The list of best crime, mystery, and thriller books of September 2019 includes many thriller titles from familiar names such as Reed Farrel Coleman, Nevada Barr, and Lisa Unger as well as great cozy mystery reads like Death of a Gigolo by Laura Levine (see Best Crime, Mystery, And Thriller Books Of April and May 2019 here and here. The August 2019 list can be viewed here).
What follows is our compiled list of latest and greatest of September 2019:
No One’s Home by D. M. Pulley. For fans of The Haunting of Hill House comes a dark tale of a mansion haunted by a legacy of tragedy and a family trapped by lies.
Margot and Myron Spielman move to a new town, looking for a fresh start and an escape from the long shadow of their past. But soon after they buy Rawlingswood, a foreclosed mansion rumored to be haunted, they realize they’re in for more of the same…or worse.
After a renovation fraught with injuries and setbacks, the Spielmans move in to the century-old house, and their problems quickly escalate. The home’s beautiful facade begins to crumble around them when their teenage son uncovers disturbing details of Rawlingswood’s history—a history of murder, betrayal, and financial ruin. The Spielmans’ own shameful secrets and lies become harder to hide as someone or something inside the house watches their every move.
As tensions build between the family members, the home’s dark history threatens to repeat itself. Margot and Myron must confront their own ghosts and Rawlingswood’s buried past before the house becomes their undoing.
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott. This is a Hello Sunshine x Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick. A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice–inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.
At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak’s magnum opus make its way into print around the world.
Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world–using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally’s tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.
The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story–the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara–with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk.
From Pasternak’s country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature–told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.
Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay. It’s no-holds-barred murder, in the latest page-turning Library Lover’s Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Hitting the Books.
Lindsey Norris is finally getting married to the man of her dreams–but it’s not all roses for Briar Creek’s beloved library director, as gardening enthusiast and town newcomer Aaron Grady gives the term “book lover” a whole new meaning. Inappropriate looks and unwelcome late-night visits to Lindsey’s house have everyone from the crafternooners to Lindsey’s fiancé, Sully, on edge.
When Grady’s dead body is found staged outside the library and all the clues point to Sully, Lindsey knows it’s up to her to dig through the hidden chapters of Grady’s previous life to find the real culprit and clear Sully’s name. But becoming a thorn in the killer’s side is not without its consequences, and the closer Lindsey gets to the truth, the more determined the murderer is to make her just a footnote.
To the Lions by Holly Watt. An international thriller featuring a female journalist who stumbles upon a dark conspiracy, and her determination to follow the clues, no matter how far that takes her.
Casey Benedict, star reporter at the Post, has infiltrated the lives and exposed the lies of countless politicians and power players. Using her network of contacts, and her ability to slip into whatever identity suits the situation, Casey is always on the search for the next big story, no matter how much danger this might place her in, or what the cost might be, emotionally.
Tipped off by an overheard conversation at an exclusive London nightclub, she begins to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy young British man whose death has left his fiancée and family devastated. The young man’s death, however, is only the tipping point of a much more sinister and dangerous scandal involving the world’s most powerful leaders and magnates—men who are gathering in northern Africa for an extreme and secret hunt.
With fellow reporter Miranda and combat veteran Ed by her side, Casey’s determined hunt for the truth will take her from the glitz of St. Tropez to the deserts of Libya and on to the very darkest corners of the human mind.
Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill by Reed Farrel Coleman. The opioid epidemic has reached Paradise, and Police Chief Jesse Stone must rush to stop the devastation in the latest thriller in Robert B. Parker’s New York Times-bestselling series.
When a popular high school cheerleader dies of a suspected heroin overdose, it becomes clear that the opioid epidemic has spread even to the idyllic town of Paradise. It will be up to police chief Jesse Stone to unravel the supply chain and unmask the criminals behind it, and the investigation has a clear epicenter: Paradise High School.
Home of the town’s best and brightest future leaders and its most vulnerable down-and-out teens, it’s a rich and bottomless market for dealers out of Boston looking to expand into the suburbs.
But when it comes to drugs, the very people Jesse is trying to protect are often those with the most to lose. As he digs deeper into the case, he finds himself battling self-interested administrators, reluctant teachers, distrustful schoolkids, and overprotective parents…and at the end of the line are the true bad guys, the ones with a lucrative business they’d kill to protect.
The Fifth Column by Andrew Gross. #1 New York Times bestselling author of The One Man Andrew Gross once again delivers a tense, stirring thriller of a family torn apart set against the backdrop of a nation plunged into war.
February, 1939. Europe teeters on the brink of war. In New York City, twenty-two thousand cheering Nazi supporters pack Madison Square Garden for a raucous, hate-filled rally. In a Hell’s Kitchen bar, Charles Mossman is reeling from the loss of his job and the demise of his marriage when a group draped in Nazi flags barges in. Drunk, Charlie takes a swing at one with tragic results and a torrent of unintended consequences follows.
Two years later. America is wrestling with whether to enter the growing war. Charles’s estranged wife and six-year-old daughter, Emma, now live in a quiet brownstone in the German-speaking New York City neighborhood of Yorkville, where support for Hitler is common. Charles, just out of prison, struggles to put his life back together, while across the hall from his family, a kindly Swiss couple, Trudi and Willi Bauer, have taken a liking to Emma. But Charles begins to suspect that they might not be who they say they are.
As the threat of war grows, and fears of a “fifth column”—German spies embedded into everyday life—are everywhere, Charles puts together that the seemingly amiable Bauers may be part of a sinister conspiracy. When Pearl Harbor is attacked and America can no longer sit on the sideline, that conspiracy turns into a deadly threat with Charles the only one who can see it and Emma, an innocent pawn.
Nobody Move by Philip Elliott. Eddie Vegas made a terrible mistake. Now he has to pay the price. After a botched debt collection turned double murder, Eddie splits, desperate to avoid his employer, notorious L.A. crime boss Saul Benedict, and his men (and Eddie’s ex-partners), Floyd and Sawyer, as well as the police.
Soon he becomes entangled with the clever and beautiful Dakota, a Native American woman fresh in the City of Angels to find her missing friend–someone Eddie might know something about.
Meanwhile in Texas, ex-assassin Rufus, seeking vengeance for his murdered brother, takes up his beloved daggers one final time and begins the long drive to L.A. When the bodies begin to mount, Detective Alison Lockley’s hunt for the killers becomes increasingly urgent. As paths cross, confusion ensues, and no one’s entirely sure who’s after who. But one thing is clear: They’re not all getting out of this alive.
Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke. One of Entertainment Weekly’s Biggest Books of Fall 2019 Texas Ranger Darren Mathews is on the hunt for a missing boy — but it’s the boy’s family of white supremacists who are his real target in this “instantly gripping crime novel” (Booklist) by the award-winning author of Bluebird, Bluebird.
9-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; now he’s alone in the darkness of vast Caddo Lake, in a boat whose motor just died. A sudden noise distracts him – and all goes dark.
Darren Mathews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; after the events of his previous investigation, his marriage is in a precarious state of re-building, and his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who’s never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she’s not above a little maternal blackmail to press her advantage.
An unlikely possibility of rescue arrives in the form of a case down Highway 59, in a small lakeside town where the local economy thrives on nostalgia for ante-bellum Texas – and some of the era’s racial attitudes still thrive as well. Levi’s disappearance has links to Darren’s last case, and to a wealthy businesswoman, the boy’s grandmother, who seems more concerned about the fate of her business than that of her grandson.
Darren has to battle centuries-old suspicions and prejudices, as well as threats that have been reignited in the current political climate, as he races to find the boy, and to save himself.
Attica Locke proves that the acclaim and awards for Bluebird, Bluebird were justly deserved, in this thrilling new novel about crimes old and new.
Death in Focus (An Elena Standish Novel) by Anne Perry. In the start of an all-new mystery series set in pre–World War II Europe, an intrepid young photographer carries her dead lover’s final, world-shattering message into the heart of Berlin as Hitler ascends to power.
On vacation from London on the beautiful Italian coast, twenty-eight-year-old Elena Standish and her older sister, Margot, have finally been able to move on from the lasting trauma of the Great War, in which the newly married Margot lost her husband and the sisters their beloved brother. Touring with her camera in hand, Elena has found new inspiration in the striking Italian landscape, and she’s met an equally striking man named Ian.
When Ian has to leave unexpectedly, Elena—usually the more practical of the sisters—finds she’s not ready to part from him, and the two share a spontaneous train trip home to England. But a shocking sequence of events disrupts their itinerary, forcing Elena to personally deliver a message to Berlin on Ian’s behalf, one that could change the fate of Europe.
Back home, Elena’s diplomat father and her secretive grandfather—once head of MI6, unbeknownst to his family—are involved in their own international machinations. Worried when Elena still hasn’t returned from Italy, her grandfather starts to connect the dots between her change in plans and an incident in Berlin, where Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich are on the rise.
It seems the message Elena delivered has forced her into a dangerous predicament, and her grandfather’s old contacts from MI6 may be the only people who can get her out alive—if Elena can tell the difference between her allies and her enemies.
New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry merges family secrets with suspense on the world stage, as darkness bubbles under the surface of a Europe on the brink of change. In these complicated times, Elena emerges as a strong new heroine who learns quickly that when nothing is certain, she can rely only on herself.
The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox. A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of witchcraft. Who can save Pale Harbor from itself?
Maine, 1846. Gabriel Stone is desperate to escape the ghosts that haunt him in Massachusetts after his wife’s death, so he moves to Maine, taking a position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbor.
But not all is as it seems in the sleepy town. Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. Sophronia must be a witch, and she almost certainly killed her husband.
As the incidents escalate, one thing becomes clear: they are the work of a twisted person inspired by the wildly popular stories of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. And Gabriel must find answers, or Pale Harbor will suffer a fate worthy of Poe’s darkest tales.
Hester Fox comes to writing from a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician. This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has the privilege of cleaning and caring for collections that range from paintings by old masters to ancient artifacts to early-American furniture. She is a keen painter and has a master’s degree in historical archaeology, as well as a background in medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside Boston with her husband.
Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson. The new novel in Craig Johnson’s beloved New York Times bestselling Longmire series.
Attempting to recover from his harrowing experiences in Mexico, in Land of Wolves Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire is neck deep in the investigation of what could or could not be the suicidal hanging of a shepherd. With unsettling connections to a Basque family with a reputation for removing the legs of Absaroka County sheriffs, matters become even more complicated with the appearance of an oversize wolf in the Big Horn Mountains to which Walt finds himself feeling more and more empathetic.
Preacher Sam by Cassondra Windwalker. No one is more qualified to understand the blackest hearts than a disgraced, porn-addicted former preacher who is still in love with his estranged wife.
Floundering for direction and beset by the needs of his well-meaning but aggravating atheist sister and her seven-year-old son, Sam Geisler is trying to put his past behind him when the murder of one of his former parishioners by another drags him back into the world he left behind.
Sam may not be Broadripple’s favorite son, but his peculiar gift for listening has earned him the moniker murderer-whisperer, and the police need his help on what should be an open-and-shut case. Fighting for his marriage, fighting with his sister, and fighting against his own demons, Sam may be the only one who hears what the real murderer is all but shouting—but will it be enough to drive back his own darkness?
The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger. Twelve-year-old Rain Winter narrowly escaped an abduction while walking to a friend’s house. Her two best friends, Tess and Hank, were not as lucky. Tess never came home, and Hank was held in captivity before managing to escape. Their abductor was sent to prison but years later was released. Then someone delivered real justice—and killed him in cold blood.
Now Rain is living the perfect suburban life, her dark childhood buried deep. She spends her days as a stay-at-home mom, having put aside her career as a hard-hitting journalist to care for her infant daughter. But when another brutal murderer who escaped justice is found dead, Rain is unexpectedly drawn into the case.
Eerie similarities to the murder of her friends’ abductor force Rain to revisit memories she’s worked hard to leave behind. Is there a vigilante at work? Who is the next target? Why can’t Rain just let it go?
Introducing one of the most compelling and original killers in crime fiction today, Lisa Unger takes readers deep inside the minds of both perpetrator and victim, blurring the lines between right and wrong, crime and justice, and showing that sometimes people deserve what comes to them.
What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr. Rose Dennis wakes up in a hospital gown, her brain in a fog, only to discover that she’s been committed to an Alzheimer’s Unit in a nursing home. With no memory of how she ended up in this position, Rose is sure that something is very wrong.
When she overhears one of the administrators saying about her that she’s “not making it through the week,” Rose is convinced that if she’s to survive, she has to get out of the nursing home. She avoids taking her medication, putting on a show for the aides, then stages her escape.
The only problem is—how does she convince anyone that she’s not actually demented? Her relatives were the ones to commit her, all the legal papers were drawn up, the authorities are on the side of the nursing home, and even she isn’t sure she sounds completely sane. But any lingering doubt Rose herself might have had is erased when a would-be killer shows up in her house in the middle of the night. Now Rose knows that someone is determined to get rid of her.
With the help of her computer hacker/recluse sister Marion, thirteen-year old granddaughter Mel, and Mel’s friend Royal, Rose begins to gather her strength and fight back—to find out who is after her and take back control of her own life. But someone out there is still determined to kill Rose, and they’re holding all the cards.
Death of a Gigolo by Laura Levine. After a dry spell, freelance writer Jaine Austen’s life is suddenly full of romance. For one thing, she’s reconnected with her ex—though her cat, Prozac, isn’t happy about it. And Jaine’s also got a new ghostwriting gig, working on a steamy novel called Fifty Shades of Turquoise.
Daisy Kincaid is in her sixties and heiress to a fortune. Now she wants to make a name for herself as a romance author…with a little help from Jaine, that is. As Jaine labors away on love scenes, she gets to know the wealthy woman’s gentleman friend, her household staff, and her social circle—every one of whom is horrified when Daisy falls under the spell of a much younger stud named Tommy, a rude, crude lothario who’s made himself a fixture in Daisy’s Bel Air mansion.
After Tommy and Daisy shock everyone by announcing their engagement, it doesn’t take long for someone to stab him in the neck—with the solid gold Swiss Army knife that Daisy gave him as a gift. The challenging part is trying to narrow down the list of suspects. Jaine’s going to have to put a bookmark in that love story and focus all her creative talent into untangling a tale of money and murder.
A Cup of Holiday Fear by Ellie Alexander. It’s Christmastime and everyone is heading to Torte, the most cheerful bakery in town. There’s no place like home for the homicide.
Ashland, Oregon, looks as pretty as a postcard this holiday season. The halls are decked, stockings hung, and eyes are all aglow—mostly thanks to the buttered rum. Jules Capshaw and her staff at Torte are busier than ever. . . still, even the town’s most in-demand bakers need to take a break. So Jules invites everyone to celebrate at the local Winchester Inn’s Dickens Feast, a six-course extravaganza with Yorkshire Pudding, Christmas goose, and all the trimmings.
But as the weather outside becomes frightful, things inside turn less delightful when one of the guests ends up as dead as Scrooge’s doornail. Now it’s up to Jules and her helpers to make a list of suspects—and check it twice—to try to find out who’s naughty, who’s nice, and who’s guilty of murder.
After the Finale by Zhou Daxin. Zhou Daxin’s fictional biography follows the life of a man who grew up in poverty in China’s Mao era and then rose through the ranks of government during the country’s period of reform and opening up. It’s a tale of love, leadership, betrayal, corruption, lust, greed and the nature of power amid the rise of the 21st century’s new superpower.
What’s left after a lifetime of service in the Chinese government? At the age of 66, Ouyang Wantong, the former governor of Qinghe province, was too young to die. He touched the lives of so many people during his time on Earth.
Some of them loved him intimately, while many more held him in the highest esteem. But there were also those who hated him and wished him dead. And now the battle to find his rightful place in the history books has begun…
After the Finale is a fictional biography of an extraordinary man who grew up in poverty in China’s Mao era and then rose through the ranks of government during the country’s period of reform and opening up. It’s a tale of love, leadership, betrayal, corruption, lust, greed and the nature of power amid the rise of the 21st century’s new superpower.