We spend a lot of time on this site recommending the dark and brooding, but as the weather grows chillier, I find myself drawn to the more light-hearted thrillers and mysteries. There’s quite a few extremely entertaining reads out this year and next year, and I’ve assembled 12 of them to keep you reading, laughing, and cheering throughout the dark months ahead.
Deanna Raybourn, Killers of a Certain Age
As the tag-line for this incredible series launch reminds us, women of a certain age may be invisible to society, but sometimes, that’s their greatest asset. As Killers of a Certain Age begins, four trained assassins are readying for their retirement after four decades of taking out terrible people in a most elegant manner. Unfortunately, their bosses have planned a rather more permanent end to their careers than they would like, so the women must go rogue and take on their former employers to find out why they’re been selected as targets. The lively banter between old friends, mixed with plenty of action sequences, will keep you turning the pages long into the night, and I’m hoping these feisty heroines make it to the screen soon to continue their adventures.
Elle Cosimano, Finlay Donovan Series
In this highly entertaining series, a single mother and struggling writer becomes a hitwoman by accident after one of her plot descriptions is overheard in a cafe by a mobster’s wife desperate to get rid of her husband. Cosimano’s heroine, and her snarky babysitter-turned-crime-assistant, are a fantastic duo to follow, and I hope to be reading their adventures for quite some time.
Mur Lafferty, Station Eternity
What if Jessica Fletcher’s tendency to have people die around her had led to instructions to self-isolate for the benefit of society? And what if that isolation had taken place on a space station rather like Babylon Five? In Station Eternity, a young woman who has solved a suspicious number of murder mysteries flees police attention on Earth and heads to a space station with few other humans on board. Of course, someone on board the space station would have the temerity to be murdered, and once again, all signs point to Lafferty’s protagonist unless she can solve the crime herself.
Zarqa Nawaz, Jameela Green Ruins Everything
Zarqa Nawaz is as smart as she’s funny, and that’s saying something, since she’s very funny. Nawaz first became known for her hilarious and heartwarming sitcom, Little Mosque on the Prairie, and now she’s embraced fiction writing with her new novel, Jameela Green Ruins Everything, in which a woman prays for a book deal, accepts a mission from an imam to perform a good deed, and somehow finds herself in conflict with the CIA.
Michelle Gagnon, Killing Me
(Putnam, March 2023)
In this wild ride of a thriller, a woman finds herself rescued from the clutches of a serial killer by a mysterious female vigilante. She should be happy. Or at least trying to heal. But post-escape she’s now a person of interest who also happens to be a con artist. Her now-threatened exposure forces her to go on the run to Vegas, where she starts a cautious flirtation with a sex worker and meets a madam with a heart of gold. Things are going well—that is, until the vigilante returns with a very particular agenda.
Kirstin Chen, Counterfeit
Counterfeit is so much fun. Ava Wong leads a privileged, but ordinary, life, at least until her old college roommate comes calling with a scheme to sell counterfeit handbags. Ava initially balks at the idea of getting involved in something illegal, but the chance to make her own money after years of being supported by her husband is too good to pass up.
Richard Osman, The Bullet That Missed
(Pamela Dorman/Viking Books)
I adore the first two Thursday Murder Club books with all my heart. If you, like me, have been taxing your patience, crawling up the walls in wait for the next installment, you won’t be in agony for much longer, and your patience will be rewarded. Number Three in the series about the residents of a retirement community who transition from discussing cold cases to solving real murders,might be the most fun book of them all. It’s called The Bullet That Missed, and it sets our beloved Thursday Murder Club members against spies, mysterious assignments, television personalities, and of course, several dead bodies. A hilarious, gripping new tale, it is worth waiting for, and not to be missed! –OR
Amina Akhtar, Kismet
(Thomas & Mercer)
I’m a huge fan of Amina Akhtar’s cult classic debut, #FashionVictim, based on Akhtar’s experience working in the fashion magazine world. Her second novel skewers the wellness industry of Sedona (Amina Akhtar is now based in Arizona) and also includes a light supernatural touch that’s perfectly integrated into the thriller arc as a whole. In Kismet, a young desi woman follows her #livelaughlove mentor from New York to Sedona, befriends a bunch of ravens, and also solves some murders. Someone is killing extremely annoying people in this book, and readers may find themselves actively encouraging the killer.
Janice Hallett, The Twyford Code
(Atria, Jan 2023)
Janice Hallett writes charming puzzle mysteries with intriguing formats—or at least, that seems to be the pattern, as this her second novel, like her first, allows a motivated reader to piece together a solution from the primary-source-style documents provided in the novel. The Twyford Code is told entirely in transcribed voice memos recovered from a mysterious smartphone, detailing the narrator’s quest for meaning from an intricately annotated children’s book.
Sean Adams, The Thing in the Snow
(William Morrow, Jan 2023)
The Thing in the Snow is bizarre in the best way possible. A small group of workers at a remote arctic facility spend their days testing chairs and counting desks, keeping the huge research station in moderately working order. One day, they spot a suspicious thing in the snow just outside. It seems to move. It must have an agenda. But what could it possibly want?!
Rachel Koller Croft, Stone Cold Fox
(Berkley, Feb 2023)
Stone Cold Fox is about a woman who’ll do anything to secure the luxury and stability she has always wanted, and I do love a scrappy social climber novel. Growing up with an unstable, narcissistic mother, Croft’s antiheroine has been through plenty and come out street-smart on the other side. But her new engagement with one of the nation’s most eligible bachelors threatens to derail her success when his family appears unhappy with the match. Who will back down first, in this modern variant on Vanity Fair?
Jesse Q. Sutanto, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers
(Berkley, March 2023)
Vera Wong is a lonely, bored tea shop owner who can’t seem to connect with her zoomer son, but that all changes when one day she finds a dead body in her shop and takes an important clue for herself before the police can get there. I love a novel featuring a mature woman solving a crime, especially one so confident in her own abilities.