10 Summer Thrillers as Chilling as Your AC Unit

June 29 2020

It is finally heating up outside, which means I need more than just a cold drink to cool me down. I love thrillers all year round, but summer thrillers sometimes make me feel like I’m sneaking a special treat out of the pantry, even after I swore that I would only eat one more piece of chocolate. There’s something seemingly dangerous about reading a chilling thriller while your feet bake in the sand—really the perfect contradiction. These ten thrillers are guaranteed to keep you perched on the edge of your beach chair.  

The Doll Factory
by Elizabeth Macneal

THE DOLL FACTORY is creepy and historical! Set in Victorian-era London, this novel is filled with obsession and dark desire that are sure to draw you in. THE DOLL FACTORY tells the story of a chance meeting between Iris, an aspiring artist and pre-Raphaelite model, and Silas, a collector of the strange and unusual. As Iris’s world of art and wonder grows, so does Silas’s obsession. This book is dark and honestly chilling to read, but it felt absolutely perfect against the Victorian-era backdrop. 

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The Doll Factory
Elizabeth Macneal

The #1 international bestseller and The New York Times Editor’s Choice

“As lush as the novels of Kate Morton and Diane Setterfield, as exciting as The Alienist and Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost, this exquisite literary thriller will intrigue book clubs and rivet fans of historical fiction.” —A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

“A lush, evocative Gothic.” —The New York Times Book Review

This terrifically exciting novel will jolt, thrill, and bewitch readers.” —Booklist, starred review

Obsession is an art.

In this “sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art, and obsession” (Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train), a beautiful young woman aspires to be an artist, while a man’s dark obsession may destroy her world forever.

Obsession is an art.

In 1850s London, the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and, among the crowd watching the dazzling spectacle, two people meet by happenstance. For Iris, an arrestingly attractive aspiring artist, it is a brief and forgettable moment. But for Silas, a curiosity collector enchanted by all things strange and beautiful, the meeting marks a new beginning.

When Iris is asked to model for Pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly, her world begins to expand beyond her wildest dreams—but she has no idea that evil is waiting in the shadows. Silas has only thought of one thing since that chance meeting, and his obsession is darkening by the day.

“A lush, evocative Gothic” (The New York Times Book Review) that is “a perfect blend of froth and substance” (The Washington Post), The Doll Factory will haunt you long after you finish it and is perfect for fans of The Alienist, Drood, and Fingersmith.

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The Chill
by Scott Carson

I can already feel the shiver down my spine from my AC unit just thinking about a novel like THE CHILL. This is a paranormal thriller, so I was instantly hooked into the story that centers around a submerged upstate New York town and the subsequent reservoir project. A century after local families were forced out of their homes and their village was drowned to make way for the Chilewaukee Reservoir, a new inspector for the dam witnesses the inexplicable. More than just the village was left behind, including a sinister prophecy that demands new sacrifices from the deep. I loved the supernatural elements of this story, but also the strong character-driven narration that kept me turning page after page. 

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The Chill
Scott Carson

“Wow! This is one terrific horror/suspense/disaster novel. Characters you root for and a story that grips from the first page.” —Stephen King, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Institute

“Horror has a new name and it’s Scott Carson. The Chill is an eerie dive into the murky depths of the supernatural. A story that has you looking back over your shoulder on every page.” —Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Night Fire

“A creepy tale of supernatural terror.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

In this terrifying thriller, a supernatural force—set in motion a century ago—threatens to devastate New York City.

Far upstate, in New York’s ancient forests, a drowned village lays beneath the dark, still waters of the Chilewaukee reservoir. Early in the 20th century, the town was destroyed for the greater good: bringing water to the millions living downstate. Or at least that’s what the politicians from Manhattan insisted at the time. The local families, settled there since America’s founding, were forced from their land, but they didn’t move far, and some didn’t move at all…

Now, a century later, the repercussions of human arrogance are finally making themselves known. An inspector assigned to oversee the dam, dangerously neglected for decades, witnesses something inexplicable. It turns out that more than the village was left behind in the waters of the Chill when it was abandoned. The townspeople didn’t evacuate without a fight. A dark prophecy remained, too, and the time has come for it to be fulfilled. Those who remember must ask themselves: who will be next? For sacrifices must be made. And as the dark waters begin to inexorably rise, the demand for a fresh sacrifice emerges from the deep...

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The Only Good Indians
by Stephen Graham Jones

THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is the perfect blend of horror and drama, while also delivering insightful social commentary. This story follows four American Indian men whose past comes back to haunt them in the worst kind of way. This is certainly an action-filled revenge story that also examines tradition and cultural identity. These four friends are forced to fight for their lives as they are tracked by an entity desperate for revenge. THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS grabbed me right from the start with its shocking opening, and as the novel unfolded, I was engrossed in this literary thriller that totally kept me up at night.  

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The Only Good Indians
Stephen Graham Jones

“One of 2020’s buzziest horror novels.” —Entertainment Weekly

The Only Good Indians is a masterpiece. Intimate, devastating, brutal, terrifying, yet warm and heartbreaking in the best way, Stephen Graham Jones has written a horror novel about injustice and, ultimately, about hope….And it gives me hope that this book exists and is now in your hands.” —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World

“Bloody and brutal at times, but also intimate, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful.” —Rebecca Roanhorse, New York Times bestselling author of Trail of Lightning

The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

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The Last High
by Daniel Kalla

Are you fascinated by medical thrillers? If so, THE LAST HIGH might just be the book you’re searching for. When Dr. Julia Rees’s ER is suddenly filled with teenagers from the same party experiencing overdose symptoms, she realizes that these cases are anything but typical. Together, Julia and Detective Anson Chen race to find the supplier of the deadly drugs as the body count keeps rising. Daniel Kalla is an author and a physician, so not only is this story absolutely bone-chilling, but it’s also filled with real medical experience that makes it all the more terrifying.   

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The Last High
Daniel Kalla

In this riveting novel from international bestselling author Daniel Kalla, a Vancouver doctor and a detective face the deadly consequences of the opioid crisis as they track down the supplier of fentanyl that landed a group of teens in the ER with critical overdoses.

“Michael Crichton ought to be looking over his shoulder.” The Chronicle Herald

Deliberately or not, they must’ve been poisoned…And if it happened to them…

There will be others.

Dr. Julie Rees, a toxicologist and ER doctor, is stunned when her emergency room is flooded with teenagers from the same party, all on the verge of death. Julie knows the world of opioids inside and out, and she recognizes that there’s nothing typical about these cases. She suspects the teens took—or were given—fentanyl. But why did they succumb so quickly?

Detective Anson Chen is determined to find out. He and Julie race to track down the supplier of the deadly drugs. But the trail of suspects leads everywhere, from unscrupulous street dealers to ruthless gang leaders who hide behind legitimate business fronts and the walls of their mansions.

As Anson and Julie follow clues through the drug underworld, Julie finds herself haunted by memories of her troubled past—and the lover she lost to addiction. When other overdoses fill the ER—and the morgue—Julie realizes that something even more sinister than the ongoing fentanyl crisis is devastating the streets. And the body count is rapidly rising.

A gripping thriller, The Last High explores the perfect storm of greed, addiction, and crime behind the malignant spread of fentanyl, a deadly drug that is killing people faster than any known epidemic.

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Out of the Ice
by Ann Turner

There is such a powerful sense of terror and dread that permeates through this incredibly atmospheric novel about Laura, an environmental scientist who reports to an abandoned whaling station with a bloody history. It is clear that rules have been broken and the wildlife is acting strangely. When Laura encounters something strange in an ice cave, she begins to doubt her own eyes. When the other scientists refuse to answer her questions, Laura is determined to find the truth.  

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Out of the Ice
Ann Turner

For fans of Paula Hawkins and Ruth Ware, this gripping thriller from the bestselling author of The Lost Swimmer is a “taut and tightly wound page-turner” (Marie Claire) set in the icy reaches of Antarctica.

When environmental scientist Laura Alvarado is sent to a remote Antarctic island to report on an abandoned whaling station, she begins to uncover more than she could ever imagine.

Reminders of the bloody, violent past are everywhere, and Laura is disturbed by evidence of recent human interference. Rules have been broken, and the protected wildlife is behaving strangely.

On a diving expedition, Laura emerges into an ice cave where she is shocked to see an anguished figure, crying for help. But in this freezing, lonely landscape there are ghosts everywhere, and Laura wonders if her own eyes can be trusted. Has she been in the ice too long?

Back at base, Laura’s questions about the whaling station go unanswered, blocked by scientists unused to outsiders. And Laura just can’t shake what happened in the cave.

Piecing together a past and present of cruelty and betrayal that spans the globe—from Norway to Nantucket, Europe and Antarctica—Laura will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. As she comes face to face with the dark side of human nature, she also discovers a newfound hope in love and the meaning of family. If only Laura can find her way…out of the ice.

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Bone Deep
by Sandra Ireland

BONE DEEP draws on folklore and local legends as a starting point for Mac, a retired academic and writer, and her new assistant, Lucie. Both women carry with them dark secrets that they are trying to keep buried as they circle each other, looking for answers. BONE DEEP is told from both Lucie’s and Mac’s perspectives and centers around a historic legend of two long-dead sisters, recent events in Lucie’s and Mac’s pasts, and their current lives. Ireland masterfully weaves all of this together in this creepy novel that will certainly leave you guessing.  

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Bone Deep
Sandra Ireland

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Leave No Trace
by Mindy Mejia

This is a true psychological thriller that is sure to take readers on a fast and furious ride from start to finish. Immediately, this book poses so many questions that you won’t be able to put it down until they’re answered. Ten years after Lucas and his father disappeared from their ransacked campsite in the Boundary Waters, Lucas reemerges at an outfitter store. He is violent and uncommunicative and immediately sent to a psychiatric facility. While there, Maya Stark, a language therapist, is assigned to his case. Coming from her own troubled past and dealing with her own abandonment issues, Maya is determined to reunite Lucas with his still-missing father.  

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Leave No Trace
Mindy Mejia

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton
by Sara Collins

A murder mystery that may indict all of English society, THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON is a compelling look at the darkest channels of history. Frannie, a former sugar-plantation slave and now servant to a scientist and his wife, has just been accused of murdering her employers. While it is true that Frannie’s relationship with Marguerite was passionate and complicated, she does not believe she committed the crime. Unfortunately, she can only recall pieces of that night and was found next to Marguerite’s body, covered in blood. While Frannie doesn’t know what happened to her employers, she does have a story to tell and from her cell, in Newgate Prison, she begins to tell it. This is a deeply twisting gothic novel that examines race, class, and what happens when people are treated as objects.  

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Sara Collins

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Little Voices
by Vanessa Lillie

Another cold psychological thriller, LITTLE VOICES is a murder mystery/white-collar-crime novel with a pretty badass protagonist. Devon Burges’s friend has been murdered, and another one of her friends is the prime suspect. Despite her high-risk pregnancy and postpartum trauma, Devon is determined to find the real killer. This concept and Devon’s character hooked me in right from the beginning and continued to escalate as her life, and her baby’s life, are put into even more danger.  

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Little Voices
Vanessa Lillie

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MENTIONED IN:

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Sunburn
by Laura Lippman

Everyone loves a fiery summer romance, but this one turns deadly. When Polly and Adam meet at a bar in Delaware, neither of them intends to stay long, but they do. Despite their steamy affair, they are keeping lethal secrets from each other. And then someone dies. Polly and Adam are so tangled in each other’s lies that you’ll have to read through until the end to figure out the truth. SUNBURN is a slow burn that builds and builds and is sure to chill you to your core.

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Sunburn
Laura Lippman

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Off the Shelf Staff | November 30, 2020

A WWII Historical Novel of Hope and Resistance to Light Up the Darkness

By Holly Claytor | November 27, 2020

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By Maddie Ehrenreich | November 26, 2020

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