I don’t know about you guys, but when I was a kid, I always got socks for Christmas. You know what I hated getting for Christmas? Socks. You know what I secretly hope everyone gets me for Christmas now? Socks. Socks and books. Now my holidays are spent in my warm, cozy Christmas socks snuggled up with the newest thriller or a classic mystery, and I know I’m not the only one. If you’re like me, or your loved one is like me, you’re always on the hunt for one of these types of books. Well, look no further, because I have the perfect book gift guide for every thriller-lover in your life. Or for yourself if you like to spoil yourself with new books as much as I do.
FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS TO EMBRACE THE WINTER COLD:
An Unwanted Guest By Shari Lapena
I’m originally from California, where the winter is maybe 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the year. During this time, I like to pretend I understand what a “white Christmas” is and read books that will give me the chills- both in the weather and the thrill. And is there a better way to welcome the chilly weather than by murder(s) in a winter resort that’s freezing cold and the guests are even colder? Maybe even cold blooded? This who-done-it is an atmospheric page turner that would make anyone stay up late in their fuzzy socks just to figure out what happens next. A quick read that I devoured in one day would be sure to be perfect for anyone craving a cold case. Grab your blankets and hot chocolate for this one!
A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway. . . until the bodies start piling up. It’s winter in the Catskills and the weather outside is frightful. But Mitchell’s Inn is so delightful! The cozy lodge nestled deep in the woods is perfect for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. The Inn boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a book and someone you love. So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. The power’s down but they’ve got candles, blankets, and wood–a genuine rustic experience! Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last. And there’s nothing they can do about it but huddle down and hope they can survive the storm.
FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS TO ESCAPE THE WINTER COLD:
The Dry by Jane Harper
Maybe you’ve had enough of the cold cases? Both with the weather AND in your books? Maybe you need a warmer book, but certainly not warm-hearted in this thriller! Set during a drought in Australia, you might almost forget it’s winter here because you will practically hear the dry grass in the hot air, see the falling flies, and feel sweat drip down your face as you read this incredibly descriptive page-turner. I read this book last winter and not only is it beautifully written, it’s a great mystery and a touching story. The book hooked me from the first chapter and kept me guessing until the very end. Now excuse me while I impatiently wait for Harper’s third book in the Aaron Falk series to come out.
In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier.
But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds in bleed into new ones.
FOR THE PERSON WHO MISSES CHILDHOOD SUMMER CAMP:
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Ah, summer camp as a kid: swimming in the lake, taking art classes, your friends go missing in the night never to be seen again… wait what? That last one didn’t happen to you? Well it does to Emma in this creepy mystery-thriller by Riley Sager. What can I say, I love creepy, atmospheric, descriptive novels that make me feel like I’m at the scene of the crime, and this book does not disappoint. I felt like I was returning to a childhood summer camp, but with less missing persons for me. I got this book when it first came out because I love campy stuff, and I ate this book up in a matter of days. This hit all my boxes: teenage secrets, spooky cabins, weird families, dark histories, and a haunted heroine. Just be sure not to check your kids into any Camp Nightingales this winter.
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.
Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.
And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.
FOR THE PERSON ANXIOUS TO RETURN TO THEIR CREEPY, SMALL HOME TOWN:
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Maybe you don’t want to return to your childhood summer camp, but what about your dreaded hometown that was once the place of your best friend’s disappearance? Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls was my top read for 2018, a novel told in reverse about two disappearances that shake a small town. This book is creepy. Maybe you want a chilling read for the chilly weather, but I personally couldn’t read this alone or in the dark, it’s that good at creeping me out. I say that with the highest praise because I don’t get scared of mysteries easily, but this one was so atmospheric in a way that I had never read before, and I savored every second of it. This book made me want to hug the main character and be her friend. If you can scare me AND make me feel every human emotion, it’s a pretty good book.
Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.
It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.
The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.
Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.
Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.
FOR THE PERSON A LITTLE TOO OBSESSED WITH SOCIAL MEDIA:
The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent
We all know that person, the person who spends all day checking their Instagram or blog obsessively. Ok maybe I’m sometimes that person… But what about when your constant blog scrolling leads you to your daughter who you had to give up for adoption years earlier? The Memory Watcher introduces us to Autumn, whose social media scrolling does just this. I loved Autumn, she was such a fun character for me to read, and completely unlike any other narrator I’ve met. Minka Kent paints a very unique picture of the connections between social media, lies, family secrets, and the lengths we go for the people we love. This book took me maybe two days to finish, because I was so eager to get the truth. Give this as a hint to someone to maybe get off social media every now and then, you never know what you’ll stumble upon!
When Autumn Carpenter stumbles upon the social media account of the family who adopted her infant daughter years ago, she finds herself instantly drawn into their picture-perfect existence.
From behind a computer screen, Autumn watches Grace’s every memory, from birthdays to holidays to bedtime snuggles. But what starts as an innocent fascination spirals into an addictive obsession met with a screeching halt the day the McMullen family closes their Instaface account without so much as a warning.
Frantic and desperate to reconnect with her daughter, Autumn applies for a nanny position with the McMullens, manipulating herself into Grace’s life under false pretenses. And it’s only then that Autumn discovers pictures lie, the perfect family doesn’t exist, and beautiful people? They have the ugliest secrets.
FOR THE PERSON SECRETLY CURIOUS WHAT A CULT WITH THEIR SPOUSE WOULD BE LIKE:
The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
I should have titled this: “For the person who secretly curious what a cult with their spouse would be like, wants a wild switch up from the average domestic thriller, and just craves a fun, completely insane roller coaster of a book” buuuut that might have been too long of a title perhaps. My alternate title completely sums it up: the is a wild ride and quite the stray from the other domestic thrillers that are popular right now. This book somehow manages to be one of the darkest I read this year, but also one of the most fun. Does that make me sound twisted?! This book asks you to suspend a bit of belief, but after all of the cheating husbands and crazy children in the recent domestic dramas I’ve read, I was happy for a weird little change. If you’re like me and want to laugh, get creeped out, and scream at the characters: this is the ultimate read.
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . .
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.
FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS A LITTLE LESS MYSTERY, A LITTLE MORE SPUNK THIS WINTER:
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
If you haven’t gotten the chance to read this one, RUN do not walk to your nearest bookseller, and do yourself a huge favor this winter. This book is a little different from the others on my list, but that’s not to say I wasn’t thrilled and terrified while reading it. The Bear and the Nightingale is a dark retelling of an ancient Russian fairy tale, filled with demons, magic, and of course, a spunky and strong heroine. If you couldn’t already tell, I read a lot of thrillers, but this was such a magical stray for me. This book actually thrilled me in a way other books this year hadn’t. Above all, this book was just a work of art both in the writing and in the story. For this reason, it is the ultimate winter read and the perfect gift for a lover of all things thrills, magic, and a little chill.
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Have you read any of these thrilling novels this year? Are there any books you are hoping to give or receive this holiday season? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your wish lists for this year!