Our picks for best crime, mystery and thriller books of May 2020 include highly anticipated titles such as Robert B. Parker’s Grudge Match by Mike Lupica, Worse Angels by Laird Barron and Fair Warning by Michael Connelly, as well as refreshing reads such as Coronavirus anthology Lockdown edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle.
These mystery and thriller books will surely bring joy to avid crime fiction and mystery readers. (Note: For our coverage of best crime, mystery, and thriller books of April 2020, please visit here.)
What follows is our compiled list of latest and greatest for May 2020:
Dragon Head by James Houston Turner. Talanov is one of our favorite characters: if you’re into spy fiction, check out this series.
One and a half billion dollars vanishes out of a numbered account into a cyberspace maze. But the thief who stole it lies dead on the tracks of Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway, his access codes having perished with him.
If this were simply a matter of missing money, the United States would not be concerned. But a Hong Kong crime boss named Dragon Head wants the money to fund an army of hackers, one of whom has already penetrated America’s GPS network. The result: a midair collision that kills more than a thousand people.
With national security at stake, the Director of National Intelligence becomes very interested in the whereabouts of that money. He wants the funds to remain lost. But Dragon Head wants them found. And Colonel Aleksandr Talanov is caught in the middle.
Both sides think Talanov knows where the money is. But Talanov doesn’t have a clue. So both sides threaten to kill his closest friends unless he locates and surrenders the money. It’s an impossible situation when impossible is not an option, because whatever choice Talanov makes, someone will die.
Robert B. Parker’s Grudge Match by Mike Lupica. When Sunny’s long-time gangster associate Tony Marcus comes to her for help, Sunny is surprised–after all, she double crossed him on a recent deal, and their relationship is on shakier ground than ever. But the way Tony figures it, Sunny owes him, and Sunny’s willing to consider his case if it will clear the slate.
Tony’s trusted girlfriend and business partner has vanished, appears to have left in a hurry, and he has no idea why. He just wants to talk to her, he says, but first he needs Sunny to track her down. While Sunny isn’t willing to trust his good intentions, the missing woman intrigues her–against all odds, she’s risen to a position of power in Tony’s criminal enterprise. Sunny can’t help but admire her, and if this woman’s in a jam, Sunny would like to help.
But when a witness is murdered hours after speaking to Sunny, it’s clear there’s more at stake than just Tony’s love life. Someone–maybe even Tony himself–doesn’t want this woman on the loose…and will go to any lengths to make sure she stays silent.
Evil By The Sea by Kathleen Bridge. Island life can get pretty weird. Wiccan weddings, psychic brides, mermaid parades, eccentric parrots . . . Novelist Liz Holt has gotten used to it since moving back to the barrier island of Melbourne Beach, Florida, and once again working in her family’s hotel and emporium, the Indialantic by the Sea. But one thing she’ll never get used to is murder.
Groom-to-be and leader of the Sunshine Wiccan Society, white warlock Julian Rhodes is poisoned at his rehearsal dinner on the hotel’s sightseeing cruiser. His psychic bride, Dorian Starwood, never saw it coming. An old friend of Liz’s great-aunt Amelia, the celebrity psychic engages Liz to find out who intended to kill her intended.
With her Macaw, Barnacle Bob, squawking “Pop Goes the Weasel” at Dorian’s pet ferret, and the streets teeming with mermaids in tails, Liz has got to wade through the weirdness and cast a wide net for the killer—before she’s the next one to sleep with the fishes.
The Law of Lines by Hye-young Pyun. The Law of Lines follows the parallel stories of two young women whose lives are upended by sudden loss. When Se-oh, a recluse still living with her father, returns from an errand to find their house in flames, wrecked by a gas explosion, she is forced back into the world she had tried to escape.
The detective investigating the incident tells her that her father caused the explosion to kill himself because of overwhelming debt she knew nothing about, but Se-oh suspects foul play by an aggressive debt collector and sets out on her own investigation, seeking vengeance.
Ki-jeong, a beleaguered high school teacher, receives a phone call from the police saying that the body of her younger half-sister has just been found. Her sister was a college student she had grown distant from.
Though her death, by drowning, is considered a suicide by the police, that doesn’t satisfy Ki-jeong, and she goes to her sister’s university to find out what happened. Her sister’s cell phone reveals a thicket of lies and links to a company that lures students into a virtual pyramid scheme, preying on them and their relationships. One of the contacts in the call log is Se-oh.
Lockdown by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle. A mysterious virus sweeps across the country, mutating rapidly as it jumps from person to person. Cities are locked down. The skies are clear as all planes are grounded. Some people panic, while some go to heroic lengths to save those they love—and others use the chaos as an opportunity to engage in purest evil.
In “Lockdown,” 19 of today’s finest suspense, horror, and crime writers explore how humanity reacts to the ultimate pandemic. From New York City to the Mexican border, from the Deep South to the misty shores of Seattle, their characters are fighting for survival against incredible odds. An anthology for our time, showing how the worst crises can lead to the best of us.
Proceeds from the book will go to support BINC, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, as it seeks to help booksellers recover from the devastating COVID-19 crisis.
Contributors to this anthology include: Hector Acosta, Scott Adlerberg, Ann Dávila Cardinal, V. Castro, Angel Luis Colon, Jen Conley, Terri Lynn Coop, S.A. Cosby, Alex DiFrancesco, Michelle Garza/Melissa Lason, Rob Hart, Gabino Iglesias, Nick Kolakowski, Richie Narvaez, Cina Pelayo, Renee Asher Pickup, Eryk Pruitt, Johnny Shaw, and Steve Weddle.
Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panowich. Dane Kirby is a broken man and no stranger to tragedy. As a life-long resident and ex-arson investigator for McFalls County, Dane has lived his life in one of the most chaotic and crime-ridden regions of the south. When he gets called in to consult on a brutal murder in a Jacksonville, Florida, motel room, he and his FBI counterpart, Special Agent Roselita Velasquez, begin an investigation that leads them back to the criminal circles of his own backyard.
Arnie Blackwell’s murder in Jacksonville is only the beginning – and Dane and Roselita seem to be one step behind. For someone is hacking a bloody trail throughout the Southeast looking for Arnie’s younger brother, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who possesses an unusual skill with numbers that could make a lot of money and that has already gotten a lot of people killed―and has even more of the deadliest people alive willing to do anything it takes to exploit him.
As Dane joins in the hunt to find the boy, it swiftly becomes a race against the clock that has Dane entangled in a web of secrets involving everyone from the Filipino Mafia to distrusting federal agents to some of hardest southern outlaws he’s ever known.
Hunting November by Adriana Mather. An interesting YA title for May. After surviving a crash course in espionage at the mysterious Academy Absconditi, November has only one purpose: finding her missing father. Along with fellow student (and heartthrob) Ash, November follows the clues that her father left, embarking on the deadliest treasure hunt of her life. The first clue is in her hometown, where old friends beckon and unexpected enemies lurk around every corner.
The second clue is in Europe, where revelations about her family’s history will plunge her into an international web of deception, lies, and intrigue. The third clue is deep in enemy territory, surrounded by the most skilled assassins and master strategists, and where everyone wants her and her father dead.
Can one girl with limited training infiltrate a centuries-old organization that is powerful enough to topple empires? November only knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to save her father…or die trying.
Beyond Gone by Douglas Corleone. This is a pick for those who crave action novels. Simon Fisk, a specialist in recovering abducted children, is on a routine case in Cape Town when he suddenly finds the body of the suspect he has been following. Believing he is being framed for murder, he runs and soon discovers the job was merely a ruse to lure him to the continent.
There, Simon will be tasked with his most dangerous mission yet: trekking through the African bush to locate a group of terrorists responsible for abducting the granddaughter of the US Secretary of State.
Although Simon prefers to work alone, he is accompanied by university professor Jadine Visser, an old flame, who quickly proves adept at survival. But why is she involved? And how will they locate the underground militant group bent on using the girl in a high-profile terror attack before it’s too late?
The Goodbye Man by Jeffery Deaver. In the wilderness of Washington State, expert tracker Colter Shaw has located two young men accused of a terrible hate crime. But when his pursuit takes a shocking and tragic turn, Shaw becomes desperate to discover what went so horribly wrong and if he is to blame.
Shaw’s search for answers leads him to a shadowy organization that bills itself as a grief support group. But is it truly it a community that consoles the bereaved? Or a dangerous cult with a growing body count?
Undercover, Shaw joins the mysterious group, risking everything despite the fact that no reward is on offer. He soon finds that some people will stop at nothing to keep their secrets hidden…and to make sure that he or those close to him say “goodbye” forever.
A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette. Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes.
But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.
To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown.
A Walk Through Hell (The Complete Series) by Garth Ennis, Goran Sudzuka. A great title for May for noir comics fans. So these two FBI agents walk into a warehouse…Special Agents Shaw and McGregor handle the routine cases nowadays, which is just the way Shaw likes it. She’s pushing 40, a borderline burnout, the ghastly memories of her last investigation still clinging like shadows. McGregor is younger, more dedicated, hanging onto some measure of idealism whatever the world might throw at him.
Shaw and McGregor conduct the most crucial interrogation of their FBI careers amongst a tale of unimaginable, unequaled depravity that may provide the clues the two agents need to make sense of their grim surroundings.
A new kind of horror story for modern America, written by Garth Ennis (‘Preacher’, ‘The Boys’, ‘Crossed’) and drawn by Goran Sudžuka (‘Y: The Last Man’, ‘Hellblazer’). Collects all 12 issues of the hit series into one immensely satisfying hardcover.
The Shooting at Chateau Rock (A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel) by Martin Walker. It’s summer in the Dordogne. The heirs of a Périgordian sheep farmer learn that they have been disinherited, and their father’s estate sold to an insurance company in return for a policy that will place him in a five-star retirement home for the rest of his life.
But the farmer never gets his life of luxury–he dies before moving in. Was it a natural death? Was there foul play? Bruno begins the investigation that leads him to several shadowy insurance companies owned by a Russian oligarch with a Cypriot passport. The companies are based in Cyprus, Malta, and Luxembourg, but Bruno finds a weak spot in France: the Russian’s France-based notaire and insurance agent.
As Bruno is pursuing this lead, the oligarch’s daughter turns up in the Périgord, and complications ensue, eventually bringing the action to the château of an aging rock star. But, as ever, Bruno makes time for lunch amid it all.
Murder, She Wrote: The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher; Jon Land. In the latest entry in this USA Today bestselling series, Jessica Fletcher takes on an Agatha Christie-style mystery when she finds herself stranded in a hotel during a blizzard with twelve strangers and a killer in their midst.
Still staying at the Hill House hotel while her beloved home is being rebuilt, Jessica Fletcher finds herself sharing the space for a weekend with a dozen members of a wedding party who have gathered there for a rehearsal dinner. The families of the bride and groom can’t stand each other but have agreed to put aside years of long-simmering tension to celebrate the nuptials.
Unfortunately, weather forecasters underestimated the severity of a storm that turns into a historic blizzard that dumps nearly five feet of snow on Cabot Cove, leaving everyone stranded.
But the hotel guests have bigger things to worry about than bad weather conditions and potential cold feet, because a murderer has shown up uninvited–one who has vowed to take them down one by one.
Worse Angels by Laird Barron. Ex-majordomo and bodyguard to an industrial tycoon-cum-U.S. senator, Badja Adeyemi is in hiding and shortly on his way to either a jail cell or a grave, depending on who finds him first.
In his final days as a free man, he hires Isaiah Coleridge to tie up a loose end: the suspicious death of his nephew four years earlier. At the time police declared it an accident, and Adeyemi isn’t sure it wasn’t, but one final look may bring his sister peace.
So it is that Coleridge and his investigative partner, Lionel Robard, find themselves in the upper reaches of New York State, in a tiny town that is home to outsized secrets and an unnerving cabal of locals who are protecting them. At the epicenter of it all is the site of a stalled supercollider project, an immense subterranean construction that may have an even deeper, more insidious purpose.
Fair Warning by Michael Connelly. The hero of The Poet and The Scarecrow is back in the new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly. Jack McEvoy, the journalist who never backs down, tracks a serial killer who has been operating completely under the radar–until now.
Veteran reporter Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, McEvoy realizes he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he’s ever encountered.
Jack investigates–against the warnings of the police and his own editor–and makes a shocking discovery that connects the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. Undetected by law enforcement, a vicious killer has been hunting women, using genetic data to select and stalk his targets.
Uncovering the murkiest corners of the dark web, Jack races to find and protect the last source who can lead him to his quarry. But the killer has already chosen his next target, and he’s ready to strike.
The Darkling Halls of Ivy by Lawrence Block. In recent years, colleges and universities have become known for their “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”–but as the 18 authors who penned stories for this powerful new anthology can tell you, there’s plenty of danger still lurking behind the stolid stonework, leather-bound volumes, and thickets of ivy.
Award-winning editor Lawrence Block has assembled a Who’s Who of literary luminaries and turned them loose on the world of academia, where petty rivalries and grand betrayals inflame relations between professors and students, deans and donors.
From Ian Rankin to Joe Lansdale, Seanan McGuire to David Morrell, each author reveals the dark truths and buried secrets that make institutions of higher learning such a hotbed of controversy. You’ll encounter plagiarism, sexual misconduct, and brutal competition–not to mention secret societies, cover-ups of murder, and one near-future course of study that makes The Handmaid’s Tale look like Mother Goose.
So: collect your supplies, plan your schedule, and prepare to pull an all-nighter, because The Darkling Halls of Ivy is required reading.