Snowy forest

10 Thrillers as Piercing as a Winter Snowstorm

Sara Roncero-Menendez
December 28 2021
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There’s a chill in the air, light fading fast, and the darkness approaches with increasing speed. Just your average winter’s night? Or is there something ominous waiting just on the edge of the snow? Winter is the perfect time of year to combat the literal chill of the weather with some chills running up one’s spine from a good book. If you’re looking for the kind of dark, can’t-put-it-down read to pair with cold, snowy nights, here are ten thrillers sure to get you shivering.

The Family Plot
by Megan Collins

If you think you’ve got problems, then you haven’t met Dahlia Lighthouse. For one, she was raised by two true-crime fanatics on an isolated island in a mansion located deep within a forest and away from anyone else. Second, her twin brother mysteriously disappeared when they were sixteen. Third, said brother’s murdered body is found ten years later when Dahlia returns to bury her father in that same spot. And that’s just to start! As THE FAMILY PLOT unfolds, each member of the Lighthouse family deals with this dark revelation differently, but could one of their own really be responsible? Or is there a more sinister game afoot?

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The Family Plot
Megan Collins

From the author of The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door, this “masterpiece of gothic suspense and horror, filled with dark family secrets and stunning twists” (Michele Campbell, author of It’s Always the Husband) follows a family obsessed with true crime as they gather to bury their patriarch—only to find another body already in his grave.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse is haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she is unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.

After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house, where the family makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of her family reacts to the revelation in unsettling ways. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

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Whispering Shadows
by Jan-Philipp Sendker

There’s nothing like travel to give your life a little sense of adventure. But for Paul Leibovitz, who has spent three decades living abroad in Hong Kong, his fun and good fortune has run out. After a personal tragedy, he moves to a small island, forced out of his isolation only when a distressed American woman finds him, drawing him into the murder investigation of her son. WHISPERING SHADOWS is a combination crime thriller and romance that looks at the seedy underbelly of a country on the verge of massive new wealth.

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Whispering Shadows
Jan-Philipp Sendker

In this first book of the Rising Dragon series, “explore a side of Hong Kong tourists rarely experience” (Kirkus Reviews) as an expat journalist tries to crack a murder case in the “darkly beautiful, heart-wrenching” (Booklist, starred review) thriller set in China from the internationally bestselling author of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

Once an ambitious American expat and a dedicated family man, Paul Leibovitz is living as a recluse on an outlying island of Hong Kong. When he makes a fleeting connection with Elizabeth, a distressed American woman on the verge of collapse, his life is thrown into turmoil. Less than twenty-four hours later, Elizabeth’s son is found dead in Shenzhen, and Paul, invigorated by a newfound purpose, sets out to investigate the murder on his own.

As Paul, Elizabeth, and a detective friend descend deeper into a politically corrupt China and the Shenzhen underworld—against the wishes of a woman with whom Paul has a growing flirtation—they discover dark secrets and vestiges of the Cultural Revolution that people will go to any lengths to keep hidden. Part love story, part crime thriller, Whispering Shadows is the captivating tale of one man’s desperate search for redemption within the grip of a world superpower, a place where secrets from the past threaten to upend the future.

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One by One
by Ruth Ware

Who else would you turn to for a spine-tingling thriller other than the master herself, Ruth Ware? In her latest book, ONE BY ONE, Ware tells the tale of several coworkers snowed in at a scenic chalet on a work retreat. But, of course, everyone has secrets, and there seems to be one person hellbent on keeping them from getting exposed by any means necessary. A twist on the classic AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, this story will have you gripped from the first chapter, and might make you rethink that cute little ski getaway you’ve been planning.

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One by One
Ruth Ware

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A claustrophobic spine-tingler.” —People
Not only do Ware’s novels wink at [Agatha] Christie in a saucy way, but Ware herself is turning out to be as ingenious and indefatigable as the Queen of Crime.” —The Washington Post

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain.

Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.

When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech start-up, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.

As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one.

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The Snow Garden
by Christopher Rice

Atherton University is a school like any other, full of students, professors, and secrets that might be worth killing for. Or so that’s what Randall Stone thinks when the wife of his professor dies in mysterious circumstances. After all, he’s been seeing Professor Eric Eberman in secret, and the dead woman’s last words might point to Eberman choosing homicide over the end of his career. But as snow covers the fictional campus of THE SNOW GARDEN, Randall starts digging through the cold and haunting past of his lover, trying to find out if he might be next on the proverbial chopping block.

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The Snow Garden
Christopher Rice

In the darkening chill of winter, three Atherton University freshmen are being mysteriously drawn together by fate, and a compulsion they cannot comprehend. Though they come from vastly differing backgrounds, the college holds the promise of a better life for each of them -- and an opportunity to break away from the anguish and desolation of their former lives.
But the past does not die so easily, and the intricate webs of deceit that they have spun to protect themselves are slowly twisted into shackles that chain them to their doom. Snowbound and trapped on the campus, the friends find themselves unwilling pawns in the machinations of a malevolent force that has taken hold of Atherton -- and all their oldest fears, veiled passions, and secret nightmares are about to come to life in...The Snow Garden.

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Speak Softly, She Can Hear
by Pam Lewis

A book so chilling even the title gives you goosebumps, SPEAK SOFTLY SHE CAN HEAR is a story on an unlikely friendship that goes terribly wrong. Naomi and Carole have little in common; one is charismatic, rich, and refined while the other is a quiet scholarship student. But the two bond and form a pact to lose their virginity. And where else should they do it but in a cabin deep in the heart of rural Vermont with a handsome prep school dropout with a quick temper and dark secrets? Actually, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. Will Carole survive the night, or will she fall victim to the terrible plot already set in motion?

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Speak Softly, She Can Hear
Pam Lewis

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These Toxic Things
by Rachel Howzell Hall

The things we leave behind often speak as much about our lives as those loved ones who mourn us. This is something Mickie Lambert understands as she creates digital scrapbooks that help keep people’s memories alive when they are not. When the old curio seller Nadja kills herself, Mickie gets to work on her mementos. There are twelve in all, things like a music box, a hair clip, and a key chain—innocuous items. But they must have some deeper meaning, as Mickie starts getting threats to keep her nose out of the past, or else. All about what we leave behind and how it can still haunt us, THESE TOXIC THINGS is the kind of book that will have you hooked till the last page.

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These Toxic Things
Rachel Howzell Hall

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The Perfect Stranger
by Megan Miranda

Life has a way of opening opportunities. For failed journalist Leah Stevens, just as she’s dealing with a restraining order and looming lawsuit, she reconnects with her friend Emmy. Emmy has just gone through a terrible breakup and suggests the two move to middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania so they can start over again. But their perfect plan falls apart when Emmy goes missing, and after digging through her life with the help of Kyle Donovan, a detective assigned to the case, she finds something surprising. Emmy is basically a ghost: no family, friends, no online presence, no trace of her at all. THE PERFECT STRANGER asks the reader how well do you really know your friends, and what would it say about you to discover they’re not who they say they are?

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The Perfect Stranger
Megan Miranda

A masterful follow-up to the New York Times bestseller All the Missing Girls—the gripping story of a journalist who sets out to find her missing friend, a woman who may never have existed at all. “Think: Luckiest Girl Alive, The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl” (TheSkimm).

When Leah Stevens’ career implodes, a chance meeting with her old friend Emmy Grey offers her the perfect opportunity to start over. Emmy, just out of a bad relationship, convinces Leah to come live with her in rural Pennsylvania, where there are teaching positions available and no one knows Leah’s past. Or Emmy’s.­

Then there’s a wave of vicious crimes in the community and Emmy Grey disappears, and Leah realizes how very little she knows about her friend and roommate. Unable to find friends, family, a paper trail or a digital footprint, the police question whether Emmy Grey existed at all. And mark Leah as a prime suspect.

Fighting the doubts of the police and her own sanity, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name. Deep, dark, and irresistibly twisty, “Megan Miranda’s eerie suspense thriller…smartly examines the slippery theme of personal identity” (The New York Times Book Review).

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The Death of Jane Lawrence
by Caitlin Starling

Jane Shoringfield is, for lack of a better term, a Plain Jane who needs to figure out how to secure a good life for herself. Her solution is a marriage of convenience with Doctor Augustine Lawrence, who agrees to marry her so long as she never visits Lindridge Hall, his decrepit family estate. She doesn’t understand why, until on their wedding night, she ends up at his door, finding him transformed into a terrified, paranoid version of himself. What spell is the house casting, and what are its intentions with Jane? THE DEATH OF JANE LAWRENCE is Gothic suspense at its best, with a plucky, pragmatic heroine and plenty of dark twists to keep readers engaged.

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The Death of Jane Lawrence
Caitlin Starling

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The Savage Kind
by John Copenhaver

Moving to a new place is already a frightening endeavor—one Philippa Watson has to face when she moves to Washington, DC. But thankfully she meets Judy Peabody, a whip-smart, fiery classmate with whom she becomes fast friends. This draws the attention of their literature teacher, Christine Martins, who is looking to stoke the girls’ passion for learning and good books. But after witnessing an encounter between Martins and an unknown man, Philippa finds their teacher changed, and not for the better, and that’s just the start of the dark occurrences. THE SAVAGE KIND follows Philippa and Judy as they uncover the forces at work in their school, all while dealing with their feelings for each other.

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The Savage Kind
John Copenhaver

Two lonely teenage girls in 1940s Washington, DC, discover they have a penchant for solving crimes—and an even greater desire to commit them—in the new mystery novel by Macavity Award-winning novelist John Copenhaver.

Philippa Watson, a good-natured yet troubled seventeen-year-old, has just moved to Washington, DC. She’s lonely until she meets Judy Peabody, a brilliant and tempestuous classmate. The girls become unlikely friends and fashion themselves as intellectuals, drawing the notice of Christine Martins, their dazzling English teacher, who enthralls them with her passion for literature and her love of noirish detective fiction.

When Philippa returns a novel Miss Martins has lent her, she interrupts a man grappling with her in the shadows. Frightened, Philippa flees, unsure who the man is or what she’s seen. Days later, her teacher returns to school altered: a dark shell of herself. On the heels of her teacher’s transformation, a classmate is found dead in the Anacostia River—murdered—the body stripped and defiled with a mysterious inscription.

As the girls follow the clues and wrestle with newfound feelings toward each other, they suspect that the killer is closer to their circle than they imagined—and that the greatest threat they face may not be lurking in the halls at school, or in the city streets, but creeping out from a murderous impulse of their own.

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Everything We Didn't Say
by Nicole Baart

Juniper Baker was having the time of her life the summer after high school, until a terrible murder rocked her Iowa town and her brother became the prime suspect. She swore never to return after the gruesome event, but inevitably, Juniper finds herself back home to help a sick friend work the local library. Or so she says. Because after fifteen years away, Juniper is ready to make amends with her estranged teenage daughter and do what she couldn’t as a teenager: solve the murder that changed everything. EVERYTHING WE DIDN’T SAY is a tale of family and duty that quickly morphs into a race against the clock as history begins to repeat itself.

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Everything We Didn't Say
Nicole Baart

From the author of Little Broken Things, a race-to-the-finish family drama” (People) following a mother who must confront the dark summer that changed her life forever in order to reclaim the daughter she left behind.

Juniper Baker had just graduated from high school and was deep in the throes of a summer romance when Cal and Beth Murphy, a childless couple who lived on a neighboring farm, were brutally murdered. When her younger brother became the prime suspect, June’s world collapsed and everything she loved that summer fell away. She left, promising never to return to tiny Jericho, Iowa.

Until now. Officially, she’s back in town to help an ill friend manage the local library. But really, she’s returned to repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, who’s been raised by Juniper’s mother and stepfather since birth—and to solve the infamous Murphy murders once and for all. She knows the key to both lies in the darkest secret of that long-ago summer night, one that’s haunted her for nearly fifteen years.

As history begins to repeat itself and a dogged local true crime podcaster starts delving into the murders, the race to the truth puts past and present on a dangerous collision course. Juniper lands back in an all-too-familiar place with the answers to everything finally in her sights, but this time it’s her daughter’s life that hangs in the balance. Will revealing what really happened mean a fresh start? Or will the truth destroy everything Juniper loves for a second time? Baart once again brilliantly weaves mystery into family drama in this expertly-crafted novel for fans of Lisa Jewell and Megan Miranda.

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Photo credit: iStock / Marseas

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