The best recent thrillers – review roundup

Sarah Langan
Titan Books, £8.99, pp304

Maple Street is a picture-perfect, crescent-shaped block bordering a park on Long Island, New York. Its inhabitants are the sort of people who “dressed for work in business casual”, who channel everything into their kids, who are “obsessed with college. Harvard in particular”. Newcomers the Wildes are different. Father, Arlo, is a former rocker, mother, Gertie, has never been told “that mom cleavage isn’t cool”, while the kids, Julia and Larry, “made fart sounds in public, and also farted in public”. When a sinkhole opens in the park, and the daughter of neighbourhood matriarch Rhea falls in, something very dark begins circulating in Maple Street, and the Wildes watch as tensions mount against them. Langan, who has won awards for her horror novels in the past, draws the dread at the heart of Good Neighbours from the terrible things people do to one another, and from what might lie in wait for a child at the bottom of a sinkhole, or in their bedroom. “The children of Maple Street were skittering over the surface of something dangerous. One of them was about to fall in.” A brilliant slice of suburban nightmare.

Lisa Jewell
Century, £14.99, pp480

As Kim babysits her grandson, Noah, daughter Tallulah, a young mother at 19, has gone for a rare evening out with her boyfriend Zach. They don’t come home, and as the hours, the days and then the weeks pass, Kim fights for her daughter’s disappearance to be taken seriously. A year later, crime novelist Sophie arrives in the Surrey hills at nearby private school Maypole House with her boyfriend, Shaun, the new headmaster. She finds a sign in her back garden reading “dig here”, and is drawn into the mystery of Tallulah and Zach’s disappearance, channelling the detective skills of her fictional sleuths. Sophie is a fine companion with whom to solve this thorny mystery, while Jewell gives tender glimpses into the life of teenage mother Tallulah, and her deep love for the baby boy Kim is adamant she wouldn’t abandon, as she shifts her story back and forth in time. Gripping and satisfying, this had me in tears at the end.

Clare Mackintosh
Sphere, £14.99, pp400

Flight attendant Mina is told that her young daughter Sophia will die unless she allows a terrorist to enter the cockpit of her plane. Mina is on board an inaugural non-stop flight from London to Sydney, a job she has wrangled her way on to in order to forget her troubled marriage to policeman Adam. There are 353 people on board, and Mackintosh moves between the perspective of Mina, fraught, terrified, with a terrible decision to make, and that of Adam at home, with secrets of his own. We also hear from various passengers – celebrities, journalists, new mothers and fathers. “I am surrounded by parents, grandparents, children,” writes a reporter aboard the aircraft. “The families of these passengers will no doubt struggle to understand why their loved ones’ lives should be worth less than one woman’s child.” Mackintosh builds Mina’s dilemma into a rip-roaring finale.

Vaseem Khan
Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, pp352

Khan returns to the world of post-independence India in 1950s Bombay, and to the travails of India’s first female police detective, Persis Wadia, in the second in this excellent series. This time, Wadia is out to find a priceless artefact, a 600-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which has gone missing from the Asiatic Society along with the scholar who was studying it. Fortunately for Persis, and for Khan’s readers, a series of cryptic clues have been left behind, and she sets to work solving them with her sidekick Archie Blackfinch, an English forensics expert. Wadia, who is not only contending with a dangerous mystery with links to fascism but also a general lack of respect from her male counterparts, is as tough and no-nonsense as she was in her debut appearance, Midnight at Malabar House. This is even more enjoyable – a delicious treat of a historical crime novel.

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