These days, the genre of taut, well-paced, and intelligent psychological thrillers is going strong—perfect for fulfilling your “lose yourself in a book” vacation goals. Here are 10 titles, all from 2022, that will reel you in and keep you reading on the beach until sunset—just keep a cooler of drinks and some SPF 50 handy.
1. “Mouth to Mouth,” by Antoine Wilson. The writing is superb, the pace pitch-perfect, the slim story so gripping I read it within 24 hours. The plot is deceptively simple: two old school friends bump into each other for the first time in years at an airport; one tells the other a harrowing story from his past. It starts with a near-drowning and unfolds naturally, with turns so shocking that I had no idea where the tale was going. #UnderratedGem.
2. “The Maid,” by Nita Prose. Imagine Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” meets “Knives Out.” I’m not surprised this bestseller is in film development with Florence Pugh attached. Molly, the titular maid, struggles to decode social cues and facial expressions. Among her obsessions: The Olive Garden, “Columbo,” and cleaning. She loves working as a hotel maid. When she finds Mr. Black dead in his suite, a mystery begins to unfold, told from Molly’s unique point of view.
3. “On a Quiet Street,” by Seraphina Nova Glass. The basic premise: you never know what goes on behind closed doors, so how well can you really know your neighbors? The novel is set in a well-to-do Oregon suburb, where the lives of three women intertwine in unexpected ways. The plot is filled with twists you’ll never see coming but feel like you should have. I loved Glass’s writing style so much, I immediately read her other stand-alones: “Such a Good Wife” — where a woman’s affair with a writer who ends up murdered sets a gripping story in motion — and “Someone’s Listening” — think “Frasier” gone horribly wrong.
4. “The Old Woman with the Knife,” by Gu Byeong-mo. This international bestseller from an award-winning South Korean author made its English language debut this spring. The story features a 65-year-old female assassin, Hornclaw, who’s truly unlike any other protagonist on the genre’s circuit. Yes, it’s a thriller with an engrossing plot, but it’s also a look a how society views the aging.
5. “We Lie Here,” by Rachel Howzell Hall. Hall is hitting her stride. I enjoyed her 2019 Agatha Christie-inspired “They All Fall Down.” Her 2020 release, “And Now She’s Gone,” was even stronger, carrying themes of racism, sexism, and domestic violence. “We Lie Here,” is her strongest to date: Yara Gibson is out to host her parents’ anniversary party, when she receives a cryptic text: “I have information that will change your life.” The sender, Felicia Campbell, claims to be a childhood friend of Yara’s mom. Felicia keeps texting, insisting they talk “before it’s too late.” Then Felicia is found dead. But before she died, she left Yara a key to a remote lakeside cabin. The story picks up speed from there.
6. “The Club,” by Ellery Lloyd (the pseudonym for London-based husband and wife writing team Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos) is ripe for screen adaptation. In a nutshell: The Home Group is a collection of super-swank resorts dotting the globe, where the rich and famous party hard with no paparazzi, phones, or cameras. When Island Home, the group’s latest resort located off the English coast, opens its doors, A-listers beeline — but tempers and tensions come to a boil, blackmail begins, and all hell breaks loose.
7. I was glued to Heather Gudenkauf’s “The Overnight Guest.” The author deftly weaves three stories — a grizzly farmhouse murder in 2000; the crime writer, Wylie, writing about the unsolved mystery today; and an eerie tale of an unnamed family — into one unputdownable mystery. When a snowstorm strikes Wylie’s isolated writing cabin, the roller coaster begins.
8. “The Paris Apartment” by Lucy Foley. Foley is one of the buzzy genre names of the moment, and her latest is a solid romp. In a nutshell: Jess is broke, alone and needs a fresh start. When she shows up to her half-brother Ben’s surprisingly swank Paris apartment to stay for a bit, he’s not there. He stays missing, Jess starts digging, and, like Clue, everyone in Ben’s building becomes a suspect. If you haven’t read any of Foley’s previously works, start with “The Guest List” or “The Hunting Party.”
9. “The It Girl,” by Ruth Ware hit shelves July 12. While I liked both Ware’s Agatha Christie-influenced “One By One” and “The Woman in Cabin 10,” this latest title is her strongest to date. The tale centers on a group of friends at Oxford University. College “It girl” April Clarke-Cliveden is part of Hannah’s tight-knit college crew. But by the end of their first year, April is dead. A decade later, the Oxford employee convicted of the crime has died in prison, and Hannah has married April’s former boyfriend. When a reporter tells Hannah that the wrong man may have been convicted, she realizes each of her college friends may have something to hide.
10. “The House Across the Lake” by Riley Sager. The latest from the popular Sager offers pure escape. Casey Fletcher, an actor trying to escape a streak of bad press, hunkers down in her family’s Vermont lake house. Armed with a pair of binoculars and some bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching the couple across the lake. Soon she suspects Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. Then Katherine suddenly vanishes. A voyeuristic page-turner. After I read it, I dove for more Sager: luckily he has five others, bestsellers all.