October seems a great time to dip into suspenseful or horror fiction – marrying our insatiable appetite for crime thrillers with an increasing enthusiasm for celebrating Halloween. Get your fill of spine-tingling chills with our selection of thrillers:
The Shadow House by Anna Downes
Anna Downes follows up her impressive debut with this hard-to-put-down domestic horror. Alex heads to rural NSW with her teenage son and her baby, to escape an abusive relationship back in the city. The ecovillage called Pine Ridge, with an idyllic location and welcoming residents, seems the perfect place for a fresh start. It doesn’t take long for Alex to realise that, in escaping her own shadowy past, she may have stumbled upon someone else’s – and this time, there may be nowhere to run. The Shadow House is a creepy, perplexing thriller that follows two mothers across dual timelines, as the past begins to repeat itself in sinister and increasingly bizarre ways.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Becoming a bestseller is just the beginning for The Last Thing He Told Me – in less than six months, it has become a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, appeared on holiday reading lists by Vogue and CNN (and others), and is now being adapted for Apple TV Plus (with Julia Roberts as star and co-producer). The Last Thing He Told Me is about Hannah, who’s left alone with an antagonistic stepdaughter when her newly wed husband Owen disappears. Then an unexplained bag of cash, and the FBI turns up. To find Owen, and unravel his true identity, Hannah and Bailey will have to team up and learn to trust each other. Laura Dave has crafted a fast-paced domestic thriller that is also a beautifully-written relationship drama.
The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin
The Dark Remains is Ian Rankin’s labour of love – he has completed a story started by the late William McIlvanney, whom he regards as his mentor. This story is a prequel to McIlvanney’s Jack Laidlaw trilogy, widely regarded as the first “Tartan Noir” novels. The Dark Remains is about Jack Laidlaw’s first case – back when he was younger, a misfit who didn’t make friends easily, but already gaining a reputation for having “a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets.” Besides the central whodunit around a murdered lawyer, what will delight readers are the evocative descriptions – of autumn in Glasgow in 1972, a city awash in rain, whisky, vice and blood; and of the stoic Laidlaw in his formative years. Ian Rankin has continued McIlvanney’s writing style seamlessly in this atmospheric, witty and sharp mystery.
The Housemate by Sarah Bailey
An unsolved mystery from the start of her career comes back to haunt, and potentially harm, seasoned journalist Olive Groves. Dubbed the Housemate Homicide, the case involved three housemates – one dead, one missing, and one accused of murder. Nine years later, the missing housemate is found dead on a remote property, and Olive (Oli) once again works on the story. Paired with young podcaster Cooper, Oli unearths facts and secrets about the case that poses danger for her new family and threaten to destroy her present happiness. Set in Melbourne, The Housemate is a crime procedural that also offers insights into journalistic practices. Sarah Bailey’s storytelling shows great assurance, with a satisfyingly tense and complex build up until the flurry of revelations at the novel’s climax.
False Witness by Karin Slaughter
Karin Slaughter’s latest book weaves a dark, compelling legal thriller with the complex relationship dramas around siblings and with parents. Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life after a traumatic and neglected childhood. However, someone who knows the secrets of her past is threatening to bring it all down. Leigh’s lastest client as a defence attorney is Andrew Tenant, a rape suspect in a high-profile case. Leigh quickly realises that she was chosen by Andrew because he recognises her – and knows secrets that she has been hiding for 23 years, about a brutal crime involving her and her estranged sister, Callie. How will Leigh avoid Andrew’s threats without compromising her case, whilst not exposing the secrets that will destroy her hard-won happiness? False Witness is a gripping read that doesn’t shy away from tough topics, and excels at portraying family love and loyalty. This standalone thriller is a treat for current fans, and a great entry point for readers new to Karin Slaughter’s books.
My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips
My Best Friend’s Murder is an addictive psychological thriller about a toxic, multilayered friendship between two women – a “frenemy” dynamic that will be recognisable, perhaps even relatable for readers. Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives, having been together through the many ups and downs of their teen and adult years – nonetheless, a persistent dark undercurrent has finally overwhelmed their relationship. The book opens with Bec discovering a critically injured Izzy at the bottom of some stairs; we then learn more about their relationship through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards. The tension builds as we explore the whydunit rather than the whodunit. In this award-winning debut, Polly Phillips has created a pair of unlovely-but-memorable characters, and has written about the complicated nature of close friendships with insightful perception.