If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s a good psychological thriller. I’m not alone – it seems like every year there’s a flood of books that are all trying to be the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. As 2017 begins, we’ve already seen a bunch of novels attempt to take that particular crown, so let’s start our survey of new releases with some thrillers to get your blood flowing and your heart pumping.
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson, is a wonderful follow-up to 2015’s stellar The Kind Worth Killing. What Swanson does best is create a handful of realistic characters and then play them off each other. Here, the story follows Londoner Kate Priddy, a young art student who’s getting out from under an abusive relationship and desperately wants a change of scenery. A distant cousin from Boston, Corbin, offers to swap apartments. Each character, inhabiting the others’ space, starts to uncover secrets and, very possibly, deeply hidden crimes. Swanson’s writing can be described as claustrophobic, with each chapter – told from alternating points of view – revealing tantalizingly juicy bits that keeps the reader locked in.
Another thriller, this one snapped up by movie director Ron Howard, is JP Delaney’s The Girl Before. What sets this one apart, apart from the brilliant premise and the great writing, is the setting. The novel takes place mostly in a sleek, ultra-modern house tucked away in a quiet corner of London, built by a famously obsessive – and reclusive – architect who has very exacting standards on who lives in it. (Why doesn’t he live in it himself? Read it and you’ll find out!) The story is told from two different viewpoints: in the present, a young couple that recently suffered a traumatizing break-in and is looking for a new place to live, find this amazing house that seems almost too perfect. In the past, we follow Emma (the girl before) who last lived in the house. As both characters discover the house and the person who built it, secrets, lies, and betrayal boil over into a stunning conclusion.
The final book to round out our psychological thriller combo platter is Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes, another entry from across the pond. Louise, a struggling single mom who works in a medical office, meets and flirts with a mysterious man at a bar, who later turns out to be her new boss, David. Then, she strikes up a friendship with her boss’ seemingly perfect wife, Adele. Louise is pulled into the undercurrents and tensions between the two, and secrets and lies start spilling out. Pinborough is a master of characterization, with each person containing layers upon layers. The shocking end might be just a touch contrived, but you’ll be so sucked into the story, you might not even care. This one is absolutely recommended.
January does have books besides thrillers, so moving on to something a bit different. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney. A delightful and razor-sharp observation of a changing New York City, Lillian Boxfish is an 85-year-old former advertising executive and writer who walks the streets of her beloved Manhattan on New Years’ Eve in 1984. Chance encounters with passersby and walking by buildings and restaurants that spark memories of her long and adventurous life are wonderful in and of itself, but spending time with Lillian is like spending time with your slightly eccentric and cantankerous aunt who you always want to sit next to at family gatherings. Readers will come away amused and enchanted.
Finally, be sure to take a look at Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living. The author of the wonderful memoir The End of Your Life Book Club writes a series of essays about books that have changed his life over a long literary career. One of the most intense relationships a person can have is with the words contained in their favorite books, and this is Schwalbe’s own deeply personal love letter to the power of the written word to both shape and define us. No snob, Schawlbe’s selections are all over the map, from classics to literary favorites to recent page turners. Each essay offers a glimpse inside the reader’s soul and each has magic to them. People who love books, or – let’s face it – people who love libraries will find a lot to love within these pages, and it might just help you look at your next book in a completely different way.
Thanks for playing along! If you are looking for more great books, be sure to check out our We Recommend page for more blog posts, staff picks, and lists that will keep you busy for all of 2017.