So here we are in February, nothing but winter stretching ahead for months. What we need are good books, the kind that are so absorbing we forget our lack of Vitamin D and permanently chapped lips. I’m happy to report we’ve found some good ones: Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture is perfect for the cinephile who keeps complaining about why they have to nominate so many movies for Oscars. Sarah Pinborough’s tale of sex and lies in tony suburbia, Dead to Her, is a sweaty and suspenseful read. And The Guilty Party, a hit in the UK, raises some interesting post-Me Too questions as well as being a suspenseful whodunit.
Elizabeth Little, Pretty as a Picture (Viking)
Some of us have been waiting impatiently for Little’s follow up to 2014’s Dear Daughter, an excellent crime novel which also had the appeal of a tabloid story: a young socialite accused of her mother’s murder sets out to find out what really happened. This time, Little’s material is also the meat of gossip magazines and celebrity websites: the movies. Is this a satisfying, twisty thriller? Why, yes. Is it also a smart meditation on the place that the movies occupy in pop culture, even in the age of reaction videos on YouTube and the ubiquity of streaming services? Yes, it’s that too.
Christina McDonald, Behind Every Lie (Gallery)
I was surprised at the skill and sensitivity McDonald showed in her debut novel, The Night Olivia Fell. Like that book, McDonald’s Behind Every Lie has a mother-daughter relationship tinged with secrets at its core. Told from alternating mother and daughter points of view, McDonald’s domestic thriller asks us how well we know those closest to us.
Sarah Pinborough, Dead to Her (William Morrow)
I have read all of Pinborough’s books and they usually grab me and then unceremoniously drop me with a twist at the end that’s at least one toke over the line. I am happy to report that Dead to Her does not suffer from that malady: it’s an exhilarating ride from beginning to end. Dead is one of those books where rich people in the suburbs are having lots of sex with people they are not married to while they angrily ruminate on the shortcomings of their actual spouses, and then there is—wait for it—a crime.
Mel McGrath, The Guilty Party (Harper)
The Guilty Party is a dark, dark novel, but as we like our thrillers with a soupçon of the sinister it suits this reviewer just fine. The premise is that four friends, out on the town for a touch of revelry, lose each other in the crowds. Each one separately witnesses a woman in trouble. Each one chooses not to help. But now a body has washed up on the river, and all four know they have blood on their hands, but some of them know more: like who the woman was, and what she might have been doing in the river.
Gytha Lodge, Watching from the Dark (Random House)
There has been a run of voyeuristic crime fiction since we started parking our computers in our most intimate places—not just offices and family rooms, but kitchens, bedrooms, even bathrooms if you want to get that smoky eye makeup tutorial right. In Watching from the Dark, Aiden Poole logs on and tries to Skype his girlfriend, Zoe. Instead of Zoe, Aiden sees someone else in her flat. After much convincing Aiden gets the local police to check her apartment, where they find that Zoe has been murdered. But why? Does it have something to do with Aiden?