We tend to think of thrillers and mysteries as cold weather reads, but sometimes there’s nothing better than a page-turner to get your heart racing when you’re sunning yourself by the pool (or escaping the heat in the air-con). Here are eleven summer thrillers and mysteries that work for warmer seasons.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty writes the perfect summer thrillers and mysteries, just what you need for the beach bag. Best of all, with Nine Perfect Strangers, you can follow it up by bingeing the TV series. The setting is a dream: a tranquil retreat, where (you guessed it) nine perfect strangers come together, hoping to meditate and massage their way to relaxation and enlightenment. Little do they realise the resort’s director is on a mission to do more than revitalise. Pick this one up when you want a big and varied cast, and reassurance that no picturesque vacation is exactly as it seems in photos.
The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth
Sally Hepworth writes scintillating and compelling domestic suspense. The Mother-In-Law is the perfect summer thriller to pick up if you’re spending the season with in-laws who are driving you crazy. Diana, Lucy’s titular mother-in-law, is a pillar of the community – or so it would seem. She dies by apparent suicide, but the autopsy reveals foul play. Plus, her will was changed at the last minute, disinheritng both of her children. Very suspicious, wouldn’t you say? Everyone in the family has something to hide, and Lucy might just find herself at the end of an accusation.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
If you need summer thrillers and mysteries that will draw you in, and drown out the sounds of kids fighting or neighbours partying, you can’t go past The Silent Patient. Alex Michaelides combines “Hitchcockian suspense, Agatha Christie plotting, and Greek tragedy” in this deeply psychological heart-pounder. A woman, who seemed to be living her best life, shoots her husband five times in the face – and then refuses to speak a word. Theo Faber is a criminal psychologist, determined to unravel the truth; he’ll go to any lengths to find out what she’s hiding. But what’s driving him to pry open this particular case?
Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah
Did You See Melody? (also called Keep Her Safe, in some territories) is a dream-come-true summer mystery for fans of true crime and armchair detectives. Picture this: you walk into your hotel room and realise there’s been some kind of mistake, because it’s already occupied. It takes a minute until it clicks, the young girl you saw in your room is America’s most famous victim. Her parents are serving life sentences for her murder. Except, she’s clearly alive. She’s who you saw. Right? Or is your tired mind playing tricks on you? Did someone lead you to that room on purpose? So many threads to pull!
The Safe Place by Anna Downes
What better setting for summer thrillers and mysteries than a working holiday? That’s what Emily Proudman thinks she might be getting in The Safe Place. She’s a down-on-her-luck actress with just a couple of bit-parts on her reel, and she desperately needs a change. The opportunity of a lifetime falls in her lap, working as a nanny for a woman and her six-year-old child on their secluded but luxurious French estate. Is it too good to be true? Of course it is! This woman is hiding something, and the child might be in danger. Read my full review of The Safe Place here.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Are you looking for summer thrillers and mysteries that you can read with your #BookTok-obsessed teen? Check out We Were Liars, one of best-sellers in the genre. The Sinclair family is beautiful, privileged, and they spend every summer on their private island together. This year, though, something is different. Cadence, the narrator, was in an accident last time she was on the island. She now suffers crippling migraines, and can’t remember anything about what happened. But now that she’s back, and everyone’s pretending that everything’s normal, her memories are starting to return. What happened? Everyone who could tell you is lying. Read my full review of We Were Liars here.
Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman
Okay, yes, I’m spoiled by Australian beaches and couldn’t imagine wanting to spend a summer on the British shore – but even I can concede the cool waters and biting winds are the perfect setting for Mr Nobody. This summer mystery revolves around a man who washes up, drifting in and out of consciousness, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The media dubs him “Mr Nobody”, and everyone wants to know what happened – except him. Dr Emma Lewis is a psychiatrist who knows that solving the mystery about this man would be a turning point in her career. But what if something connects them, something she’s tried hard to keep buried?
Out Of Breath by Anna Snoekstra
Have you ever dreamed of going off the grid? Escaping somewhere beautiful, with a bunch of likeminded people, and working on yourself away from the stresses and pressures of everyday life? Anna Snoekstra’s summer thriller, Out Of Breath, is about what happens when that dream turns into a nightmare. A sequestered community in Western Australia seems like the perfect place for Jo Ainsley to hide, and their free diving hobby is an incredible rush. But her new family is harbouring sinister secrets, and Jo has to choose between her first real home and uncovering the truth. Read my full review of Out Of Breath here.
Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
New Zealand’s tourist trade is booming, but in Call Me Evie, Kate Bennet isn’t there to check out Hobbiton. She’s living in an isolated beachfront cabin with an older man – a captor, or a benefactor, depending which way you look. He calls her Evie, and tells her he’s hiding her there to keep her from the consequences of something terrible she did, back in Melbourne. That doesn’t jibe with Kate’s memories of home, of big houses and beautiful friends and loving boyfriends, but the man insists she’s forgetting the trauma she’s inflicted. Should Kate take his word for it and live out her life as Evie? Or will she recover the memory of whatever it is she did, and face up to the fall-out?
The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean
The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone captures the essence of ’90s Australian summers like no other mystery novel has to date (and I say that as a reader who lived through a bunch of them in real life). Tikka Molloy was eleven years old the summer that the Van Apfel girls disappeared. Hannah, Ruth, and Cordelia all vanished into thin air the night of the school concert, and they’ve never been seen again. Years later, Tikka returns to her hometown, unable to shake the sense of dread that came with the disappearance of her friends and playmates. Did they run from the suffocation of their evangelical parents? Or were they taken by someone with sinister motives?
The Girls by Emma Cline
Emma Cline uses one of the most infamous summers in American history as inspiration for The Girls. Drawn loosely from the crimes of the Manson Family, this stunning summer thriller follows a lonely teenager as she’s swept into a world she doesn’t quite understand. The older girls who captured her attention seem happy and carefree, living the kinds of lives she can only dream about. She’s captivated by them, thrilled to join them at their ranch, but she’s being drawn closer and closer to an unthinkable act of violence that will change the trajectory of her life forever. Pick this one up if you’re nostalgic for the ’60s but in the mood for something dark and twisty to counterbalance the sunshine.