Some of my very favorite crime fiction is set in cold, dark, sometimes urban, and always noir spaces. There’s something menacing about dimly-lit alleyways, thick forested terrain that holds secrets, snow-covered cities that blanket cries of help. I love these muted, ominous backdrops but there’s also something equally delicious about sun-soaked thrillers. Those that conjure up strong summer cocktails, adults behaving badly and bottomless, devious days.
Here’s a list of four thrillers that either take place over the summer or conjure up sun-drenched locales and make for perfect poolside reading.
This propulsive neighborhood suspense, set against the backdrop of heat-stroked Austin, calls to mind Big Little Lies but with a distinctly Texas flair. Margaritas, secrets, and lies swirl in this riveting novel which follows three overprotective mothers in an upscale neighborhood whose dreams of sheltering their teenage boys comes crashing down when a body of a woman is discovered at the popular swimming hole where they boys hang out.
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Another dazzling suspense set in heat-scorched Texas (at least for parts of this enthralling novel that feature dual narratives and shifting timelines), More Thank You’ll Ever Know is a breathtaking debut that tells the story of Lore Rivera, a wife and mother who, in 1985, made the daring, bold choice of being married to two different men, in secret, which leads to disaster when one of the men is arrested for murdering the other. Alternating between present day through the point of view of Cassie Bowman, true-crime blogger who becomes obsessed with Lore’s story and finding out the truth behind it, and the mid-80s in Laredo, Texas, and Mexico City, this thriller pulses with secrets, betrayal, true crime obsession, and also the season’s most sizzling tag line: “The dance becomes an affair, which becomes a marriage, which becomes a murder.”
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Though not technically set in summer (this beachy-thriller takes place during Autumn in Australia), I’m sneaking it in here because it’s setting—a paradisical coastal setting makes it a perfect summer reading choice. Comped to “Point Break meets And Then There Were None,” this propulsive suspense is one of my most anticipated reads and I can’t wait for it’s release. Kenna Ward is lured back into surfing after she gave it up a few years ago when her boyfriend drowned. But now her best friend is engaged to a stranger who is part of an elite surfing club and Kenna is beckoned to a remote beach where they all surf. Soon, members of the group turn up missing and Kenna is sucked into a dangerous world she might not escape from.
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Pass the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows, I’m always a sucker for a summer camp novel and this chilling, thrilling suspense is a dark and propulsive twist on the genre. Emma Davis, a bourgeoning artist who lives in New York City, is on the rise with her evocative, haunting paintings. Paintings of her three former friends who vanished at Camp Nightingale thirteen years ago when Emma was a counselor. Sager delivers twist and after jaw-dropping twist as Emma returns to the newly reopened camp at the request of the wealthy camp owner, desperate to find out what happened to her friends but only to have fresh danger lurking all around her.
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Jen Hansen, Kittie Spears, and Cynthia Nichols have been friends since childhood. They are now approaching forty and their lives have changed, but their insular East Texas town has not. They stay sane by drinking wine in the afternoons, dishing about other women in the neighborhood, and bonding over the heartache of their own encroaching middle age and raising ungrateful teens.
Then Will Harding comes to town, moving into one of the neighborhood’s grandest homes. Mysterious and charming, he seems like the answer to each woman’s prayers. He’s a source of fascination for Jen, Kittie, and Cynthia, but none of them are ready for the way Will disrupts their lives.
As Will grows closer with each of the women, their fascination twists into obsession, threatening their friendships and their families. When he abruptly pulls away, each woman scrambles to discover the source of his affection. But what they’ll uncover is far more sinister and deadly than any of them could have ever imagined.
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Sophie O'Neill left behind an envy-inspiring career and the stressful, competitive life of big-city Chicago to settle down with her husband and young son in a small Texas town. It seems like the perfect life with a beautiful home in an idyllic rural community. But Sophie soon realizes that life is now too quiet, and she's feeling bored and restless.
Then she meets Margot Banks, an alluring socialite who is part of an elite clique secretly known as the Hunting Wives. Sophie finds herself completely drawn to Margot and swept into her mysterious world of late-night target practice and dangerous partying. As Sophie's curiosity gives way to full-blown obsession, she slips farther away from the safety of her family and deeper into this nest of vipers.
When the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the woods where the Hunting Wives meet, Sophie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and her life spiraling out of control.
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