Ten Novels to Keep You Up At Night
Picture it: I’m in my room at night, my pillows propped, my bedside lamp oriented so its light hits the book in my hands. I’m so immersed in the story that nothing beyond it moves or exists. My eyes don’t lift from the pages for hours on end, until finally I look over at the clock and it’s so far past my bedtime that any real sleep is out of the question. I might as well keep reading until the end.
When I was younger, up-all-night reading was a frequent phenomenon; before life got busier, before I got older and sleep got a little more… necessary. But these days I’ll still encounter a novel here and there that keeps me up into the wee hours. And as the long summer day kick in, why not stay up late with a thrilling book? Here’s a list of recent thrillers; ten novels to keep you up at night and had me happily abandoning a good night’s sleep.
- Our Little Secret by Roz Nay
This debut novel by west coast writer Roz Nay is so blisteringly quick to read you’ll need several hours set aside to ensure you can finish in one go. The story begins in an interrogation room, where Angela is being questioned after her ex-boyfriend’s wife has gone missing. From there Nay expertly flips the timeline back several years to bring us up to speed. The trouble is, Angela is a very unreliable narrator, so just when you think you’ve got the answer, a twist in the plot raises a whole new slew of questions. Wickedly smart for a debut novel.
- Find You in the Dark by Nathan Ripley
The best part about this chilling book is the vivid storytelling rolls easily in with a super unsettling plot. The story follows Martin Reese as he uses old police files to dig up bodies before anonymously tipping off the police about their own unsolved murders. But things go really awry on a dig when Martin uncovers a fresh body buried alongside the cold case he’d been expecting to find. Despite the grim subject matter, Ripley infuses his characters with a lot of spark and the dialogue is smart and wry. I ripped through this book, albeit with one eye open.
- The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
I absolutely loved Knoll’s debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive, so I grabbed her sophomore effort the instant it hit the shelves. It does not disappoint. The story revolves around five successful New York City women who agree to star in a reality series; a great idea until someone ends up dead. Knoll’s talent is mixing wickedly tight plotting with an undercurrent of funny and unforgiving social commentary. Her characters are so well crafted they’ll feel weirdly familiar. Do yourself a favor and pick up both of Knoll’s novels to bring on your summer vacation.
- Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
By now I’ve learned that when I pick up a Kubica novel, I’d better have a good stretch of time on my hands because they are next to impossible to put down. And Every Last Lie is my favorite one yet. Stunned with grief when her husband is killed in a car accident that left their daughter unharmed, Clara Solberg begins digging when she realizes his death might not have been an accident at all. Told in alternating perspectives between Clara and her husband in the final months before the accident, this is Kubica’s most complex and riveting book yet. Here’s a writer who gets better with every turn.
- The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware has become an international star thanks to thrillers like In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10. But her latest, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, in all its gothic creepiness, feels like a departure from her earlier works. When the protagonist, Hal Westaway, receives a letter indicating she’s been bequeathed a large inheritance, she knows she’s not the intended recipient but wonders if she might be able to claim the funds anyway to help her settle her many debts. The atmosphere drives this book, as does Ware’s lightning fast plotting. I think this is her best book yet.
- Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Before trying her hand at novels, Attica Locke wrote for TV, and it shows in her cinematic setting and excellent dialogue. Two murders bring east Texas native Darren Mathews to the very small town of Lark to search for answers. As a Texas ranger and a black man, Mathews soon finds himself at the center of troubles that go far back in the town’s history. This incredibly compelling thriller infuses race relations in the south into a complex plot; It’s both richly told and super-fast paced. I’m really hoping this book is the start of a series.
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich
When I was asking around for mystery suggestions, a friend handed me this novel and told me I wouldn’t regret giving this Pulitzer Prize finalist author a try. Set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, The Round House tells the story of a young boy who sets out to find answers when his mother returns home injured from a terrible assault but unwilling to tell her husband – a judge – or her son who was behind the attack. I found myself both cheering and fearing for the safety of the young protagonist, Joe, as he takes risks in his search for answers. Beautifully written and terribly thrilling, the Round House offers up a story readers won’t soon forget.
- A Front Page Affair by Radha Vatsal
I picked up this novel after meeting Vatsal when we were both debut authors at ThrillerFest in 2016. The first in a series, it follows Kitty Weeks, a journalist working the social beat who stumbles on a serious case when a man is murdered at a society picnic. The early 20th century New York City setting jumps off the page like a movie, and Kitty Weeks is a marvelous character. I haven’t read many “cozy” mysteries in my life, but I loved this novel. Kitty is young and naïve but grows into herself over the course of this series opener. Here’s hoping she and Vatsal stay on for many books to come.
- A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
After devouring her debut novel The Couple Next Door in one sitting, I was thrilled when Lapena’s second novel was released last summer. A Stranger in the House is a most worthy second effort. It tells the story of Karen and Tom Krupp, a happily married couple whose lives are turned upside down when Karen goes missing then is found with no memory of where she’s been. Lapena’s gift is her ability to twist the plot so deftly then do it again a handful of pages later. Her third novel, An Unwanted Guest, comes out in August, and I’ll be the first in line at my local bookstore when it does.
- Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
It took a few years for North America to catch on after Unraveling Oliver hit shelves across the pond. Ireland native Nugent has written an unforgettably horrific character in her protagonist, Oliver Ryan. The story begins in present day with Oliver having just beaten his wife into a coma, then whips back to his early beginnings to fill the reader in on the sordid details that brought him to such evil. The plot is twisty and strangely fun despite the dark subject matter. Nugent’s next novel, Lying in Wait, comes out this summer.
*Amy Stuart is the international bestselling author of Still Mine (Touchstone, 2016). Her second novel, STILL WATER (Touchstone) is available July 2018.