crime that occurred right in their midst, but the ensuing testimonies implicating one of their own. Now, with her conviction overturned and nowhere else to go, Ruby Fletcher is back in Hollow’s Edge and living once again with Harper Nash. It doesn’t take long for the accusations to start flying and for the residents of Hollow’s Edge to realize that not everyone told the truth about that terrible night. And when mysterious notes start showing up, Harper has little choice but to try and uncover the truth, or become a killer’s next victim.
Coming Soon: August 2021
The Turnout, by Megan Abbott (August 3)
For fans of You Will Know Me and The End of Everything comes Megan Abbott’s latest book, The Turnout. This time, Abbott takes her readers inside the heady world of competitive dance. After a suspicious accident occurs at the prestigious Durant School of Dance (on the eve of the school’s annual production of The Nutcracker no less), co-owners Dara and Marie, along with Dara’s husband Charlie, must come to terms with how the delicate balance of roles and responsibilities has been upended. Featuring Abbott’s trademark addictive prose and biting insights, The Turnout lifts the curtain on family ties, sexuality, power. and femininity, and will have you compulsively turning pages right to the very end.
We Were Never Here, by Andrea Bartz (August 3)
Best Friends Emily and Kristen have terrible luck with backpackers. First there was last year’s trip when someone ended up dead. Now, in the mountains of Chile, the unthinkable has happened again. When Emily returns to their hotel room on the last night of their trip to find the room covered in blood and broken glass, Kristen claims she was attacked by the cute guy she brought home. Emily has a hard time believing lightning could strike twice so she returns home to Wisconsin, committed to burying the trauma of these events. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit Emily has no choice but to confront some terrible realities. How long can past events stay buried, and will denying the truth about her closest friend cost Emily her life?
A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins (August 31)
Back in 2015, Paula Hawkins wrote a book called The Girl on the Train. Maybe you heard of it? The follow up, Into The Water, featured a similar slate of twists and turns and untrustworthy characters. Now, Hawkins is back with A Slow Fire Burning featuring three women: Laura, a troubled, hot-tempered loner; Miriam, a woman who knows all too well what it’s like to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; and Carla, who’s dealing with the devastating effects of her nephew’s brutal slaying. Each woman is unquestionably damaged in her own way, but damaged enough to kill?