Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews three recent titles in mystery/thriller that are sure to add a little extra sizzle to these hot summer nights.
First up is Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive (Simon & Schuster, $25.00), a dazzlingly devious debut that hit the New York Times bestsellers list and earned a shout-out from Reese Witherspoon. Knoll, who worked at Cosmopolitan and SELF and counts John Searles and Kate White as professional mentors, serves up an unforgettable anti-heroine in Ani FaNelli, who seemingly has it all. But at what cost?
Despite an enviable job in the city, a glamorous wardrobe, and the affections her wealthy fiancé, Ani is on the brink of self-destruction. She’s got a secret, and it’s one that could completely undo her masterful reinvention. As she confronts a past that still haunts her, readers will find themselves marveling at the unexpected depths of her character. Written with confidence and charisma, Luckiest Girl Alive is reminiscent of some of the genre’s most recent breakthrough titles—including Caroline Kepnes’ You and Lili Anolik’s Dark Rooms. (Connecticut readers: Knoll will visit Madison’s R.J. Julia Booksellers on August 13th.)
Also available is Day Four (Little, Brown and Company, $26.00) by Cape Town-based novelist and screenwriter Sarah Lotz. Heralded as “hard to put down and vastly entertaining” by Stephen King, the book is a follow-up to The Three but stands alone. A “locked room” mystery of sorts with a subtle supernatural subtext, it’s also a highly resonant reflection of the paranoid times in which we live.
On the fourth day of a Caribbean pleasure cruise aboard The Beautiful Dreamer, disaster strikes. The ship is irreversibly compromised, and group hysteria soon sets in. With provisions running low and panic running high, a body count begins to amass—and steadily grows. Further complicating matters are a devastating plague and rumors of ghostly apparitions wreaking havoc below deck. Lotz skillfully alternates viewpoints between characters, creating an increasingly claustrophobic and dizzying effect. When the supposedly empty vessel finally reappears off the coast of Key West, it’s anybody’s guess as to what actually happened. Day Four is an outstanding beach read—provided, of course, that you stay out of the water!
Finally, Mary Higgins Clark continues to celebrate her fortieth year in publishing with her second new release of 2015, The Melody Lingers On (Simon & Schuster, $26.99). Single mother Lane Harmon, assistant to a well-known upscale interior designer, is drawn into a web of intrigue when she is charged with redecorating a home that belongs to the wife of disgraced financier Parker Bennett. Bennett disappeared from his boat, along with $5 billion from the fund he’d been managing, and has not been seen since. But was this an act of foul play or finely planned treachery?
While longtime readers have come to expect (mostly) straightforward murder mysteries from Clark—and, rest assured, bodies do drop here—this particular story concerns itself with questions beyond whodunit: whether or not Bennet is still alive and, perhaps more importantly, whether or not Lane should trust her heart to his son, Eric. Clark does a particularly fine job in muddying the waters with the latter (while also painting vivid character portraits throughout). But of one thing there is certainty: America’s “Queen of Suspense” still reigns supreme. (Also available this year: Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories and All Dressed in White, a collaboration with Alafair Burke forthcoming on 11/17.)