Ahhh summer. You wouldn’t think it’s prime holiday season if you looked out the window right now but apparently it’s nearly August. I know! And as much as I want to settle down with toffee apples and hot chocolate and plan my Christmas list (can’t just be me?!) I’m actually off on holiday soon.
And what do holidays mean? BOOKS!
So I wanted to do a round-up post of some of my fave summer reads that I have read as well as the ones that I haven’t yet but I’m excited to get stuck into.
This is not the extent of my recommendations so do read on! Sadly I couldn’t get any snazzy photos of all my fave titles squeezed in together, as half of my books have been lent to friends and not returned. *Side eyes*.
They pretty much all revolve around at least one person getting murdered (yey!) and yes, some are admittedly a bit trashy in a thoroughly enjoyable Take a Break kinda way, but they’re all very entertaining.
Let’s begin with the books that I have read and loved already, then tomorrow I will move on to the books that I am packing for my own holiday in a separate post. (That post is live now, here).
You can click the cover pics to buy/download (if you don’t hate Amazon) or I’ve tried to make a ‘handy’ carousel at the end of this post which is like a virtual shoppable bookshelf. I’m quite impressed with myself. Hopefully it won’t break.
Some of these are darker than others but they are all books that I have recommended to friends and family. And I would hope if you read them you’d enjoy them too….
In The Woods – Tana French
“When he was twelve years old, Adam Ryan went playing in the woods one day with his two best friends. He never saw them again. Their bodies were never found, and Adam himself was discovered with his back pressed against an oak tree and his shoes filled with blood. He had no memory of what had happened.
Twenty years on, Rob Ryan – the child who came back – is a detective in the Dublin police force. He’s changed his name. No one knows about his past. Then a little girl’s body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. Knowing that he would be thrown off the case if his past were revealed, Rob takes a fateful decision to keep quiet but hope that he might also solve the twenty-year-old mystery of the woods.”
The description above doesn’t do this book justice. I cried at the end of this book and I think it was mostly because the book was over, rather than for the ending itself. (I may have also been a bit drunk as I was in a Palma beach club at the time). Rob is such a great character and there’s so much depth to everyone in this story that you’re truly kept gripped to the very last pages.
Also nice to read on holiday for ultimate summer nostalgia as Rob recalls his happier memories of playing in the woods as a child.
In Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware
“Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back. Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her? Some hen parties are bad. This one is going to be murder.”
I was lucky enough to get a press copy of this book and I raced through it in Nice last month. It’s the perfect creepy setting (a hen do in the middle of the forest) and the promise of marriage and murder was always going to lure me in. I loved every page and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m the exact age of the girls in the book or just because I never quite trust ex-friends who may have access to weapons, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Into The Darkest Corner – Elizabeth Haynes
“Catherine has been enjoying single life for long enough to know a good catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. But there is a dark side to him and his erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour means that Catherine is increasingly isolated. Driven into the darkest corner of her world, she plans a meticulous escape. Four years later, struggling to overcome her demons, Catherine dares to believe she might be safe from harm. Until one phone call changes everything…”
If you thought a book couldn’t make you scared of red buttons, think again. I was bought this as a present (thank you Derrian!) and have proceeded to recommend it to everyone I know. Parts of this book are very claustrophobic and you can really feel Catherine’s fear building. Whilst it’s not exactly easy to read in parts, it really is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s genuinely very scary, with the worst part being knowing that people like Lee exist.
Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
She is here to meet the monster in the final cell. He knows she is coming.
She finds Dr Lecter reading the Italian Vogue. He looks up, looks into her. His gaze seems to pulse in her head, but she is only hearing her heartbeat. He listens to it too.
Meet Hannibal Lecter.”
Of course you’ve seen the film, but have you read the book? This was my jolly summer read back in 2013 and I do recommend buying this 25th anniversary version of the book if you can for the new foreword alone. Thomas Harris goes into fascinating detail about how he came up with the Hannibal character and then of course you get to enjoy the book itself. Which is absolutely BRILLIANT.
“When two girls are abducted and killed in Missouri, journalist Camille Preaker is sent back to her home town to report on the crimes.
Long-haunted by a childhood tragedy and estranged from her mother for years, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family’s mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and the half-sister she barely knows – a precocious 13-year-old who holds a disquieting grip on the town.
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims – a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.”
I read this on honeymoon and loved every sentence. ST also read it and declared it “absolute nonsense, will never get that time back, is this actually the type of rubbish you read?”. So, there you have it.
“What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness.
Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths.
As well as talking to psychopaths, Jon meets those whose ordinary lives have been touched by madness and those who depend on it to make a living – disturbingly discovering that many of the people at the helm of the industry are sometimes, in their way, as crazy as those they study.”
So this one isn’t a novel and isn’t really a thriller either, but it does involve psychopaths and it is a thrilling read. You WILL spend the rest of your days wondering who is/isn’t a psychopath though. Use your new skills wisely.
“Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over 20 years on the proceeds of the ‘Libby Day fund’. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate. When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept. But this is no ordinary gathering. The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent.
Ben was a social misfit, ground down by the small-town farming community in which he lived. But he did have a girlfriend – a brooding heavy metal fan called Diondra. Through her, Ben became involved with drugs and the dark arts. When the town suddenly turned against him, his thoughts turned black. But was he capable of murder? Libby must delve into her family’s past to uncover the truth – no matter how painful…”
Ridiculous in parts (probably why I loved it) but I enjoyed every character. I suspect you either like Gillian Flynn or you don’t, but I really like her writing style and the salaciousness of it all. There are some quite graphic scenes towards the end and a general sense of desperation and sadness for Patty Day. I’d suggest reading it before the film comes out in the UK, which seems to have had pretty poor reviews so far.
“There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three.Even though the fourth person hadn’t made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone.For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, each of us wondering what this meant for her and for us, and which of us would be the next in the box.”
I bought this at the airport to read in Nice once simply because it said “As gripping as Gone Girl” on the front cover. I hadn’t even read Gone Girl at the time, but I clearly saw it as enough of a compliment and I’m glad I did as I really enjoyed this book. It’s a bit silly/young adult in parts, but it’s actually one of my fave reads in recent years when it comes to ‘holiday thrillers’.
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
“Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood’s two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA’s seedy backstreets, Marlowe’s got his work cut out – and that’s before he stumbles over the first corpse…”
This is not a trashy book. Raymond Chandler could write about a trip to Homebase and it would be the most gripping piece of writing you’d be lucky enough to stumble across. Everything he writes is a joy to read and this book is no exception.
“Genteel society ladies who compare notes on their husbands’ suicides. A hilariously foul-mouthed black drag queen. A voodoo priestess who works her roots in the graveyard at midnight. A morose inventor who owns a bottle of poison powerful enough to kill everyone in town. A prominent antiques dealer who hangs a Nazi flag from his window to disrupt the shooting of a movie. And a redneck gigolo whose conquests describe him as a ‘walking streak of sex’.
These are some of the real residents of Savannah, Georgia, a city whose eccentric mores are unerringly observed – and whose dirty linen is gleefully aired – in this utterly irresistible book. At once a true-crime murder story and a hugely entertaining and deliciously perverse travelogue, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is as bracing and intoxicating as half-a-dozen mint juleps.”
Perhaps not a thriller per se, but it’s quite remarkable that this book can make you want to book a holiday to the crime scene.
“Still traumatised by her brush with a psychopath, Detective Cassie Maddox transfers out of the Murder squad and starts a relationship with fellow detective Sam O’Neill. When he calls her to the scene of his new case, she is shocked to find that the murdered girl is her double. What’s more, her ID shows she is Lexie Madison – the identity Cassie used, years ago, as an undercover detective. With no leads, no suspects and no clues to Lexie’s real identity, Cassie’s old boss spots the opportunity of a lifetime: send Cassie undercover in her place, to tempt the killer out of hiding to finish the job.”
This book actually really bothered me for the middle third. It seemed to really drag on and was just too implausible, but by the end I was sucked right back in and I couldn’t be bothered to be angry with it any more. I was in two minds as to whether to include this, but as I love Cassie SO MUCH (and the whole Dublin Murder Squad tbh) I’ve had to keep it in. Would be interested to hear from others who have read it!
“Who are you?
What have we done to each other?
These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?”
Just if by some crazy twist of events you haven’t already read it and don’t know the ending.
I think they’re all my main faves from recent summers! I know a lot of people loved Girl on a Train and I did read it in Portugal earlier this year but I found the narrator too irritating. I know that’s kind of the point – the unreliable drunk narrator – but I just wanted to shake her and tell her to get her shiz together.
Now head here to see which books I’m packing for Gran Canaria 🙂