I could pretty much read mysteries and thrillers all the time but I know reading widely and outside my genre will help me become a better reader and writer. This past month, despite cramming in a lot of writing, I managed to read a couple books worth mentioning.
A bit more of an eclectic mix than my normal diet of commercial thrillers from the past few months. I was particularly surprised by how much I enjoyed Silence of the Lambs despite being familiar with the movie. The book still holds up remarkably well (if you look past the very dated tech) and if you read in the genre at all, you can see that Harris’s work is still having an impact on books today.
As I’m getting back into my own writing, I’ve been reading or listening to a lot of thrillers and mysteries and trying to analyze the books by what I’m learning from The Story Grid. Why is it written this way? Why is it structured this way? Where is the turning point?
I know it’s a good book when I’m flipping pages and forgetting to ask those questions. That’s the type of book I’d like to write some day.
Psychological thrillers seem to be having their genre moment of late with seemingly every other book tagged with the “p-word” and all the authors cross-blurbing each other happily.
When done well, the shifting loyalties, paranoia and creeping sense of dread can make a plot sing with intensity. But it’s not easy. Done poorly, it can yank the reader out of the narrative and the plot can thud along unrealistically.
When people find out you’re a “reader” you get asked about books. I don’t mind. In fact, it’s one of my favorite topics, especially mysteries and thrillers. Starting with the Hardy Boys and my mom’s fascination with Murder, She Wrote, I’ve been hooked on the genre almost since I could read. I remember getting in some trouble in fifth grade for bringing an “adult” mystery.
Now that it’s summer, I often get asked about books to bring to the pool or the beach or on vacation. Here are 5 recent mysteries and thrillers to consider if you want some thrills and chills while you read in the summer sun.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
The second book in the Aaron Falk series builds on and improves on last year’s debut. Five women from the same workplace go on a hike for a corporate retreat. Only four come back out. They all tell a slightly different story.
That’s a good hook. Both books are set in remote and little seen parts of Australia for crime fiction. If you’re looking for a new series, bring both books. You won’t be disappointed.
The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor
This is a debut mystery/thriller and sometimes hits some story telling speed bumps that often crop up in first novels, but at its best it does conjure that feeling of impending adulthood and one last summer with friends that Stephen King does so well.
While not going supernatural, the atmosphere and dread lurk over the second half of the book as the murderer still lurks among the now grown friends.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
This book reads like an almost unbelievable and over-the-top thriller, but it’s all true. It landed on just about every year end best-of list and for good reason. Grann, also the author of the almost-as-good Lost City of Z, tells a story that appears to have almost been erased from American history.
The story of the Osage Indians, their vast wealth at the beginning of last century and all the attention, murder and grief it brought down on the tribe. Fascinating and sobering read that I’ve recommended more than any other book recently.
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
This thriller received a lot of buzz early this year. The cynical reader might find it a slick, example of how to produce a commercial bestseller.
It certainly feels at times that the author was working through a genre checklist, but I found it a very well-done example of mainstream genre fiction.
You’ll likely see a few of the ‘surprises’ coming long before they are revealed. But if it’s calculating, it’s still a well-constructed story that forces you to keep turning pages.
The Outsider by Stephen King
I’ve really enjoyed the last few King books that dipped their toe into the crime fiction genre and while THE OUTSIDER doesn’t continue the Bill Hodges trilogy, it does continue the recent dichotomy of King and crime fiction. If the Hodges trilogy was 75% crime fiction / 25% classic King, THE OUTSIDER flips that equation.
You get a classic, sprawling King story with many characters (the strongest are the women characters), social commentary on the media, along with a Hodges holdover in Holly. If you find the beginning a bit slow, the story really starts to move when Holly comes onboard and flies through the finish.
That’s it. Five recent mysteries and thrillers that will keep the pages moving and help you escape even further on your vacation.
Every year, I have a goal of reading more non-fiction books and just about every year, I fail or succeed less than I think I should. Fiction is my weakness. When I’m tired at the end of the day, I just want to disappear into a story or a different world. I can rarely raise the mental energy to pick up anything too close to reality. But recently, I think I’ve hit on a solution. Audiobooks.
Yeah, duh. Why didn’t I think of that before? I actually did, but the library’s audiobook app was awful and listening was a chore, but a recent update made it much, much better and I’ve found non-fiction audio often replacing podcasts on my walks with Dash or in the car.