Thrillers and Suspense
A Beautiful Crime by Christopher BollenStarring: Nicholas Brink, who trades New York for Venice when his new boyfriend is called back to the Floating City to claim an inheritance; Clay Guillory, Nick's grounded boyfriend who has a long history with the city; Venice itself, which is portrayed in all of its lush (but decaying) glory.
The scheme: Nick gets greedy upon seeing the beautiful but decrepit palazzo Clay has inherited a share in, and soon talks a reluctant Clay into a risky but lucrative antiques hustle that quickly goes awry.
Read it for: the compelling relationship between Nick and Clay, which has more depth than it initially seems to; the tone, which manages to evoke both Patricia Highsmith and André Aciman.
No Bad Deed by Heather ChavezThe setup: California veterinarian Cassie Larkin is driving home when she witnesses a man assaulting a woman on the road. Despite a 911 dispatcher's warning, Cassie confronts the man, who then threatens her before driving off in her car.
The payback: Although Cassie is glad to have saved the woman's life, the threat haunts her even as the police assure her that she's safe. Then Cassie's husband disappears, seemingly having abandoned their young daughter while he took her trick-or-treating.
Reviewers say: "a paranoia-fueled thrill ride" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Holdout by Graham MooreWhat it's about: the long-simmering consequences of a highly charged trial, in which Maya Seale convinced her fellow jurors to acquit an African American teacher accused of murdering a white 15-year-old.
Ten years later: A true crime documentary about the case gathers the former jury together again, and revisiting the trial dredges up secrets and resentments that everyone is hiding, with fatal consequences and another person wrongly accused of murder.
You might also like: other fast-paced legal thrillers like Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow and Invisible by Andrew Grant, which also deal with revenge.
The Only Child by Mi-ae SeoWhat it is: Appearing for the first time in English, this creepy psychological thriller asks if serial killers are born or made, and if anything can be done to save them.
Starring: Seonkyeong, a forensic psychologist who lives with her husband Jaeseong in Seoul; Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer who finally agrees to be profiled but only if Seonkyeong does it; and 11-year-old Hayeong, Jaeseong's daughter from his first marriage.
What happens: Hayeong moves in with her father and stepmother after a suspicious fire kills the maternal grandparents who had been raising her, and Seonkyeong begins to see disturbing parallels between her new stepdaughter and the manipulative serial killer she's interviewing.
The Girlfriend by Michelle FrancesWhat it's about: Successful TV producer Laura Cavendish shares a strong bond with her medical student son Daniel. Any girl Daniel brings home would struggle to meet Laura's high expectations, and his new girlfriend Cherry doesn't come close.
The other woman: Cherry is beautiful and ambitious, but also from the wrong side of the tracks. Even worse, she isn't fazed by Laura's elitism and manipulation, and she's determined to hang onto Daniel, who she wants to marry for his family's wealth.
Why you might like it: The narrative alternates between Cherry and Laura's points of view, which keeps their intensifying conflict from feeling over-the-top.
The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. RichWhat goes down: Criminology grad student Morgan Prager arrives home to discover the mutilated body of her fiancé Bennett, seemingly killed by her beloved rescue dogs. Morgan starts looking for evidence that could exonerate her dogs after the courts order them seized, only to discover that her life with Bennett was all a dangerous lie.
Reviewers say: "this slim, nasty thriller is hard to put down" (Kirkus Reviews).
About the author: A.J. Rich is the shared pseudonym of authors Amy Hempel (Reasons to Live) and Jill Ciment (Heroic Measures).
The Good Liar by Nicholas SearleWhat it is: a compelling and intricately plotted psychological thriller that's part character study and part cat-and-mouse game.
Starring: veteran con man Roy Courtnay, who's out to make one last big score; well-off widow Betty McLeish, who Roy sees as an easy target but who is cannier than she seems; and Betty's protective grandson Stephen, who isn't shy about his distrust of his grandmother's new boyfriend.
Media buzz: The Good Liar was adapted into a film of the same name in 2019, starring Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen.
Jane Doe by Victoria Helen StoneWhat it's about: Self-declared sociopath Jane drops everything to seek revenge on Steven, the abusive boyfriend who drove her first and only friend Meg to suicide with his manipulative and controlling treatment.
Read it for: the surprisingly appealing Jane, whose righteous cause, painful past, and clever Machiavellian tendencies make her (mostly) easy to root for.
Author alert: Victoria Helen Stone is the pseudonym that romance author Victoria Dahl uses when writing suspense. False Step, the sequel to Jane Doe, is due out at the end of March.
The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen WhiteWhat it is: the suspenseful and atmospheric story of long-buried secrets (and crimes) hiding behind the veneer of gentility in Atlanta suburb Sweet Apple, where newly divorced Merilee Dunlap moves with her children.
Read it for: the unlikely and dynamic bond Merilee forms with her 93-year-old neighbor Sugar Prescott, whose family once owned the land that Sweet Apple was built on and who is much more than the gossipy curmudgeon she appears to be.
Who it's for: fans of Kate Morton and Liane Moriarty who don't mind a little Mary Kay Andrews now and then.
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