May’s Best New Thrillers

May’s new thrillers offer up a murderer’s row of the best writers working in the genre today, delivering breathless stories that are guaranteed to work the cold out of your bones and wake you up for the warmer weather.

Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins
The town of Beckford is best-known for its “Drowning Pool,” a local river that’s seen more than its share of apparent suicides by women—though whether they were all suicides is open for debate. When Jules Abbot’s estranged sister Nel is the latest woman to go into the water, Jules reluctantly returns to the home she fled years before, finding her sister’s unfinished manuscript about the Drowning Pool, which has been claiming women for centuries. Everyone has a secret, and as Jules follows the threads in her sister’s book, the town grows ever more sinister, and Nel’s words come to haunt her: “Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.” Hawkins offers a complex look at a town with more than one dark secret, giving voice to the victims and slowly revealing connections that stretch back decades, to Jules’ own traumatic past in Beckford.

16th Seduction, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Paetro and Patterson are a thriller dream team, returning to the shattered world of Detective Lindsay Boxer, still recovering from the revelations about her husband, Joe, unearthed in the previous Women’s Murder Club book. The bomber arrested in that story is going to trial, but the defense is raising disturbing questions about Joe and Lindsay’s investigation, undermining her confidence further. Meanwhile, a series of deaths from heart attacks that don’t appear to be natural sweeps the city. The victims seem unrelated, and this chaotic mystery pulls Lindsay in at a moment when she doesn’t know who she can trust and lacks her usual support system. The pace is breathless as the threads twist together in surprising and satisfying ways.

Dragon Teeth, by Michael Crichton
Considering how prolific he was in life, it’s not so surprising that Michael Crichton’s widow discovered an unpublished novel in his archives. Dragon Teeth is actually the third Crichton book published since his death in 2008, is set in the Wild West, but doesn’t fixate on the gunslingers and lawmen. Instead, we follow on a pair of real-life paleontologists who took advantage of the wildness of the West to pursue fossils with an unbridled—and quite lawless—enthusiasm, in what was known as the Bone Wars. With a mix of historic truth, patented Crichton research, and his usual flare for storytelling, this is a must-read for fans of the late author, and will make you hope there’s yet another book hidden in those archives.

Testimony, by Scott Turow
A master of the genre delivers a story rooted in recent history. Bill Ten Boom is a former U.S. Attorney who leaves his cushy private practice to work at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, taking on a 2004 War Crimes case involving the sole survivor of a massacre of Roma refugees in Bosnia. Ten Boom agrees to investigate and substantiate Ferko Rincic’s story, which brings him into conflict with an increasingly dire array of forces, starting with the European Roma Alliance and their aggressive attorney, Esma Czarni, and leading straight to Washington, D.C. and a disgraced general who commanded NATO troops in Bosnia. Ten Boom’s investigation puts him on the trail of the former leader of Bosnian Serbs in hiding—which in turn puts his life in extreme danger as he seeks the truth.

Nighthawk: A Kurt Austin Adventure, by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
Kurt Austin is back in the 14th NUMA Files book, charged by the NSA with recovering an experimental aircraft code-named Nighthawk. After a three-year mission collecting mixed matter (matter and antimatter) in orbit, the Nighthawk was hijacked—and if its advanced cooling system fails before it is recovered, the two substances will collide, causing an explosion that could wipe out all life on Earth. NSA Agent Emma Townsend is clearly keeping part of the truth from Kurt and his team as they plummet from one action sequence to another, racing to save the world.

No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories, by Lee Child
Containing a brand-new Jack Reacher novella as well as previously published Reacher short stories, this volume is the perfect way to ease into summer reading. The novella Too Much Time, which also serves as a prologue to the next full-length entry in the series, has a classic Reacher setup: in a rusting town in Maine, Reacher witnesses a simple bag snatching—but catches details no one else notices, leading him into an adventure in which he seems in over his head, right up until he isn’t. The other stories collected here jump around Reacher’s timeline—one story follows a teenage Jack around Manhattan during the 1977 blackout—providing the thrills we expect from Lee Child in bite-size form.

The Child, by Fiona Barton
Barton follows up The Widow with another intricate puzzle story, this one pivoting on the unearthing of a tiny skeleton buried at a construction site in London. This gruesome discovery traps three women in its gravitational pull: journalist Kate Waters, a reporter who immediately begins investigating; editor Emma Simmonds, who is disturbed and anxious about the discovery; and Angela Irving, who is convinced the skeleton is her daughter Alice, kidnapped as an infant from the hospital and never found—a crime she and her husband remain suspected of committing themselves. As absorbing as the mystery is, Barton truly captivates with her character work, creating complex, damaged people we can’t help but feel for.

Full Wolf Moon, by Lincoln Child
Child’s fifth Jeremy Logan novel find the Yale history professor at a remote retreat for creatives in the Adirondacks, where he’s come to work on a monograph about the Middle Ages. An old college friend is working as a forest ranger nearby, and calls on Logan for assistance when two experienced hikers are found dead, torn apart on the night of a full moon. The hint of werewolves is enough to get Logan involved, and he begins an investigation that takes him to the suffocating town of Pike Hollow, ground down by economic forces and not precisely the friendliest place—but the locals provide Logan with plenty of clues that seem to support the idea that lycanthropes might be on the prowl.

The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda
After Leah Stevens’ journalism career comes to a disgraceful halt in Boston, she’s cheered on by her former roommate Emmy Grey, who convinces her to team up and start over in a sleepy Pennsylvania town. Then, a dead woman who closely resembles Leah is found very close to her house, and Emmy disappears so completely, no one believes she ever existed at all. As she investigates, Leah discovers nothing she thought she knew about her friend is the truth. Working with a handsome local cop, Leah begins to follow a trail leading back to the disastrous story in Boston that destroyed her career. Leah will have to face the truth about Emmy—and her own past—if she’s to come out of this one alive.

Shadow Man, by Alan Drew
Former LAPD detective Ben Wade moved back to his bucolic hometown of Santa Elena to escape the pressures of city life, but it wasn’t enough to save his marriage or to put his demons to rest. Even as Wade watches the unscrupulous developers transform the town into something he doesn’t recognize, a serial killer begins attacking women in town, creeping into their homes through unlocked doors and windows. Meanwhile, a local teenager is found in a field, a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand, but Ben soon realizes the suicide was staged. The teen turns out to be a star on the local high school swim team—leading Ben back to his own troubled childhood as a star on the very same team. As Ben struggles to face his own secrets, he hunts for the psychotic killer with the help of forensics expert Natasha Betencourt. The killings hint at a deep secret held by the entire town—a moment in the past that continues to have a deadly ripple effect in the present.


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