The month of May is dedicated to moms in all their incarnations: biological, foster, adoptive, step, single and those women who may not have children but have stepped in to take care of all of our kids when needed. We know moms can do it all—they work tirelessly to provide for their families, keep the household up and running, make sure homework is done and tend to skinned knees and broken hearts.
As we approach Mother’s Day, I can’t help of thinking of my own mother who ventured off on her own at sixteen, became a nurse at eighteen, married at nineteen (she married the kindest man in the world—but that’s an essay for another day) and in the next ten years became the mother of six children. That’s right, six kids under the age of ten. I was fortunate to grow up in a home filled with love and books. I grew up with the freedom to run the neighborhood until the street lights came on and the beneath the mottoes—Always do your best and Be kind; you never know what someone else is going through.
So in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m combining two of my loves—motherhood and reading. Here are eight thrillers that highlight fierce moms-to-be:
Vanish by Tess Gerritsen (Ballantine)
She pressed her fingers to the woman’s neck and felt icy skin. Bending close to the lips, she waited for the whisper of a breath, the faintest puff of air against her cheek.
The corpse opened its eyes.
This fifth book in one of my all-time favorite series, The Rizzoli & Isles novels by Tess Gerritsen, is downright breathtaking. A nameless corpse is awaiting an autopsy by medical examiner, Maura Isles. But when Maura opens the body bag she discovers the deceased is very much alive.
The woman is rushed to hospital and for reasons unknown, takes a roomful of hostages including expectant mother, Detective Jane Rizzoli. What unfolds is a heart–pounding race against time where Jane not only fights to protect her fellow hostages but the life of her unborn child.
Throughout this series, Jane has always been gritty, tough and unapologetic in her search for justice, but now she has ten tiny fingers and toes for motivation to bring down the bad guy.
The Surrogate by Louise Jensen (Bookouture)
They’re such a lovely couple. Do you think they’re okay?’ says the woman, but the flurry of emergency service vehicles crammed into the quiet cul-de-sac, the blue and white crime scene tape stretched around the perimeter of the property, indicated things are anything but okay.
The Surrogate by Louise Jensen is a psychological thriller that takes the reader back and forth in time, all the while weaving a chilling tale of friendship and betrayal. Desperate parents, Kat and Nick, have done everything within their power to become parents and are on the verge of giving up when childhood friend, Lisa, makes a sudden appearance and brings new hope to the couple.
But can Lisa be trusted? Can anyone?
Fast-paced and teeming with twists and turns, the shocking finale of this stunner will lay you out flat.
The Farm by Joanne Ramos (Random House)
Jane bolts out of the room. She does not stop walking until she is safe in the nursery, planted at her favorite spot in front of the window. She jiggles Henry until his cries subside, then slips the bottle into his mouth. In the nursery’s quiet, he drinks. She listens to the sound of his slurping, her heartbeat slowing. Soon these trees will change colors, she tells him. She thinks of Amalia and wonders what she is doing at this exact moment.
One of the most thought-provoking novels I’ve read in a long time, The Farm, introduces us to Jane, an immigrant in search of a better life. Jane’s journey brings her to a luxury retreat with a price tag of zero but attached are a number of conditions. Guests are not allowed to leave the grounds or connect with loved ones for the nine months they are preparing to give birth to a perfect baby. The catch—upon delivery, the baby will be handed over to someone else.
Timely and haunting, The Farm is a perfect choice for your next book club discussion.
Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press)
Christine finished her task and glanced at the TV, then did a double-take at the screen. It showed a young blond man in a rumpled jacket, his hands handcuffed behind his back as he was escorted to a police cruiser. A cop put a hand on the man’s head to press him into the backseat, then the man glanced up with round blue eyes.
Christine felt her heart stop.
She recognized those eyes.
One of my go-to authors, I can always count on Lisa Scottoline to deliver a novel that is suspenseful, emotional and Most Wanted is no exception. All Christine and her husband want is to be parents. After much heartache, research and doctor’s appointments, the couple decide to utilize a donor and to their delight become pregnant.
One day, while watching the news, Christine now two months along, sees a story featuring a man that looks remarkably like her donor. The clincher, the blonde, blue-eyed subject of the story is wanted for murder. Now Christine has to face the knowledge that the biological father of her unborn child could be a serial killer. Yes—this novel is as chilling as it sounds and I finished it in one sitting.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (Penguin)
Puffs of dust rose beneath Elsie’s feet as she followed, her damp skirts swishing against the carpet. The corridor conveyed an air of shabby grandeur. Tapestry sofas lurked against the walls with chipped marble busts dotted in between. They were horrible things, watching her with dead expressions, shadows creeping over their cheekbones and sinking into the sockets of their eyes.
Set in the Victorian era, The Silent Companions tells the story of recently widowed and pregnant Elsie Bainbridge as she begins a new life in her late husband’s manor with only the servants and her husband’s cousin for company. Author Laura Purcell deftly moves back and forth in time to tell this and slowly builds the tension in this unnerving tale where nothing is as it seems.
When a carved wooden figure that bears an uncanny resemblance to Elsie appears to move, this ethereal gothic novel moves from eerie to downright frightening and mother-to-be Elsie has to determine whether the ghostly presence is friend or foe. A perfect read for a dark and rainy night.
Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff (Crooked Lane Books)
“Her eyes are cool blue, like glacier ice; her nose is spattered with freckles; her creamy skin is not yet pimpled by puberty. It’s impossible to tell that my beautiful girl is the first of her kind. Even she doesn’t know.”
In this medical thriller, fertility doctor, Robert Nash and his partner Jillian swoop in to give Claire Abrams a second chance at motherhood after a genetic mutation killed her son.
In an extraordinary scientific discovery that could virtually eliminate hereditary disease, the world’s first baby with three genetic parents is conceived. When their illicit experiment is discovered, a pregnant Claire and Robert go into hiding.
As years pass, Claire and Robert’s daughter, Abigail, knows that all isn’t right in her corner of the world and when someone comes seeking retribution, everyone is in danger.
In Mother Knows Best, Kira Peikoff, a journalist and bioethicist, weaves the unbeatable combination of hard science and suspenseful fiction into a novel that is impossible to put down.
The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)
“Is there anything else you need to make your haven perfect?” Crow asked.
“Binoculars,” Tess said.
If you’re in the mood for a shorter read, check out this novella featuring Laura Lippman’s fearless Baltimore PI, Tess Monaghan. Nearing the end of her pregnancy, Tess is ordered to stay on bedrest. Unaccustomed to the inactivity, Tess grits her teeth, channels her inner Jimmy Stewart a la Rear Window and takes to staring out the window with a pair of binoculars.
When one of her subjects, a young woman wearing a green raincoat, suddenly disappears leaving her dog behind, Tess can’t shake the feeling that something is very wrong. Determined to solve the mystery, Tess begins to unravel a mystery that could have deadly consequences for her and her unborn child.
The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald (Gallery Books)
I staggered into the hospital, cracking my elbow hard on the sliding door. Pain seethed toward my fingertips but didn’t slow me down. I needed to find Olivia.
Please, please be okay.
I may have cried more than once while reading this beautifully written novel by Christina McDonald. Abi’s teenage daughter, Olivia, has fallen off a bridge, suffers a catastrophic brain injury and has suspicious bruises on her body. After rushing to Olivia’s hospital bed, Abi also learns that her daughter is pregnant and must remain on life support to save the baby.
Abi is determined to find out what happened that night on the bridge and in doing so uncovers a web of lies and secrets that makes Abi wonder if she knew her daughter at all.
Poignant and perfectly paced, The Night Olivia Fell cracked my heart into a million pieces and then slowly pieced it back together again.