8 thrillers and mysteries to read this summer

These picks will keep you up all night, taking you from a slowly sinking Mexico City to the quiet streets of rural North Carolina to the city lights of New York and Hong Kong

(Jentwo, a.k.a. Janejira Taechakampu/Illustration for The Washington Post)
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Summer is almost upon us, bringing with it longer days, lots of sun and some much-needed time to rest. Whatever your plans are, there are plenty of new mysteries and thrillers to accompany you. Here, you’ll find books that will keep you up all night, books that will take you anywhere from a slowly sinking Mexico City to the quiet streets of rural North Carolina to the city lights of New York and Hong Kong.

This is by no means a comprehensive list — later this summer, be on the lookout for Katie Zhao’s punchy campus thriller “The Lies We Tell” and Ashley Winstead’s deliciously unputdownable “The Last Housewife” — but every book here does something new and exciting within the genre, managing to tackle big, weighty themes while also being exceptionally readable.

4 great new mysteries and thrillers — and one to skip

Cherish Farrah, by Bethany C. Morrow

In the vein of “Get Out” and “Parasite,” this gorgeous, unsettling thriller follows Farrah, a young Black girl who’s always had control over her life — until she moves in with her best friend’s adopted family and becomes convinced that something is terribly wrong. This is an unexpected, thoughtful novel that examines race, class and the all-consuming nature of female friendship.

Counterfeit, by Kirstin Chen

A startling, gleeful look at the American Dream and what counts as real in a world obsessed with image, this caper story follows two very different Chinese American women as they build a fake fashion empire that then threatens to come crashing down. Chen’s use of story structure is masterful, as are her complicated, compelling characters. (Available June 7)

The Hacienda, by Isabel Cañas

This suspense novel starts with a familiar premise — a young woman alone in the countryside, a husband whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances, a house that seems to be always watching — and turns it into something rich, decadent and wholly its own. The story unfolds in alternating perspectives between Beatriz, the new wife, and the handsome young priest she recruits to help her. This is not just a stay-up-all-night, sleep-with-the-lights-on kind of read, it’s also a nuanced, thoughtful exploration of power, religion and conquest in a postwar Mexico.

More Than You’ll Ever Know, by Katie Gutierrez

Gutierrez’s debut takes place in two timelines and two worlds. The reader is transported between Mexico City and Texas as we follow an up-and-coming true-crime journalist and the woman she’s interviewing, who was married to two men in two countries … until one husband found out and killed the other. Or did he? This is an unapologetic, unflinching examination of love, sacrifice and desire. (Available June 7)

Notes on an Execution, by Danya Kukafka

This striking, deeply compassionate novel is for anyone who’s ever been fascinated by serial killer stories — and also wondered if there ought to be more to them. Here, we see all the women whose lives have been affected by one man on the eve of his execution, from his mother to the detective who eventually catches him. Kukafka’s novel raises difficult questions about the narratives we create around charismatic men, and what forgiveness looks like in the face of terrible wrongs.

The Violin Conspiracy, by Brendan Slocumb

An intimate, tender portrait of a young Black musician, this debut novel follows Ray McMillian as he discovers that his family fiddle is a priceless Stradivarius and later discovers it’s been stolen before the most important violin competition of his life. The suspects include his own family and the descendants of former North Carolina enslavers who believe the violin is still theirs by right. It’s a striking, honest look at the insular world of classical music — both its hardships and its joys.

The Verifiers, by Jane Pek

Some people can find out anything from the Internet; they’re the friends others turn to when a potential love interest seems just a little too good to be true. Here, it’s Claudia Lin, the clever, dryly funny narrator of Pek’s debut novel, who works for a detective agency investigating dating-app fraudsters — only to find herself investigating a murder instead. This is a fascinating, carefully layered mystery novel as well as a love letter to New York City and complicated families.

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The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson

This is a pandemic novel, but not the kind of pandemic you’re thinking of. When a mysterious affliction causing unexpected, uncontrollable violence sweeps the world, one woman sees it as a way for her and her children to escape her abusive husband. Dawson’s thriller is a surprising, exhilarating journey of three generations of women navigating a changing world.

Grace D. Li is the author of “Portrait of a Thief” and a medical student at Stanford.

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