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10 Chilling Summer Thrillers to Cool You Off in No Time

June 17 2021
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Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I love thrillers all year ’round, but there is just something about the dichotomy of reading them in the middle of the summer. As the ice melts in your glass and the waves crash on the beach below, having a truly chilling novel to keep you company is always a refreshing delight. These ten thrillers are sure to give you chills, even on the hottest summer day.

Check out Simon & Schuster’s Summer Reading Guide for more summer book recommendations!

The Au Pair
by Emma Rous

A family drama with a noir approach, a seaside house with dark secrets, and a mysterious death? Already, I have chills. THE AU PAIR is so captivating you almost forget you’re reading as you turn page after page to uncover the truth. On the day of Seraphine and her twin brother, Danny’s, birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs near their small Norfolk coast village. Their au pair fled, and Seraphine’s father never talked about the event. Now twenty-five years later, after the accidental death of her father, Seraphine is back in town and looking for answers. But things don’t add up with the story she’d been told. When she finds a photograph of her older brother, her father, the au pair, and her mother smiling and holding just one baby, she’s determined to figure out the truth. There is only one person who might know what happened that day: the au pair, Laura.

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The Au Pair
Emma Rous

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I Found You
by Lisa Jewell

There is nothing better for summer than a stormy beach read. And when you mix that with Lisa Jewell’s dark and moody prose, you won’t be able to put this book down. Set in both London and the British seaside, I FOUND YOU unravels three mysteries. In London, Lily’s husband, Carl, never returns home, but when the police get involved, they tell her that the man she married never existed. Meanwhile, Alice Lake finds a man on the beach of Ridinghouse Bay with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The book also tells the story of Gray and Kristy as they vacation with their family in Ridinghouse Bay twenty years earlier. Suddenly, a disturbing man starts paying too much attention to Kristy, making Gray incredibly uncomfortable. There are so many secrets and chilling turns, this book is sure to cool you down more than any air conditioner could.

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I Found You
Lisa Jewell

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The Drowning Kind
by Jennifer McMahon

This book is a creepy supernatural delight. If you enjoy thrillers with mystical elements, you don’t want to miss THE DROWNING KIND. In 1929, newly married Ethel Montrose wants nothing more than a baby. In the hope of taking her mind off things, her husband whisks her away to a natural spring in Vermont. There are rumors that the water grants wishes, and Ethel is desperate. Years later, Jax receives nine missed calls from her sister, Lexie. Jax doesn’t answer, believing her sister is just having another manic episode, but the next day she finds Lexie dead in the pool at their grandmother’s Vermont estate. As Jax digs deeper into what happened, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the estate. Jax picks up where Lexie left off and in turn discovers that the land has a dark past, and no one suspects that the spring takes as much as it gives.

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The Drowning Kind
Jennifer McMahon

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.

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The Survivors
by Jane Harper

THE SURVIVORS, by Jane Harper, is rich and atmospheric, a fantastic slow-burning thriller in which everyone in Evelyn Bay is forced to come to terms with their past. Kieran left the stormy coastal town behind years ago and finally made a life for himself with his girlfriend and their daughter. But his father’s health has declined, so he returns to help his mother move. That dregs up the loss of his brother and his animosity for his parents, and he also can’t help but remember the horrible decision he made that led to death and destruction. Then, when a body is found on the beach, more people start asking questions, and the truth threatens to crash down on Kieran’s new life.

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The Survivors
Jane Harper

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Man of the Year
by Caroline Louise Walker

Walker’s prose is wonderful, and this complex story is well woven with secrets, lies, paranoia, and infidelity. Robert has everything: the beautiful house, the beautiful boat, the beautiful new wife, and the successful career. Never mind the fact that Robert and Elizabeth’s relationship began during each of their first marriages. And, of course, never mind that Robert’s son, Jonah, is troubled and aimless. But things finally seem to be looking up for Jonah when he agrees to spend the summer with Robert and Elizabeth and brings along a friend. Elizabeth welcomes Nick into their home, but Robert instantly dislikes the attention the young man gives his wife. Struggling to keep his cool, Robert’s lies begin piling up until his desperation destroys everything around him. MAN OF THE YEAR is wicked and wonderful, and a fantastic summer thriller to add to your list.

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Man of the Year
Caroline Louise Walker

A sinister, sophisticated debut thriller by “a remarkable new voice to watch” (J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author), Man of the Year has been lauded by Shelf Awareness as “an impressive slow burn that builds suspense and cracks the whip at the end…redolent with menace and ego.”

Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school and finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guesthouse. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.

But when Robert suspects his new houseguest of getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack, and all the little lies he tells start to mount. Before long, Robert is embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, threatening to destroy anyone who stands in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends and neighbors, his wife—who can reveal the truth…if he’s willing to look.

Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, building to a wicked twist you won’t see coming.

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The Perfect Ruin
by Shanora Williams

This fast-paced and incredibly entertaining book is perfect for devouring by the poolside. What would you do if you could take revenge against the person who ruined your happy childhood? Ivy is still reeling from a traumatic event that happened twenty years earlier, but when her therapist accidentally reveals the name of the culprit, Ivy suddenly has new purpose. Lola Maxwell, the gorgeous, beloved socialite with a heart of gold, is the reason Ivy’s life crumbled when she was a kid. Now Ivy is determined to infiltrate Lola’s inner circle and destroy her perfect world. She turns Lola’s friends against her and begins seducing her surgeon husband. What feels like a dream, however, quickly becomes a nightmare that Ivy can’t control. Everyone in this book is terrible, but I mean that in the best way possible. Williams is so incredible at writing her characters that despite the horrible things they do, you still want to root for them.

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The Perfect Ruin
Shanora Williams

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Such a Quiet Place
by Megan Miranda

Maybe it’s that I grew up in a suburban neighborhood where, for a while, everyone knew one another. We’d all have big picnics at the park, and the kids could be found running together through backyards and eating snacks in one another’s kitchens. So the idea that the people in these supposedly perfect little subdivisions could be hiding terrible secrets is always a fun one. That, mixed with my love for Megan Miranda, makes SUCH A QUIET PLACE a wonderful read. Hollow’s Edge was the perfect place to live, until Brandon and Fiona Truett were murdered. Now no one wants to live there, but the current residents can’t leave. Everyone is suffocated by the empty house and the fact that they implicated one of their own in the crime. But Ruby Fletcher’s conviction was overturned and, since she has nowhere else to go, she’s back. She moves in with her friend Harper, who’s always looked at her as a troubled younger sister. Everyone is suspicious, and secrets wind their way through Hollow’s Edge. Harper realizes that not everyone told the truth about what happened the night the Truetts were murdered, and she must find out what really happened before the killer strikes again.

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Such a Quiet Place
Megan Miranda

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest—a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection—comes a new riveting suspense novel about a mysterious murder in an idyllic and close-knit neighborhood.

We had no warning that she’d come back.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

Pulsating with suspense and with the shocking twists that are Megan Miranda’s trademark, Such a Quiet Place is Megan Miranda’s best novel yet—a twisty locked-box thriller that will keep you turning pages late into the night.

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The Devil and the Dark Water
by Stuart Turton

I loved THE 7½ DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE and couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into Turton’s latest thriller. Turton writes fantastic mysteries that take place in contained environments and keep you guessing until the end. Set in 1634, Samuel Pipps is the greatest detective of all time. However, he is now a prisoner on his way to Amsterdam to be sentenced to death for a crime he may or may not have committed. His loyal bodyguard is determined to prove his innocence before they arrive, but things take a turn from bad to worse when the entire ship is marked for death. A leper delivers a terrifying message, their livestock is killed, and strange, evil-looking symbols appear on the sails. Is there a demon threatening to kill everyone on board? With Pipps imprisoned, only Hayes, the bodyguard, can solve this mystery before everyone ends up at the bottom of the ocean.

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The Devil and the Dark Water
Stuart Turton

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The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave

What would you do if you found out that your husband isn’t who he said he was? What would you do if your husband suddenly goes missing, leaving you a note with “protect her” written on it and nothing else? That is exactly what happens to Hannah when Owen goes missing, and the note could only be referring to Hannah’s stepdaughter, Bailey. Will Hannah be able to protect Bailey while also trying to find out who her husband really is? Bailey wants nothing to do with Hannah, but together they set out to solve this puzzling mystery. This book is full of action, but it is also an incredible family story with a lot of heart. I love the characters in this fantastic summer thriller.

If you're not already pumped, get even more excited with this trailer!

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The Last Thing He Told Me
Laura Dave

From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.

We all have stories we never tell.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.

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Where Secrets Lie
by Eva V. Gibson

This is a gritty young adult thriller with some difficult subject matter for the young protagonists, but Gibson’s prose is amazing, and her detailed descriptions will sweep you away. Amy Larsen has always loved her summers in Kentucky with her cousin, Ben, and their best friend, Teddy. But last summer the dynamic changed amid the growing sexual tension between Teddy and Amy, and Amy is now dreading going back to Kentucky. However, when Teddy’s sister goes missing, the friends will need to set their animosity aside to find out what happened. But as they dig deeper into her disappearance, they unearth truths they never imagined.

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Where Secrets Lie
Eva V. Gibson

Perfect for fans of Courtney Summers, this seductive and intense thriller unfolds in interwoven timelines of two summers as three friends are torn apart by buried secrets and star-crossed attraction…then pulled back together by tragedy.

Amy Larsen has spent every summer with her cousin Ben and their best friend Teddy in River Run, Kentucky, loving country life and welcoming the break from her intensive ambitions and overbearing mother—until the summer she and Teddy confront the changing feelings and simmering sexual tension growing between them, destroying the threesome’s friendship in a dramatic face-off.

One year later, Amy returns to River Run dreading what she might find. But when Teddy’s sister disappears, Amy, Ben, and Teddy agree to put aside their differences to search for her. As they dig deeper into the dark history of their small town, all three friends must unearth the truths that tie their families to tragedy, cope with their own toxic upbringings and beliefs, and atone for the damage done to each other and themselves.

Told in two interwoven timelines—the summer where everything changed, and the summer that changes everything—Where Secrets Lie is a seductive thriller as dark as it is enthralling.

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Photo credit: iStock / Esther Derksen

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