We’re halfway through 2019, and it’s already been a banner year for the suspense novel. From suspicious deaths to whispering killers, these are the cleverest, most spine-tingling, twistiest suspense novels of the year so far.
By David Adams
The shocks come fast and furious in this wickedly suspenseful debut about a happily married couple who’ve discovered a foolproof way to keep their relationship fresh—serial murder. Our unnamed narrator is the husband in this diabolical duo; he uses his good looks and an arsenal of clever psychological ploys to lure victims into his wife’s homicidal grasp. But when Millicent breaks the carefully constructed rules of their game, he finds himself in dangerous territory—with no way out. Samantha Downing has created one of the darkest and most compelling psychological thrillers since Gone Girl. Color us greedy, but we can’t wait to read what she comes up with next.
Former city dwellers Helen and Nate Wetherell plan to build their dream home in rural Vermont. But days after they move into a trailer on the 44-acre property, strange things start to happen. Objects go missing, bizarre packages arrive on their doorstep, and a ghostly presence hovers above the landscape. Helen believes the creepy occurrences are connected to Hattie Breckenridge, a local woman who was hanged to death in the 1920s for practicing witchcraft. Nate is more skeptical, but it’s clear that someone—or something—wants them gone. An old-school ghost story wrapped in a contemporary psychological suspense novel, The Invited will keep you guessing until the very end.
This one is still a few weeks away from hitting bookstore shelves, but we’d be remiss to leave it off the list. The Whisper Man is destined to be the biggest suspense novel of the summer.
Warning: Catch up on your sleep now—because once you start this book, you’ll never want to turn out the lights again. Newly arrived in the village of Featherbank, Tom Kennedy and his son Jake don’t realize that the town was once terrorized by a serial killer. The Whisper Man has been rotting in prison for 20 years, but when a neighbor boy goes missing, and Jake starts to hear strange whispers in the night, Tom fears that his son will be the next to die. Packed with uncanny thrills, The Whisper Man is a brilliant new chapter in the grand tradition of the gothic suspense novel.
British painter Alicia Berenson and her fashion photographer husband Gabriel were the perfect couple—until she killed him. Alicia hasn’t spoken a word since, but that’s about to change—or so her new therapist, Theo Faber, hopes. Newly arrived at the secure psychiatric facility where Alicia is being held, Theo is determined to gain her trust. The hospital’s directors are eager for a breakthrough. The question is: Are they ready to hear what Alicia has to say? Inspired by the Greek myth of Alcestis, The Silent Patient is the kind of suspense novel you have to read twice —the first time for the thrills, the second time to figure out how the author pulled it off.
Ten years ago, hipster goddess Edie Iredale committed suicide after a night of partying in Bushwick. It was a tragic end to a gloriously decadent era in the lives of her tight-knit group of friends—a night that was forever etched in their memories. Except that Edie’s best friend Lindsay Bach has just discovered that a key detail from her recollections is flat-out wrong. As she pieces together what really happened that night, Lindsay begins to suspect that Edie was murdered—and that she herself was involved. Author Andrea Bartz manages the ingenious trick of eulogizing a lost generation of Brooklyn bohemians, while delivering spine-tingling suspense.
And you think your family reunions are awkward. When Chloe Taylor’s husband Adam is found murdered in the couple’s East Hampton vacation home, her older sister, Nicky, flies to New York from Cleveland. She’s not there to offer her support, however. Nicky used to be Adam’s wife; she lost her son, Ethan, because Chloe took Adam’s side in the custody battle. But when Ethan, now 16 years old, is arrested for his father’s murder, the sisters must work together to prove his innocence. With complex, three-dimensional characters and a brilliant final twist, The Better Sister is an irresistible page-turner from a suspense writer at the very top of her game.
When Cameron Bright’s body is found near a gravestone in a remote corner of the Australian outback, it appears that he either took his own life or died in a tragic accident. But neither of those possibilities makes sense to his older brother, Nathan, who remembers Cam as an experienced outdoorsman and devoted father and husband. To find the truth, Nathan will have to uncover his family’s darkest secrets and contend with his feelings for Ilse, the woman he once loved and who married his brother instead. Jane Harper’s third novel after The Dry and Force of Nature is a tour de force of tension, as savage and beautiful as the Outback itself.
Maddie, an American on a Fulbright scholarship, and Ian, a British soldier, meet in Eastern Europe. Fate conspires to keep them apart; years later, they reconnect and start a family together. It seems to be a fairy-tale romance, except that Ian is struggling with PTSD and Maddie is gripped by an anxiety disorder. As the novel begins, we know that a terrible crime has taken place—from there, the narrative plunges into the murky depths of Maddie and Ian’s past, where clues to the present-day tragedy are buried. Ambitious and cleverly plotted, Beautiful Bad spans three continents and nearly 20 years, but it never once loses its breakneck momentum.
For Denver detectives Marion Spengler and Ralphie Loren, Matt Evans is the perfect suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Although he claims that Marie fell off a cliff during a hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Matt is a known cheater, whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances. As cops search for Marie’s body and Matt protests his innocence, Marion and Ralphie gather evidence—but are they getting closer to the truth, or falling into a trap? Full of complex female characters, fiendish plot twists, and exquisitely controlled suspense, As Long As We Both Shall Live takes readers to the dark side of “till death do us part.”
When Diana Goodwin’s body is found with a suicide note nearby, the case appears to be open-and-shut. The Australian philanthropist, grief-stricken over her husband’s recent death, took her own life after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. But questions remain—namely, why did she change her will at the last minute to exclude her two children and their spouses? And why can’t the coroner find any traces of cancer in Diana’s system? Told from multiple points of view in short, action-packed chapters, The Mother-in-Law is one of the most deliciously entertaining novels of the year, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Lisa Jewell.