My favorite thing in the world is to stretch out in the sun and read a good book. These nine works of crime fiction are releasing just in time for summer, and I can’t wait to stack them up right next to my beach towel. Starting today Barnes & Noble is having a sitewide preorder promotion until 4/28 for 25% off hardcovers, ebooks, and audiobooks with code PREORDER25.
Lucy’s sister disappeared a year ago, and when the case goes cold, Lucy takes matters into her own hands. She hitchhikes on a regular basis, planning to trap the killer. The novel is told from three different perspectives—the first is Lucy, the second is Angela, a woman who works for the Missing Person’s Unit, and the third is the killer themself.
Titus Crowne went into law enforcement to make a difference, even if part of that role as the first Black sheriff in his county sometimes involved protecting Confederate pride marchers. The book begins in that liminal space, and soon there’s much more to reckon with. A student charges a school and kills a beloved teacher, and while Titus tries to deescalate the situation, his deputies shoot and kill the active shooter. In the investigation afterward, it becomes obvious that the child was abused by the teacher he killed, and as they uncover more of the story, the story becomes more and more twisted.
Lee Gulliver finds herself living in her car after her restaurant sinks her deep into debt. One day she wakes in her beachside parking space to see a woman throw herself into the ocean. Lee saves the woman from her intended suicide, and the woman, Hazel, is furious. Until she realizes that Lee might be able to help her disappear. As they hatch a plan, their friendship seems to grow… until Lee realizes Hazel might not be a great friend after all.
I love a prison vendetta, especially when it’s between women, and this novel is exactly that. Florence “Florida” Baum claims she was a victim of circumstance when she arrives at the Arizona women’s prison, but Diosmary Sandoval knows better. When both women unexpectedly get their freedom, Dios’ becomes obsessed with Florida, to the point that she stalks her and tries to bring her down.
If you like a little love story intertwined with your thriller, you should try this book. Elle Portman is out at the Texas county fair with her two-year-old son when a shooter opens fire into the crowd. Later, when she gives her statement at the police station, she meets corporate consultant Calder Hudson, who is determined to serve justice to the shooter. They join forces to find him, and at the same time, they try to make peace with the fact that this domestic terrorist is how they found each other.
Summer and Leo would do anything for each other. Inspired by the way each has had to carve her place in a hostile and unforgiving world, and united by the call of the open road, they travel around sunny California in Summer's tricked-out Land Cruiser. It's not a glamorous life, but it gives them the freedom they crave from the painful pasts they've left behind. But even free spirits have bills to pay. Luckily, Summer is a skilled pickpocket, a small-time thief, and a con artist—and Leo, determined to pay her own way, has learned a trick or two.
Eager for a big score, Leo catches in her crosshairs Michael Forrester, a self-made billionaire and philanthropist. When her charm wins him over, Leo is rewarded with an invitation to his private island off the California coastline for a night of fabulous excess. She eagerly anticipates returning with photos that can be sold to the paparazzi, jewelry that can be liquidated, and endless stories to share with Summer. Instead, Leo disappears. On her own for the first time in years, Summer decides to infiltrate Michael's island and find out what really happened. But when she arrives, no one has seen Leo—she's not on the island as far as they know. Plus, there was only one way on the island—and no way off—for the coming days. Trapped in a scheme she helped initiate, could Summer have met her match?
Israel Pike is a lobsterman on the island of Salvation Point, and he’s known for killing his father a decade earlier. When he discovers seven murdered politicians on their yacht, he’s obviously considered a suspect. Meanwhile on the island, when 12-year-old Lyman Rankin lands in an abandoned house after running away from his abusive father, only to be found by a woman with a hatchet. How will Israel and Lyman’s stories intersect over the multiple murders? You’ll have to read this book to find out.
In 1929, the Hope family was all murdered, except for the 17-year-old Lenora. The whole Maine town assumes she did it, but by the time Kit McDeere comes to care for wheelchair-bound Lenora in 1983, she seems harmless. Lenora is mute, so she communicates with Kit via typewriter, and one night, she writes to Kit that she wants to tell the whole story. Naturally, Kit can’t say no, but as she grows more invested in the story, Lenora seems less and less harmless.
If you like a dash of science fiction in your crime fiction, this one is for you. Bridge’s mother was a wild one: she was a teenage runaway who became a neuroscientist obsessed with finding the dreamworm—the thing that allows people to open other dimensions, explore parallel universes of different selves and different choices. Now, Jo is dead. Bridge has to figure out if she’s only dead in this dimension.
Julia Bennett has worked hard to create a stable life for her daughter, Cora, in Southern California. So when Cora leaves for college, the worst thing Julia expects on move-in day is an argument with her ex-husband and his new wife. But a sudden attack leaves the campus stunned—and only Julia’s quick actions save Cora’s life. Shaken in the aftermath, and haunted by a dark secret, Julia starts to wonder: What if the attack wasn’t as random as everyone believes?
Newly pregnant Ren Petrovic has an unusual career—she’s a trained assassin, operating under a strict moral code. Ren wasn’t on campus that day, but she knows who was: her husband, Nolan. What she doesn’t know is why Nolan has broken their rules by not telling her about the job in advance. The more Ren looks into the attack, the more she begins to question: Who really hired Nolan? And why did one woman in the crowd respond so differently from all the rest?
Julia and Ren each want answers, but their searches quickly pit them against each other. One woman is a hired killer, but the other is a determined survivor. And both mothers will defend their families to the bitter end.
I’m looking forward to this novel—it sounds like what Forrest Gump would be if it was a crime novel. In 1977, Ike Marder has gone off the grid, serving on Evel Knievel’s pit crew after going AWOL from the Marine corps. His sister, Lucy has become the star reporter of a new tabloid, where she’s fallen in with the wealthy British family that owns the paper. I should mention, they’re the children of Senator Charlie Marder. At the retreat where the post-Nixon Republican party’s new future will be decided, the adult children have to make some life-changing decisions.
Robert Stephens Jr. is sent to Gracetown School for Boys for kicking a white boy’s leg. But the Gracetown School for Boys isn’t just any reform school. As Robert finds, it’s a segregated school that is haunted from the boys who have died there. The Reformatory is an eerie, frightening novel that explores the horrors of our history.
The people in Frankie Morgan’s life say she’s angry. Emotionally stunted. Combative. But really, who can blame her? It’s hard being nice when your clients are insufferable, your next-door neighbor is a miserable woman and the cowardly driver who killed your mother is still out living it up somewhere.
Somehow, though, she finds herself at her very first anger-management group session—drinking terrible coffee and learning all about how “forgiveness is a process.”
One that starts with a list.
Frankie is skeptical. A list of everyone who’s wronged her in some way over the years? More paper, please. Still, she makes the pointless list—with her own name in a prominent spot—and promptly forgets about it…until it goes missing. And one by one, the people she’s named start getting hurt in freak accidents, each deadlier than the last.
Could it be coincidence giving her the revenge she never dared to seek…or something more sinister?
If Frankie doesn’t find out who’s behind it all, she might be next.
Who is stalking Florence Nightingale and her nurses? Is it the legendary Beast of the Crimean, or someone closer to home? In 1855, Britain and France are fighting to keep the Russians from snatching the Crimean Peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, and Nightingale, a wealthy young society woman, has made it her mission to improve the wretched conditions in the British military hospitals in Turkey—despite fierce objections from the male doctors around her. When young women start turning up dead, their mouths sewn shut with embroidered fabric roses, Inspector Charles Field (the real-life inspiration for Charles Dickens’s Inspector Bucket in Bleak House) is sent from England to find the killer among the doctors, military men, journalists, and others swarming Turkey’s famous Barrack Hospital. Here Field meets both the famous Nightingale as well as Nurse Jane Rolly, the woman who will become his wife, and as he races to protect them, the prime suspect takes his own life. Case closed. Or is it?
Twelve years later, back in London, amid the turmoil surrounding the expansion of voting rights, women again start turning up dead, their mouths covered by that telltale embroidered rose. Did Field suspect the wrong man before, or is he dealing with a deviant copycat? Either way, he must race against time to stop the killer before more bodies are discovered, and before his own family gets pulled into danger. Populated by real figures of the day, from Benjamin Disraeli to novelist Wilkie Collins to, of course, Florence Nightingale herself, and steeped in historical details of 1860s London, The Nightingale Affair plays out against a backdrop of a rapidly changing society. Most of all, it is a pure reading delight, offering shocks, unforgettably vivid scenes, and surprising twists.
One early morning on a Norfolk beach in Virginia, a dead body is discovered by a man taking his daily swim—Arman Bajalan, formerly an interpreter in Iraq. After narrowly surviving an assassination attempt that killed his wife and child, Arman has been given lonely sanctuary in the US as a maintenance worker at the Sea Breeze Motel. Now, convinced that the body is connected to his past, he knows he is still not safe.
Seasoned detective Catherine Wheel and her newly minted partner have little to go on beyond a bus ticket in the dead man’s pocket. It leads them to Sally Ewell, a local journalist as grief-stricken as Arman is by the Iraq War, who is investigating a corporation on the cusp of landing a multi-billion-dollar government defense contract.
As victims mount around Arman, taking the team down wrong turns and towards startling evidence, they find themselves in a race, committed to unraveling the truth and keeping Arman alive—even if it costs them absolutely everything.
What to Read Next
Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.