We’re always impressed with the new roster of mystery and thriller books debuting each year. This year was particularly impressive as we saw a rise in diverse voices and inclusive characters, representing cultures and peoples from around the world. These authors are killing it and for those always looking for the next book to read, we recommend keeping them on your radar. Here are some of our favorite mystery & thriller debuts from 2021.
Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.
When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.
It would be easy to underestimate Chloe Sevre… She’s a freshman honor student, a legging-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. She spends her time on yogalates, frat parties and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.
Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study of psychopaths—students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements.
When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan for revenge into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.
by Femi Kayode
When Dr. Philip Taiwo is called on by a powerful Nigerian politician to investigate the public torture and murder of three university students in remote Port Harcourt, he has no idea that he’s about to be enveloped by a perilous case that is far from cold.
Philip is not a detective. He’s an investigative psychologist, an academic more interested in figuring out the why of a crime than actually solving it. But when he steps off the plane and into the dizzying frenzy of the provincial airport, he soon realizes that the murder of the Okriki Three isn’t as straightforward as he thought. With the help of his loyal and streetwise personal driver, Chika, Philip must work against those actively conspiring against him to parse together the truth of what happened to these students.
by A.E. Osworth
Eliza Bright was living the dream as an elite video game coder at Fancy Dog Games when her private life suddenly became public. But is Eliza Bright a brilliant, self-taught coder bravely calling out the toxic masculinity and chauvinism that pervades her workplace and industry? Or, is Eliza Bright a woman who needs to be destroyed to protect "the sanctity of gaming culture"? It depends on who you ask…
When Eliza reports an incident of workplace harassment that is quickly dismissed, she's forced to take her frustrations to a journalist who blasts her story across the Internet. She's fired and doxxed, and becomes a rallying figure for women across America. But she's also enraged the beast that is male gamers on 4Chan and Reddit, whose collective, unreliable voice narrates our story. Soon Eliza is in the cross-hairs of the gaming community, threatened and stalked as they monitor her every move online and across New York City.
As the violent power of an angry male collective descends upon everyone in Eliza's life, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who to trust, even when she's eventually taken in and protected by an under-the-radar Collective known as the Sixsterhood. The violence moves from cyberspace to the real world, as a vicious male super-fan known only as The Inspectre is determined to exact his revenge on behalf of men everywhere. We watch alongside the Sixsterhood and subreddit incels as this dramatic cat-and-mouse game plays out to reach its violent and inevitable conclusion.
Florence Darrow is a low-level publishing employee who believes that she's destined to be a famous writer. When she stumbles into a job as the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon—whose true identity is a secret—it appears that the universe is finally providing Florence’s big chance.
The arrangement seems perfect. Maud Dixon (whose real name, Florence discovers, is Helen Wilcox) can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom—not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen’s spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco, where Helen’s new novel is set. Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence’s life at last feels interesting enough to inspire a novel of her own.
But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night—and no sign of Helen—she’s tempted to take a shortcut. Instead of hiding in Helen’s shadow, why not upgrade into Helen's life? Not to mention her bestselling pseudonym…
Zakiya Dalila Harris
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
Two decades ago Marissa Mo escaped a basement prison—the only home she’d ever known. At twenty-seven, Marissa’s moved beyond the trauma and is working under a new name as a freelance photographer. But when she accepts a job covering a string of macabre murders in Portland, it’s impossible for Marissa not to remember.
Everything is eerily familiar. The same underground lairs. Sad trinkets and toys left behind, identical to those Marissa had as a child. And then there is the note meant just for her that freezes Marissa’s blood: See you soon, Missy.
To determine the killer’s next move, Marissa must retrieve her long-forgotten memories and return to a past she’s hidden away. But she won’t be facing her fears alone. Someone is waiting for her in the dark.
Jesse Q. Sutanto
When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It's the biggest job yet for the family wedding business—"Don't leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!"—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie's perfect buttercream flowers.
But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy's great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?
by Paul Herron
Hurricane Anna: a superstorm made up of two Category 5 hurricanes coming together to wreak unprecedented havoc along the eastern seaboard.
When the superstorm hits, the correctional officers at Ravenhill flee, opening all the cell doors and leaving the inmates to fend for themselves as the floodwaters rise. But Jack Constantine, an ex-cop serving ten years for killing one of his wife's murderers, isn't going to just lay down and die. Not when his wife's two remaining killers are among the prisoners relocated to the Glasshouse to ride out the storm.
Meanwhile, Kiera Sawyer, a Correctional Officer on her first day at work is the only officer left behind when the others flee. Sawyer rescues Jack and offers to team up. If they can make it to the Glasshouse they might just survive the hurricane. But that involves making their way through the prison, fighting off eight hundred blood-crazed inmates as the building fills with water and the wall crumble all around them.
Mary used to be such a nice girl. She was the resident whiz kid of Liberty Lake, Minnesota—the quiet, chubby teen with the scholarship to an Ivy League school. But three years later, “Ivy League Mary” is back—a thinner, cynical, restless failure who was kicked out of Cornell at the beginning of her senior year and won’t tell anyone why. Taking a job at the local grocery store, Mary tries to make sense of her life’s sharp downward spiral.
Then beautiful, magnetic Olivia Willand goes missing. A rising social media star, Olivia is admired by everyone in Liberty Lake—except Mary. Once Olivia’s best friend, Mary knows better than anyone that behind the Instagram persona hides a willful, manipulative girl with sharp edges. As the town obsesses over perfect, lovely Olivia, Mary wonders if her disappearance might be tied to another missing person: nineteen-year-old DeMaria Jackson, whose case has been widely dismissed as a runaway.
Who is the real Olivia Willand, and where did she go? What happened to DeMaria? As Mary pries at the cracks in the careful facades surrounding the two missing girls, old wounds will bleed fresh and force her to confront a horrible truth.