Thriller/Suspense

BENEATH HIS SILENCE by Hannah Linder

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Ella arrives at Wyckhorn Manor hoping to succeed in the soul-consuming mission her late father did not live long enough to complete: proving that Lord Sedgewick murdered her sister.

From the moment she meets Lord Henry Sedgewick, it is clear her sister made a mistake in marrying him. He is cold, aloof, and admits he never even loved Lucy. Ella assumes a false name and takes a position as governess to Henry and Lucy’s young son, hoping to get to know her nephew and gather proof of Henry’s iniquity. Yet under his distant exterior, Ella is surprised and somewhat alarmed to find a compassionate, generous, devoted Christian who begins gently prodding her doubting soul back toward the faith. But Henry and Wyckhorn Manor hold dark, guilty secrets, and though neither Henry nor Ella know it, they are both in grave danger of losing their hearts, their lives, and everything they hold dear.

This Gothic, Bronte-esque Christian Regency Romance packs suspense and emotional drama alongside a sweet (clean) courtship and each protagonist’s arc toward self-forgiveness. The Christian elements are prominent—a journey toward conversion—making this title ideal for readers who enjoy both Christian Fiction and Regency Romance rather than either in isolation. If you are a reader of both categories, I can highly recommend this story as immersive, exciting, and emotionally satisfying.

HER LAST BETRAYAL by Pam Lecky

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Sarah Gillespie has survived a year of wartime tragedy. Her sister died in a German air raid which she later learned was facilitated by her own father, an IRA operative who faked his death to continue secretly collaborating with Nazis in return for their aid with the Irish republican cause. As if that suffering and betrayal weren’t enough, her fiance’s ship is attacked by the Nazis, leaving him missing in action.

When MI5 approaches Sarah for her help undermining her father’s spy mission and bringing him to justice, she can’t say no. Unfortunately, they pair her with insufferable American operative Tony Anderson, suspicious of her due to her Irish heritage and dismissive of her espionage skills. An undercover mission takes them to Wales to track down Sarah’s father, but German moles have infiltrated their operation and as Sarah’s sparring with Anderson gives way to attraction, she will need to decide whether the surly American can be trusted–or whether he might be the sinister double agent they’ve been hunting.

Twisty with just a touch of enemies-to-lovers romance, HER LAST BETRAYAL is a quick, fun read for fans of the historical thriller genre. Lecky packs her story with colorful secondary characters and enough red herrings to keep you guessing to the climax. The second in a series, an open ending teases more adventures from Sarah Gillespie in the future.

BLOOD WILL TELL by Heather Chavez

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When the cops question her about the disappearance of a seventeen-year-old girl, Frankie instinctively lies. No, there’s no way someone could have taken her truck last night without her noticing. And of course she had nothing to do with it. That last part was true–for now. Because the only person who could have taken her truck was her sister Izzy, and Frankie committed long ago to always helping Izzy clean up her messes.

Izzy claims to know nothing about the disappearance of the girl, but Frankie can tell she’s hiding something. She decides to investigate on her own–to find the truth before the police–so that she knows what she’ll need to do to protect Izzy. But as clues begin to point back to the fateful night five years ago when a drunken Izzy hit a deer (hopefully it was just a deer) with her car, Frankie realizes that more happened at that party than Izzy remembers. And the key to finding the missing girl might require figuring out what happened to the girl who went missing that night five years ago.

This mystery/thriller is delightfully suspenseful and masterfully paced–slow-moving enough to be torturous (in a good way) but with so many shady characters and tantalizing secrets to make it impossible to stop reading. I was genuinely unsure who the culprit was until the very end because so much groundwork had been laid for any of several suspects. This novel will make a wonderful addition to any mystery/thriller collection and a heart-stopping read for fans of the genre.

SHE LIED SHE DIED by Carissa Ann Lynch

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Chrissy Cornwall is a child murderer. She murdered a child, and she was a child when she did it. Now, she’s being released from prison and the whole town is in an uproar. Natalie, who was also a child when the murdered girl was discovered in her family’s fields, has never been able to get the case (or the image of the poor girl’s body) out of her mind. Now a struggling true crime writer, she reaches out to Chrissy, hoping the murderer will be able to fill in some of the gaps that she never understood about that horrible night.

But Chrissy shows up with a surprise declaration: her confession thirty years ago was a lie, and somewhere in this wholesome little town, there might still be a killer on the loose. The more Natalie begins to dig into the dark secrets of the town’s past, the more she starts to believe that Chrissy might have been a scapegoat–the girl from the wrong side of the tracks taking the fall on behalf of the golden children from the right side of town. But Natalie is from the wrong side of the tracks, too, and the secrets she uncovers might just tear her peaceful life to shreds.

Propelled by suspenseful secrets and clean, strong writing, SHE LIED SHE DIED is an amateur detective mystery that you won’t be able to put down. The clues are numerous (as are the complicating red herrings), and the twists are satisfying while the eerie small-town setting and character-driven narrative create a delightfully immersive experience that will snag thriller fans as well as mystery readers. I highly recommend this one to adult fans of the genre. It would also make a great pick for book clubs who don’t mind dead bodies (in their books, of course).

FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley

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Daunis has always existed in two worlds: the Ojibwe community where her father is from and the community of wealthy white people in Sault Ste. Marie where she lives with her mother. She is part of both but fully accepted by neither.

When her maternal grandmother has a stroke shortly after her uncle dies of a meth overdose, Daunis knows a third disaster is coming. She tries to prevent it by deferring her college admission–pushing off her dream of becoming a doctor so that she can stay close to both of her communities–but her presence isn’t enough to stop a shocking tragedy. With her world crumbling around her, Daunis is swept up into an investigation of drug trade on the reservation as a confidential informant, taking the place of her uncle, who she learns was likely murdered. But even though she isn’t an enrolled member of the tribe, Daunis is an Ojibwe woman, and she has her own agenda for helping the Cherokee FBI agents who have infiltrated her town. She will be searching for the truth to save her people’s lives, while also protecting their culture and traditions from meddling outsiders. Unfortunately, even in the investigation, the line between her identities is blurred, and as her secrets pile up, and the fake relationship she’s developed with the young FBI rookie starts to morph into something real, Daunis realizes that the truth has the power not only to save lives but also to tear them apart.

This stellar novel hits all of the notes for a heart-wrenching YA contemporary, a brain-teasing YA mystery, and pulse-pounding thriller. Boulley immerses readers in Daunis’s communities–from Michigan “Hockey World” to her Ojibwe nation–and crafts a stunningly character-driven mystery that crescendos gradually toward the shocking conclusion. This book satisfies me as a thriller reader and as a contemporary reader, and while thoroughly accessible for its teenage audience, the mature storytelling style and pristine prose makes it a great choice for adult readers, as well. I will add my voice for the clamor of recommendations for this truly exceptional novel.

WATCH OUT FOR HER by Samantha M. Bailey

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Sarah Goldman is no stranger to hidden cameras. She had two of them in their old house, nanny cams that she intended to use to keep an eye on the new 22-year-old babysitter, Holly, nanny cams that caught the footage that turned their lives upside down. Now, in their new home thousands of miles away from Holly and her secrets, Sarah had hoped that she and her husband and son could have a fresh start.

But then she finds the camera in the ceiling.

Sarah doesn’t know who is watching her, but she knows it has some connection to Holly, to the secrets she uncovered, and to the fight that drove the girl who had become like family out of their home. Surrounded by suspicious neighbors, and living with a husband she can’t quite trust, Sarah struggles to see past everyone’s facade to find the danger. But maybe the dark secrets she should be probing are her own…

A straightforward psychological thriller that leans in hard to the paranoid wife/mother trope, WATCH OUT FOR HER will find its readers among stalwart fans of the genre. Though none of the twists were shocking, the solid foundation of clues and the broad cast of suspicious characters made for a satisfying plot and ending. I’d recommend this one to fans of GIRL ON THE TRAIN and similar thrillers with possibly-crazy female protagonists.

FINDING GRACE by Janis Thomas

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Grace knows Louise will come rescue her from the mental hospital. It’s the whole reason she came to New York and stood up on that bridge in her underwear–to get her estranged daughter’s attention. Because the voices in Grace’s head are adamant. Someone is in danger, and this time, it’s the daughter Louise hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Melanie has been happy in her latest foster home. Happier than she was in any of the others, anyway. Her foster mom is a little weird, but her foster dad is great. And so far she’s been able to hide the messages that come to her through the voice that writes in her journal using her hand. But the latest message sends a chill up her spine and makes her wonder whether it’s finally time to let her foster parents–or at least someone in on her secret.

Because… someone is coming…

This novel sits at an unusual intersection between psychological thriller and contemporary fiction (or “women’s fiction”). The early chapters of the book focus on multigenerational family dysfunction between Louise, her estranged mother, her late grandmother, and the daughter she gave up, while the nebulous and possibly fictitious danger hinted at by the voices in several characters’ heads keeps this thriller from being truly thrilling until well into the second half. As a result, this novel is most likely to find its readers among fans of both contemporary stories of family dysfunction and psychological thrillers who will find the beginning as captivating as the final third.

DO I KNOW YOU? by Sarah Strohmeyer

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Jane is a rare individual with an almost superhuman ability to recognize people after only seeing them once. It’s an asset in her job for the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped her achieve the one thing she cares about: unraveling the mystery of what happened to her sister.

But when she sees the girl who she last saw with her sister–now all grown up and on the arm of the wealthy young man her sister was dating at the time of her disappearance–Jane finally has her first clue to the case. Though the powerful family warns her away, Jane can’t help returning to her hometown in search of answers. Her boyfriend thinks she needs another trip to the psych ward and the wedding-of-the-century is taking place on the wealthy family’s estate, but Jane isn’t going to rest until she finds out what happened to her sister–or dies trying.

With numerous untrustworthy characters–including the protagonist–it’s difficult to figure out the culprit behind the sinister events of this thriller. Plot drives the story, although it is light on physical action. The mystery unfolds gradually through various points-of-view, and the character we’re allowed to get closest to (Jane) is also the most erratic and in many ways, least reliable even though we’re inside her head. The alliances and motivations are so complex, I may have to reread it to untangle them all. Overall, a good addition to an adult thriller collection and a great pick for readers who enjoy plot-driven thrillers that keep you guessing.

THOSE WHO LIE by Diane Jeffrey

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Emily doesn’t know why the police are next to her hospital bed. She doesn’t even know why she’s in a hospital bed. But as the memories start to come back, she finds the explanation for the pain in her head and the questions the constable is asking about her argument with her husband. The car accident. She was driving, and Greg is dead.

The suspicions of the police follow her home, along with the confusion from her memory loss. What were she and Greg arguing about when the car crashed? Is it possible she did it on purpose? The only memory that lingers is that they were talking about her abusive father, who died over a decade ago, for whose murder (or voluntary manslaughter) Emily has already served her time. But when Emily begins getting messages from a dead man, she begins to wonder if someone is stalking her–or if maybe she’s losing her mind–again…

This psychological thriller is a page-turner! I wouldn’t call it twisty, but the narrator’s constant withholding of information–and the protagonist’s possible mental illness–keep the suspense high throughout. The timeline jumps from present to past, but dates at the start of each chapter as well as a change in tense help you keep track as you read. I’d recommend this novel to fans of psychological thrillers.

THE LAST GOODNIGHT by Kat Martin

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When they pull Kade’s estranged wife’s car from the lake, old wounds reopen. It’s been eight years since she was murdered, and the cops have given up on solving the case. But no matter how painfully their marriage ended, Kade can’t live knowing her killer hasn’t been brought to justice. Though his last attempt at hiring a PI went nowhere, he hopes new evidence from the recovered vehicle could revive the cold case. But he didn’t expect the PI to be a woman–an attractive and charismatic woman who makes him feel things he swore he’d never give into again.

Eleanor was eager to take the job at Kade’s ranch and confident that she could find his wife’s killer. But she soon realizes she made a mistake. She’s still confident she can find the killer, but she’s not confident she can resist her employer. Her lust is reciprocated and the two soon fall into a torrid affair. But as a mysterious enemy begins a violent assault on the ranch and Eleanor’s resolve to stay emotionally detached falls victim to Kade’s charms, she doubts either one of them will get out of this unscathed…

This suspenseful, lust-at-first sight romance will satisfy many fans of the genre. The majority of the tension and conflict in the plot comes from the external dangers while the relationship faces only superficial and easily-overcome obstacles. For romantic suspense readers who like their characters to have to fight as hard for their love and personal growth as they do to survive, this novel will fall short. But for readers who like a thriller plot with a hearty dose of steamy sex scenes, this new series-starter is a solid pick.