I love summer thunderstorms. With dark brooding skies, the sound of rain, flashes of light, and rolls of thunder, summer storms provide the perfect excuse for spending a day curled up near a big window to marvel at the sky and read. The ambiance always puts me in a reading trance and leads me to pick up one of two types of books: introspective reads that mirror the sky’s mood and dark or creepy stories that cause me to jump out of my skin whenever lightning strikes. So the next time the sky starts to open up and you want something atmospheric to pair with the weather, here are a few books I recommend.
Michael Robotham’s GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL is a haunting tale about a dangerous woman with a dark past who has a peculiar ability: she can tell when people are lying. Evie Cormac was discovered in a secret room six years ago after a terrible crime had happened, but no matching DNA record or missing persons file can be found. As an adult, when she demands to be set free from the secure children’s home she’s been living in for the last few years, a forensic psychologist named Cyrus is put on her case to determine if she’s truly ready. At the same time, he is working on a case about the murder of pretty, popular high schooler Jodie Sheehan—and as he begins to uncover Sheehan’s secret life, he finds there is more connection to Evie than meets the eye. With murder, drugs, and torture, this book gets pretty dark, but it’s an incredibly well-written page-turner that will likely make you forget there’s even a storm happening outside.
Finalist for the 2020 Edgar Award for Best Novel
From the internationally bestselling author who Stephen King calls “an absolute master,” a fiendishly clever thriller about a dangerous young woman with the ability to know when someone is lying—and the criminal psychologist who must outwit her to survive.
A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.
Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who died on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth?
Emotionally explosive, swiftly paced, and “haunting…Robotham expertly raises the tension as the action hurtles toward the devastating climax” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
In a post-Arthurian Britain, an elderly couple wanders from village to village trying to find their son. They have trouble remembering names and faces, and even some of their history. But as they venture through warring Briton and Saxon areas, you come to realize that each community is struggling with the same issue: the inability to retain memories. Their search turns into an adventurous journey, on which they encounter ogres, dragons, and knights, all affected by this memory-stealing “mist.” This beautiful, melancholy novel is a mystifying exploration of memory and its role in shaping our relationships, who we are individually, and who we are as a society.
Part psychological thriller and part family drama, this genre-bending novel, long-listed for the National Book Award, is deeply unsettling and incredibly compelling. One night, Molly, scientist and mother of two, thinks she hears footsteps in the living room. She comes face to face with a masked intruder who knows far too much about the workings of her family. As she tries to protect her kids, she is sent on a surreal adventure and into a dark, existential spiral about motherhood.
***LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN FICTION***
“An extraordinary and dazzlingly original work from one of our most gifted and interesting writers” (Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Glass Hotel). The Need, which finds a mother of two young children grappling with the dualities of motherhood after confronting a masked intruder in her home, is “like nothing you’ve ever read before…in a good way” (People).
When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it’s the sleep deprivation. She’s been hearing things these days. Startling at loud noises. Imagining the worst-case scenario. It’s what mothers do, she knows.
But then the footsteps come again, and she catches a glimpse of movement.
Suddenly Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly must also acknowledge her own frailty. Molly slips down an existential rabbit hole where she must confront the dualities of motherhood: the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity; the banality and the transcendence as the book hurtles toward a mind-bending conclusion.
In The Need, Helen Phillips has created a subversive, speculative thriller that comes to life through blazing, arresting prose and gorgeous, haunting imagery. “Brilliant” (Entertainment Weekly), “grotesque and lovely” (The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice), and “wildly captivating” (O, The Oprah Magazine), The Need is a glorious celebration of the bizarre and beautiful nature of our everyday lives and “showcases an extraordinary writer at her electrifying best” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Is there anything better than a Gothic novel when it’s dark and stormy outside? Elizabeth Macneal’s chilling historical fiction novel follows a curiosity collector named Silas and an attractive young woman named Iris in 1850s London. One day, while the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park, Silas briefly meets Iris and a dark obsession begins. As Iris becomes a model for and student of a painter and experiences a world far greater than she imagined, Silas is waiting in the shadows. When I say chilling, I mean it—Silas is creepy, and Macneal excellently conveys the atmosphere of the time. DOLL FACTORY is dark and gripping, and it keeps you hooked until the very last page.
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.
This insightful novel by Sarah Perry is categorized as “horror,” and although I don’t disagree, I found it to be a subtle kind of horror. There is a mystery and creepy moments, but largely, the novel is deeply philosophical and dark in atmosphere. Helen Franklin is hiding a secret and left England years ago to move to Prague and work as a translator. When her friend Karel disappears after discovering a mysterious letter and confession that references Melmoth—a legendary figure in folklore that witnesses human cruelty and has the power to doom those she crosses—Helen becomes paranoid and is convinced that she, thanks to her own dark past, is also being watched. MELMOTH is a beautiful, brooding exploration of our transgressions, conscious, and forgiveness.
If you want a good old-fashioned thriller with excellent twists and a plot that moves at neck-breaking speeds, pick up VERITY. Successful novelist Verity Crawford has been injured and is incapable of completing her series. Her husband, Jeremy, hires struggling writer Lowen Ashleigh to be the author who finishes his wife’s work. When Lowen moves into the Crawford home and begins sifting through Verity’s papers, she finds an unfinished autobiography that contains horrific and chilling recollections. As Lowen and Jeremy become closer, she decides to show the manuscript to him and reveal the truth about his wife. The suspense in this novel had me yelling at the characters, and the ending left me devastated.
What starts as a story about four friends and their experiences in New York after college becomes a tragic, profound tale about one man’s past and the horrific trauma he endured. The depth of storytelling in this novel is extraordinary: not only does it explore the lasting effects of childhood trauma, but also redemption, human endurance, and what love in our current moment looks like. A LITTLE LIFE is not a light read—it carries an emotional weight that requires attention and care. Its power and beauty is in the heartbreaking depiction of our limitations and our love for others.
I’m not exaggerating at all when I say I cried for 700 pages of this 832-page masterpiece. I have never loved a character more deeply than I love Jude, the main character in this ode to male friendship, who is scarred and broken from an unspeakable trauma. Reading about Jude’s ever-changing relationships with his three best friends from college was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a reader—and certainly as a crier.
THE AU PAIR is a summer mystery with a touch of noir. After her father’s death, twenty-five-year-old Seraphine comes across a photo of her mother smiling while holding a baby, taken on the day Seraphina and her twin brother, Danny, were born. But the day she and her brother were born, her mother threw herself off a cliff, and her older brother’s au pair disappeared. Knowing the photo is suspect, Seraphine begins to dig into the truth of that fateful day. The story follows two timelines: Seraphine in the present day and the au pair twenty-five years earlier. With dark turns and surprising twists, and set in a seaside town, this is a compelling read perfect for a stormy summer day.
Arianna Neumann’s literary detective memoir is a fully engrossing, powerful story about family and the Holocaust. Growing up in Venezuela, Ariana didn’t know much about her father’s past, but she knew something terrible happened. When he died, he left her with a box of memorabilia that led her on a worldwide search to uncover the truth about her father: his escape from Nazi-occupied Prague, his deportation to the concentration camps, and his time spent as an undercover spy for the allies. Neumann conveys an intense story of survival and her own discovery of lost family.
In this remarkably moving memoir Ariana Neumann dives into the secrets of her father’s past: years spent hiding in plain sight in war-torn Berlin, the annihilation of dozens of family members in the Holocaust, and the courageous choice to build anew.
In 1941, the first Neumann family member was taken by the Nazis, arrested in German-occupied Czechoslovakia for bathing in a stretch of river forbidden to Jews. He was transported to Auschwitz. Eighteen days later his prisoner number was entered into the morgue book.
Of thirty-four Neumann family members, twenty-five were murdered by the Nazis. One of the survivors was Hans Neumann, who, to escape the German death net, traveled to Berlin and hid in plain sight under the Gestapo’s eyes. What Hans experienced was so unspeakable that, when he built an industrial empire in Venezuela, he couldn’t bring himself to talk about it. All his daughter Ariana knew was that something terrible had happened.
When Hans died, he left Ariana a small box filled with letters, diary entries, and other memorabilia. Ten years later Ariana finally summoned the courage to have the letters translated, and she began reading. What she discovered launched her on a worldwide search that would deliver indelible portraits of a family loving, finding meaning, and trying to survive amid the worst that can be imagined.
When Time Stopped is an unputdownable detective story and an epic family memoir, spanning nearly ninety years and crossing oceans. Neumann brings each relative to vivid life. In uncovering her father’s story after all these years, she discovers nuance and depth to her own history and liberates poignant and thought-provoking truths about the threads of humanity that connect us all.
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