Whodunnits, psychological thrillers, cozies. A juicy plot and you won’t even notice an extra-long T ride. Here are 12 recent New England-hooked page-turners to cozy up with — whether fireside or T ride.
“Jackal,” by Brown University alum Erin E. Adams — probably the best horror-thriller of ‘22 – just dropped in paperback. This buzzy Edgar Award and Bram Stoker Award finalist from the debut writer — a first-generation Haitian American living in New York— is miss-your-T-stop good. Liz is not happy about returning home to Pennsylvania. Life wasn’t easy growing up in her Rust Belt town, where she was one of only two Black girls in her high school. (“My sin? Being the only Black kid who wasn’t ‘Black.’ … Branded an Oreo, through and through.”) But she’s back in town to serve as bridesmaid in her best friend’s wedding. At the wedding reception, the newlyweds’ daughter goes missing. And Liz soon pieces together a pattern in this town: Black girls have gone missing in these woods for years…
It’s got ghosts, an ax murder, a grisly car accident, wild animals, a psychic, a tabloid true crime reporter who ends up dead, and half-a-man in a tree. While I can’t call it a thriller, “North Woods,” by Daniel Mason, is the best book I’ve read all year. Hilarious. Clever. And if you live in an old New England home, you’ll read it on a whole different level. Our star: a house in the woods of Western Massachusetts. We follow its cast of inhabitants — the first Puritan colony runaways, who build it as a lovers’ sanctuary; the Revolutionary War soldier with a passion for apples; the medium, the schizophrenic, and his mother. Many meet grisly ends. No two chapters feel alike. Each quirky character has a distinct voice. I had no idea where it was going, and I loved the ride.
Harvard alum Michele Campbell’s “The Intern” sees Harvard Law student Madison Rivera land her dream internship with Judge Kathryn Conroy. But when Madison learns that her brother Danny has been arrested, claims his plea was coerced, and Conroy is the judge presiding, Madison hides that from the judge, and begins snooping. … Is Conroy using Madison?
“The St. Ambrose School for Girls,” by Jessica Ward — a pseudonym for the former Boston resident/best-selling author who writes as J.R. Ward — is a fun read for fans of dark academia. In Greensboro, Mass., 1991, 15-year-old Sarah Taylor is not like the other girls, and she knows it, describing herself as a “charity case … fairly unisex and definitely unusual.” She’s also taking lithium for bipolar disorder. There’s the queen bee who bullies her. The hot older RA, Nick, who may be cheating on his wife — there’s also a death on campus. … And Sarah may not be a reliable narrator.
On tony Alton Road in Meadowbrook, Mass., wealthy residents seem to have it all — but when someone is murdered at their annual summer block party (Who died? And whodunnit?) we get a peek behind the expensive curtains in “The Block Party,” by Jamie Day. Beach-read-type fun for any time of year, and the town’s nosy Facebook page commenters had me chuckling aloud.
In Riley Sager’s “The Only One Left,” set in Maine, kids in the town sing: “At 17, Lenora Hope, hung her sister with a rope, stabbed her father with a knife. Took her mother’s happy life.” The Hope family murders shocked the town in 1929. The public assumed Lenora Hope killed her family, though it was never proven. In 1983, home health aide Kit McDeere is assigned to care for Lenora, now rendered mute. But Kit has her own shady backstory. And the last aide mysteriously vanished. Lenora wants to type out the truth for Kit on a typewriter — but who can we trust here?
“Leave the Lights On,” by Vermonter Liv Andersson, takes us to Cape Morgan, Maine. Beatrice Wicker is married to a handsome architect and community pillar, Josh. Josh is having an affair — but Beatrice seems willing to turn a blind eye. She knows about the other woman and the 18-month-old Josh has with her. Then the baby goes missing. Josh, of course, can’t tell his wife. And, we slowly learn, Beatrice has her own secrets.
If you live on the Southcoast, you’ll appreciate “The Stolen Coast,” by Wareham native Dwyer Murphy. The Onset Village-set mystery feels Dashiell Hammett-inspired. Our protagonist, a Harvard alum named Jack, narrates like Sam Spade — matter-of-factly with clever quips. It’s fun, it’s noir, and Murphy knows the area, from Fall River to the Cape. Jack works with his ex-spy dad moving people, helping folks on the run. When his ex-flame returns, Jack finds himself in the middle of a good old-fashioned diamond heist.
With a similar title, we have the Maine-set thriller “The Spy Coast,” by Maine’s Tess Gerritsen, about a sort-of-retired CIA spy, Maggie Bird. “‘Spy Coast’ was the book that felt most personal to write, because the story reflects my own feelings about growing older,” Gerritsen told the Globe recently. “I’m far more aware that the world considers older people, especially women, invisible.”
A USA Today Bestseller, Cambridge and Boston-set “Wednesdays at One,” by Sandra A. Miller, delivers a well-plotted tale. Clinical psychologist Gregory Weber feels distant from his wife of 21 years, Liv, and their kids. He’s also fixated on something mysterious and awful he did at 17. Enter Mira, an attractive stranger who begins to appear in his office every Wednesday at 1 p.m. But Webber has no idea who she is, or who referred her. What does she want? An intriguing hook.
Released last month, “Blood Sisters,” by Vanessa Lillie, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma living in Providence, delivers a mystery with a message. Syd Walker lives with her wife in Providence, and works to protect the land’s Indigenous past as an archeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She gets called to a case in Oklahoma that may have to do with her past, a murder, meth dealers, and her missing sister.
A missing girl figures in Amanda Peters’s “The Berry Pickers,” a Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction Finalist. When Ruthie, a 4-year-old Mi’kmaq girl, goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine in 1962, the police don’t look too hard. While her family moves back to Canada from their seasonal picking work, Ruthie grows up as “Norma” with a white family in Maine. Years later in Boston, one of her brothers thinks he sees Ruthie in a crowd.