Book List

9 Most Thrilling Page-Turners

A terrifying new storytelling experience that affirms, even in our darkest moments, that love conquers all.

ALICE ISN'T DEAD

A female big-rig driver crisscrosses America searching for signs of the wife everyone else thinks is dead.

This spooky third novel by Welcome to Night Vale creator Fink (It Devours!, 2017, etc.) is similarly based on an original podcast and offers a more threatening but equally personal take on the horror genre. Switching from the podcast’s intimate first-person narration, delivered with powerful emotion by actress Jasika Nicole, allows Fink to stretch out into the more remote corners of his mythos while delivering the same scary beats. The main character is Keisha Taylor, whose wife, Alice, disappeared while working for the mysterious Bay and Creek trucking company: “No cause of death. No body. No certainty. There was a disappearance, and after a long and increasingly hopeless search, the presumption of death.” Now Keisha has taken a job with the company as a long-haul driver, which thrusts her firmly into the eerie mythology at work here. Keisha is a fascinating character partially because one of her defining characteristics is chronic anxiety, and it’s a potent imperfection for a character who battles literal monsters on a regular basis. Along the way, Fink unveils the strange universe that swallowed Alice whole, revealing an underground war between two secret societies, time-bending oracles, and other Lovecraft-ian horrors. He also gives Keisha a charismatic ally in Sylvia Parker, a teen on the run who becomes her “anxiety bro,” and a bloodcurdling enemy in the macabre, twisted police officer who stalks her across the span of the country. But the book also tempers its terrors with everyday humanity, portraying the mundane joys of love, the rich fabric of the American countryside, and surreal “Why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes that are a hallmark of the podcast. By the time Keisha learns Alice's fate, readers will realize that this marvelous character is more than the sum of her faceless anxiety or her very real fears.

A terrifying new storytelling experience that affirms, even in our darkest moments, that love conquers all.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-284413-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Hopefully, this is just the first adventure of many Steiner (Homecoming, 2013) will write for DS Bradshaw and her team.

MISSING, PRESUMED

A new and complex police heroine tries to solve a high-profile missing persons case while seeking domestic fulfillment in Cambridge.

Thirty-nine and single, DS Manon Bradshaw is feeling the burn of loneliness. As she pursues dead-end date after dead-end date, her personal life seems a complete disaster, but her professional interest and energy are piqued when the beautiful graduate-student daughter of a famous physician goes missing, apparently the victim of foul play. As the investigation into free-spirited Edith Hind’s disappearance uncovers no strong leads, Manon finds herself drawn to two unconventional males: one, a possible romantic partner, plays a tangential role in the investigation when he finds a body; the other, a young boy with a tragic home life, mourns the death of his brother, who also might have ties to Edith or her family. As Manon draws nearer to the truth about Edith, aided by her idealistic partner, Davy, and their team of homicide detectives, she also has to face the fact that she might not be destined to follow the traditional domestic model. Though it follows all the typical twists and turns of a modern police procedural, this novel stands out from the pack in two significant ways: first of all, in the solution, which reflects a sophisticated commentary on today’s news stories about how prejudices about race and privilege play out in our justice system; and second, in the wounded, compassionate, human character of Manon. Her struggles to define love and family at a time when both are open to interpretation make for a highly charismatic and engaging story.

Hopefully, this is just the first adventure of many Steiner (Homecoming, 2013) will write for DS Bradshaw and her team.

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9832-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

If you think you know how frigid Iceland can be, this blistering stand-alone from Jónasson (Blackout, 2016, etc.) has news...

THE DARKNESS

On the eve of her unwillingly abrupt retirement, a Reykjavík police inspector decides to look into a cold case that immediately turns dangerously hot.

Hulda Hermannsdóttir thought she’d seen the writing on the wall: When she turned 65 in a few months, she’d put in for retirement even though the deaths of both her daughter and her husband have left her nothing to look forward to. But she’s thrown for a loop when Magnús, her boss, tells her that he’s already assigned her office and caseload to a much younger, up-and-coming male colleague, and could she please clean out her desk within the next two weeks? To mollify her, he offers to let her spend her final days looking into a cold case of her choice—“Any case I like?” she politely asks—and she promptly reopens the investigation into the death of Elena, a Russian immigrant who’d applied for political asylum. Hulda is convinced that her sloppy CID colleague Alexander had bobbled the case, and her initial inquiries suggest that since Elena’s petition for asylum had just been granted, she had no reason to leave the hostel where she was staying and drown herself. When Bjartur Hartmannsson, an interpreter who’d worked with the musically inclined Elena, suggests that her interests may have extended to prostitution as well, Hulda kicks into high gear, much to the disapproval of Magnús, whose desire to pull Hulda off the investigation and put her in the deep freeze intensifies with every meeting and phone call. All the while, a series of ominous flashbacks indicates that Hulda’s stumbled onto a secret even more wicked than she’d predicted—although, as events ultimately show, she’s had years of experience in close contact with wickedness.

If you think you know how frigid Iceland can be, this blistering stand-alone from Jónasson (Blackout, 2016, etc.) has news for you: It’s much, much colder than you’ve ever imagined. Warmly recommended for hot summer nights.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17103-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Psychologically intense.

THE WITCH ELM

A stand-alone novel from the author of the Dublin Murder Squad series.

French has earned a reputation for atmospheric and existentially troubling police procedurals. Here, the protagonist is a crime victim rather than a detective. Toby Hennessy is a lucky man. He has a job he enjoys at an art gallery. He has a lovely girlfriend named Melissa. And he has a large, supportive family, including his kind Uncle Hugo and two cousins who are more like siblings. As the story begins, Toby’s just gotten himself into a bit of a mess at work, but he’s certain that he’ll be able to smooth things over, because life is easy for him—until two men break into his apartment and brutally beat him. The damage Toby suffers, both physical and mental, undermines his sense of self. His movements are no longer relaxed and confident. His facility with words is gone. And his memory is full of appalling blanks. When he learns that his uncle is dying, Toby decides that he can still be useful by caring for him, so he moves into the Hennessy family’s ancestral home, and Melissa goes with him. The three of them form a happy family unit, but their idyll comes to an abrupt end when Toby’s cousin’s children find a human skull in the trunk of an elm tree at the bottom of the garden. As the police try to solve the mystery posed by this gruesome discovery, Toby begins to question everything he thought he knew about himself and his family. The narrative is fueled by some of the same themes French has explored in the past. It’s reminiscent of The Likeness (2008) in the way it challenges the idea of identity as a fixed and certain construct. And the unreliability of memory was a central issue in her first novel, In the Woods (2007). The pace is slow, but the story is compelling, and French is deft in unraveling this book’s puzzles. Readers will see some revelations coming long before Toby, but there are some shocking twists, too.

Psychologically intense.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2462-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

There's a harder, darker edge to the violence that gives this ripsnorting follow-up a rueful yet resonant aftertaste,...

WRECKED

From the IQ series , Vol. 3

The hip-hop generation’s answer to Sherlock Holmes returns fast and furious in the third installment of Ide's (Righteous, 2017, etc.) celebrated series.

Over the course of the last two years, Isaiah Quintabe’s stature as a quick-witted neighborhood private eye has grown beyond his East Long Beach, California, base. His bank account, however, hasn’t kept pace with his legend. So IQ’s friend and partner, Dodson, a lapsed street hustler, tells him it’s time to stop accepting ugly sweaters, home repairs, and baked goods as payment and go full-tilt marketing, complete with a Facebook page and rate scale. This business plan quickly goes out the proverbial window when Isaiah accepts as payment paintings from a truculent, enigmatic young artist named Grace, with whom he’d become “intrigued” in the previous novel. Grace wants IQ to find her mother, but when he presses her for details, she becomes resentful and secretive. He deduces that she knows more than she’s telling, and before long, it becomes apparent that Grace and her mother are both in over their heads against a sadistic cabal of Iraqi War veterans implicated in torture at Abu Ghraib more heinous than other, previously exposed incidents. Meanwhile, Dodson, just getting accustomed to new fatherhood, is being blackmailed into robbing a neighborhood dealer named Junior who has a penchant for misusing four-syllable words. Then there’s Isaiah’s Moriarty, Seb, the Oxford-educated African gangster lurking along the edges for any opportunity to ruin, or end, IQ’s life. Ide’s penchant for colorful characters, droll banter, and whackadoodle set pieces is aided by a growing command of narrative dynamics. And Isaiah Quintabe remains an engaging, fascinating protagonist, but there are signs here that he’s becoming more an action hero than a puzzle solver. The world has plenty of action heroes—but nowhere near enough street-wise intellects to serve as role models.

There's a harder, darker edge to the violence that gives this ripsnorting follow-up a rueful yet resonant aftertaste, perhaps in anticipation of more unsettling jolts in the hero's future.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-50951-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

McPherson (House. Tree. Person., 2017, etc.) provides a virtuoso exploration of guilt, remorse, and revenge in a haunting...

GO TO MY GRAVE

A rousing gothic tale of past and present in a Galloway beach house.

With the help of a timely inheritance, Donna Weaver and her mother have just purchased and renovated a posh guesthouse they’ve christened The Breakers, and now, with her mother exhibiting at a wedding fair in Glasgow, Donna is left to handle their first guests all by herself—a group of eight cousins celebrating the 10th anniversary of Sasha Mowbray and his wife, Kim. The first to arrive are siblings Peach and Buck Plummer, who immediately recognize the place as Knockbreak House, the scene of Sasha’s appalling 16th birthday party. The other cousins are Rosalie, brothers Paul and Ramsay, and Jennifer, who turns pale when she realizes where she is. Alternating chapters take place in 1991, when narrator Carmen, a local girl, describes going to Sasha’s party with her younger sister, Lynsey. Plied with drink and disgusted by the strange food and filthy state of the house, the two girls are mocked by the sophisticated town dwellers but do their best to fit in. Back in the present, Donna is desperate to give her guests a great experience, but it’s soon obvious that Sasha’s marriage is on the rocks, and the quibbling cousins are hiding secrets while blaming each other for strange occurrences that include the discovery of a locked box stuck in the chimney and the mysterious appearance of a picture taken at Sasha’s 16th birthday party—all of which Sasha blames on Kim, since she made the arrangements. Practical jokes referencing the past become ever more loathsome until the disappearances of Sasha and Jennifer force Donna to call in the police, who come up with an unusual solution.

McPherson (House. Tree. Person., 2017, etc.) provides a virtuoso exploration of guilt, remorse, and revenge in a haunting psychological thriller. The ending will leave you astounded.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-07000-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

An inventive thriller with a horrifying reveal and a happy ending.

TEAR ME APART

While bed-bound in the hospital, an athletic young woman discovers the gruesome truth about her mother.

This novel, a thriller set in 2018, is well-paced and creative. When Olympics-bound 17-year-old skier Mindy takes a fall on the slopes and brutally breaks her leg, it sets in motion a series of events that will forever change her family as she knows it. Running tests before conducting surgery on the broken leg, the doctors find that Mindy has cancer and will need a stem-cell transplant. When neither of her parents are a match for the procedure, not even genetically, the truth comes out—although in parts, slowly, and ever more incriminatingly. Mindy’s mother, Lauren, is not who she has convinced her family she is, and even Lauren’s sister, a blood-lab technician working for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, is shocked by what comes to light. When the lab finds Mindy’s biological father, who has been living with the assumption that his daughter was kidnapped when his wife was brutally murdered 17 years ago, Lauren will go to great lengths to shield her secret and protect Mindy. The forward motion of the novel is intermittently interrupted by letters exchanged in the early 1990s between Vivian and Liesel, two unknown characters, which serves to heighten the thrill. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, the dialogue often trite, and the emotional exchanges simplistic, the action keeps the reader at attention. Ellison seems to want to shed light on problems of mental health and the terrible consequences that result when the emotional balance is neglected.

An inventive thriller with a horrifying reveal and a happy ending.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7783-3000-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

An engrossing story that leaves time for a sequel or two before war breaks out.

THE RED RIBBON

A thriller that harkens back to England in the days before the Great War.

In 1910, the British government is already thinking ahead to a possible war with Germany. Wiggins and his boss, Capt. Vernon Kell, comprise a fledgling Secret Service Bureau “designed to counter the threat from German spies at home.” When King Edward VII dies, monarchs from all over Europe arrive for the funeral, “the greatest coming together of royalty the world has ever known.” This is an opportunity for a potential assassin to spark a worldwide conflict. At the same time, dockworkers threaten to strike, people rumble about unions and revolution, and suffragettes are becoming increasingly militant. Home Secretary Winston Churchill takes a hard-nosed attitude against all domestic unrest and puts heavy pressure on Kell. The story paints a vivid picture of London in that era, although Kell and Wiggins seem pushed in too many directions. A red ribbon hangs in the window of “The Embassy of Olifa,” which is actually a high-class brothel and possible “hive of international spies” in Belgravia. Although the ribbon winds throughout the tale, Kell doesn’t know its significance. The reader may not get it either, although a character helpfully tells Wiggins that “red is the color of revolution.” As interesting as the spy threat may be the turmoil over women’s right to vote. Suffragettes train to defend themselves against beatings by police, while militant women go on hunger strikes and are force-fed. Kell’s wife, Constance, is a suffragette, complicating his job—she shares little information with him, and their different goals strain their marriage. Sherlock Holmes makes a cameo appearance, but Wiggins is the best character, with his street smarts, slang, and different worldview from Kell’s.

An engrossing story that leaves time for a sequel or two before war breaks out.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63506-004-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Quercus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

A satisfyingly original thriller.

OPEN YOUR EYES

When her husband is assaulted in broad daylight, a woman must fight to uncover his secrets in Daly’s (The Trophy Child, 2017, etc.) domestic thriller.

Jane Campbell prides herself on her equanimity even as she also recognizes that she will do almost anything to avoid face-to-face conflict. She’s not someone who actively seizes her dreams, as evidenced by the fact that she teaches creative writing instead of fighting to publish her own book. Her husband, Leon, in contrast, is not only a successful crime novelist, but also a strong personality who doesn’t turn away from a fight. One afternoon, as they prepare to pull out of the driveway with their two children in the car, Jane goes inside to fetch something. When she returns several minutes later, Leon has been brutally attacked. Most of the novel follows Jane’s struggles as she works to support Leon, who is in a medically induced coma; keep her children safe; and make enough money to keep them all afloat. For as she begins digging into her husband’s life, she finds out that he’s been lying to her about his writing and about their finances. Perhaps the list of suspects is longer than at first it appears—and maybe Leon was even having mental problems before his brain surgery. This is an evenly paced thriller; Daly delivers just enough clues and twists, a little bit at a time, to keep the reader guessing. It’s easy to relate to Jane; her general passiveness leads to few character surprises, but she firmly gains and keeps our sympathy, unlike many more unreliable narrators who pepper domestic suspense novels these days. After the shocking beginning, Jane’s dogged pursuit of the truth keeps the novel grounded.

A satisfyingly original thriller.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2845-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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