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BOOKS

Juicy new mysteries and thrillers to tingle your spine this scary season

Peter Heller's "The Guide," Zakiya Dalila Harris's "The Other Black Girl," and Tom Lin's "The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu" make for chilling fall reading.Photos by John Burcham, Nicole Mondestin, and E. Pia Struzzieri

There’s no better time to dive into a pile of mysteries and thrillers than the weeks leading up to Halloween. Fact.

And from new bestsellers you might’ve missed to lesser-known page-turners, here are 10 nail-biters to read under the covers. Break into the Halloween candy. These are a ride.

Because I love both into-the-wild survival tales and thrillers, two of my current favorites are Peter Heller’s “The River,” now in paperback, and his newest release, “The Guide. Heller writes like a veteran outdoorsman influenced by Cormac McCarthy and Jon Krakauer. All his books are solid, but these two in particular are master classes in the unsettling. In “The River” — his 2019 National Bestseller and Edgar Award nominee — two outdoors-loving college buddies find an unconscious woman on an isolated canoe trip in Northern Canada; she may or may not be hunted by a psychopath, and there are two gun nuts on the loose, all while a forest fire is approaching.

There’s bit of Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy flavor in Tom Lin’s “The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu,” a western gothic revenge tale ripe for a Coen brothers adaptation. This one was just longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Lin, who was born in Beijing, tells the tale of Ming Tsu, son of Chinese immigrants, raised and trained by the head of a California crime syndicate. Ming falls for the daughter of a railroad magnate, they elope — but henchmen kidnap the bride and conscript Ming into railroad service. That’s when the revenge thriller picks up speed.

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“The Other Black Girl,” by Connecticut native Zakiya Dalila Harris adds a dash of “Black Mirror” to a story billed as “Get Out” meets “The Devil Wears Prada.” Nella Rogers, the only Black employee at Wagner Books, immediately bonds with the new girl — the titular other Black girl — Hazel. But then weird things start happening. Threatening notes. Hair product is involved. This New York Times bestseller is being adapted into a limited series on Hulu.

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Last year’s “The Missing American,” by Kwei Quartey, is a much-deserved Edgar nominee, set in Accra, Ghana. Twenty-something Emma Djan wanted to follow in her late father’s footsteps as a police officer — but ends up with a private detective agency. Her first case takes her down the darkest parts of the Internet. Quartey, who is Ghanaian-American, seems to have a great series potential on his hands. The sequel, Sleep Well, My Lady,” came out in January and is due out in paperback in December.

Having devoured all of Tana French’s mysteries, I set out to find an author with the same rainy, craggy, remote European-mystery flavor. I found it in Ann Cleeves. Her Shetland series, set on the islands off the coast of Scotland and featuring quiet-man Detective Jimmy Perez, are, hands-down, her best, and are now a BBC series. Start with award-winning “Raven Black, and read them in order.

I also like her Detective Matthew Venn series — Venn and his husband live in a remote coastal area. “The Long Call” was solid, and starting Oct. 25, it’s a four-part series on ITV.

I loved Peter Swanson’s Boston-set “Eight Perfect Murders,” which was more of a cozy mystery. The Somerville author’s latest, “Every Vow You Break,” is all psychological thriller. Abigail, whose parents run a theater company in Western Massachusetts, moves to New York City and meets a charmer, Bruce, who claims he’s rich enough to pay off her student loans. They marry, he sweeps her off to a honeymoon at what appears to be a billionaire tech-dude retreat off the coast of Maine. No screens, no Internet — and almost no women. Then the twists start coming.

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Anthony Horowitz’s brand new “A Line to Kill is prime Horowitz — that is, a mystery wrapped in a riddle. Horowitz’s calling card is weaving a whodunit so tangled you need to read it twice to appreciate how he crafted it. A writer’s writer, he loves to poke fun at the book industry, and often inserts himself into the story. That’s just what he does here, in this third Daniel Hawthorne novel. Here, the ex-inspector and his sidekick, author Anthony Horowitz, find themselves at a literary festival on a remote island — trapped with a killer. If you haven’t yet read the first two books in this series — The Word Is Murder” (2017) and The Sentence Is Death” (2018) — start there.

Like every other psychological thriller fan, I loved Alex Michaelides’s 2019 bestseller, “The Silent Patient.” His 2021 blockbuster, “The Maidens, does not disappoint. “Patient” fans will notice appearances by some characters from his first novel in this murder mystery set on a college campus, involving a gaggle of female students and a too-charming classics professor. Feels ripe for a Netflix adaptation.

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To turn up the chill factor to full on horror, try “The Only Good Indians,” by Stephen Graham Jones. This is thinking person’s horror, a la Jordan Peele. Jones layers commentary beneath blood and chills — and tells his story in such poetic prose. Four friends, members of the Blackfeet Nation, go hunting and, let’s just say it ends with haunting images. This is a ride. Jones, a best-selling author and Blackfeet Nation member, is a master storyteller; goosebumps are his bread and butter.

It feels fitting to cap off this list with the obvious — horror king Stephen King. The Outsider — which was made into a 2020 (Emmy-nominated) HBO series — was a recent favorite of mine. The Mainer does, of course, have a few other novels (more than 60) to discover or revisit this season. His latest is “Billy Summers.”

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. She tweets @laurendaley1.


Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twiiter @laurendaley1.