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May’s Best Psychological Thrillers


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First, a mention of a book that I decided is not quite in the purview of this list but I need to recommend: Chris Holm’s Child Zero (Mulholland). I enjoyed Holm’s previous books about a righteous hit man, and I knew that he had a science-y background (as us English majors call it). Some will say Holm has been gifted the perfect time for his medical—specifically, bacterial—thriller, in which antibiotic resistance causes all kinds of nasty diseases to infiltrate the world population. Holm’s book is remarkable in the way it details what could happen and methodically explores what could happen after that; the fear and paranoia is never unearned. This is a truly scary psychological thriller.

So now to our list, which is an impressive range and style of books. If you are not reading something good right now you are not paying attention. These are outstanding times for readers—put the boring book down and pick up any of these.

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Elizabeth Day, Magpie
(Simon and Schuster)

Elizabeth Day is the host of a podcast called How to Fail, which I would definitely listen to if I liked podcasts because I am fascinated by what counts as failure. Magpie cleverly plays with the notion of failure: is it about money? Status? What counts as a personal failure, and what counts as a public one? In Magpie a couple, Marisa and Jake, decide to take in a lodger to help offset the cost of trying to have a baby. The lodger, Kate, seems perfect until she is suddenly everywhere Marisa goes, giving her the creeps and a dose of curiosity of exactly who they have chosen to share their home.

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Dervla McTiernan, The Murder Rule
(William Morrow)

Watch McTiernan carefully, as she is poised for a big leap in popularity and status. The Australian writer has published three books and won many awards. Her most recent book, The Good Turn, went straight to number one on the Aussie bestsellers list. My predictions about  McTiernan are not only because she’s good—and she is very good—but because she is now working with the team who broke out Don Winslow, Meg Gardiner, and Adrian McKinty. And The Murder Rule is a mother-daughter story so grab a copy for mom when you get yours. She’ll love it. 

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Catherine McKenzie, Please Join Us
(Atria)

I didn’t expect Please Join Us to keep its grip on me, but it did. The protagonist, Nicole Mueller, is a disgruntled corporate lawyer. Her marriage is not as great as it was, and neither is her career thanks to an archaic system of promotions.  It has several things I usually like—a secret society for women who feel like The Man is keeping them down; a realistic desire to hold on to an apartment owned by an elderly aunt in New York City; and did I mention The Man and the apartment? Not a breezy read, but a good one for people hungry for a solid conspiracy theory about women’s empowerment.

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Kristen Miller, The Change
(William Morrow)

If you ask me if the world needs a revenge fantasy starring three middle-aged women in a beach town on Long Island I would probably roll my eyes and shrug. There are much more important books to be written exploring the murky territory of menopause, and I wouldn’t shelve The Change with Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep or Darcey Steinke’s Flash Count Diaries. Then again, why not?  The execution isn’t perfect, and the body count is unreasonably high, but I’m here for more thrillers about the change.

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May Cobb, My Summer Darlings
(Berkley)

It’s not the most original thought but if you liked May Cobb’s first book, The Hunting Wives, you will definitely like My Summer Darlings. Three lifelong friends (why is it always three?) are staring at 40 and assessing their lives so far. Yes, in a few years, they will be ready for The Change, but right now they are bored and frustrated and living in a small town in East Texas. It gets spicy when a handsome stranger buys the biggest house in the neighborhood. Will Harding is charming, mysterious and hot, and our heroines are hooked. But of course, Will is not what he seems, and now their lives of afternoon wine drinking and gossip are threatened by this compelling stranger.

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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