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10 International Thrillers Sure to Cure Your Wanderlust

Sara Roncero-Menendez
January 27 2022
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Whether loving jet-setting on a plane or packing a car for a road trip, humans love to travel. But beyond being expensive, it’s nearly impossible to see everything there is in just one lifetime. Thankfully, books can solve this problem by transporting you to parts of the world you’ve never been to, and maybe didn’t even know about! So instead of grabbing your carry-on or camper, settle in to experience the world from the comfort of your couch with these ten international thrillers.

The Harbor
by Katrine Engberg

Looking for a mystery sure to make your blood run cold? Head to chilly Denmark and join detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner on the hunt for a missing teen. When Oscar Dreyer-Hoff goes missing, his family is convinced that this isn’t just a case of teenage rebellion, that something awful has happened to him. After all, he left a cryptic letter detailing the murder of an artist by an unknown figure. But there are more dark twists and turns that lie ahead. THE HARBOR is the next highly anticipated entry in the Kørner and Werner series (which can be read as a stand-alone as well), so be sure to pick up THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE as well for some adventures in Denmark.

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The Harbor
Katrine Engberg

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Butterfly House, called “brazen and original” by The Toronto Star, comes a timely, suspenseful, and darkly original new novel about a missing child and the web of lies that has threatened his life—and may prevent him from ever being found.

When fifteen-year-old Oscar Dreyer-Hoff disappears, the police assume he’s simply a runaway—a typically overlooked middle child doing what teenagers do all around the world. But his frantic family is certain that something terrible has happened. After all, what runaway would leave behind a note that reads:

He looked around and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward. He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it. It was bright and glistened. As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free.

It’s not much to go on but it’s all that detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner have. And with every passing hour, as the odds of finding a missing person grow dimmer, it will have to be enough.

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Girl in Ice
by Erica Ferencik

Who doesn’t love a little trip up to the Arctic? Valerie and her twin brother, Andy, are academics in opposite disciplines: Val studies dead Nordic languages while Andy is studying the current problem of climate change. When Andy dies in an apparent suicide, Val is devastated and unconvinced that no foul play was involved. But then, Andy’s fellow researcher, Wyatt, finds a girl frozen in the ice who, when thawed out, speaks a language no one can identify, meaning they will need Val’s expertise. GIRL IN ICE is a battle of wits as Val struggles to trust Wyatt while uncovering the truth about her brother’s death and this strange girl’s appearance.

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Girl in Ice
Erica Ferencik

From the author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle comes a harrowing new thriller set in the unforgiving landscape of the Arctic Circle, as a brilliant linguist struggling to understand the apparent suicide of her twin brother ventures hundreds of miles north to try to communicate with a young girl who has been thawed from the ice alive.

Valerie “Val” Chesterfield is a linguist trained in the most esoteric of disciplines: dead Nordic languages. Despite her successful career, she leads a sheltered life and languishes in the shadow of her twin brother, Andy, an accomplished climate scientist stationed on a remote island off Greenland’s barren coast. But Andy is gone: a victim of suicide, having willfully ventured unprotected into 50 degree below zero weather. Val is inconsolable—and disbelieving. She suspects foul play.

When Wyatt, Andy’s fellow researcher in the Arctic, discovers a scientific impossibility­—a young girl frozen in the ice who thaws out alive, speaking a language no one understands—Val is his first call. Will she travel to the frozen North to meet this girl, and try to comprehend what she is so passionately trying to communicate? Under the auspices of helping Wyatt interpret the girl’s speech, Val musters every ounce of her courage and journeys to the Artic to solve the mystery of her brother’s death.

The moment she steps off the plane, her fear threatens to overwhelm her. The landscape is fierce, and Wyatt, brilliant but difficult, is an enigma. But the girl is special, and Val’s connection with her is profound. Only something is terribly wrong; the child is sick, maybe dying, and the key to saving her lies in discovering the truth about Wyatt’s research. Can his data be trusted? And does it have anything to do with how and why Val’s brother died? With time running out, Val embarks on an incredible frozen odyssey—led by the unlikeliest of guides—to rescue the new family she has found in the most unexpected of places.

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Traitor
by Jonathan de Shalit

Who doesn’t love a little double-crossing espionage action? Alon Regev, a former Israeli naval officer, goes to the CIA and offers himself as a spy against his home country. Unbeknownst to him, the man who is assessing him is also secretly a Russian agent infiltrating the U.S. government. As Alon rises in the ranks of the Israeli government, all of his information is ending up with the leaders in the Soviet Union. But once the Israelis figure out there’s a mole in their ranks, the race is on to outmaneuver the elite squad set to expose Alon. TRAITOR is the kind of novel that sets its stakes high and only ramps up the tensions from there—definitely one that will keep you up at night!

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Traitor
Jonathan de Shalit

In the exhilarating tradition of I Am Pilgrim comes a sprawling, international high-stakes thriller that pits the intelligence of one man against one of the most successful spies ever to operate against American interests—“one of 2018’s hottest debuts!” (The Real Book Spy).

When a young Israeli walks into an American embassy and offers to betray his country for money and power, he has no idea that the CIA agent interviewing him is a Russian mole. Years later, the Israeli has risen in the ranks to become a trusted advisor to Israel’s prime minister and throughout his career, he’s been forced to share everything with the Kremlin.

Now, however, a hint that there may be a traitor in the highest realms of power has slipped out and a top-secret team is put together to hunt him down. The chase leads the team from the streets of Tel Aviv to deep inside the Russian zone and, finally, to the United States, where a most unique spymaster is revealed. The final showdown—between the traitor and the betrayed—can only be resolved by an act of utter treachery that could have far-reaching and devastating consequences for all of humanity.

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The Bounty
by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton

FBI agent Kate O’Hare has an unlikely partner in her job taking down bad guys: international criminal Nick Fox. But in THE BOUNTY, they’ll have to take on their biggest challenge yet in the Brother, a shadowy international organization that’s desperate to find $30 billion in Nazi gold hidden somewhere in Eastern Europe. But to take down an evil enterprise that big, they’ll need a little help from those with more experience in these matters—namely, their dads. Part nail-biting thriller, part family reunion, this book will take you on a global-trotting adventure to remember.

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The Bounty
Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton

FBI agent Kate O’Hare and charming con man Nicholas Fox race against time to uncover a buried train filled with Nazi gold in this thrilling adventure in the “romantic and gripping” (Good Housekeeping) Fox and O’Hare series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

Straight as an arrow special agent Kate O’Hare and international con man Nick Fox have brought down some of the biggest criminals out there. But now they face their most dangerous foe yet—a vast, shadowy international organization known only as the Brotherhood.

Directly descended from the Vatican Bank priests who served Hitler during World War II, the Brotherhood is on a frantic search for a lost train loaded with $30 billion in Nazi gold, untouched for over seventy-five years somewhere in the mountains of Eastern Europe.

Kate and Nick know that there is only one man who can find the fortune and bring down the Brotherhood—the same man who taught Nick everything he knows—his father, Quentin. As the stakes get higher, they must also rely on Kate’s own father, Jake, who shares his daughter’s grit and stubbornness. Too bad they can never agree on anything.

From a remote monastery in the Swiss Alps to the lawless desert of the Western Sahara, Kate, Nick, and the two men who made them who they are today must crisscross the world in a desperate scramble to stop their deadliest foe in the biggest adventure of their lives.

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The Berlin Exchange
by Joseph Kanon

At the height of the Cold War, there were lots of complicated government dealings happening out of the public eye. That’s the situation with physicist Martin Keller, who is being traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for two students and an old MI6 agent in East Berlin. What Keller can’t seem to figure out is what someone behind the Iron Curtain wants with him. After all, he hasn’t been a working physicist ever since he went to prison, meaning he’s already behind in the latest advances. But there’s a darker story afoot, and THE BERLIN EXCHANGE will have you guessing right up to the end as to what’s really going on. 

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The Berlin Exchange
Joseph Kanon

From “master of the genre” (The Washington Post) Joseph Kanon, an espionage thriller set at the height of the Cold War, when a captured American who has spied for the KGB is swapped by the British and returns to East Berlin needing to know who arranged his release and what they want from him.

Berlin. 1963. The height of the Cold War. An early morning spy swap, not at the familiar setting for such exchanges, or at Checkpoint Charlie, where international visitors cross into the East, but at a more discreet border crossing, usually reserved for East German VIPs. The Communists are trading two American students caught helping people to escape over the wall and an aging MI6 operative. On the other side of the trade: Martin Keller, a physicist who once made headlines, but who then disappeared into the English prison system. Keller’s most critical possession: his American passport. Keller’s most ardent desire: to see his ex-wife Sabine and their young son.

The exchange is made with the formality characteristic of these swaps. But Martin has other questions: who asked for him? Who negotiated the deal? The KGB? He has worked for the service long enough to know that nothing happens by chance. They want him for something. Not physics—his expertise is out of date. Something else, which he cannot learn until he arrives in East Berlin, when suddenly the game is afoot.

Filled with intriguing characters, atmospheric detail, and plenty of action Kanon’s latest espionage thriller is one you won’t soon forget.

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The Cuban Affair
by Nelson DeMille

To most people, Mac is living the good life. He’s a military veteran working as a charter boat captain in the Florida Keys, and while he has some debts left to pay on the boat, he’s got his life figured out. But when a charter comes in for a ten-day fishing tournament in Cuba, Mac knows there’s more going on. THE CUBAN AFFAIR is the hunt for a sixty-million-dollar treasure hidden in Cuba, with Mac agreeing to help the treasure owner’s granddaughter find the cash for a hefty fee. But will Mac walk away with all the debts cleared, or will he find himself paying the ultimate price?

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The Cuban Affair
Nelson DeMille

Nelson DeMille’s #1 New York Times bestseller, “an action-packed, relentlessly paced thriller” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), featuring DeMille’s newest character—U.S. Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, a charter boat captain setting sail on his most dangerous cruise yet.

Daniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. Mac served five years in the Army as an infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan. He returned with the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, scars that don’t tan, and a boat with a big bank loan. Truth be told, Mac’s finances are more than a little shaky.

One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this and turns it down. The price then goes up to two million dollars, and Mac agrees to hear the deal, and meet Carlos’ clients—a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega, and a mysterious older Cuban exile, Eduardo Valazquez.

Mac learns that there is sixty million American dollars hidden in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution. With the “Cuban Thaw” underway between Havana and Washington, Carlos, Eduardo, and Sara know it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the stash—by accident or on purpose. And Mac knows if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich…or not at all.

The Cuban Affair “is a timely stay-up-all-night, nail-biting page-turner featuring Nelson DeMille’s iconic tongue-in-cheek, articulate, rhythmic narrative. His affably irreverent protagonist, fantastic believable supporting characters, and tense, realistic Cuba-set scenes including some jaw-dropping revelations make this a must read” (Library Journal, starred review).

“Genuinely gripping” (Newsday), told with “incredible wit” (Tampa Bay Times), “The Cuban Affair feels authentic and real, and it provides knuckle-white tension mixed in with levity” (Associated Press).

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The Law of Lines
by Hye-young Pyun & Sora Kim-Russell

Our lives are often connected in strange and wonderful ways to others. Case in point, Se-oh and Ki-jeong, two women in Korea who live very different lives. Se-oh is a recluse who lives with her father, while Ki-jeong is a schoolteacher doing her best to survive. But both face terrible tragedies: Se-oh loses both her home and her father in a fire she is sure was foul play, and Ki-jeong’s missing half-sister is found dead in an apparent suicide. But Ki-jeong’s sister seems to have been embroiled in some sort of pyramid scheme, with Se-oh being connected to it somehow. THE LAW OF LINES is a thriller that explores family ties, grief, and debt in new, dark ways that will leave you reeling.

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The Law of Lines
Hye-young Pyun & Sora Kim-Russell

From the award-winning author of The Hole, a "Simmering" (New York Times Book Review) and "Compelling" (Wall Street Journal ) thriller—"A mystery masterpiece . . . Hye-young Pyun at her best" (Books & Bao), named a "Best International Crime Novel of 2020" (CrimeReads) and selected as one of "Our 65 Favorite Books of the Year" (LitHub)

The Law of Lines follows the parallel stories of two young women whose lives are upended by sudden loss. When Se-oh, a recluse still living with her father, returns from an errand to find their house in flames, wrecked by a gas explosion, she is forced back into the world she had tried to escape. The detective investigating the incident tells her that her father caused the explosion to kill himself because of overwhelming debt she knew nothing about, but Se-oh suspects foul play by an aggressive debt collector and sets out on her own investigation, seeking vengeance.

Ki-jeong, a beleaguered high school teacher, receives a phone call from the police saying that the body of her younger half-sister has just been found. Her sister was a college student she had grown distant from. Though her death, by drowning, is considered a suicide by the police, that doesn't satisfy Ki-jeong, and she goes to her sister's university to find out what happened. Her sister's cell phone reveals a thicket of lies and links to a company that lures students into a virtual pyramid scheme, preying on them and their relationships. One of the contacts in the call log is Se-oh.

Like Hye-young Pyun's Shirley Jackson Award–winning novel The Hole, The Law of Lines an immersive thriller that explores the edges of criminality in ordinary lives, the unseen forces that shape us, and grief and debt.

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Liar's Candle
by August Thomas

If you’ve ever had one of those stress dreams in which your whole life is falling apart, then you know how upsetting it can be. But for Penny Kessler, that nightmare scenario is actually happening. An intern at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey, she is one of the few survivors of a terrorist attack, and her higher-ups believe she is key to figuring out what really happened. In the whirlwind of attention and shifting alliances, Penny has no idea whom, if anyone, she can trust with what she knows, including how the man she’s been infatuated with all summer might be involved. LIAR’S CANDLE is a spy thriller that takes a novice diplomat and throws her to the sharks to, in some ways literally, sink or swim.

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Liar's Candle
August Thomas

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Gorky Park
by Martin Cruz Smith

If there’s anything you can count on with international crimes, it’s a lot of red tape. In the first Arkady Renko novel, GORKY PARK, Arkady deals with three corpses missing faces and fingers found in a Moscow amusement center. As if the mutilated corpses weren’t enough, he must face off against the KGB, FBI, and the New York City Police Department in order to get to the bottom of what happened to the victims and how an American fur dealer might be involved. Stuck in the middle of an increasingly complex situation, Arkady will need to use his wits and his experience to make sure he’s not the next body on the pile.

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Gorky Park
Martin Cruz Smith

The Arkady Renko book that started it all: the #1 bestseller Gorky Park, an espionage classic that begins the series, by Martin Cruz Smith, “the master of the international thriller” (The New York Times).

It begins with a triple murder in a Moscow amusement center: three corpses found frozen in the snow, faces and fingers missing. Chief homicide investigator Arkady Renko is brilliant, sensitive, honest, and cynical about everything except his profession. To identify the victims and uncover the truth, he must battle the KGB, FBI, and the New York City police as he pursues a rich, ruthless, and well-connected American fur dealer. Meanwhile, Renko is falling in love with a beautiful, headstrong dissident for whom he may risk everything.

A wonderfully textured, vivid look behind the Iron Curtain, Gorky Park is a tense, atmospheric, and memorable crime story. “Once one gets going, one doesn’t want to stop…The action is gritty, the plot complicated, and the overriding quality is intelligence” (The Washington Post). The first in a classic series, Gorky Park “reminds you just how satisfying a smoothly turned thriller can be” (The New York Times Book Review).

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The Invisible Guardian
by Dolores Redondo

When most people think of Spain, they imagine sunny beaches, bustling bars, and wild nightlife. But the Spain homicide inspector Amaia Salazar lives in is a different world. When she returns to her hometown in the Basque Country, a province in Northern Spain that is steeped in old traditions and stories, she finds a new case waiting for her. The body of a teenage girl is found in the river, and while Amaia tries to solve the case by using facts and logic, the supernatural seems to keep getting in the way. THE INVISIBLE GUARDIAN explores a culture and lore that may be new to readers, but the suspense of a murder mystery with more sinister implications is as classic as they come.

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The Invisible Guardian
Dolores Redondo

Already a #1 international bestseller, this taut, gripping psychological thriller follows a police inspector who reluctantly returns to her hometown in Spain’s Basque Country—a place shrouded in mythology and superstition—to solve a series of eerie murders.

When the body of a teenaged girl is found on a riverbank in a remote area, the crime appears all too similar to a murder committed only months prior, igniting the worst fears of the small community of Elizondo. Homicide inspector Amaia Salazar, a strong, borderline-obsessive investigator, is assigned to the case. After all, this beautiful, peculiar backwater steeped in the blood of the Spanish Inquisition, where pagan beliefs still flourish under a thin veneer of modernity, is a space she knows better than anyone. Forced to return to Elizondo, a town she has always sought to escape, Amaia is tasked with finding a serial killer on the loose.

As the murders in the area grow increasingly violent, the locals come to believe only one creature could possibly be responsible: a creature of Basque mythology known as the basajaun, or Invisible Guardian. But Amaia is logical—a professional—and she refuses to let local superstitions distract her from her careful detective work. As the investigation deepens, a troubling secret from Amaia’s past plagues her with nightmares and soon her findings seem to transform myth into reality. Everything she believes to be rational and verifiable is called into question. Now Amaia must fight her demons and determine if these murders are the work of a ritualistic killer or something even darker.

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