I read 75 Crime/Suspense/Mystery/Thrillers this year. These were my favorites…
#10 My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.
A delightfully darkly humorous exploration of family bonds, sibling rivalry, and murder.
#9 Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates
The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah—are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again—with even more devastating results.
Damn, this one was dark – but utterly enthralling.
#8 A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis
FBI Agent Elsa Myers finds missing people.
She knows how it feels to be lost…
Though her father lies dying in a hospital north of New York City, Elsa cannot refuse a call for help. A teenage girl has gone missing from Forest Hills, Queens, and during the critical first hours of the case, a series of false leads hides the fact that she did not go willingly.
With each passing hour, as the hunt for Ruby deepens into a search for a man who may have been killing for years, the case starts to get underneath Elsa’s skin. Everything she has buried – her fraught relationship with her sister and niece, her self-destructive past, her mother’s death – threatens to resurface, with devastating consequences.
In order to save the missing girl, she may have to lose herself…and return to the darkness she’s been hiding from for years.
A compelling “missing girls” pursuit thriller with a surprisingly dark (complex and utterly fascinating) protagonist in FBI Agent Elsa Myers. Unlike the final requisite, too often contrived twists of most other books of this genre, the narrative turn at the conclusion of this novel is strong, satisfying, and wholly earned.
#7 Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna
When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied.
With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a dangerous web of lies, false leads, and complex relationships to find the girls before time runs out, and they are gone forever.
A cut well above the missing-girls trope with a intriguing protagonist in bounty hunter Alice Vega.
#6 For Those Who Know the Ending by Malcolm Mackay
Martin Sivok is in trouble. Tied to a chair, plastic strips biting his wrists, inside a deserted warehouse. . . There are only so many ways this scenario can end, most of them badly. For now his best hope is figuring out who put him here – and staying conscious long enough to confront them.
To stay awake he reviews the past year of his life: evading the law in the Czech Republic by running to Glasgow, settling into a borderline respectable relationship with his landlady, and getting back into the life at the very bottom of the criminal ladder, alongside Usman Kassar, a cocky, goofy kid anxious to prove himself.
The job should be simple: Smash heads, grab cash, run. The trouble with being two outsiders is, you don’t always know whose heads are too dangerous to crack, or whose cash is too hot to handle…
This contemporary noir descent into the Glasgow underworld is a gripping read, reminiscent of crime classics like Get Carter and Cutter and Bone.
#5 The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
A contemporary take on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, this one a suspenseful and surprising novel involving an agoraphobic shut-in and her predilection for checking out the neighbors from the comfort of her own home. Some terrific twists and an ending I didn’t see coming.
#4 The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.
An explosive opening gives way to a slow-burn narrative that explores the eroding relationship between perfect nanny Louise and the parents of her charges while simultaneously charting Louise’s own psychological degradation. Chilling.
#3 The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
A bomb is more than a weapon. A bomb is an expression of the bomber’s predictions of human behavior–a performance designed to fool you into making one fatally wrong move. In The Bomb Maker, Thomas Perry introduces us to the dark corners of a mind intent on transforming a simple machine into an act of murder–and to those committed to preventing that outcome at any cost. A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad and when tragedy ensues, the fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Just returned from a tough job in Mexico, Stahl is at first reluctant to accept the offer, but his sense of duty to the technicians he trained is too strong to turn it down. On his first day back at the head of the squad, Stahl’s three-person team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb. And it quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with an unusual mastermind–one whose intended target seems to be the Bomb Squad itself.
As the shadowy organization sponsoring this campaign of violence puts increasing pressure on the bomb maker, and Stahl becomes dangerously entangled with a member of his own team, the fuse on this high-stakes plot only burns faster.
The tension ratchets up to a full 10 within the first few pages and then maintains this relentless level of suspense throughout the books’ near 400 page run. Authorities seek to identify a serial who is targeting the LAPD’s bomb squad with increasingly elaborate explosive traps. Once you start reading, it’s near impossible to put down.
#2 Wrecked by Joe Ide
Isaiah Quintabe–IQ for short–has never been more successful, or felt more alone. A series of high-profile wins in his hometown of East Long Beach have made him so notorious that he can hardly go to the corner store without being recognized. Dodson, once his sidekick, is now his full-fledged partner, hell-bent on giving IQ’s PI business some real legitimacy: a Facebook page, and IQ’s promise to stop accepting Christmas sweaters and carpet cleanings in exchange for PI services.
So when a young painter approaches IQ for help tracking down her missing mother, it’s not just the case Isaiah’s looking for, but the human connection. And when his new confidant turns out to be connected to a dangerous paramilitary operation, IQ falls victim to a threat even a genius can’t see coming.
Waiting for Isaiah around every corner is Seb, the Oxford-educated African gangster who was responsible for the death of his brother, Marcus. Only, this time, Isaiah’s not alone. Joined by a new love interest and his familiar band of accomplices, IQ is back–and the adventures are better than ever.
The third installment in Ide’s brilliant IQ series is, like the previous two books, a self-contained standalone offering colorful characters, a compelling narrative, and heaps of humor.
#1 Green Sun by Kent Anderson
Hanson thought he had witnessed the worst of humanity after a tour of duty in Vietnam and a stint as a cop in Oregon. Then he moves to Oakland, California to join the under-funded, understaffed police department.
Hanson chooses to live – alone – in the precinct that he patrols; he, unlike the rest of the white officers, takes seriously his duty to serve and protect the black community of East Oakland.
He will encounter prejudice and hate on both sides of the line… and struggle to keep true to himself against powerful opposition and personal danger.
Green Sun is a raw, unflinching novel about America’s divided cities and one man’s divided soul.
I knew nothing about this book going in and ended up wholly captivated by this story of a former Vietnam vet’s unique approach to policing the dangerous streets of East Oakland. An electrifying and uplifting read.
So, all you crime/mystery/suspense/thriller readers – what books made YOUR Top 10?