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Summer Suspense

Though most of us no longer get the summer off, there’s still something exciting about the 9 p.m. sunsets, popsicles in the freezer, and the scent of sunscreen mixed with chlorine. And, there’s something extra special about the books that accompany us to sandy beaches or maybe just poolside.

My go-to summer books are very often thrillers. Maybe it’s the contrast between a happy, whimsical season and the dark, menacing tone of these novels, but there’s something very satisfying about lazing by the pool with a book you cannot put down.

Thriller as a genre category is broad and has multiple sub-genres, each with devoted readers. Among the most popular sub-genres and my preferred poolside pick is psychological suspense.

Psychological suspense novels are characterized by their appeal to readers’ emotions and are imbued with feelings of dread, distrust and suspicion. While mysteries tend to focus on the crime itself, psychological suspense novels focus on the interior worlds of characters — whether they be the hero, villain or, better yet, both. Other marks of a psychological suspense include unreliable narrators, twisty plots or atmospheric, eerie settings.

Among my favorite themes in psychological fiction is the idea of what lurks beneath a perfect façade. Often called the “too-good-to-be-true” theme, this is the idea that lurking beneath the perfect marriage or family, a successful career or a newfound friendship is something dangerous.

If you’re looking for your next favorite psychological suspense title, I have a few that are on my to-be-read (TBR) list that are either very recently released or forthcoming. And, if you need something to read now, I’ve included a few older titles to read while you wait. Annotations from NoveList.

Summer TBR:

Death at the Party by Amy Stuart (Spring 2023)

Nadine Walsh's summer garden party, celebrating her mother's birthday, is in full swing. The neighbors all have cocktails, the catered food is exquisite —everything's going according to plan. But Nadine — devoted wife, loving mother, and doting daughter — finds herself standing over a dead body in her basement while her guests clink glasses upstairs.

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth (Spring 2023)

Before the woman went over the cliff, Pippa and Gabe were happy. They had the kind of marriage that everyone envies, as well as two sweet young daughters, a supportive family and a picturesque cliff-side home — which would have been idyllic had the tall beachside cliffs not become so popular among those wishing to end their lives. Gabe has become a local hero since they moved to the cliff house, talking seven people down from stepping off the edge. But when Gabe fails to save the eighth, a sordid web of secrets begins to unravel.

Everyone Here is Lying by Shari LaPena (July 2023)

A father who had been having an affair that just ended badly discovers his difficult daughter unexpectedly home from school and loses his temper, ultimately discovering he's not the only one harboring secrets when she goes missing several hours later.

The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters (Spring 2023)

Nicole Oruwari has the perfect life: a handsome husband; a palatial house in the heart of glittering Lagos, Nigeria; and a glamorous group of friends. She left gloomy London and a troubled family past behind for sunny, moneyed Lagos, becoming part of the Nigerwives — a community of foreign women married to Nigerian men. But when Nicole disappears without a trace after a boat trip, the cracks in her so-called perfect life start to show.

While you wait:

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water.

One by One by Ruth Ware

When an offsite company retreat is upended by an avalanche that strands them in a remote mountain chalet, eight coworkers are forced to set aside their corporate rankings and mutual distrust in order to survive.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Finding unexpected support from a new friend while collecting stories from her rapidly vanishing Brooklyn community, Sydney uncovers sinister truths about a regional gentrification project and why her neighbors are moving away.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, is determined to get an artist who shot her husband and then never spoke another word to talk, which takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations — a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.

Rebecca Howard is the regional manager of Tulsa City-County Library. During her 15 years with Tulsa City-County Library, Rebecca launched the readers advisory service Your Next Great Read, and served as TCCL’s county-wide Literacy Coordinator. Rebecca writes Public Radio Tulsa's monthly column Imprint.