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Publisher's Weekly Best Summer Reads 2020: Mystery Thriller

We run this feature every year, and it's usually a lot of fun to put together. We start working on it in March before spring actually springs, and it's a nice exercise to imagine what you'd want to take along to read on vacation or a trip to the beach. Things, obviously, are a bit different this year, and with the world in the grip of a pandemic and with uncertainty in every direction, a little escapism isn't necessarily the worst thing. So we've put together some recommendations for books to get you through this strange season. And if you do end up throwing one in your bag and heading for the beach, who knows, maybe we'll see you there. But we'll stay six feet away. Here's hoping you have a safe and sane summer.


The Suicide House

Charlie Donlea (Kensington)

Two students from a prestigious Indiana prep school are murdered at a nearby secret hangout, an abandoned house in the woods. A year later, after a teacher was convicted of the crimes, students are going to the house and killing themselves. Why? Forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore and her psychologist partner, Lane Phillips, investigate in this chiller that’s perfect for fans of Donna Tartt.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Donlea’s gripping sequel to 2019’s Some Choose Darkness finds Chicago forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore, who specializes in cold case homicides, investigating a string of bizarre deaths at a prestigious Indiana prep school. A year after two students are murdered in an abandoned boarding house near Westmont Preparatory High School and an implicated teacher commits suicide, those who witnessed the brutal aftermath of the carnage begin taking their own lives. A popular true crime podcast focusing on the unexplained deaths shines a new light on the school, and Rory becomes obsessed with solving the mystery. With her love interest, former FBI criminal profiler Lane Phillips, sidelined after being injured in a blast that killed the podcast’s host, Rory is largely on her own. Multiple intertwining story lines keep the pacing brisk and the tension high throughout. But the book’s real strength is the idiosyncratic Rory, who suffers from OCD and is on the autism spectrum, a deeply developed character readers can’t help rooting for. Hopefully, she’ll be back soon.


PW 2020 Best Summer Mystery Thrillers

  • The Suicide House Charlie Donlea (Kensington)

  • Afterland by Lauren Beukes (Mullholland)

  • Black Sun Rising Matthew Carr (Pegasus Crime)

  • The Girl from Widow Hills Megan Miranda (Simon & Schuster)

  • A Good Marriage Kimberly McCreight (Harper)

  • Home Before Dark Riley Sager (Dutton)

  • A Royal Affair Allison Montclair (Minotaur)

  • The Shooting at Château Rock: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel Martin Walker (Knopf)


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