Every December we get great book lists and wrap-ups of the best titles of that year. One of the most popular lists is the yearly New York Times Best Books of the Year. We’ve lined up the best crime fiction put together by the New York Times, along with all the mysteries and thrillers you’ll find in their 100 notable books of the year.
Best Crime Fiction
In Denton, Arkansas, the fate of the high school football team rests on the shoulders of Billy Lowe, a volatile but talented running back. Billy comes from an extremely troubled home: a trailer park where he is terrorized by his mother’s abusive boyfriend. Billy takes out his anger on the field, but when his savagery crosses a line, he faces suspension.
Without Billy Lowe, the Denton Pirates can kiss their playoff bid goodbye. But the head coach, Trent Powers, who just moved from California with his wife and two children for this job, has more than just his paycheck riding on Billy’s bad behavior. As a born-again Christian, Trent feels a divine calling to save Billy—save him from his circumstances, and save his soul.
Then Billy’s abuser is found murdered in the Lowe family trailer, and all evidence points toward Billy. Now nothing can stop an explosive chain of violence that could tear the whole town apart on the eve of the playoffs.
A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents' American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.
His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they've cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.
Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they've dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.
It’s 1999 and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to mixing work and friendship—after all, between her jealous boyfriend and his young daughter, she has enough on her plate. But the newest dancer is so clueless that Samantha feels compelled to help her learn the hustle and drama of the club: how to sweet-talk the boss, fit in with the other women, and make good money. One night, when the new girl needs a ride home, Samantha agrees to drive: a simple decision that turns deadly.
Georgia, another dancer drawn into the ensuing murder and missing person investigation, gathers information for Holly, a grieving detective determined to solve the case. Georgia just wants to help, but her involvement makes her a target. As Holly and Georgia round up their suspects, the story’s point of view shifts between dancers, detectives, children, club patrons—and the killer.
Drawing on her experience as a former dancer, Marie Rutkoski immerses us in the captivating world of the club, which comes alive with complicated people trying their best to protect themselves and those they love.
Jeanie’s whole world is turned upside down. Not only has she lost her beloved brother, but with no family left in Washington, she is ripped from everything she knows, including Maddox, the boy she could be learning to love.
Twenty years later, Jeanie is in England. She keeps her demons at bay by drinking too much, sleeping with a married man, and speaking to a therapist she doesn’t respect. But her old life catches up to her when Maddox reappears, claiming to have tracked down her dad. Stunned, Jeanie must decide whether to continue running from her past or to confront her father and finally find out what really happened that night, where her brother is, and why she was the one left behind.
In the late 1970s, The Outfit has the entire city of Chicago in its hands. Tony Accardo is its fearless leader. Nicky Passero is his loyal soldier, though no one knows he has a direct line in to the boss of bosses. When the Christmas gift Accardo got for his wife, an inscribed bracelet with gold and diamond inlay, is stolen along with other items in a jewelry heist, Nicky is charged with tracking down and returning all of the items—by whatever means necessary.
Forced into an impossible situation, Nicky must find a way to carry out Accardo's increasingly unhinged instructions and survive the battle for control of Chicago. What Accardo doesn't know: Nicky has a secret which has made his life impossible and has put him in the pocket of the FBI.
It’s the summer of 1964 and three innocent men are brutally murdered for trying to help Black Mississippians secure the right to vote. Against this backdrop, twenty-one year old Violet Richards finds herself in more trouble than she’s ever been in her life. Suffering a brutal attack of her own, she kills the man responsible. But with the color of Violet’s skin, there is no way she can escape Jim Crow justice in Jackson, Mississippi. Before anyone can find the body or finger her as the killer, she decides to run. With the help of her white beau, Violet escapes. But desperation and fear leads her to hide out in the small rural town of Chillicothe, Georgia, unaware that danger may be closer than she thinks.
Back in Jackson, Marigold, Violet’s older sister, has dreams of attending law school. Working for the Mississippi Summer Project, she has been trying to use her smarts to further the cause of the Black vote. But Marigold is in a different kind of trouble: she’s pregnant and unmarried. After news of the murder brings the police to her door, Marigold sees no choice but to flee Jackson too. She heads North seeking the promise of a better life and no more segregation. But has she made a terrible choice that threatens her life and that of her unborn child?
Best in a Series
At first, the death of millionaire businessman Charles Parsons seems like a straightforward suicide. There’s no sign of forced entry or struggle in his lavish New Jersey mansion—just a single gunshot wound from his own weapon. But days later, a different story emerges. Computer techs pick up a voice recording that incriminates Parsons’ adoptive daughter, Ann, who duly confesses and pleads guilty.
Erin McCabe has little interest in reviewing such a slam-dunk case—even after she has a mysterious meeting with one of the investigating detectives, who reveals that Ann, like Erin, is a trans woman. Yet despite their misgivings, Erin and her law partner, Duane Swisher, ultimately can’t ignore the pieces that don’t fit.
As their investigation deepens, Erin and Swish convince Ann to withdraw her guilty plea. But Ann clearly knows more than she’s willing to share, even if it means a life sentence. Who is she protecting, and why?
Fighting against time and a prosecutor hell-bent on notching another conviction, the two work tirelessly—Erin inside the courtroom, Swish in the field—to clear Ann’s name. But despite Parsons’ former associates’ determination to keep his—and their own—illegal activities buried, a horrifying truth emerges—a web of human exploitation, unchecked greed, and murder. Soon, a quest to see justice served becomes a desperate struggle to survive . . .
Best in a Series
Everyone’s favorite sleuth—Vera Kelly—is back and put to the test as she searches for her missing girlfriend.
It’s spring 1971 and Vera Kelly and her girlfriend, Max, leave their cozy Brooklyn apartment for an emergency visit to Max's estranged family in Los Angeles. Max’s parents are divorcing—her father is already engaged to a much younger woman and under the sway of an occultist charlatan; her mother has left their estate in a hurry with no indication of return. Max, who hasn’t seen her family since they threw her out at the age of twenty-one, prepares for the trip with equal parts dread and anger.
Upon arriving, Vera is shocked by the size and extravagance of the Comstock estate—the sprawling, manicured landscape; expansive and ornate buildings; and garages full of luxury cars reveal a privileged upbringing that, up until this point, Max had only hinted at—while Max attempts to navigate her father, who is hostile and controlling, and the occultist, St. James, who is charming but appears to be siphoning family money. Tensions boil over at dinner when Max threatens to alert her mother—and her mother’s lawyers—to St. James and her father’s plans using marital assets. The next morning, when Vera wakes up, Max is gone.
Best in a Series
New York City, 1947: For years, Holly Quick has made a good living off of murder, filling up the pages of pulp detective magazines with gruesome tales of revenge. Now someone is bringing her stories to life and leaving a trail of blood-soaked bodies behind. With the threat of another murder looming, and reluctant to go to the police, Holly turns to the best crime-solving duo in or out of the pulps, Willowjean “Will” Parker and her boss, famed detective Lillian Pentecost.
The pair are handed the seemingly-impossible task of investigating three murders at once without tipping off the cops or the press that the crimes are connected. A tall order made even more difficult by the fact that Will is already signed up to spend her daylight hours undercover as a guileless secretary in the hopes of digging up a lead on an old adversary, Dr. Olivia Waterhouse.
But even if Will is stuck in pencil skirts and sensible shoes, she’s not about to let her boss have all the fun. Soon she’s diving into an underground world of people obsessed with murder and the men and women who commit them. Can the killer be found in the Black Museum Club, run by a philanthropist whose collection of grim murder memorabilia may not be enough to satisfy his lust for the homicidal? Or is it Holly Quick’s pair of editors, who read about murder all day, but clearly aren’t telling the full story?
Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. He knows what he’s done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood.
Through a kaleidoscope of women—a mother, a sister, a homicide detective—we learn the story of Ansel’s life. We meet his mother, Lavender, a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation; Hazel, twin sister to Ansel’s wife, inseparable since birth, forced to watch helplessly as her sister’s relationship threatens to devour them all; and finally, Saffy, the detective hot on his trail, who has devoted herself to bringing bad men to justice but struggles to see her own life clearly. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake.
Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men.
After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.
When they discover remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.
But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.
When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.
Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.
Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them all alive.
The Fairway Players, a local theatre group, is in the midst of rehearsals when tragedy strikes the family of director Martin Hayward and his wife Helen, the play’s star. Their young granddaughter has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and with an experimental treatment costing a tremendous sum, their castmates rally to raise the money to give her a chance at survival.
But not everybody is convinced of the experimental treatment’s efficacy—nor of the good intentions of those involved. As tension grows within the community, things come to a shocking head at the explosive dress rehearsal. The next day, a dead body is found, and soon, an arrest is made. In the run-up to the trial, two young lawyers sift through the material—emails, messages, letters—with a growing suspicion that the killer may be hiding in plain sight. The evidence is all there, between the lines, waiting to be uncovered.
Lee Hanjo is an artist at the peak of his fame, envied and celebrated. Then, on his forty-third birthday, he awakens to find that his devoted wife has disappeared, leaving behind a soon-to-be-published novel she’d secretly written about the sordid past and questionable morality of an artist with a trajectory similar to Hanjo’s. It’s clear to him that his life is about to shatter and the demons from his past will come out. But why did his wife do it? Why now?
The book forces Hanjo to reflect on a summer from his youth when a deadly lie irreversibly and tragically determined the fates of two families.
From master storyteller J. M. Lee, one of Korea’s most renowned authors, comes an unforgettable novel of hidden truths, denials, and their inevitable repercussions. Everyone still left standing from that terrible summer so long ago must finally reckon with the deceptions that started it all and, twist after shocking twist, reap both the suffering and the vindication that comes with revenge.
The Other Side of Night begins with a man named David Asha writing about his biggest regret: his sudden separation from his son, Elliot. In his grief, David tells a story.
Next, we step into the life of Harriet Kealty, a police officer trying to clear her name after a lapse of judgment. She discovers a curious inscription in a secondhand book—a plea: Help me, he’s trying to kill me. Who wrote this note? Who is “he”?
This note leads Harri to David Asha, who was last seen stepping off a cliff. Police suspect he couldn’t cope after his wife’s sudden death. Still, why would this man jump and leave behind his young son? Quickly, Harri’s attention zeroes in on a person she knows all too well.
Ben Elmys: once the love of her life. A surrogate father to Elliot Asha and trusted friend to the Ashas. Ben may also be a murderer.
Though she may be a murderer, Ruby is not a sociopath. She is an animal-loving therapist with a thriving practice. She’s felt empathy and sympathy. She’s had long-lasting friendships and relationships, and has a husband, Jason, whom she adores. But the homicide detectives at Miami Beach PD are not convinced of her happy marriage. When we meet Ruby, she is in a police interrogation room, being accused of Jason’s murder. Which, ironically, is one murder that she did not commit, though a scandal-obsessed public believes differently. As she undergoes questioning, Ruby’s mind races back to all the details of her life that led her to this exact moment, and to the three dead bodies in her wake. Because though she may not have killed her husband, Ruby certainly isn’t innocent.
First Rule: Make them like you.
Second Rule: Make them need you.
Third Rule: Make them pay.
They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.
They think I’m working hard to impress them.
They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.
They're wrong. I’m going to bury him.
Notable Mysteries & Thrillers
On a whim, Grady Kendall applies to work as a live-in caretaker for a luxury property in Hawaiʻi, as far from his small-town Maine life as he can imagine. Within days he's flying out to an estate on remote Hokuloa Road, where he quickly uncovers a dark side to the island’s idyllic reputation: it has long been a place where people vanish without a trace.
When a young woman from his flight becomes the next to disappear, Grady is determined—and soon desperate—to figure out what's happened to Jessie, and to all those staring out of the island’s “missing" posters. But working with Raina, Jessie’s fiercely protective best friend, to uncover the truth is anything but easy, and with an inexplicable and sinister presence stalking his every step, Grady can only hope he'll find the answer before it's too late.
When clever, headstrong Kaveri moves to Bangalore to marry handsome young doctor Ramu, she's resigned herself to a quiet life.
But that all changes the night of the party at the Century Club, where she escapes to the garden for some peace and quiet—and instead spots an uninvited guest in the shadows. Half an hour later, the party turns into a murder scene.
When a vulnerable woman is connected to the crime, Kaveri becomes determined to save her and launches a private investigation to find the killer, tracing his steps from an illustrious brothel to an Englishman's mansion. She soon finds that sleuthing in a sari isn't as hard as it seems when you have a talent for mathematics, a head for logic, and a doctor for a husband . . .
And she's going to need them all as the case leads her deeper into a hotbed of danger, sedition, and intrigue in Bangalore's darkest alleyways.
Carlota Moreau: A young woman growing up on a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of a researcher who is either a genius or a madman.
Montgomery Laughton: A melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.
The hybrids: The fruits of the doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.
All of them live in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Dr. Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.
For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and, in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.
Cassandra Williams is twelve; her little brother, Wayne, is seven. One day, when they’re alone together, there is an accident and Wayne is lost forever. His body is never recovered. The missing boy cleaves the family with doubt. Their father leaves, starts another family elsewhere. But their mother can’t give up hope and launches an organization dedicated to missing children.
As C grows older, she sees her brother everywhere: in bistros, airplane aisles, subway cars. Here is her brother’s face, the light in his eyes, the way he seems to recognize her, too. But it can’t be, of course. Or can it? Then one day, in another accident, C meets a man both mysterious and familiar, a man who is also searching for someone and for his own place in the world. His name is Wayne.
The protagonist of Percival Everett’s puckish new novel is a brilliant professor of mathematics who goes by Wala Kitu. (Wala, he explains, means “nothing” in Tagalog, and Kitu is Swahili for “nothing.”) He is an expert on nothing. That is to say, he is an expert, and his area of study is nothing, and he does nothing about it. This makes him the perfect partner for the aspiring villain John Sill, who wants to break into Fort Knox to steal, well, not gold bars but a shoebox containing nothing. Once he controls nothing he’ll proceed with a dastardly plan to turn a Massachusetts town into nothing. Or so he thinks.
With the help of the brainy and brainwashed astrophysicist-turned-henchwoman Eigen Vector, our professor tries to foil the villain while remaining in his employ. In the process, Wala Kitu learns that Sill’s desire to become a literal Bond villain originated in some real all-American villainy related to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. As Sill says, “Professor, think of it this way. This country has never given anything to us and it never will. We have given everything to it. I think it’s time we gave nothing back.”
The kinetic story of a sixty-five-year-old female assassin who faces an unexpected threat in the twilight of her career—this is an international bestseller and the English language debut from an award-winning South Korean author
At sixty-five, Hornclaw is beginning to slow down. She lives modestly in a small apartment, with only her aging dog, a rescue named Deadweight, to keep her company. There are expectations for people her age—that she'll retire and live out the rest of her days quietly. But Hornclaw is not like other people. She is an assassin.
Double-crossers, corporate enemies, cheating spouses—for the past four decades, Hornclaw has killed them all with ruthless efficiency, and the less she's known about her targets, the better. But now, nearing the end of her career, she has just slipped up. An injury leads her to an unexpected connection with a doctor and his family. But emotions, for an assassin, are a dangerous proposition. As Hornclaw's world closes in, this final chapter in her career may also mark her own bloody end.
Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. His mother Margaret, a Chinese American poet, left the family when he was nine years old without a trace. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, his family's life has been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic.
Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.
1980, PASS CHRISTIAN, MISSISSIPPI: It is three in the morning when Bobby Western zips the jacket of his wet suit and plunges from the Coast Guard tender into darkness. His dive light illuminates the sunken jet, nine bodies still buckled in their seats, hair floating, eyes devoid of speculation. Missing from the crash site are the pilot’s flight bag, the plane’s black box, and the tenth passenger. But how? A collateral witness to machinations that can only bring him harm, Western is shadowed in body and spirit—by men with badges; by the ghost of his father, inventor of the bomb that melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima; and by his sister, the love and ruin of his soul.
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