Books: 12 thrillers to read this summer

Crime fiction thrives year-round, but summer is an ideal time to plunge into the genre when you’re not in the pool or the ocean. (Or maybe even when you are.) Here are some of the thrillers we’re most looking forward to this season.

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1. ‘Assassins Anonymous,’ by Rob Hart

Hart has a knack for high-concept crime fiction. In “The Warehouse” (2019), employees dutifully move boxes around a vast, dismal building, furtively dreaming of a world outside the warehouse and the corporation that owns it. The employees of Assassins Anonymous also live under siege with a nefarious corporation at the helm, and when Mark, our protagonist, joins a 12-step group for former hit men, he learns that life doesn’t have to be one murder after another. But someone would like Mark dead, threatening his newfound no-kill sobriety. (Putnam)

2. ‘Tell Me Who You Are,’ by Louisa Luna

I would rather read about a criminal - or an alleged criminal - who goes to therapy than one who goes to prison. This is more a philosophical stance than a political one. How many variations are there of someone getting shivved, how many recipes for toilet wine? In Luna’s new novel, a Brooklyn prison psychologist, Dr. Caroline Strange - yes, the hero is Dr. Strange - has a shifty client, Nelson Schnack, who declares he’s going to kill someone. Schnack is also possibly involved in the recent disappearance of a woman, and when the cops come to interview Strange, her cagey answers make her a suspect too. When Strange launches an investigation of Schnack, she is shaken to find that he knows secrets of her own - secrets she thought she had buried forever. (MCD)

3. ‘Hall of Mirrors,’ by John Copenhaver

It’s May 1954 in Washington, and paranoia is palpable around water coolers throughout government offices; people are also talking about a serial killer, Adrian Bogdan. Lionel Kane has been fired from the State Department as part of the Lavender Scare, the anti-gay movement led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. Now Kane faces an even graver loss: His lover and writing partner, Roger Raymond, is caught in a fire in Kane’s apartment. Police say suicide, but Kane knows better: Someone is using the Scare as cover for murdering gay men all over the city, depending on their fear to keep them quiet. But Kane is ready to talk. (Pegasus Crime)

4. ‘One of Our Kind,’ by Nicola Yoon

In Yoon’s first adult novel, Jasmyn and King Williams move their family to a Black utopia called Liberty, Calif. As in most utopias, the reality up close is not so ideal. King quickly finds activities to stay occupied, including daily visits to the spalike building central to the community. Jasmyn is primed for thoughtful conversations about race and social-justice work, so she’s less than thrilled when her new neighbors show more interest in comparing waxing appointments than in waxing political. As Jasmyn finds out more about the underbelly of life in Liberty, she becomes concerned. Is her family really among their kind, or somewhere far more dangerous? (Doubleday)

5. ‘Things Don’t Break on Their Own,’ by Sarah Easter Collins

The season of fireflies, twilight bike rides, and beach days punctuated by ice cream and fireworks is also a treacherous time for girls, who disappear at a steady clip in summer-set suspense novels. In Collins’s debut, the heroine is Willa, whose younger sister disappeared 25 years earlier; now she is invited to a dinner party where someone knows what happened. The party is elegant but hazardous. Willa can’t walk away without finding out everything she can about that life-changing night. (Crown)


6. ‘Teddy,’ by Emily Dunlay

Effervescent and cool, “Teddy” is the perfect read if your trip to Capri gets canceled and your “La Dolce Vita” itch needs scratching. Rome’s Via Veneto is lined with paparazzi who capture the antics of the rich and shallow. Teddy Carlyle has come to Italy with a new husband who’s been posted to the American Embassy. She swears she will be a good diplomat’s wife: glamorous, discreet, beautifully attired and relentlessly polite. But at a wild party on July Fourth, Teddy sees all the hard work she’s put in trying to be perfect explode like the fireworks in the Roman sky. (Harper)

7. ‘It’s Elementary,’ by Elise Bryant

Beware the PTA power mom. She’s charismatic, rigid, ridiculously energetic and expert at roping other parents into the labyrinth of performative, high-octane parenting common at elite schools. Bryant comes from the world of young-adult fiction, where she was one of the few Black writers taking on the complex issues facing Black families. In “It’s Elementary,” she mixes parental insanity with a sly mystery about a missing school principal. Bryant raises excellent questions about access to education while delivering a novel with hefty portions of both suspense and satire. (Berkley)

8. ‘What We’ll Burn Last,’ by Heather Chavez

Two teenagers go missing in the Sierra Nevada foothills, never to be seen again. Leyna Clarke longs to know about the vanishing; one of those teens was her sister, Grace. Sixteen years later, when a woman who looks a lot like Grace turns up and then vanishes, Leyna becomes determined to either find her sister or find out what happened. Catering to interest in the high number of teenage runaways and missing people, Chavez delivers a nuanced story of fiery secrets. (Mulholland)

9. ‘Hum,’ by Helen Phillips

“Hum” tosses climate change, robots and our addiction to devices into its dystopian but not desolate world. After a woman named May loses her job to AI, she has no choice but to participate in an experimental study in which her face will be altered so she can’t be identified by ubiquitous surveillance cameras. Trying to spend some time with her family before the procedure, May takes her husband and two kids on a three-night trip to an idyllic botanical garden, one of the few settings left where her kids can play in a stream and not be tempted by devices, as they are not permitted. But the garden isn’t safe, either. Has she destroyed her family instead of saving it? (Marysue Rucci)

10. ‘The Divide,’ by Morgan Richter

Looking for a fast-paced Hollywood tale of stardom and grifters? “The Divide” is coming to a bookstore near you. Jenny St. John is an actress on the rise. She has scored the leading role in an indie film (“The Divide”) directed by an auteur named Serge Grumet. But when the movie bombs, Jenny finds herself in worse and worse straits, until she is living off a low-level grift as a fake psychic life coach. When Serge, also on the decline, is murdered, Jenny teams up with his ex-wife, a painter who looks a lot like Jenny, to solve mysteries that pile up as the pages turn. (Knopf)

11. ‘I Need You to Read This,’ by Jessa Maxwell

In a sea of influencers, TikTok millionaires and vloggers, Alex Marks does not seek attention. She just wants to do her dull copywriting job, drinking weak coffee from the diner downstairs and avoiding small talk. Her quiet life is upended when her writing hero, advice columnist Francis Keen, is murdered. Alex impulsively applies for and gets Keen’s old job. It’s not long before she is investigating Keen’s death: If suddenly the shy and sullen Alex is big byline material, does that mean she is in danger too? And the letters coming into the column are getting super creepy. (Atria)

12. ‘House of Bone and Rain,’ by Gabino Iglesias

Pour a large glass of horror master Stephen King with a jigger of spicy Don Winslow and garnish with a splash of magical realism, and you have Iglesias’s latest, a tall, tasty cocktail. Five boys, childhood pals, are surrounded by ghosts, violence and accidents. The book’s “Stand By Me”-like setup turns into a vigilante tale when one of their mothers is shot and killed. The highly skilled Iglesias draws on the familiar without any worry that it might not be freshly frightening. Puerto Rican drug dealers, hurricanes, evil spirits and revenge are all ingredients in this potent novel. (Mulholland)

Lisa Levy, a writer, essayist and critic, co-founded and is a contributing editor to Crime Reads.