10 of the Best Thrillers to Cozy up with this Winter
While I think every season is the perfect season to curl up with a book… There is something about winter that makes it extra enjoyable! The colder it gets, the more comfy layers I can wear! Fluffy socks, soft blanket, warm sweater, and a cup of tea… Perfection. There is something about the cold weather that makes me want to read stories about cold-hearted people too. My personal favourites always involve some sort of cold case mystery (did it again, drumroll please). If there is a double timeline, all the better! I don’t really go for police procedurals, but I can handle it if there is enough personal connection and character development. The thrillers I’m bringing to you today are some of my favourites! These books each have their own distinct type of thrill. Here are some of the best thriller books you’re going to want to snuggle up with this winter.
The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by William Morrow
Last year I read I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan and loved it! When this beaut was on sale, I couldn’t stop myself. It has all the ingredients to make my favourite kind of mystery/thriller: big creepy house, dual time lines, cold case crime, etc. I gobbled this one up. It was on a five star trajectory for most of the book, but near the end when tension was building, it took too long to get to the climax. I found that part was in need of editing for sure. But other than that, I loved this one.
When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.
Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.
Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 27th 2019 by Pocket Books (first published June 12th 2018)
Do you like your thrillers to be dark? Unsympathetic characters? Something that feels truer to life? This is the one for you. Unless you need a happy ending, in which case this book would not be for you. I loved this one. You’ll have to read it to find out more.
‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’
On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life: married to a respected judge, mother of a beloved son, living in the beautiful house where she was raised. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by Gallery/Scout Press
Okay, look. I’m obsessed with Ruth Ware. Obsessed. She’s an auto-buy author for me and has yet to let me down! This homage to The Turn of the Screw is a haunted house, locked door mystery sort of thing. Except fully updated for the Smart everything era. It can be controlled by cell phone. Sometimes it could be an episode of Black Mirror!
When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.
Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.
It was everything.
She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Paperback, 640 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published July 16th 2013)
This is one of my favourite books of all time. If you click the title link you can read my full review. But just let me tell you, you won’t regret it and you won’t be able to put it down.
On a damp October night, 24-year-old Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror film director Stanislaus Cordova–a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.
Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world. The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Paperback, 284 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published June 2nd 2015)
This book was a super weird love letter to the horror genre. It’s both over the top and filled with nuance. It is so good. If you like a sprinkling of the supernatural/paranormal in your thrillers, definitely pick this one up!
The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.
Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Paperback, 369 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published April 15th 2003)
I saw this movie in the theatre back whenever it came out. But I didn’t read the book until last year. By then, I had forgotten the ending, though I remembered it was some kind of bananas twist. I had a lot of fun with this dark and twisty gem. Can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading it!
The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane relentlessly bears down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades—with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. But then neither is Teddy Daniels.
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Soho Teen
This YA novel out of Australia is dark and twisty and I loved it. Having basically an evil little sister? Can you imagine?! I listen to and read so much true crime that the idea of knowing a psychopath crosses my mind fairly often. I try to comfort myself with the thought that most psychopaths aren’t serial killers or any other kind of murderer. Some of them are just assholes. In My Sister Rosa, Che is not quite sure which type of psychopath his little sister is.
What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?
Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a psychopath–clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the manipulation she’s capable of.
Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s -acting out.- Now that they have moved again–from Bangkok to New York City–their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Che’s always been Rosa’s rock, protecting her from the world. Now, the world might need protection from her.
Always Watching by Chevy Stevens
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin (first published January 1st 2013)
I love Chevy Stevens. She’s a Canadian mystery writer in British Columbia. I’ve read all her books and really enjoyed them. This one is by far my favourite though!
She helps people put their demons to rest.
But she has a few of her own…
In the lockdown ward of a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nadine Lavoie is in her element. She has the tools to help people, and she has the desire—healing broken families is what she lives for. But Nadine doesn’t want to look too closely at her own past because there are whole chunks of her life that are black holes. It takes all her willpower to tamp down her recurrent claustrophobia, and her daughter, Lisa, is a runaway who has been on the streets for seven years.
When a distraught woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt, Nadine gently coaxes her story out of her—and learns of some troubling parallels with her own life. Digging deeper, Nadine is forced to confront her traumatic childhood, and the damage that began when she and her brother were brought by their mother to a remote commune on Vancouver Island. What happened to Nadine? Why was their family destroyed? And why does the name Aaron Quinn, the group’s leader, bring complex feelings of terror to Nadine even today?
And then, the unthinkable happens, and Nadine realizes that danger is closer to home than she ever imagined. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most…and fight back.
Sometimes you can leave the past, but you can never escape.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Paperback, 385 pages
Published December 3rd 2013 by Harper Perennial (first published April 2nd 2013)
I read this one when it came out and I can vividly remember the pain of having to put it down and do life things. It was one of those reads you can’t stop thinking about until you pick it up again. I really like when there are dual/multiple timelines. And mother-daughter relationships? I read it seven years ago and still recommend it *shrugs.* I loved it!
Kate’s in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.
An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump.
The City of the Lost (Rockton #1) by Kelley Armstrong
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published January 2nd 2016 by Random House Canada
I’ve only read the first two books in this series so far, but I really liked them. The main character is a badass chick, the setting is weird and atmospheric, and the romance great. Kelley Armstrong’s adult books are my KRYPTONITE. Her YA, not so much. Just not my thing. But definitely check out The City of the Lost (and the Welcome to Cainsville series)!
Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. But that’s not why she’s on the run. Her best friend’s ex has found Diana again, despite all Casey has done to protect her. And Diana has decided the only way she’ll ever be safe is if she finds the mythical town she’s heard of where people like her can go to hide. Turns out the town really exists, and will take Diana, but only if Casey, a talented young police detective, comes too.
Imagine a hidden town, isolated in the Yukon wilderness, where everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not. Even good people can get up to some very bad stuff. The laconic town sheriff dispenses his own frontier justice, but he’s more accustomed to sobering up drunks in the horse trough, than attempting to solve the series of brutal murders that has rocked the town. As much as he hates it, he needs Casey. As for Casey, coming to the far North may have started out as a sacrifice she was willing to make for her best friend. But maybe, just maybe, she needs Rockton as much as the town needs her.