No, we didn’t just turn CrimeReads into some kind of mystery lover’s dating site (though that is an idea I am going to stick in my back pocket—remember, you read it under my byline first, and if you want to invest let’s talk). As I explained in the introduction to the first girl list, we felt it was a public service for us to provide you, the reader, a way to keep all of those darned girl books straight. So we gave you the first cheat sheet last month, and now here is its follow-up. Perhaps you could print them out and laminate them if you are an analog type? Or bookmark them in your phone, if you are one of those tech mavens? There’s no reason to pick up the wrong girl again.
Good Girls Lie, J.T. Ellison
Set at a tony prep school high atop a hill in Virginia, Ellison’s thriller showcases the sharp teeth of the teenaged girls of the one percent. At the Goode School, appearances count. Status counts even more. The richer and more privileged the student, the more she can expect to get away with. But when one of these young women is found dead, there are rumors about a secret, and a murder. I’d bet there are some good girls lying to the administration and the police as soon as they start asking questions about what might have happened.
The Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll
I wasn’t crazy about Knoll’s book the first time I read it: it was so full of the details I associate with—nasty label, but we’re all friends here—chick lit. It begins with woman’s magazine writer Ani itemizing what she eats, what she wears, how she makes other women jealous, and the many enticing superficial qualities of her fiancé and her soon-to-be perfect wedding. But Knoll, and Ani, turn out to have a lot more going on than registering at Tiffany’s and calorie counting. As we learn more of the nasty details about Ani’s past her obsession with consumption starts to make a lot more sense, but there are other details Ani will not divulge.
The Other Girl, Erica Spindler
Miranda Rader is on the job in a small town in Louisiana, a straight-ahead cop who has had to live down her reputation as she’s from the seedy side of Jasper, Louisiana. When Miranda and her partner are called to a horrific murder scene, they are unprepared with the level of violence they find. Miranda is really unprepared to find a newspaper clipping on the scene about something that happened to her as a teenager that she is still running from. But when another man is murdered who was also involved in the events that night, Miranda knows someone is onto her secret. But who, and why now?
The New Girl, Daniel Silva
Silva is a pro: this book is the 19th in his Gabriel Allon series, a former chief of Israeli intelligence who is called upon when there are sensitive crimes in the middle east. This one is a humdinger: a young woman, the daughter of a crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is kidnapped from her fancy Swiss boarding school. Prince Khalid, the girl’s father, has a political agenda that is about to render him very unpopular in his own country, and is concerned his enemies have taken his daughter. And once Allon is on the case, the two men clash until they realize that teaming up is the only way they can save the new girl.
The Girl Before, J.P. Delaney
Scout’s honor, I actually read both of the Girl Before books in sequence because someone couldn’t remember which she wanted to recommend to me (see, I really am doing a public service here). This Girl is your basic apartment porn crossed with a psychological thriller (see: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin). Two different women agree to live in a beautiful, tricked out apartment with a peculiar set of rules, and the book alternates between their creepier and creepier experiences. The moral is really if you find an apartment that is too good to be true, it probably is; oh, and watch out for people who want to gaslight, hurt, or murder you.
The Girl Before, Rena Olsen
So the second Girl starts out with a bang, or, more properly, with a kidnapping: armed men break into their apartment and a woman, Clara, is taken from her husband and their daughters. His last words to her: “Say nothing.” As the story unfolds, we also get flashbacks to Clara’s life before her marriage, when she was known as Diana and accused of horrific crimes. These memories, though, are new to her also, and until she can figure out who has taken her and why she can’t get back to her life as Clara.
The Good Girl, Mary Kubica
Kubica is a master of the maternal urge, a precise and empathetic chronicler of the joys and sorrows of motherhood real and imaginary. She can also write a crack thriller, as she does here: frustrated art teacher Mia Dennett casually goes home with a man from her local bar one night. But it turns out this was not just any pickup. The man had been paid to kidnap Mia and deliver her to his employers, but instead he takes her from Chicago to a remote cabin in Minnesota, where they live as a couple once he has broken her will. But Mia’s mother and a dogged detective she’s convinced to help her find Mia are close, very close. What they discover, however, will change all of their lives.
The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes
South African Beukes is one of the most imaginative crime writers around. In The Shining Girls, she tells a whopper of a story: Kirby Mazrachi was supposed to be killed by a man named Harper Curtis (Curtis has found a House in Chicago which is a portal to other times). The House dictates everything Harper does, including which girls to kill—the shining girls, the ones the House wants dead. But Kirby is smart, and enlists the help of a newspaper reporter who believes this story about Harper, the House, and the shining girls, but just because they believe doesn’t mean they can stop it.
The Broken Girls, Simone St. James
Set in 1950 and present-day Vermont, St. James’s novel depicts a boarding school, Idlewild Hall, which was full of the girls no one wanted, the ones who were destined for trouble or already there. What’s more, the girls are sure the school is haunted, and they seem almost credible when one of them disappears. In the present, journalist Fiona Sheridan can’t get over the death of her older sister, whose body was found on the grounds of Idlewild. When Fiona finds out someone has bought the school and plans to reopen it, she decides to write about it, but she discovers secrets that link her sister to the school, and a whole mess of trouble comes her way.