May’s Best New Thrillers

The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware
It’s cons all the way down in Ware’s newest twisty thriller. Harriet “Hal” Westaway just scrapes by working as psychic at Brighton Beach, using her skills of observation to con easy marks. She owes very bad people very serious money, so when she receives a letter informing her that her grandmother Hester has passed away and left her something in the will, she’s determined to claim the inheritance—despite the fact that her grandmother Marion already died 20 years before. Intending to use her cold-reading skills to relieve these other Westaways of their money, she travels to an estate in Cornwell, only to find the apparent case of mistaken identity might not be quite as mistaken as she’d assumed. Suddenly, Hal has to use her people-reading abilities in pursuit of the truth—and to make sure she gets out alive.

The Gray Ghost, by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell
A century in the past, a man named Marcus Peyton is falsely accused of stealing a one-of-a-kind car from a street in Manchester: a Rolls Royce Gray Ghost. Although American detective Isaac Bell is able to retrieve the car, he can’t spare Peyton the consequences of being fingered as the culprit. In the modern day, Peyton’s grandson contacts Sam and Remi Fargo in hopes of proving his ancestor’s innocence. This mission is complicated by the fact that the Gray Ghost has been stolen again—as has what was contained within it, something several powerful, desperate people want to get their hands on. Remi and Sam find out the hard way that those who get too close to the car are risking their lives.

The Favorite Sister, by Jessica Knoll
The competition on Goal Diggers is intense and personal. A reality show populated by “unmothers and unwives” who have achieved great success in their chosen profession, the cast includes sisters Brett and Kelly—Bret has a spin class empire predicated on the idea that you don’t have to be a size zero to be healthy, and Kelly is everything Brett thinks she isn’t: beautiful, skinny, and their parents’ favorite. The story opens with Brett’s murder, but figuring out who’s responsible isn’t as easy as sibling rivalry, as the other castmembers—including author Stephanie, vegan juice bar impresario Jen, and dating website guru Lauren—have their own secrets to hide…while in front of an audience of millions.

The Crooked Staircase, by Dean Koontz
The third Jane Hawk novel sees the former FBI agent-turned international fugitive working as hard as ever to bring down the mind-control conspiracy that killed her husband. She managed to do some damage over the course of the previous book—going underground, hiding her young son away for his own safety, and killing a few bad guys. But considering those she’s up against have infiltrated the government and law enforcement and have brainwashing nanotech at their command, the only way out is to cut off the conspiracy’s head—Department of Justice official Booth Hendrickson. Staying out of reach of the high-tech surveillance arrayed against her, Jane tracks down Hendrickson’s half-brother, a misogynistic sociopath, and prepares to do whatever it takes to grab justice for herself.

The Perfect Mother, by Aimee Molloy
The May Mothers—a group of Brooklyn moms whose kids share May birthdays—invite beautiful, stressed, and standoffish single mom Winnie to one of their wine-soaked gatherings. Nell, Colette, and Francie are so determined to show Winnie a good time, they even provide a babysitter, and insist she delete the baby monitor app from her phone so she can’t obsess over little Midas. After a sodden evening, however, Nell gets a dreadful call: Midas has been kidnapped, right out of his crib. In the midst of the chaotic, sensational media coverage, the May Mothers band together to launch their own investigation, which grows increasingly reckless as the individual secrets, anxieties, and frailties each May Mother is hiding come to light.

House Swap, by Rebecca Fleet
After ending a torrid affair with a younger man, Caroline seeks to fix her broken relationship with her depressed husband. Hoping a romantic getaway will help them reconnect, she arranges a week-long house swap that takes the couple to a house just outside London. Once there, Caroline begins to sense something’s wrong—everything about the house reminds her of her former lover Carl, from flowers that decorate it to the aftershave left in thebathroom. Caroline becomes convinced her ex is tormenting her, and that nosy neighbor Amber is in on it—but assuming too much could prove deadly.

Reaper: Ghost Target, by Nicholas Irving with A.J. Tata
Co-authors Nicholas Irving and A.J. Tata, a retired general, bring serious verisimilitude to this fast-paced thriller. In 2010, a Chechen terrorist named Khasan Basayev buries a suitcase-sized nuclear bomb and manages to escape capture. Years later, the army’s most feared sniper, Vick Harwood, is in Afghanistan with his spotter, Corporal Sammie Samuelson, about to take out Basayev when their position comes under fire. Harwood escapes, but loses both Sammie and his prized rifle. Vick moves on to a career training snipers at different military bases, but when someone starts using that lost rifle to murder American generals—who are always near where Vick is teaching—Harwood is forced to act in order to clear the cloud of suspicion gathering over him—something made difficult by the fact that he’s started suffering blackouts and other symptoms of PTSD.

Arctic Gambit, by Larry Bond
A new Russian president plans to restore the former Soviet Union’s territories to his control, which means orchestrating a first-strike against the United States first and with overwhelming force. When a submarine from Jerry Mitchell’s squadron goes missing in the arctic, he investigates—and discovers the Russians are building a secret base in preparation for their attack. Worse, they’ve developed a new first-strike weapon, code-named Drakon, that will enable them to pull off the attack without warning. Jerry is ordered to take the submarine Jimmy Carter to destroy the base, sharing command with Commander Louis Weiss, and accompanied by demolition expert Dr. Daniel Cavanaugh. Their approach takes them into a deadly minefield a game of cat-and-mouse with enemies above and below, with time running out for them to prevent World War III.

How It Happened, by Michael Koryta
Rob Barrett, an eager, inexperienced FBI agent with a reputation for masterful interrogation, is sent to Port Hope, Maine—the town he spent his summers in as a child—to assist with getting a statement from drug addict Kimberly Crepeaux, who turned herself in for being an accomplice in a double murder, but has since refused to speak a word. To everyone’s surprise, Crepeaux opens up to Barrett immediately, claiming that local legend Mathias Burke ran down the two victims with his car, then forced Kimberly and fellow addict Cass to dump the bodies in a pond. Barrett is shocked—he knew Burke when they both were kids—and tries to act on the evidence, but is disgraced when all of it turns out to be fiction.  Humiliated, Barrett is reassigned to the Midwest, but when Crepeaux gets out of jail and starts contacting him, he’s lured back to Maine, where his efforts to prove Crepeaux’s story make him  the enemy of the entire town.

Star of the North, by D.B. John
Author D.B. John visited North Korea in 2012, and uses the impressions gathered there to craft the tense, detailed story of academic Jenna, born Jee-min in South Korea and now living in the U.S. When Jenna was a child, her twin sister Soo-min was abducted by North Korean commandos and never seen again (the kidnapping part of an orchestrated campaign that mirrors real history). When Jenna meets a high-ranking North Korean official during his diplomatic trip to New York City, she begs him for help finding her sister. Later, Jenna is recruited by the CIA to go undercover to North Korea as a U.N. translator, where she embarks on a dangerous investigation that reveals sides of the reclusive nation many foreigners never see—and learns secrets the regime works very hard to control.

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