Library column: Thrillers for the dog days of summer

By Fiona Stevenson Concord Free Public Library
August 3, 2023

In these hot, long days, attention spans are short and nothing comes easily. So what to read when you can barely summon the energy to crack open a book? The pages will turn themselves in a good thriller, where talk is short and someone is always on the move. I like a thriller that doesn’t revolve around a series of gruesomely murdered women and has a mystery to solve, but a little gore doesn’t offend me. 

Here are some good choices, all available at the Concord Free Public Library or at your favorite local bookseller, where you can browse to your heart’s content in air conditioning.

All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Crosby (Flatiron) has been acclaimed as one of the year’s best books. Titus Crown, first Black sheriff of Charon County, must lead his community through troubled times. Some citizens, proud of a Confederate past, face off with Black activists wanting to enforce their own justice. This, on top of the terror of a white supremacist killer on the loose, makes life very complicated for Titus. Crosby knocks out another great Southern noir.

Zero Days by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster) is about a married couple who specialize in corporate security and get a gig that goes very wrong. One is accused of the other’s murder and must go on the run to prove their innocence and find justice. Action-packed and deeply felt, this is a thriller with heart.

The Last Ranger by Peter Heller (Penguin Random) is another Heller trophy in the subgenre of wilderness noir.  A Yellowstone Park ranger hunts a human predator poaching the small wild wolf population of the area, and faces off with a radical group that wants to take over the park’s millions of acres. Not on this ranger’s watch! Heller is a great writer of the American landscape.

You Can Trust Me by Wendy Heard (Bantam): Summer grows up supporting herself through petty crime, until her friend Leo vanishes on a tech billionaire’s island and Summer goes after those responsible. Why is it all too easy to imagine these creepy megalomaniacs’ schemes coming true?

The Last Dance by Mark Billingham (Grove Atlantic): Detective Declan Miller, still reeling from the loss of his wife, must solve the double murder of a crime family patriarch and a tech consultant. Can his new partner, Detective Sergeant Sara Xiu, help? Billingham, one of the best writers of thrilling mysteries or mysterious thrillers, is back with a bang in this new series.

What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall (Thomas and Mercer): An obituary writer returns to tiny Catalina Island to take care of her aunt and discovers a serial killer is at work. It’s up to her and Aunt Gwen to figure out who the bad guy is — and is that a big, bad storm coming in? You will read this in one go and won’t regret it.

The Siberia Job by Josh Haven (Mysterious Press): Sometimes to understand contemporary geopolitics, I turn to a good thriller to sort out who is right and wrong. Here Texas and Czech businessmen collude to buy up shares in Russian natural gas companies, and inevitably get on everyone’s wrong side. They make a dash for greater Russia with everyone on their tails. Good stuff!
Kala by Colin Walsh (Doubleday): A brilliant first novel set in a seaside village in Ireland. Three friends reunite to celebrate a wedding, but also to investigate the disappearance of a friend from their teenage years —  just as girls begin to vanish again from their town. Gut-wrenching to the very end.