CHRISTMAS THRILLERS – If you’re looking for brilliant thrillers to thrill you over the Christmas holidays, here are my recommendations!
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Ted Severson is having a martini in Heathrow airport when he meets Lily Kintner. Over drinks and during the long flight back to the states, he tells Lily that his wife is cheating on him. He confesses that he’d like to kill her. It’s a casual, throw-away remark; the kind of thing an angry man might say after one too many gins. But Lily takes him seriously, and by the time the plane lands, the two of them have agreed to murder Ted’s beautiful, adulterous wife.
This is a wonderfully written thriller, set against the chill sweep of Maine in winter, with compelling, ice-cold characters and plot twists that will take your breath away.
The shadows in our bedroom flicker differently: it takes me a moment to see that the curtains are torn, and moving in the slight wind. A glittering pile of glass lies in front of the window, a few jagged shards still lodged in the frame.
The cot is empty.
When Adam Jordan takes a research post in Botswana, his wife, Emma, reluctantly agrees to go along with their two girls and newly born son, Sam. While the family are in Africa, the unthinkable happens: Sam is snatched from his cot.
Emma is not an instantly likeable character: she’s ambitious, competitive, not particularly maternal.
‘I always thought happiness belonged to children or the faintly stupid that it was pointless to strive for something so illusory.’
Yet she, like Adam, are realistically portrayed; the story is compelling and beautifully written.
‘Inside me the tiny heart was the size of a poppy seed; it would be beating twice as fast as mine. At this stage her skin would be as translucent as a petal.’
The twists and turns of the plot and the wonderful prose kept me gripped from the novel’s portrayal of London, to Africa and back.
‘Ben!’ I shouted. ‘Are you sure you know the way?’
‘Yes!’ he shouted with the assurance of a kid who almost certainly hasn’t bothered to listen to what you said, because they have something more exciting to be getting on with. He didn’t stop, or look back at me.
And that was the last I saw of him.
Rachel Jenner and her son Ben are walking in Leigh Woods, just outside Bristol. Rachel is thinking, as she often does, of Katrina, her ex-husband John’s new wife. Ben and their dog run on ahead of her to a swing he loves. When Rachel catches up, Ben has disappeared. A short while later, the police discover the dog, whose leg has been broken, and Ben’s clothes.
Rachel makes a media appeal but the public turn against her, convinced she’s killed her own son.
This is a heart-breaking, edge-of-your-seat thriller, narrated by Rachel and Jim, the detective in charge of the case, as both he and Rachel try and find her son before it’s too late. Burnt Paper Sky is beautifully written and has captured my home city, Bristol, wonderfully well.
‘I didn’t know that this city was built on sea trade that docked there for hundreds of years: sugar, tobacco, paper, slaves. She told me how a lot of human suffering made the wealth that built Bristol, and a lot of men gambled lives and fortunes on that.’ Jim
This book would appeal to you if you liked Jane Shemilt’s Daughter and The Drowning Lesson.
‘We swung around the Bear Pit roundabout, the swift curve of it making my stomach quail, dirty shop windows advertising bridal wear and discount trainers blurring in front of my eyes.’ Rachel
Lois and Carly-May are just twelve years old when they’re abducted, driven across the country, and imprisoned in a remote, isolated hunting lodge for two months. Once the girls are discovered, their parents decide that, for their own good, they should not see each other again.
Decades later, both Lois and Carly-May have built fragile new lives. Lois has developed a double identity. Now a professor of literature, she’s written a best-selling novel under a pseudonym, loosely based on her own experience as an abductee. The book is about to be made into a movie. As she prepares to join the film crew on location in Canada, one of her students starts taken an unhealthy interest in her and her past life.
Out in LA, Carly-May is drinking too much and watching her beauty-queen looks fade, clinging to the last remnants of a once-promising career as an actress. When she reads a shockingly familiar screenplay, she warily takes a role she knows is based on events from her own life, knowing that the truth of their abduction is finally going to be revealed.
This is a wonderfully complex, brilliantly written thriller, interwoven with themes from Gothic literature, our obsessions with female beauty and sexuality and the psychological damage adults can inflict upon children.
This book will appeal to you if you liked Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places.
When Rose’s daughter, Vivien, is unexpectedly found dead, the police are unsure whether it’s suicide or murder. Vivien is beautiful, philanthropic, wealthy – and mysterious. She has one daughter, Alex, who is only seven and is struggling to understand where her mother has gone. Rose starts to piece together what took place the night her daughter died – but to uncover what really happened, she needs to face some uncomfortable truths from her own past.
The Lie by CL Taylor
This is for you if you love fast-paced, easy-to-read thrillers. Even better that CL Taylor’s thriller debut, The Accident, The Lie is about toxic female friendships and the seductive power of spiritual cults.
The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne
This is for you if you love psychological thrillers, with a supernatural twist. Set in the hauntingly beautiful Scottish Highlands, The Ice Twins begins 14 months after the death of one of Sarah and Angus’s twin daughters.
Just as the family are about to start their new life on an island off Skye, the surviving twin claims her parents have mistaken her identify. For fans of The Girl on the The Train by Paula Hawkins and Sabine Durrant’s, Remember Me This Way.
And I’m currently reading Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin – and loving it!
How about you? What are you planning to read over Christmas?