With the summer coming to an end, you might be looking for that perfect genre mix, a book that lets you linger in the escapist pleasures of vacation reading while also engaging you in the real world again. This list of titles is perfect for anyone who likes their thrillers with a side of social commentary. Hand-picked for their twisty-turny plots, nonstop pace, and intricate exploration of oppression, these books are sure to keep you turning pages as well as rethinking the constraints of society. So, settle in for one of these stunning thrillers where the villain is the toxic elements of our modern culture and not so easily put behind bars.
LAPD Detective Cari Garcia doesn’t think there’s much suspicious about her latest case involving the son of a US senator who was found dead of a drug overdose. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, toxicologist Julie Rees ropes in her boyfriend, Detective Anson Chen, when she notices an uptick in overdose cases among bodybuilders. And when a famous pop star dies under similar circumstances, Chen and Garcia must team up to figure out what deadly secret is hidden behind the latest social media–famous diet pill and the wellness center distributing them.
From internationally bestselling author Daniel Kalla comes a riveting thriller about online body shaming, toxic diet pills, a vulnerable mega-celebrity, and a rapidly rising body count.
When Owen Galloway, the track star son of a prominent US senator, is found dead of an overdose in his bedroom, LAPD Detective Cari Garcia suspects that he’s just another teenager who hid a drug addiction.
In Vancouver, Dr. Julie Rees, an experienced toxicologist, notices a growing number of overdoses among the eating disordered and body builders, and mentions it to her boyfriend, Detective Anson Chen.
Then Rain Flynn, a famous pop star and social media influencer, dies in her Vancouver hotel room showing the same symptoms of a fatally high fever and uncontrollable seizures as Julie’s other ER patients, including the coowner of a wildly popular wellness center with locations in both Vancouver and LA.
After an autopsy confirms that Rain overdosed on illicit diet pills containing a deadly toxin known as DNP—an explosive agent originally used in the trenches of World War I—the media gets hold of the story and runs wild with it. But who’s behind the online marketing and distribution of DNP? And how is the wellness center connected? The daunting challenge of putting the pieces together falls to Detectives Garcia in LA and Chen in Vancouver. Can they solve these crimes before DNP becomes the next viral TikTok challenge?
Harper Cruz is thrilled when Charlotte Green, a self-help guru with a cultlike online following, hires her for a competitive position at her company. Finally, a prestigious job that pays her enough to live. And at first, the Greenhouse in Nashville seems like an ideal place to work, with its optimistic atmosphere and social community. But as Charlotte begins pushing her harder and revealing hard truths, Harper sees there’s more to the have-it-all atmosphere than meets the eye. UNDER THE INFLUENCE is a #girlboss takedown perfect for fans of The Devil Wears Prada.
The Devil Wears Prada meets The Assistants in this compulsively readable debut following a young woman who takes a job working for an enigmatic influencer and quickly discovers there’s an ugly side to being a #GirlBoss.
After a series of go-nowhere jobs in the New York publishing world, Harper Cruz is broke, lonely, and desperate for a salary that won’t leave her scrambling to make rent each month. So when she stumbles across a job posting from an influencer offering triple her last paycheck, she automatically submits her résumé.
Harper may not be familiar with self-help guru Charlotte Green, but her relentless optimism and charismatic can-do spirit has created a cult-like following of women across the country. When she selects Harper among thousands of other applicants in less than twenty-four hours, it’s obvious she sees something she likes. Despite the pressure to accept the offer just as quickly as she’s been given it, Harper decides to take a leap of faith and become the newest member of The Greenhouse.
Accepting the job means a move to Nashville, and Harper is quickly dazzled by the glamourous world Charlotte has built in Music City. The Greenhouse is more than a workplace—it’s a family—and Harper soon finds herself swept into its inner circle. At first, she loves working in such an inspirational environment, where mandatory dance parties, daily intentions, and group bonding activities make up for long hours and Charlotte’s persistent demands for loyalty. But the deeper Harper is pulled into Charlotte’s world, the more she realizes that having it all and being it all comes with a price.
In this engrossing domestic thriller, Nicole seems to have the perfect life. One of the Nigerwives—a group of foreign women married to Nigerian men—she leads a luxurious existence in Lagos with wealthy friends and a charming husband. But when she disappears, her estranged aunt comes in from London, determined to learn what really happened. And the world of Nicole’s life that she uncovers is filled with more secrets, isolation, and abuse than she could have imagined . . . even with her own past reminding her of the darkness that women struggle to keep hidden.
This twisty and electrifying debut novel about a young woman who goes missing in Lagos, Nigeria, and her estranged auntie who will stop at nothing to find the truth is perfect for fans of My Sister, the Serial Killer and The Last Thing He Told Me.
Nicole Oruwari has the perfect life: a handsome husband, a palatial house in the heart of glittering Lagos, Nigeria, and a glamorous group of friends. She left gloomy London and a dark family past behind for sunny, moneyed Lagos, becoming part of the Nigerwives—a community of foreign women married to wealthy Nigerian men.
But when Nicole disappears without a trace after a boat trip, the cracks in her so-called perfect life start to show. As the investigation turns up nothing but dead ends, her Auntie Claudine decides to take matters into her own hands. Armed with only a cell phone and a plane ticket to Nigeria, she digs into her niece’s life and uncovers a hidden side filled with dark secrets, isolation, and even violence. But the more she discovers about her niece, the more Claudine’s own buried history threatens to come to light.
An inventively told and keenly observant thriller where nothing is as it seems, The Nigerwife is a razor-sharp look at the bonds of family, the echoing consequences of secrets, and whether we can ever truly outrun our past.
THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS is a bestselling, surrealist debut that is fast becoming a modern classic. Frida’s life may be in shambles, but at least she has her perfect daughter, Harriet. But after one bad day when Frida isn’t at her best in terms of mothering, she’s whisked away by a Big Brother–esque program to surveille mothers’ every move. Now, to get her daughter back, Frida must prove that she can reform her ways and become the “good” mother her government deems appropriate.
Longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
Longlisted for the 2023 Carnegie Medal for Excellence
Shortlisted for The Center for Fiction 2022 First Novel Prize
Selected as One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2022!
In this New York Times bestseller and Today show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance, in this “surreal” (People), “remarkable” (Vogue), and “infuriatingly timely” (The New York Times Book Review) debut novel.
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eye on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgement, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
An “intense” (Oprah Daily), “captivating” (Today) page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.
Another modern classic, THE POWER is an unsettling epic about a world undone when women suddenly acquire a superpower. As a new force manifests under women’s skin around the world, allowing them to channel their feelings into an electrical charge, political and interpersonal power dynamics are upended. A series of politicians, journalists, cultish leaders, and young girls alike struggle to find their place within a new regime of upheaval and violence. Now’s your chance to catch up on THE POWER before Naomi Alderman’s next speculative thriller, THE FUTURE, comes out in November 2023!
As a woman politician, Emma knows it doesn’t take much to destroy her reputation. She’s sacrificed a lot over the years, including her relationship with her daughter, Flora, to make sure her career remains intact. Now fourteen, Flora is thrust back into her mother’s path when Emma lobbies for a new law protecting young girls from online abuse. But just when the two have struck a tentative alliance, the dead body of a man threatening Emma is found at their house. Now, Emma has to fight to defend her and her daughter’s reputation alike.
“Astonishingly timely and clever, utterly gripping.” —Lucy Foley, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Sarah Vaughan has done it again. Superb.” —Shari Lapena, New York Times bestselling author
The bestselling author of Anatomy of a Scandal—now a hit Netflix series—returns with a psychological thriller about a politician whose less-than-perfect personal life is thrust into the spotlight when a body is discovered in her home.
As a politician, Emma has sacrificed a great deal for her career—including her marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Flora.
The glare of the spotlight is unnerving for Emma, particularly when it leads to countless insults, threats, and trolling as she tries to work in the public eye. As a woman, she knows her reputation is worth its weight in gold but as a politician, she discovers it only takes one slip-up to destroy it completely.
Fourteen-year-old Flora is learning the same hard lessons at school as she encounters heartless bullying. When another teenager takes her own life, Emma lobbies for a new law to protect women and girls from the effects of online abuse. Now, Emma and Flora find their personal lives uncomfortably intersected…but then the unthinkable happens.
A man is found dead in Emma’s home. A man she had every reason to be afraid of and to want gone. Fighting to protect her reputation and determined to protect her family at all costs, Emma is pushed to the limits as the worst happens and her life is torn apart.
Another breathless and twisty novel from an absolute “master of suspense” (CrimeReads), Reputation brilliantly illustrates that it isn’t who you are that matters…it’s who people think you are.
As a Black student at a prestigious, upper-class White institution like the Edgewater Academy, Adina has had to work twice as hard as everyone else. But when she loses her temper for one second, her chance at getting into an Ivy League is snatched away. To get it back, Adina agrees to participate in the Finish, a contest established by the school’s founders in which twelve girls compete for the support and resources of the Remington family. But as the Finish begins, Adina realizes the stakes might be even higher than she thought possible in this newly dangerous game.
A Black teen desperate to regain her Ivy League acceptance enters an elite competition only to discover the stakes aren’t just high, they’re deadly, in this searing thriller that’s Ace of Spades meets Squid Game with a sprinkling of The Bachelor.
You must work twice as hard to get half as much.
Adina Walker has known this the entire time she’s been on scholarship at the prestigious Edgewater Academy—a school for the rich (and mostly white) upper class of New England. It’s why she works so hard to be perfect and above reproach, no matter what she must force beneath the surface. Even one slip can cost you everything.
And it does. One fight, one moment of lost control, leaves Adina blacklisted from her top choice Ivy League college and any other. Her only chance to regain the future she’s sacrificed everything for is the Finish, a high-stakes contest sponsored by Edgewater’s founding family in which twelve young, ambitious women with exceptional promise are selected to compete in three mysterious events: the Ride, the Raid, and the Royale. The winner will be granted entry into the fold of the Remington family, whose wealth and power can open any door.
But when she arrives at the Finish, Adina quickly gets the feeling that something isn’t quite right with both the Remingtons and her competition, and soon it becomes clear that this larger-than-life prize can only come at an even greater cost. Because the Finish’s stakes aren’t just make or break…they’re life and death.
Adina knows the deck is stacked against her—it always has been—so maybe the only way to survive their vicious games is for her to change the rules.
Iris Prince thinks her life is finally settling: her divorce is finalizing, she’s moved into a new house, and she now has time to spend with her nine-year-old daughter. But, unbeknownst to her, a Silicon Valley start-up has just launched “the Band”—a piece of wearable tech that tracks users and documents their citizenship. Soon, Iris is marked as having an “unverifiable origin,” trapped in an atmosphere of fear and hate that threatens to rip her life apart. Part family epic, part dystopian literary thriller, MY NAME IS IRIS is a one-of-a-kind, intimate commentary.
Brando Skyhorse, the PEN/Hemingway Award–winning author of The Madonnas of Echo Park, returns with a riveting literary dystopian novel set in a near-future America where mandatory identification wristbands make second-generation immigrants into second-class citizens—a powerful family saga for readers of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind.
Iris Prince is starting over. After years of drifting apart, she and her husband are going through a surprisingly drama-free divorce. She's moved to a new house in a new neighborhood, and has plans for gardening, coffee clubs, and spending more time with her nine-year-old daughter Melanie. It feels like her life is finally exactly what she wants it to be.
Then, one beautiful morning, she looks outside her kitchen window—and sees that a wall has appeared in her front yard overnight. Where did it come from? What does it mean? And why does it seem to keep growing?
Meanwhile, a Silicon Valley startup has launched a high-tech wrist wearable called "the Band." Pitched as a convenient, eco-friendly tool to help track local utilities and replace driver's licenses and IDs, the Band is available only to those who can prove parental citizenship. Suddenly, Iris, a proud second-generation Mexican-American, is now of "unverifiable origin," unable to prove who she is, or where she, and her undocumented loved ones, belong. Amid a climate of fear and hate-fueled violence, Iris must confront how far she'll go to protect what matters to her most.
My Name Is Iris is an all-too-possible story about family, intolerance, and hope, offering a brilliant and timely look at one woman’s journey to discover who she can’t—and can—be.
Photo credit: iStock / DmitriiSimakov