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All the Sinners Bleed

S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)

This tale of a Black sheriff in rural Virginia facing off against a religiously motivated murderer imbues the standard serial killer thriller with uncommon depth. Rich characters, trenchant social observations, and breakneck pacing combine to make it Cosby’s best yet.


Bright Young Women

Jessica Knoll (S&S/Rucci)

Inspired by the real-life murders carried out by Ted Bundy, this knockout thriller focuses on two women—one who narrowly escaped the All-American Sex Killer, the other who’s convinced he murdered her best friend—and the bond they share. It’s a moving examination of survivor’s guilt and a scathing critique of the true crime genre that never forgets to be exciting, too.


The Devil’s Playground

Craig Russell (Doubleday)

A fictional horror flick provides the foundation for this stellar mystery, in which a film historian’s 1967 search for the sole surviving print of a notorious silent film frames a 1927 detective yarn about the spate of potentially supernatural mishaps that befell the movie’s production. Russell’s love for Old Hollywood leaps off the page, lending this a degree of authenticity unsurpassed by most of this year’s historical mysteries.


The Eden Test

Adam Sternbergh (Flatiron)

In this smirking swipe at monogamy, a New York City couple heads to a mysterious weeklong retreat with hopes of repairing their relationship, only for a procession of explosive secrets to blow up in their faces. The result is gripping, unpredictable, and packed with Gone Girl–level twists, but it’s the authenticity of the partnership at its center that gives this its staying power.


Everybody Knows

Jordan Harper (Mulholland)

L.A. noir gets a startling facelift from Harper, who follows crisis PR manager Mae Pruett as she joins forces with her ex, a disgraced cop turned fixer, to investigate her boss’s murder. As the pair plunge deep into Tinseltown’s dark heart, Harper transports the hardboiled ethos of Raymond Chandler to today’s era of alternative facts and celebrity obsession. This razor-sharp thriller brilliantly captures the zeitgeist.



Hannah Michell (One World)

The real-life 1995 collapse of a Seoul department store inspired this gorgeous crime novel from Michell, about a woman who traverses South Korea’s underbelly to track down her engineer husband after the skyscraper he was working on collapses. Robust backstories and potent jabs at capitalism set this above the pack.


Flags on the Bayou

James Lee Burke (Atlantic Monthly)

Set in 1863 Louisiana, this outstanding Civil War thriller from the author of the Dave Robicheaux mysteries examines the corrosive effects of violence through the intertwined stories of an escaped slave, an abolitionist schoolteacher, and a grief-stricken medical officer. Burke stitches it all together with meticulous historical detail, bracing action, and a thick layer of moral complexity.


How Can I Help You

Laura Sims (Putnam)

This cat-and-mouse suspense story about a pair of employees at a Midwestern library whose checkered pasts collide generates Patricia Highsmith–style psychological fireworks. The narrative’s multiple reveals and shattering climax hit with maximum impact, delivering a deliciously dark monument to extremity that’s among the year’s most exhilarating.


A Most Agreeable Murder

Julia Seales (Random House)

Jane Austen’s ghost hangs over this ridiculously fun Regency-era whodunit about Beatrice Steele, a 25-year-old spinster who­ loves to solve crimes. After a bachelor dies at a local ball, Beatrice teams up with a private detective to investigate. Seales harnesses her screenwriting experience to stock the ensuing inquiry with delicious dialogue and gasp-worthy twists.


The Most Secret Memory of Men

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, trans. from the French by Lara Vergnaud (Other Press)

In this captivating literary mystery, a Senegalese expat in Paris discovers the final copy of a book by a forgotten novelist from his home country and becomes obsessed with learning about the dead man’s life. Sarr utilizes multiple formats—letters, diaries, and book reviews among them—to immerse readers in his protagonist’s gripping investigation, shrewdly touching on themes of colonialism and cultural memory with a remarkably light hand. It’s a massive achievement.


Strange Sally Diamond

Liz Nugent (Scout)

When Sally’s widower father dies just before her 44th birthday, she honors his wish to “put him out with the trash” by burning his corpse, setting off a chain of events that gradually unearths details about her sordid past. One of the year’s boldest and most original offerings, Nugent’s off-kilter latest grabs hold and won’t let go.


Tell Me What I Am

Una Mannion (Harper)

After Nessa Garvey’s sister dies—possibly at the hands of her abusive ex, Lucas—Nessa is denied access to her niece, Ruby, who decamps with Lucas to an island in Vermont’s Lake Champlain in this wrenching sophomore effort from Mannion. Utilizing lyrical prose and unforgettable characters to trace the long shadow of domestic violence, it’s a supremely haunting winner.


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