All posts tagged: literary thriller

WHAT IF THE GHOST OF MARGARET WISE BROWN visited you? THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE by julia fine delves into the delicate postpartum period, children’s literature, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay  A terribly haunting and visceral take on the delicate postpartum period, featuring the ghost of children’s author Margaret Wise Brown. ~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ When I first learned of THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE (Harper, February 2021) by Julia Fine, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Not only does it feature ‘house’ in the title and cover, but it’s surrealistic, feministic, and provocative, melding present-day with the past, a genre-bending exploration of children’s literature, folktale, literature, horror, and more. Truly, THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE is a read unlike any other. Megan Weiler is home from the hospital after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, her first child. Her husband, Ben is around, but not near enough, he must travel for work (in this sense, THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE reminds me a bit of Helen Phillips’s THE NEED), leaving Megan alone with infant Clara. Megan is physically exhausted and mentally drained plus, she’s still stewing on that unfinished dissertation, the one about midcentury children’s literature, specifically the life and contribution of Margaret …

Gilly MACMILLAN chats about her serpentine new domestic suspense TO TELL THE TRUTH; a missing child, WWII bunkers, how truth can be so vastly interpreted, the love of her town, more

By Leslie Lindsay Gilly Macmillan is back with a chilling tale set in the Stoke Woods of England about a writer, and a missing child.  ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~  I’ve read and loved ALL of Gilly Macmillan’s troubling and twisty domestic thrillers–and TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH (WilliamMorrow September 22, 2020) is another serpentine thriller that delivers a potent blend of atmosphere, tarnished memories, and stunning family secrets. In TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, bestselling mystery writer Lucy Harper’s talent for invention has given her fame, fortune, and an army of adoring readers. But her private life isn’t all that it seems. Her hapless husband Dan has unfulfilled writing ambitions of his own creating tension in the marriage. When he surprises Lucy with a home near the Stoke Woods, the wood where she once played as a child, she is undone by a dark foreboding. What could have happened at that spot to evoke such a strong reaction in her so many years later? When Dan suddenly goes missing, Lucy can no longer …

Julia Heaberlin on how obsessions start early and never leave, the horrific experience of a woman’s found body parts, ‘evil passing through,’ her mother’s box of terrifying nature, reading poetry to unlock flat descriptions, plus prosthetics in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK

By Leslie Lindsay  Portrait of modern Texas, in which tradition, family, secrets, and redemption run wild, this is a slow-burn mystery rooted in gorgeous writing. It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson vanished from her family farm, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. She was the town’s beauty queen, beloved daughter, but now she’s gone. Was it a serial killer? Her brother? Her disappearance and murder haunts the town. Now, in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK (Ballantine/PRH, August 11 2020), another girl has turned up. She’s not dead, but badly injured. She’s missing an eye, she’s mute. Odette Tucker, the town’s youngest cop (and hiding a perceived disability herself) is the one to find this injured girl amidst a field of dandelions. She believes the two instances may somehow be linked. The writing in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK is delicately charged and searing, exploding with atmosphere. But it is a slow-burning literary thriller told from the POV of several traumatized characters carrying plenty of their own baggage. WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK is …

Alexandra Burt begins Shadow Garden as a ‘thought experiement’: Does wealth and privilege sway moral corruption? Do we risk more if there’s more to lose, plus gorgeous prose, houses and homes, plus memory and tragedy

By Leslie Lindsay  A dark, haunting and atmospheric read about memory and twisted family dynamics set amidst luxury. ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ I’ve read all of Alexandra Burt’s stunning books and when SHADOW GARDEN (Berkley, July 2020) came to my attention, I knew I had to get my hands on it. This is such a haunting read that feels claustrophobic and uncomfortable at every turn. Burt is absolutely gifted at atmospheric prose, psychological detail, gorgeous turns-of-phrase, and generally giving readers dark intrigue. Here’s the quick take: Donna Pryor has lived a life of luxury, being a ‘lady of leisure.’ Her husband is a successful plastic surgeon. Her only daughter is grown, she has a housekeeper who caters to every whim. She lives in a gated complex, her home is beautifully decorated. But. Something’s off. Donna is recovering from a recent hip surgery. Her memory isn’t what it used to be. Her daughter never calls. She and her husband are estranged. Her only companions seem to be the caregivers and housekeepers who manage her luxury neighborhood. What’s going on? Immediately, I …

Stunning debut from Raymond Fleishmann, HOW QUICKLY SHE DISAPPEARS set in the Alaskan wilderness, plus lonliness, grief, isolation, obsession, writing from a parent’s perspective

By Leslie Lindsay  Impressive literary debut from Raymond Fleischmann centered on a lonely mother in the Alaskan wilderness. ~WEDNESDAY’S With Writers|Always with a Book~ I was immediately intrigued in the premise of HOW QUICKLY SHE DISAPPEARS (Jan 14, Berkley) by Raymond Fleischmann. It’s been twenty years since Elisabeth watched her twin sister, Jacqueline disappear without a trace. Now, in 1941 and Elisabeth Pfautz is living temporarily in Alaska with her husband John, and their twelve-year old daughter, Margaret. The marriage is stale, the environment dark and gray, along with it being so remote, we truly feel the isolation. Elisabeth clings to the idea that her sister is still alive—but where? And will they ever be reunited? A German bush pilot—Alfred—lands unexpectedly on Tanacross’s tiny gravel airstrip. After befriending Elisabeth, he commits an inexplicable act of violence, followed by a startling revelation: he knows what happened to Elisabeth’s sister. But he will tell her only if she fulfills three requests. I found the prose gorgeous and intriguing, but HOW QUICKLY SHE DISAPPEARS is a a slow burn. Still, …

Eerie and atmospheric, BEFORE THE DEVIL FELL, is a study of violence, buried secrets, and mysterious happenings–witchcraft–in New England

By Leslie Lindsay  The critically acclaimed author of THE BLACK PAINTING returns with a deliciously dark and atmopheric suspense for fans of Dennis Lehane and Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS.  SPOTLIGHT! Eerily hypnotic and atmospheric, BEFORE THE DEVIL FELL (Hanover Square Press, October 8, 2019) absolutely calls, ‘October,’ with its skepticism, small New England town, spirituality, and the history of witchcraft.  Just take a look at some of the praise:  “Equal parts engaging and creepy, this twisty tale deftly examines how secrets and regret can continue to reverberate through generations.” —Kirkus “The paranormal elements are subtle, gradually creeping in around the edges with unsettling effect. Both mystery and weird fiction fans will be pleased.” —Publishers Weekly “An appealing, atmospheric yarn.” —Booklist A bit about the story: A reformed flower child, thirty-three-year-old Will Connor’s long-held skepticism has distanced him from his mother and her eccentric collection of friends. While his mother embraced the hippie generation’s exploration of spirituality and withcraft, Will dismissed their fascination with New Age as arcane. But now he must return home to care for his aging …

Miciah Bay Gault talks about her luminous literary thriller, GOODNIGHT STRANGER, how she wasn’t trying to write a thriller, finding an agent, reincarnation, plus a fabulous reading list

By Leslie Lindsay  Deeply compelling and highly disturbing at times, GOODNIGHT STRANGER is a suspenseful literary thriller with themes of grief, love, and human behavior.  This is one of those books that is as eerie as moving, for me, and also has a bit of magical realism/suspended belief that may excite and intrigue. As a debut, GOODNIGHT STRANGER (Park Row Books, July 30) is darn good. Lydia and her brother, Lucas live in their family’s ramshackle home on fictional Wolf Island (just off Cape Cod) and while they are adults, they haven’t exactly ‘launched.’ Lydia is 28 years old when the story begins and she’s a college dropout with dreams of going back. She left Brown when her mother became ill. Her brother is a bit ‘different’ in the way he sees the world. Pathologically shy, Lucas spends his time doing odd jobs and living in the home shadowed by past events. And ghosts. Lucas and Lydia are the two remaining children of triplets. The other child, who is referred to as ‘Baby B,’ died tragically as an …

What if you stole someone’s identity then lied about it? Thomas Christopher Greene explores this, madness & despair in his stunning new novel, THE PERFECT LIAR

By Leslie Lindsay Gorgeously written, all-consuming, literary thriller had me flying through the pages to its disconcerting and haunting conclusion.  Thomas Christopher Greene has been a go-to for me for years. He has a seemingly effortless way with words, poignant insights into the human psyche, and his stories just naturally consume and propel. THE PERFECT LIAR (January 15, 2019 St. Martin’s Press), is no exception; I loved every minute. Max W. is a charismatic imposter living in Vermont. He recently accepted an appointment as an art professor at a local college and they ‘give them a house.’ What’s not to love? All along, Max W. (who was born Phil Wilbur) has carefully shrouded his meager origins in fraud–easily ‘borrowing’ the identity of a wealthy, unsuspecting art school graduate. He insinuates himself into Max W’s world and before you know it, he’s in too deep. But his wife, Susannah, has deep secrets of her own. She’s a young widow and a single mother who has married well, but then, disconcerting things start happening–menacing letters delivered to the home: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE and …

Wednesdays with Writers: Janelle Brown on salty snacks and trashy magazines, writing everyday while her kids are at school; identity, the dark side of motherhood, how the ending of WATCH ME DISAPPEAR was changed three times, & so much more

By Leslie Lindsay  Tantalizing and twisty, this literary suspense is a clever meditation on what it means to be a family, to really know someone.  Billie (Sybilla) Flanagan, a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom goes on a solo hike in the Desolation Wilderness never to return. It’s been a year and…where is she? Picking up the pieces are her husband and 16 year-old daughter, Olive who are seeking a death certificate as she is now presumed dead (all that’s found of her is a lone hiking boot). Olive and Jonathan do the best they can, but they are shattered, confused, broken. Jonathan is a writer attempting a loving memoir about his wife and death, Olive attends a prestigious all-girls prep school. But then Olive starts having visions/hallucinations/waking dreams of her mother. Jonathan’s concerned about her emotional stability and schleps her to doctors trying to find the source of the problem. But secrets from Billie’s past surface, leading both Jonathan and Olive the person they once shared a life with.  Together–and somewhat reluctantly–Jonathan and Olive embark on a quest to discover …

Writers on Wednesday: Bestselling author John Hart talks about REDEMPTION ROAD, writing a female protagonist for the first time, the gritty South, finding zen on the farm, & how writing allows us the ability to explore things we love and loathe.

By Leslie Lindsay  Since 2011, when his last New York Times bestseller, IRON HOUSE, shot out of the gate, gripping readers and winning resounding praise, fans around the world have been waiting. Five years later, phenomenal storyteller John Hart returns with his dark, gritty Southern fiction with a literary slant aptly titled, REDEMPTION ROAD (St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books, May 3 2016). Trust me, if you want to feel as if you’re in the hands of a seasoned pro, get REDEMPTION ROAD, revel in it, and then wish you could write like that (or at least see all story elements that you’re sure to miss the first time around); the man can flat-out write. Set in small town North Carolina, REDEMPTION ROAD is all about tortured souls, traumatized children, corrupt law enforcers, and a serial killer. Toss in a little religious undercurrent, and it’s very emotionally charged powerhouse of a novel that will leave your head spinning. There’s so much going on in REDEMPTION ROAD, it’s challenging to summarize, but that’s the sign of a …