Meet the Authors of Summer’s Hottest Mysteries

Posted by Cybil on July 1, 2020
Summer is a great time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked five of the season’s hottest mystery and thriller authors to tell you about their new books and share their best recommendations for the perfect whodunit.

We’re confident that these authors will give you plenty of clues to help you find your perfect mystery. Be sure to add the books that pique your interest to your Want to Read shelf!
 

Lucy Foley, author of The Guest List

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Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.

Lucy Foley: It’s a murder mystery set at a glamorous wedding on a remote island off the Irish coast. It should be the perfect day, but guests have brought with them buried grudges, secrets, and motives—with deadly consequences. Just after the cake is cut—and as a storm rages about the island—a body is found in the darkness beyond the wedding tent.

GR: What research did you do for the book?

LF: As someone in her early 30s I’ve traveled to a lot of weddings in the last few years, which helped a lot with inspiration for that aspect of the book (don’t tell my friends)! And I made several research trips to the beautiful—and very isolated—islands off the west coast of Ireland and was inspired to offset the glamour and perfection of the wedding spectacle with the wilderness of such surroundings. This contrast mirrors something that happens within the characters themselves: Little by little the masks fall away and something savage and animal is revealed beneath.

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect mystery?

LF: I think a perfect mystery should contain lots of leap-off-the-page characters—definitely including some the reader will love to hate, or hate to love! And the mystery itself should be like a beautiful puzzle: All the clues should be laid out so that if the reader were to go back through the book they’d see that all along they had everything they needed to solve the case.

GR: Who are some of your all-time favorite mystery and thriller writers?

LF: Patricia Highsmith, because she creates wonderfully complex villains that we end up rooting for and each of her books has such a powerful atmosphere. Agatha Christie, for her mastery of the mystery-as-puzzle, and for her exploration of what drives ordinary, law-abiding citizens to murder. Jane Harper, for the fantastic sense of place she creates in her novels, in which the landscape becomes like a character. Kate Atkinson and Belinda Bauer, for writing brilliant, character-driven crime. Alex Michaelides and Gillian Flynn, for their perfect use of the killer twist. I could go on!

GR: What are some new mysteries you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? 

LF: Too many to count! I’m reading and enjoying Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak—for me it’s got a nice Talented Mr. Ripley vibe. And I loved the gothic atmosphere of Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. Ditto The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell: I love that haunted-house feel.

GR: For someone who hasn’t read a mystery in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? 

LF: I don’t think you can go wrong with Agatha Christie: I come back to her books time and again. Particular favorites are And Then There Were None—savage and brilliant—or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which is so clever and almost equally satisfying whether you read it knowing the twist or not.

GR: What’s your biggest fear? 

LF: Probably finding myself trapped on a deserted island with the characters in my books! 
 

Lucy Foley's The Guest List is available now in the U.S.


S.A. Cosby, author of Blacktop Wasteland

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S.A. Cosby: It’s Hell or High Water meets No Country for Old Men, but set in the Black rural South.

GR: What research did you do for the book?

SAC: I’m a fan of old-school muscle cars, so they feature prominently in the book. I studied engine and car design. I also read books about famous real-life heists.

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect mystery?

SAC: One that keeps me guessing, but plays fair with the clues.

GR: Who are some of your all-time favorite mystery and thriller writers?

SAC: Walter Mosley, Jordan Harper, Dennis Lehane, Jim Thompson, Ellery Queen, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Barbara Neely, Ed McBain, and John Ridley.

GR: What are some new mysteries you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? 

SAC: Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley, The Innocents by Ace Atkins, and Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow.

GR: For someone who hasn’t read a mystery in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? 

SAC: The Snowman by Jo Nesbø or Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett: One hard-boiled and one cozy mystery to get you reacclimated to the genre.

GR: What’s your biggest fear? 

SAC: Not achieving what I know I can.
 

S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland will be available in the U.S. on July 14.

  

Samantha Downing, author of He Started It

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Samantha Downing: He Started It is about three siblings (and two of their spouses) who go on a road trip in order to secure their grandfather’s inheritance. Along the way, they have to deal with old grudges, family secrets, and lots of scores to settle.

GR: What research did you do for the book?

SD: I did quite a bit of research into the trip itself. They start in Atlanta and drive across the country, stopping along the way at various tourist sites, attractions, and some very odd places. Every one of them is real and can be visited today. Roadside America was invaluable for me. This is not a family that would visit typical places, so a lot of the sites aren’t very famous and aren’t necessarily good places to take children. But I had a lot of fun finding them!

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect mystery?

SD: First, the characters have to be compelling. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad, as long as I’m interested in what they do next. Second, it has to be surprising. Not every page has to be a surprise, but the story has to keep me guessing. Third, the ending doesn’t have to be neatly wrapped up in a bow. I like endings that keep me thinking about the book.

GR: Who are your all-time favorite mystery and thriller writers?

SD: Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn, Mary Kubica, John Grisham, Paul Tremblay, Lisa Gardner, and Lisa Unger.

GR: What are some new mysteries you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? 

SD: The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica, The Herd by Andrea Bartz, Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey, The Other People by C.J. Tudor, and Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar.

For books coming out later this year, I loved Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins, Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker, Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon, The Swap by Robyn Harding, Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle, and His & Hers by Alice Feeney.

GR: For someone who hasn’t read a mystery in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? 

SD: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine. It just came out a couple of years ago and I think it’s already a classic.

GR: What’s your biggest fear? 

SD: I have this weird fear of walking between cars. I’m convinced one of the cars is going to move or back up and I’m going to be crushed. No idea why, but I can’t walk through cars without thinking about it.
 

Samantha Downing's He Started It will be available in the U.S. on July 21.


Alex North, author of The Shadows

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Alex North: Twenty-five years ago, two teenage outsiders murdered a schoolmate. They had developed a fantasy world around lucid dreaming, and believed a sacrifice to the mysterious figure they both saw in their dreams would allow them to escape the real world forever. And after the killing, one of the boys disappeared and was never seen again. In the present day, Paul Adams—who knew the killers and their victim—returns to his hometown for the first time in years. Paul thinks the past is over and done with, but the nightmare is about to begin again.

GR: What research did you do for the book?

AN: My intention is always to do as little research as possible—the minimum I need to make the story believable—and then to wear it as lightly as possible! For this book, I was fascinated by an attempted murder that occurred in Wisconsin in 2014, where two girls attempted to kill one of their friends as a tribute to the made-up internet character of Slender Man.

The thing I found most intriguing about the case was how, between them, the two girls had come to believe in something that was so obviously and outlandishly fictional. So I did research that case a little, although the crime in my book is very different—the murder takes place a quarter of a century ago, for example, and the killers are older and boys. I also did some reading around sleep disorders and lucid dreams, but I drew most of the latter from my own experiences, as I’ve been interested in lucid dreaming for years. (Although not to the same extent as the characters in the book, I hasten to add.)

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect mystery?

AN: Put as simply as possible, a perfect mystery for me has to raise a question I desperately want answered—and then not answer it for as long as possible. And when the answer is finally revealed, it somehow has to be both surprising and satisfying at the same time. That’s the skeleton of it for me (and it’s one I think applies to stories in general, rather than being unique to the crime genre). Of course, it’s also the bare minimum.

A perfect mystery is also going to have interesting, well-realized characters and an evocative setting, and it’s going to have ideas and deeper themes going on below the surface, too. But at heart, what I look for in a mystery is the same as I look for in any story: a question that needs answering badly enough for me to keep turning the pages. Albeit with a little bit more murder...

GR: Who are some of your all-time favorite mystery and thriller writers?

AN: The danger of answering this is always the same: the risk of leaving somebody out! Like many teenagers, I gorged on books by Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and their works—especially the older stuff I read when I was younger—remain highly influential for me. I’ve always been a fan of horror.

Some other favorites off the top of my head, and in no order whatsoever, would be Mo Hayder, John Connolly, Sarah Pinborough, Thomas H. Cook, Belinda Bauer, and Tim Willocks. But it’s so hard to narrow it down. And the genre is in such good shape right now that I could probably name a hundred other authors producing great work who will become favorites in the future.

GR: What are some new mysteries you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? 

AN: I’ve found it hard to concentrate during the last few months, and so reading has been difficult. But I’ve been reading a fair bit of nonfiction, and also short stories (not mystery, for example, but I loved Ted Chiang’s science fiction collection Exhalation).
 
In terms of new mysteries, there are three I’ve read recently that I really loved. Alex Pavesi’s upcoming novel The Eighth Detective is an ingenious, metafictional love letter to detective fiction: seven apparently separate stories interwoven with an eighth that gradually draws them together into a whole. I haven’t read anything as original or compelling for quite some time, and I didn’t see the ending coming at all.

I also loved C.J. Tudor’s The Other People, which, after a gripping opening, spins off into a tale of guilt and revenge that carefully straddles the real and the supernatural. I particularly loved the setting here: the liminal world of endless nighttime motorways and service stations. And finally, the latest entry in Steve Cavanagh’s superb Eddie Flynn series, Fifty-Fifty, which begins with two sisters calling the police to report the same murder, each accusing the other of the crime. As a callback to my answer about the perfect mystery, each of these books asked a question I really needed an answer to as I was reading—and in each case, I totally loved both the journey and the destination.

GR: For someone who hasn’t read a mystery in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? 

AN: This is an almost impossible question to answer! One difficulty is that the crime and mystery genre is such a broad church in terms of style, substance, and subject matter that I find it very hard to pick a single work—because how could one book hope to represent a genre that’s capable of doing so many different things?

And I’m also reluctant to lure anybody anywhere: People should read whatever they enjoy, and if someone hasn’t read a crime novel for a while then I would assume that’s by choice, and I suspect handing them any one book isn’t going to bring them back to the path!

But if I were forced, I would probably suggest something by Thomas H. Cook. His work is beautifully written and elegantly structured, each book constructed like clockwork—from individual sentences to paragraphs and chapters, and to the plot as a whole. They’re master classes in misdirection. Breakheart Hill, The Interrogation, and Red Leaves are all masterpieces in my eyes.

GR: What’s your biggest fear? 

AN: I don’t really get scared very easily—I’ve not been properly frightened by a film or a book since I was a child—and I don’t have any particular phobias. But there was an incident in my early 20s when I got caught in a current in the sea and nearly drowned, and even the thought of swimming gives me flashbacks to that. I won’t even go in a pool.

And of course—an obvious answer, but true—ever since the birth of my son, my biggest fear has been of something bad happening to him. With those two things in mind, it’s fair to say that taking him to swimming lessons was a particularly traumatic experience for me.
 

Alex North’s The Shadows will be available in the U.S. on July 7.

 

Riley Sager, author of Home Before Dark

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Riley Sager: As a child, Maggie lived in an allegedly haunted house that her family fled after only 20 days—an ordeal that became the subject of her father’s bestselling horror memoir. When she inherits the house after his death, a skeptical Maggie returns to learn the real reason her family left, only to discover her father’s book might not be as fictitious as she thought.

GR: What research did you do for the book?

RS: I read The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson, since that’s what inspired Home Before Dark. I wanted to get a feel for how bestselling horror memoirs are written, and also to know what things to avoid, since I didn’t want it to be too derivative.

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect mystery?

RS: My perfect mystery needs to include a combination of compelling characters, evocative prose and a plot that grabs me from the start and won’t let me go until the end. A jaw-dropping twist or two also helps.

GR: Who are some of your all-time favorite mystery and thriller writers?

RS: I’m not a fan of this question, because I always tend to leave someone out and think of them only in hindsight. So a partial list would include Agatha Christie, Stephen King, and Megan Abbott.

GR: What are some new mysteries you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends?  

RS: I absolutely loved Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier, and I wholeheartedly recommend anything by Megan Miranda, including her latest, The Girl from Widow Hills. I was a judge for the Edgar Awards last year, which is how I discovered The Hotel Neversink by Adam O’Fallon Price. It’s so fresh and original and epic in scope. I loved it, and was thrilled when it won.

GR: For someone who hasn’t read a mystery in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre?

RS: There are two books that I keep recommending to people—No Exit by Taylor Adams and Dare Me by Megan Abbott. Both just knocked my socks off. I think even the most casual reader will be hooked by both.

GR: What’s your biggest fear? 

RS: For someone who writes scary books, I have an absurd number of fears. I guess my biggest one would be drowning. I can’t think of a more horrific way to go.
 

Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark is available now in the U.S.


 
Don’t forget to add these thrilling reads to your Want to Read shelf, and tell us which mysteries you’re most excited about in the comments below.

Check out more recent articles, including:
48 Mystery and Thriller Recommendations by Trope
Meet April's Most Highly Anticipated Mysteries
The 40 Most Popular Mysteries of the Past Five Years

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Sue (new)

Sue Frances Looking forward to reading these.


message 2: by Autumn Tyndall (new)

Autumn Tyndall I me hoping to get a chapter in


message 3: by Autumn Tyndall (new)

Autumn Tyndall *im


message 4: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Where's Erin Kelly's interview for Stone Mothers?


message 5: by TMR (new)

TMR They all sound fun!


message 6: by William (new)

William B I’m interested in both “The Guest List” and “Home Before Dark”! I also want to read “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix.


message 7: by Arpit (new)

Arpit Srivastava William wrote: "I’m interested in both “The Guest List” and “Home Before Dark”! I also want to read “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix."

Heya! I am looking forward to read these books. they have such a great title and plot looks interesting too. Tell me when you read if you can:)


message 8: by Paige (new)

Paige None of these authors like Tana French? I was thinking of choosing which one to read based on who likes her books since I love them so much.


message 9: by Jihan (new)

Jihan Suarez I highly recommend The Guest List. I just finished reading it and I enjoyed it a lot.


message 10: by Scott (new)

Scott Jerry I really enjoyed reading this book a lot


message 11: by Nancy (new)

Nancy I'm looking forward to reading these.


message 12: by Vasilis (new)

Vasilis The Guest list is next on my reading list!


message 13: by Holden (new)

Holden Wunders I’m currently reading The Shadows and it’s so much better than The Whisper Man which did absurdly well. I have all these though and am super excited for The Guest List!


message 14: by Jihan (new)

Jihan Suarez Holden wrote: "I’m currently reading The Shadows and it’s so much better than The Whisper Man which did absurdly well. I have all these though and am super excited for The Guest List!"

will definitely add it to my TBR. I loved the Whisper Man. Thanks!!


message 15: by Meagan (new)

Meagan The Shadows was fantastic, as was North’s other book the whisper man. The Guest list was also great!


message 16: by Mallori (new)

Mallori Arpit wrote: "William wrote: "I’m interested in both “The Guest List” and “Home Before Dark”! I also want to read “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix."

Heya! I am looking forwa..."


I’ve read both and loved them! Highly recommend.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I think they are all good books, but I loved The Guest List.


message 18: by Christine (new)

Christine Looking forward to reading some of these, especially The Shadows


message 19: by Sandy (new)

Sandy None of them mentioned Ruth Rendell, and she leaves most of the young wannabes in the dust.


Dorie  - Cats&Books :) I was disappointed in The Shadows but loved Home Before Dark. I loved North's previous book The Whisper Man :)


message 21: by Donald (new)

Donald Paul Great role models for myself, a fledgling mystery author. Good work ethics and commitments to their genre. Looking forward to reading all the new offerings!


message 22: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Walsh Finished The Guest List and have to say it was not my favorite style. I always find that changing timelines leaves me feeling tired. I think this is just a personal preference because the plot was certainly well-crafted and kept me guessing till the end.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I had a amazing time reading this book....I had suggested these books to all my friends and they really enjoyed it


message 24: by Pam (new)

Pam Carmichael Jihan wrote: "Holden wrote: "I’m currently reading The Shadows and it’s so much better than The Whisper Man which did absurdly well. I have all these though and am super excited for The Guest List!"

will defini..."


I can't wait too, I am almost done with The Whisper Man, wow!!


message 25: by Ken (last edited Jul 22, 2020 09:09PM) (new)

Ken The only novel I was inclined to try was The Guest List, although a little put off by the author's contribution - which seems very much half-smart - and more so by Sandy's and Jeanne's comments .

I certainly won't buy it, so let's see how long the library takes.


message 26: by Craig (new)

Craig Sisterson BLACKTOP WASTELAND and THE SHADOW are both excellent - I was fortunate enough to get advance versions and they're both well worth nabbing from your favourite bookshop or library.


message 27: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle Craig wrote: "BLACKTOP WASTELAND and THE SHADOW are both excellent - I was fortunate enough to get advance versions and they're both well worth nabbing from your favourite bookshop or library."

What’s an advance version?


message 28: by Arpit (new)

Arpit Srivastava To Mallori

Thanks for the recommendations. I will surely read them:)


message 29: by Cody (new)

Cody sp00ky


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