So, for the purposes of this list, we'll classify a "thriller" as a gripping page-turner rimmed by darkness. Something wicked is at work in these books. In the case of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, the wickedness is all the lies and cover-ups that follow a tragic accident. The evil presence in My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite takes the form of an incredibly beautiful young woman – who has a habit of murdering all her boyfriends. And the destructive dynamic in Anna Pitoniak's Necessary People is the kind of toxicity you've probably encountered.
It's up to you to figure out what's really happening. We've gathered the best recent thrillers to take on the beach. Don't spoil them for your friends.
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Lock Every Door, Riley Sage (2019)
Jules takes a job as an apartment sitter at Manhattan's legendary apartment building the Bartholomew. At first, the strange rules that accompany the gig don't bother her — no guests; no talking to the other wealthy residents. When another apartment sitter disappears, she learns the building harbors a dark presence. And she's its next victim. Read Lock Every Door before the inevitable movie adaptation comes out.
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Those People, Louise Candlish (2019)
Sometimes the most perfect-seeming neighborhoods hide the ugliest secrets. Just ask the characters of Those People. When one neighbor winds up dead, everyone around him becomes a potential suspect. Those People is a slow burn with insights about human nature and community worth underlining.
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Searching For Sylvie Lee, Jean Kwok (2019)
Less a conventional thriller and more a twisting family mystery, Searching For Sylvie Lee will have you feeling deeply for all of its characters. It begins when Amy's perfect older sister, Sylvie, disappears. Sylvie and Amy had drastically different childhoods. Amy was raised in the United States by her Chinese immigrant parents; Sylvie was raised in Europe by relatives, since their parents were too poor to keep her. The timid Amy defies her nature and sets off to Europe to find her sister. In doing so, she finds the secrets Sylvie's been keeping under her veneer.
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Miracle Creek, Angie Kim (2018)
Take the taut pace of a police procedural drama and infuse it with the deftly wrought relationships of a Celeste Ng novel, and you'll get Miracle Creek. The novel centers around a fatal explosion in an experimental oxygen treatment facility run by a pair of Korean immigrants to the United States. Everyone knows a piece of what happened that afternoon — and you better believe the people on the stand are only telling a portion of the story. Miracle Creek is a page-turner backed up by big ideas about family and what we'd do for them.
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The Mother-In-Law, Sally Hepworth (2019)
After meeting Diana, her new mother-in-law, Lucy rules out the possibility of a deep relationship with her. Ten years later, Diana is found dead, next to a suicide note — but her body shows signs of suffocation. Hepworth's story is told from both Diana and Lucy's perspectives. Get ready for the kind of Gone Girl-level twists you may have fantasized about during awkward holiday gatherings.
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Necessary People, Anna Pitoniak (2019)
Take the simmering jealousy found in many female friendships, ratchet it up, and mix in some seriously Ripley-esque longings for upper-crust lifestyles, and you’ll land at Anna Pitoniak’s utterly enthralling novel. Necessary People is set in the competitive world of broadcast journalism. Violet is thriving a producer, while her best friend, Stella, lives off her parents’ riches and travels the world. When the reckless Stella finally lands in their shared apartment, she sets her eyes set on the spotlight – and she plans to excel. Necessary People is an escapist thriller laced with substantive social commentary. A no-guilt guilty pleasure.
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One of Us Is Lying, Karen McManus (2018)
Calling all fans of Pretty Little Liars: Karen McManus' bestselling YA novel will fill the need for suspense thrillers set in high school. Five kids walk into a classroom for detention. Only four walk out. What happened? Here's what we know: You can't trust anyone.
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The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides (2019)
What compelled Alicia Berenson, a famous and successful painter, to shoot her husband Gabriel in the face? After Alicia commits the crime, she never speaks again. Theo Faber is a criminal psychologist whose goal is to get Alicia to speak. He arrives to the Grove, the therapy center where Alicia lives, to attempt the impossible. The ingenious plotting of this book is enough to make you gasp, put the book down in awe, and then re-read it just so you can see all the clues you missed.
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Little Darlings, Melanie Golding (2019)
Lauren Tranter knows what she saw. Shortly after she gave birth to twins, a woman entered the hospital room and replaced her boys with creatures – just like the changelings in mythology. Lauren tries to drown her twins in the river, leading to her being institutionalized. But she has a police sergeant on her side. This modern fairy tale will have you going back and forth between interpretations. Is Lauren losing her grip on reality, or is the victim of dark supernatural forces?
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Looker, Laura Sims (2019)
In the brownstone next door is an actress. She's everything the unnamed narrator wishes she was; she has everything the unnamed narrator wishes she had. When the narrator makes contact with the actress at a holiday party, the jump to dangerously voyeuristic territory is too close to resist. At 192 pages, you can read this downward spiral in just one day.
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I Am Still Alive, Kate Alice Marshall (2018)
The most prominent in this novel is the Great Outdoors — it's dangerous, and it doesn't care. Jess is alone in the woods. Her cabin is burnt to the ground. Her father is dead. She knows who kills him ,and she's going to find him. If she can survive, that is. This is a YA novel meets The Revenant, and it's completely riveting.
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The Lost Night, Andrea Bartz (2019)
Much like the show Search Party, Andrea Bartz' debut novel is a twisty, tightly plotted thriller set among the hipsters of Brooklyn. In 2009, Lindsay Bach is languishing in post-recession Brooklyn when tragedy strikes and her best friend Edie Iredale is found dead of an apparent suicide. Ten years later, Lindsay reexamines that night — and her role in it.
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The Escape Room, Megan Goldin (2019)
The premise of The Escape Room is enough to strike fear in the claustrophobic. Four bank executives gather for a bonding "escape room" activity in an abandoned building. They enter an elevator. Then, the elevator stops moving near the top of the high rise — because that elevator is the escape room. And one of them won't make it out alive.
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My Sister the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite (2018)
Oyinkan Braithwaite is rewriting the slasher novel, and man, does it look good. My Sister, The Serial Killer is a wholly original novel where satire and serial killers brush up against each other. Korede is used to cleaning up her beautiful younger sister, Ayoola’s, messes — like Femi, Ayoola’s boyfriend who winds up dead on the floor. Ayoola claims she killed Femi in “self defense,” but he’s just the most recent of Ayoola’s boyfriends to die in mysterious circumstances. When Ayoola gets her eyes set on Tade, Korede’s coworker at the hospital, Korede has to decide whether to intervene. Korede is the only one who understands her sister, but the reverse is also true.
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Into the Jungle, Erica Ferencik (2019)
Lily Bushwold is a free spirit. At 19, she leaves her mundane existence for a teaching program in Bolivia. But when the teaching program falls through, she's left without enough money to leave — so she explores. Lily agrees to go on a rainforest expedition with her new lover, Omar, but could never predict with what she'd have to contend with in the jungle.
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Man of the Year, Caroline Louise Walker (2019)
Dr. Robert Hart has just been named Sag Harbor's Citizen of the Year. To the outside world, he's a stand-up individual. That's only because they don't have access to his inner monologue, like we have. When his son Jonah brings home a college roommate, Nick, to stay for the summer, Robert becomes paranoid about the other relationships in his life. Is his wife faithful? Is Nick up to no good? This is a slow-burning character study with quite a payoff.
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American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson (2019)
Calling all fans of The Americans: This book about a woman whose average suburban life masks a prior history of Cold War espionage was written for you. It’s 1968, and Marie Mitchell’s dreams of being a top intelligence officer at the F.B.I. have wilted in the face of reality: She’s a young Black women in an old boy’s club. Then, she’s assigned to the task force aiming to take down Thomas Sankara, (real life) Communist leader in Burkina Faso. In the aftermath, her priorities, values, and everything she knows get turned upside down. American Spy is being billed as Le Carre meets the racial nuances found in Ralph Ellison's novels.
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Conviction, Denise Mina (2019)
What happens when a true crime podcast fanatic decides to investigate one herself? Anna McDonald's world shatters after her husband and her best friend run away together. She escapes into a podcast about a sunken yacht in the Mediterranean — then realizes she knows one of the murder victims. Anna thinks only she has the information necessary to unravel the conspiracy. Conviction is a jet-setting thriller about an ordinary life suddenly turned electric. It's an incredibly original book.
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The Witch Elm, Tana French (2018)
Tana French is best known for her gritty Dublin Murder Squad series. The Witch Elm, however, is French's first standalone novel, making it a perfect read for anyone looking for a suspense thriller, no series recap needed. In The Witch Elm, a young man is forced to rewrite his entire past after a skull is found buried beneath a tree in the backyard of his family’s ancestral home. Since The Witch Elm runs on the long side, it'll keep you occupied all vacation.
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The Furies, Katie Lowe (2019)
Witchcraft. Murder. A town with a dark history. And scariest of all – adolescence. This sinister book follows what happens to a group of 16-year-old girls after they explore the history of witch trials at their school, Elm Hollow Academy, with their mysterious art teacher, Annabel. Soon, they become convinced that the magic is real, and it could be theirs.
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The Cheerleaders, Kara Thomas (2018)
There are no cheerleaders left in the town of Sunnybrook. Five years ago, much of the squad died in a series of strange circumstances — car accidents, and murder, and suicide. The squad was disbanded. Monica lost her sister and her best friends. When she starts to look into her the massacres, she puts herself in danger. The Cheerleaders is provocative and dark thriller.