I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers throughout the year. Some I forget the main character and the plot within a day. Others stick with me. These are my favorite new releases from 2019 that hung around in my head the longest.
Run Away by Harlan Coben
You know what Coben is going to do but he’s so good you really don’t mind. He’s up to the same old tricks here. A perfect seeming family. A missing daughter. Secrets that show everyone and everything can get much darker below the pretty surface. Same tricks but same great tension and pacing. This one seemed to pack an additional emotional punch.
A slow motion train wreck that plays out in reverse as the pieces slowly interlock into a crushing finale. Very impressive, especially for a debut. Deserves the praise it’s getting. One of those books I can appreciate but not want to really revisit any time soon.
Well written both from a character perspective and a plot perspective. Impressive how Kim was able to believably manipulate all the pieces together into a tragic whole.
Harper’s third, a standalone from her two-book Falk series, continues to mine the bleak and beautiful Australian outback for visceral crime stories. Harper isn’t afraid to slow things down and take her time. She fully explores all the characters and how the unrelenting terrain and close-up shared history has shaped one family and led inexorably to one climactic decision. It’s (almost literally) a slow burn story that leaves a mark on the reader.
The tone and setting and characters are so unique and the writing is crisp and cogent, it’s quite easy to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride.
Don’t let the clickbait title fool you. This book is much less about killing and more about sisters, family, trust, marriage, and relationship. It sets about commenting on all of that and more (social media, patriarchy, policing, television, hospitals) using the extreme scaffold of one sister being a potential serial killer and one sister being unable (or unwilling) to stop enabling her.
It’s a quick read despite taking on all of that and in places the brevity serves the story very well, in other places, I wished for the story to breathe more. For a novel set in Lagos, there is very little about Lagos, the people or the culture. It could have just as easily been set in LA. Maybe the universality is the point, but feels like a missed opportunity, as well.
A high concept thriller with an almost perfect hook: One evening Alex Berenson’s husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Not a perfect book (there are a couple places where you really really need to suspend belief) but one where you still have to stand up and give the author a bit of applause at the end of the sheer audacity and engineering of it all. A fun and entertaining read made for reading pool-side.