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10 Suspenseful Reads Peering into Suburbia’s Dark Side

Laura Jackson
December 29 2022
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Suburbia is a cheerful place where nothing bad ever happens and everyone is the best of friends with no grudges or secrets . . . right? In a community with meticulously manicured lawns and houses painted one of four preselected colors, you might wonder, what’s really going on behind those sage green walls? What’s beneath that freshly mowed lawn? If you are not convinced that the suburbs are as idyllic as they seem, then these novels about the dark side of suburbia are for you.

Regrets Only
by Kieran Scott

Paige Lancaster—a single mom and former writer for the hottest detective show on TV—has returned home to Connecticut with her daughter, Izzy, to stay with her mother after certain unspeakable events back in Los Angeles. She soon meets the mothers of the Parent Booster Association, run by the gorgeous Ainsley Anderson—who happens to be married to Paige’s high school boyfriend, John. Not long after Paige’s arrival, Ainsley is discovered dead. Paige may have only written detective stories, but she believes she can handle some undercover sleuthing. As she investigates, she discovers disturbing secrets within the PBA, including embezzlement, bribery, adultery, and even murder. REGRETS ONLY is a compelling read that reveals just how far one might go for the sake of appearing perfect.

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Regrets Only
Kieran Scott

In a fast-paced new novel in the vein of Big Little Lies, a single mom goes undercover to investigate a host of disturbing secrets held by the leaders of a local suburban parent-school association, including embezzlement, bribery, adultery, and murder—by the bestselling author of Wish You Were Gone.

Paige Lancaster, single mom and prodigal daughter, has returned to the East Coast from her prestigious, well-paid job in Los Angeles, writing for the smartest detective series on television. Something terrible happened to her back in Hollywood. Okay, two terrible things, one featuring a misplaced tire iron—and now she’s broke, homeless, and living with her widowed mother and eight-year-old daughter, Izzy, in her Connecticut hometown.

Paige needs to buckle down and find a new writing gig but first, she meets the movers and shakers of Izzy’s school’s Parent Booster Association, run by the intimidatingly gorgeous Ainsley Anderson, who just happens to be married to Paige’s old high school flame, John.

Then she shows up at the annual Parents and Pinot fundraiser, held at Ainsley and John’s dazzling mansion in the toniest part of town, where she’s caught in a compromising position with John, accidentally destroys the guest bathroom, overhears an incriminating conversation, and discovers that her purse has gone missing. And later that night, Ainsley turns up dead at the bottom of her own driveway.

Did she fall? Or was she pushed?

Paige may have only written about detectives, but she is convinced she can handle a little undercover sleuthing. After all, it’ll give her an excuse to spend more time with John. Still, she can’t help but wonder: could he be capable of murder? Or could one of the PBA members have planned a dastardly crime to reach the top? But the most important question of all: will Paige ever get her life back on track?

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The Dogs of Littlefield
by Suzanne Berne

Sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins shows up to Littlefield, Massachusetts, hoping to study what makes this town one of the top Twenty Best Places to Live in America. Unfortunately, around the same time, someone begins to poison the town’s dogs—too many incidents to be an accident. Are these poisonings a protest for the proposed off-leash dog park—a debate that has the town divided—or could this indicate something far more menacing? Dr. Watkins swiftly adapts her study and becomes a (mostly) silent observer as one of the happiest towns in America continues down this dark path. With suspense and humor, THE DOGS OF LITTLEFIELD explores what happens when a supposedly happy town turns into a living nightmare.

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The Dogs of Littlefield
Suzanne Berne

From the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood, Suzanne Berne’s The Dogs of Littlefield is “sublime” (The Chicago Tribune), a suspenseful and hilarious suburban comedy of manners par excellence” (Kirkus Reviews) that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America.

Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Twenty Best Places to Live in America, is full of psychologists and college professors, proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets, and quaint village center.

Yet when sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived in Littlefield to study the elements of “good quality of life” someone begins poisoning the town’s dogs. Are the poisonings in protest to an off-leash proposal for Baldwin Park—the subject of much town debate—or the sign of a far deeper disorder?

“Nothing sucks a reader in like psychological menace, and Suzanne Berne is a master of the craft…. Her scenes are elegantly composed, and even throwaway characters jump off the page” (The New York Times). A wry exploration of the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia, The Dogs of Littlefield explodes with “comic exuberance and restrained beauty” (The Boston Globe).

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Good Neighbors
by Sarah Langan

Set in the not-so-distant future, GOOD NEIGHBORS takes place on Maple Street in a perfect suburban neighborhood where everyone is friendly. That is, until the Wilde family moves in. With the has-been rock star dad, vapid beauty queen mom, and foul-mouthed children, there’s much to dislike. Yet, Rhea Schroeder—Maple Street’s queen bee—initially welcomes them. But things turn ugly after Rhea drunkenly shares too much about her dark past. As hostility grows, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and a child falls inside. Suddenly, fingers are pointing at the Wildes. The sinkhole reveals the dark murk that hides beneath the neighborhood as accusations and lies eventually lead to murder.

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Good Neighbors
Sarah Langan

Celeste Ng and Liane Moriarty’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this “wickedly funny, unnerving puzzle box of a novel” (Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will) about the downward spiral of a Long Island community after a tragedy exposes its residents’ depths of deception.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

But menace skulks among this exclusive enclave. When the Wilde family arrive, they trigger their neighbors’ worst fears. Dad Arlo’s a gruff has-been rock star with track marks. Mom Gertie’s got a thick Brooklyn accent, with high heels and tube tops to match. Their weird kids cuss like sailors. They don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself.

Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely professor repressing a dark past—initially welcomed Gertie, but relations plummeted during one summer evening, when the new best friends shared too much, too soon. By the time the story opens, the Wildes are outcasts.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

Riveting and ruthless, Good Neighbors is “a chilling, compulsively readable novel that looks toward the future in order to help us understand how we live now” (Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here).

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Such a Quiet Place
by Megan Miranda

The private and idyllic neighborhood of Hollow’s Edge use to be a quiet place. Until the murder of Fiona and Brandon Truett. At the time, all the neighbors accused one of their own: Ruby Fletcher. Now, conviction overturned, Ruby is back in the house she once shared with Harper Nash. As Harper begins to unravel Ruby’s motives for returning, she also begins to question what truly happened the night of the murders. Tensions rise as it becomes clear that some of the neighbors have been keeping secrets about that night. When Harper begins to receive threatening notes, she realizes she needs to uncover the truth before someone else is killed. Impossible to put down, SUCH A QUIET PLACE is full of suspense and surprise twists up until the very last page.

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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 riveting, “suspenseful” (BookPage, starred review) novel about a mysterious murder in an idyllic and close-knit neighborhood.

Welcome to Hollow’s Edge, where you can find secrets, scandal, and a suspected killer—all on one street.

Hollow’s Edge use 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 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 Truetts’ 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 Megan Miranda’s trademark shocking twists, Such a Quiet Place is Megan Miranda’s best novel yet—a “powerful, paranoid thriller” (Booklist, starred review) that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

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Goodnight Nobody
by Jennifer Weiner

GOODNIGHT NOBODY is set in the cookie-cutter suburbs of Connecticut, where everyone seems to live the perfect, idyllic life—except for Kate Klein. Kate—a semi-accidental mother of three—finds suburbia boring and lonely. She doesn’t fit in with the supermoms, her husband is never home, and her best friend is back in Manhattan where Kate used to live. So, when one of the supermoms is murdered, Kate finds the mystery to be the most exciting thing to happen since moving to Upchurch, Connecticut. She decides to launch an unofficial investigation of her own. As she investigates more into this woman’s past, she discovers secrets and lies behind Upchurch’s picket fences.

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Goodnight Nobody
Jennifer Weiner

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner’s unforgettable story of adjusting to suburbia—and all the surprises hidden behind its doors.

For Kate Klein, a semi-accidental mother of three, suburbia has been full of unpleasant surprises. Her once-loving husband is hardly ever home. The supermommies on the playground routinely snub her. Her days are spent carpooling and enduring endless games of Candy Land, and at night, most of her orgasms are of the do-it-yourself variety.

When a fellow mother is murdered, Kate finds that the unsolved mystery is the most exciting thing to happen in Upchurch, Connecticut, since her neighbors broke ground for a guesthouse and cracked their septic tank. Even though the local police chief warns her that crime-fighting's a job best left to the professionals, Kate launches an unofficial investigation -- from 8:45 to 11:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, when her kids are in nursery school.

As Kate is drawn deeper into the murdered woman's past, she begins to uncover the secrets and lies behind Upchurch's picket-fence facade -- and considers the choices and compromises all modern women make as they navigate between marriage and independence, small towns and big cities, being a mother and having a life of one's own.

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The Perfect Neighbors
by Sarah Pekkanen

All the neighbors in THE PERFECT NEIGHBORS have secrets. They smile and wave from across the street, but how well do they know each other? Kellie Scott is having trouble adjusting to work life after a decade of being a stay-at-home mom—she simply doesn’t have enough energy to put dinner on the table and ignore her very handsome and flirtatious coworker. Susan Barrett is trying to stop stalking her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend—and she’s failing. Gigi Kennedy’s husband is running for Congress, which means her life will be on full display—including her old skeletons. Tessa Campbell is the new mother on the block. She’s friendly but quiet, and the neighbors begin to wonder what goes on behind her perpetually shut front door. Soon, it’s revealed that Tessa may be holding the biggest secret of them all.

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The Perfect Neighbors
Sarah Pekkanen

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Miracle Creek
by Angie Kim

In the suburbs of Virginia, a small group of people visit a special treatment center with a hyperbaric chamber several times a week, hoping to cure a range of conditions from cerebral palsy to autism. Support and even friendship emerges from these sessions together. However, when the hyperbaric chamber explodes one evening, killing two people, it becomes clear that they didn’t know each other as well as they thought. MIRACLE CREEK is framed around the criminal trial against one of the mothers in this small group who has been accused of intentionally killing her son and close friend. Through flashbacks and multiple points of views, the secrets of each character are revealed, and the truth of this horrific event begins to slowly unfold.

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Miracle Creek
Angie Kim

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Housebreaking
by Dan Pope

In HOUSEBREAKING, Benjamin is trying to put his life back together. After his wife kicks him out, Benjamin returns to his childhood home to live with his father. He soon finds out that Audrey Martin—his high school crush—has moved into the house down the street with her husband, Andrew, and daughter, Emily. Audrey, trying to find an escape from a recent tragedy, finds comfort in Benjamin. Meanwhile, Andrew finds himself entangled in an exciting but troubling situation at work. Emily goes unnoticed by the grown-ups around her who are caught up in each of their own worlds. Trying to escape her own demons, Emily teeters dangerously close to the edge, and she needs someone to notice her before it’s too late.

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Housebreaking
Dan Pope

In this “heartfelt chamber piece of flawed personalities, calamitous decisions, and unexpected moments of grace” (The New York Times Book Review), two suburban families are hopelessly entangled during an explosive Thanksgiving weekend that changes their lives forever.

When Benjamin’s wife kicks him out of their house, he returns to his childhood home in Connecticut to live with his widowed father. Lost, lonely, and doubting everything he felt he knew about marriage and love—even as his eighty-year-old father begins to date again—Benjamin is trying to put his life back together when he recognizes someone down the street: his high school crush, the untouchable Audrey Martin. Audrey has just moved to the neighborhood with her high-powered lawyer husband and their rebellious teenager, Emily. As it turns out, Audrey isn’t so untouchable anymore, and she and Benjamin begin to discover, in each other’s company, answers to many of their own deepest longings. Meanwhile, as the neighborhood is wracked by a mysterious series of robberies, Audrey seems to be hiding a tragic secret, and her husband, Andrew, becomes involved in a dangerous professional game he can never win. And, by the way, who is paying attention to Emily?

Powerful, provocative, and psychologically gripping, Housebreaking explores the ways that two families—and four lives—can all too easily veer off track, losing sight of everyone, and everything, they once held dear. Like the best from Tom Perrotta and Rick Moody, “this compassionate, utterly engrossing novel of suburban dysfunction…makes some trenchant points about how easily people can lose sight of what’s most important” (Booklist).

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What We've Lost Is Nothing
by Rachel Louise Snyder

WHAT WE’VE LOST IS NOTHING chronicles the twenty-four hours after a mass burglary hits the Chicago suburb of Oak Park—a neighborhood built on diversity assurance, in an attempt to create an ideal diverse world. But the burglary has the neighbors questioning one another, and it doesn’t take long for prejudices surface, threatening to destroy this ideal world. Shifting perspectives allow glimpses inside the lives and minds of each neighbor as their lives seemingly fall apart. Tensions rise as accusations are thrown at the neighbors who seem to fit in the least within the community, ultimately building toward an explosive conclusion.

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What We've Lost Is Nothing
Rachel Louise Snyder

In her “keenly observed” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) debut, Rachel Louise Snyder author of the award-winning No Visible Bruises, chronicles the twenty-four hours following a mass burglary in a Chicago suburb and the suspicions, secrets, and prejudices that surface in its wake.

Nestled on the edge of Chicago’s gritty west side, Oak Park is a suburb in flux. To the west, theaters and shops frame posh houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To the east lies a neighborhood still recovering from urban decline. In the center of the community sits Ilios Lane, a pristine cul-de-sac dotted with quiet homes that bridge the surrounding extremes of wealth and poverty.

On the first warm day in April, Mary Elizabeth McPherson, a lifelong resident of Ilios Lane, skips school with her friend Sofia. As the two experiment with a heavy dose of ecstasy in Mary Elizabeth’s dining room, a series of home invasions rocks their neighborhood. At first the community is determined to band together, but rising suspicions soon threaten to destroy the world they were attempting to create. Filtered through a vibrant pinwheel of characters, Snyder’s tour de force evokes the heightened tension of a community on edge as it builds towards an explosive conclusion.

Incisive and panoramic, What We’ve Lost Is Nothing illuminates the evolving relationship between American cities and their suburbs, the hidden prejudices that can threaten a way of life, and the redemptive power of tolerance in a community torn asunder. “Ideas abound in this thoughtful story, a demonstration of the author’s years of experience as a community organizer. What We’ve Lost Is Nothing has the stamp of authenticity” (The Washington Post).

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Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng

In LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, the neighborhood of Shaker Heights prides itself on perfection. The houses are painted from preapproved colors, and not a single blade of grass grows above the preapproved height limit. And that’s exactly how Elena Richardson likes her rule-abiding community. But everything changes when Mia Warren—a single mother and artist—and her teenage daughter, Pearl, show up to rent a house from the Richardsons. All four Richardson children are drawn to Mia and Pearl, and Elena is initially content to be a gracious landlord. But when the neighborhood becomes divided on a serious issue, Mia and Elena are on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia, Elena digs into Mia’s secret past, unknowingly setting off a series of events that could cost Elena her home, her family, and her perfect life.

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Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng

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