Spine-chilling books make perfect summer beach reads. They’re also excellent options for cooling off by the pool. Which stories will you be reading this summer? Here is our book list of horror, mystery, thriller, and true crime that is at the top of our summer reading list.
by David Ellis
As Chicago PD’s special-ops leader, Detective Billy Harney knows well that money is not the only valuable currency. The filthy rich man he’s investigating is down to his last twenty million. He’s also being held in jail.
Billy’s unit is called in when an escape plan results in officers down and inmates vanished.
In an empty lot, Billy spots two Kevlar vests. Two helmets. Two assault rifles. And a handwritten note:
Are you having fun yet?
by Sandra Brown
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown comes a riveting thriller out just in time for all your summer reading lists. Zach Bridger is a former Super Bowl MVP quarterback who hasn’t seen his ex-wife Rebecca Pratt since their marriage fell apart. So when he receives the news that Rebecca has been placed on life support following a violent assault, he’s shocked that he’s the one forced to make the choice to keep her on life support or take her off of it. Now, only four years later, Rebecca's attacker, Eban, is released from prison. Rebecca has remained on life support all these years, but now, if she were to die, Eban could be retried for murder.
Matt Query; Harrison Query
Looking for bone-chilling horror to keep you cool this summer? Pick up Old Country, a horror thriller about a young couple—former marine Harry and his wife, Sasha—who think they’ve found the perfect home in a secluded. When their nearest neighbors show up and warn them of a malevolent spirit that lives in the valley, Harry and Sasha brush it off as an old wives’ tale. But as the seasons change, the evil manifestations become harder to deny. And much more dangerous.
by Denise Mina
Perhaps an escapist thriller that will take you on a journey across the globe is more your speed for a thrilling summer read. In the second novel in Denise Mina’s Anna and Fin series, Anna and Fin find themselves at the center of an Internet frenzy to find Lisa Lee, who has vanished from a small Scottish town. But Lisa is not the innocent victim she first appears to be. Anna and Fin uncover Lisa’s YouTube channel, which shows her breaking into an abandoned French Chateau and nabbing a Roman silver casket. Is it a mere coincidence that one day after Lisa’s disappearance the casket is listed for auction in Paris?
by Jeff Abbott
In Traitor’s Dance, undercover agent Sam Capra is working for Section K—America's most secret espionage agency—all while also being a good dad to his thirteen-year-old son Daniel. Then Sam is approached by a fellow spy who has some revelatory news. Markus Bolt, the last American traitor, is missing. Now the Americans need to find him before the Russians do, and it’s all up to Sam.
by Cate Holahan
In this upcoming summer release from bestselling thriller author Cate Holahan, psychiatrist Imani Banks and her restauranteur husband Philip are living in a posh townhouse in Brooklyn Heights. Meanwhile, Tonya Sayre moved to Manhattan with dreams of becoming a Broadway star, but instead, she’s working in a restaurant, struggling to support her teen daughter Layla. After Philip’s restaurant closes due to the pandemic lockdown, he and Imani decide to let Tonya and Layla rent their extra rooms. But Tonya begins skipping payments, and Imani becomes concerned that Tonya may be responsible for the death of their neighbors. But evicting someone during a lockdown is tricky, even when you think that person might be a murderer.
This Hawaiian thriller is perfect for fans of White Lotus and is called a “perfectly crafted” mystery by horror author Grady Hendrix. Grady Kendall needs an escape from his boring small-town life in Maine, and so on a whim he takes a job as a live-in caretaker for a luxury property in Hawaiʻi. But Grady soon discovers a dark side of the estate on remote Hokuloa Road—it’s a place where people frequently vanish.
Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Locus award-nominated author Gabino Iglesias’ latest novel is a genre-bending thriller about Mario, a father buried in debt due to his daughter’s illness. Desperate to make money, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a hitman and discovers he has a real knack for it. Now Mario has agreed to one final job before quitting the business for good. After this mission which requires him to hijack a cartel’s cash shipment before it reaches Mexico, Mario will either walk away with $200,000 or he’ll end up dead.
Here’s a summer must-read bestselling thriller author David Baldacci. Travis Devine is a man with a routine. Every day, he boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan where he works as an entry-level analyst at an investment firm. But everything changes one morning when Devine receives a shocking anonymous email that reads: She is dead. Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend Sara has been found dead, and he might just be the killer’s next target.
by James O. Born
The 14th book in James Patterson’s Michael Bennett series sees Detective Michael Bennett returning home from his honeymoon only to discover FBI agent Emily Parker is missing. Now, to track her down, Michael will have to follow his former partner's investigation through Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC, tracking an anarchist group. But after everything they’ve been through together, Michael will stop at nothing to find her.
This twisty summer read follows an unlikely friendship. For every summer for over a decade, local Littleport resident Avery Greer and visitor Sadie Loman were practically inseparable—until Sadie is found dead. And Avery feels like others blame her, even though Sadie’s death was officially ruled a suicide. Avery knows someone must know what really happened to her friend, and she’s determined to clear her name before the facts get used against her.
When a Navy vessel comes across a yacht in distress in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean, Captain Danial Tengku orders his ship to rush to its aid. On board the yacht is a British couple: a horribly injured man, Jake, and his traumatized wife, Virginie, who breathlessly confesses, “It’s all my fault. I killed them.”
Trembling with fear, she reveals their shocking story to Danial. Months earlier, the couple had spent all their savings on a yacht, full of excitement for exploring the high seas and exotic lands together. They start at the busy harbors of Malaysia and, through word of mouth, Jake and Virginie learn about a tiny, isolated island full of unspoiled beaches. When they arrive, they discover they are not the only visitors and quickly become entangled with a motley crew of expat sailors. Soon, Jake and Virginie’s adventurous dream turns into a terrifying nightmare.
Now, it’s up to Danial to determine just how much truth there is in Virginie’s alarming tale. But when his crew make a shocking discovery, he realizes that if he doesn’t act soon, they could all fall under the dark spell of the island.
With the stunning setting of Madaket Beach, the Otis-Winbury wedding is going to be an event to remember. For all the wrong reasons. When a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony, everyone in the wedding party becomes a suspect. And as Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews everyone from the bride to the groom’s famous mystery novel-writing mother, he learns that everyone has their secrets.
With summer right there in the title, how can you skip My Summer Darlings this season? From May Cobb, the bestselling author of The Hunting Wives, comes the story of three lifelong friends whose lives are turned upside down when sexy stranger Will Harding comes to town. But as Will grows closer to each woman, fascination turns into obsession, threatening everything these women hold dear.
Nothing screams summer like a remote retreat, especially when it’s at the center of the latest Riley Sager thriller. Casey Fletcher is a recently widowed actress to retreats to her family’s lake house in Vermont in an attempt to escape the press. At the house, Casey spends her days watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who lives in the house across the lake. Then one day, Casey saves Katherine from drowning and the two women strike up a friendship. But the closer she gets to Katherine and Tom, the more Casey realizes their relationship is not as it appears.
The latest mystery novel from bestselling author Ruth Ware is out just in time for the summer. April Clark-Cliveden was the first person Hannah met at Oxford University. April was the ultimate It girl, and Hannah was lucky enough to be a part of her inner circle, which also included their friends Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily. But by the end of their second term, April was dead. Ten years have passed since April’s death, and John Neville, the man convicted of killing April, has died in prison. However, just when Hannah thinks the past is behind her, a young journalist presents new evidence that suggests Neville may have been innocent. Wanting to know the truth about what happened to April, Hannah reconnects with old friends. Could one of them be capable of murder?
This propulsive summer thriller follows Naomi, a psychologist who specializes in domestic abuse cases. Naomi has always found herself becoming far too invested in her clients’ lives, but after she convinces Jacob to leave his wife, she wonders if she’s gone too far. Especially after Jacob goes missing, and the files on him vanish.
If you love Agatha Christie’s mystery classic And Then There Were None, you will love the latest from Alice Feeney. Daisy Darker’s family hasn’t seen each other in years. But now the whole family has agreed to come together for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s house on a tiny island. But when the tide comes in, the Darkers become cut off from the rest of the world for several hours. And then Nana is found dead. And an hour later, another family member follows.
Mary is a quiet, middle-aged woman doing her best to blend into the background. Unremarkable. Invisible. Unknown even to herself.
But lately, things have been changing inside Mary. Along with the hot flashes and body aches, she can’t look in a mirror without passing out, and the voices in her head have been urging her to do unspeakable things.
Fired from her job in New York, she moves back to her hometown, hoping to reconnect with her past and inner self. Instead, visions of terrifying, mutilated specters overwhelm her with increasing regularity and she begins auto-writing strange thoughts and phrases. Mary discovers that these experiences are echoes of an infamous serial killer.
Then the killings begin again.
Mary’s definitely going to find herself.
William Kent Krueger
The ancient Ojibwe healer Henry Meloux has had a vision of his death. As he walks the Northwoods in solitude, he tries to prepare himself peacefully for the end of his long life. But peace is destined to elude him as hunters fill the woods seeking a woman named Dolores Morriseau, a stranger who had come to the healer for shelter and the gift of his wisdom.
Meloux guides this stranger and his great niece, Cork O’Connor’s wife, to safety deep into the Boundary Waters, his home for more than a century. On the last journey he may ever take into this beloved land, Meloux must do his best to outwit the deadly mercenaries who follow.
Meanwhile, in Aurora, Cork works feverishly to identify the hunters and the reason for their relentless pursuit, but he has little to go on. Desperate, Cork begins tracking the killers but his own skills as a hunter are severely tested by nightfall and a late season snowstorm. He knows only too well that with each passing hour time is running out. But his fiercest enemy in this deadly game of cat and mouse may well be his own deep self-doubt about his ability to save those he loves.
Sarah Gailey’s horror thriller Just Like Home is filled with surprises at every turn. Vera hasn’t been back to her childhood home for years. Not since her father was arrested for being a serial killer and she became estranged from her mother. But when her sick mother asks her to return to home, Vera obeys, despite the memories and all the bodies that were once buried there. But not every secret that hides in the notorious house has been uncovered, and when Vera starts to discover notes around the house written in her father’s handwriting, she wonders what else the house might be hiding.
Fans of sci-fi thrillers are probably already familiar with author Blake Crouch, but if you’re new to this author, make sure to put his books on your to-read list, especially Upgrade, which will be out in early summer. Something is happening to Logan Ramsay’s brain. He’s sharper. Smarter. Needs less sleep. Is able to read faster. Why? His genome has been hacked. And there’s a reason Logan has been chosen for this specific upgrade. Something connected to secrets of his past and a horrifying family legacy.
Kirstin Chen’s Counterfeit is a page-turning comedy thriller that follows the story of Asian American lawyer Ava Wong, who has always played by the rules. She’s got a dream career, a successful surgeon husband, a son, a beautiful home—why would she ever color outside the lines when her strait-laced, rule-abiding life has gotten her everything she could ask for? But it turns out the life Ava asked for isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s where Ava’s Chinese friend Winnie Fang comes in. Winnie was Ava’s college roommate, but she dropped out of college for reasons unknown, and Ava hasn’t seen her since. Now, Winnie’s confidence exudes wealth and glamour, and she's running a highly successful counterfeit handbag scheme. All she needs is someone with a U.S. passport to manage her business, and Ava seems like the perfect person for the job.
An unprecedented, potentially nation-ending threat has materialized on the world stage. Fearful of the global consequences of engaging this enemy, administration after administration has passed the buck. The clock, however, has run out and doing nothing is no longer an option. It is time to unleash Scot Harvath.
As America’s top spy, Harvath has the unparalleled skills and experience necessary to handle any situation, but this assignment feels different.
Thrust into a completely unfamiliar culture, with few he can trust, the danger begins mounting the moment he arrives. Amidst multiple competing forces and a host of deadly agendas, it becomes nearly impossible to tell predator from prey.
With democracy itself hanging in the balance, Harvath will risk everything to untangle the explosive plot and bring every bad actor to justice.
by Leah Sottile
When police in Rexburg, Idaho perform a wellness check on seven J.J. Vallow and his sister, sixteen-year-old Tylee Ryan, both children are nowhere to be found. Their mother, Lori Vallow, gives a phony explanation, and when officers return the following day with a search warrant, she, too, is gone. As the police begin to close in, a larger web of mystery, murder, fanaticism and deceit begins to unravel.
Vallow’s case is sinuously complex. As investigators prod further, they find the accused Black Widow has an unusual number of bodies piling up around her.
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.
Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
During the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father was executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security that his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost.
But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.
When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark the doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano?
Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will save her.
Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness.
Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.
What to Read Next
Emily Martin has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. She’s a contributing editor at Book Riot and blogs/podcasts at Book Squad Goals.