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Murders, mysteries and marvellous must-reads

Twisted. Dark. Suspenseful (oh, so suspenseful). Lisa Jewell’s books are always edge-of-your-seat, and The Night She Disappeared is a tremendous psychological thriller. From the very first page, you’re enveloped in a sense of doom … you just know there’s going to be no happy-ever-after ending. There’s a young couple who disappear after a night partying at a massive country estate, leaving a much adored baby behind with his gran, a group of not-terribly-desirable youngsters who are meant to be their friends but are not unduly concerned or every vaguely helpful, and two awful mothers who leave a lot to be desired. There are drugs and love, secrets and lies, cryptic clues and many, many twists and turns. Honestly, don’t start it at bedtime … you will not be able to put it down. Penguin

 Since it’s told really early on in The Paper Palace, it’s not giving anything away to say that Elle Bishop acts on her lifelong attraction to her childhood crush Jonas, one night when she’s at her family’s gently decaying summer camp in Cape Cod, along with her husband and children. Miranda Cowley Heller’s beautifully written book takes place over 24 hours, and across 50 years. It’s a longstanding love story … with choices only revealed at the very end of the book. Penguin, both of these available at exclusivebooks.co.za

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Shari Lapena is another much-enjoyed author, mistress of the twist in the tale. But there’s more than just the one twist in Not A Happy Family … the twisted tale of a rather twisted, wealthy family. Nothing extra-ordinary happens at the annual Easter family dinner. After all, there’s always drama, so it’s to be expected. What’s not expected is the murder of the parents after the children and their partners leave. And what’s not terribly normal is the reaction, and secrets, each of them have after the bodies are found. Twist after twist after … Penguin

Hollow’s Edge is a picture-perfect neighbourhood, with a close-knit community, one where everyone has each other’s backs. In theory.

But one night, a couple are murdered, and one of locals, Ruby, is convicted of their murder. Fast forward two years, and the person branded a thief and sociopath by her friends and neighbours is freed by mistrial. Ruby’s back. Her return sends shockwaves through the community, residents turn on each other, and it’s soon obvious not everyone was honest about the night the Truetts died. Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda is another red hot thriller. Corvus, from exclusivebooks.co.za

Deborah Moggach’s The Black Dress is a brilliant book club read. Pru’s husband’s walked out on her … and left her with no-one to laugh with, to picnic on the beach with, to talk to. In a daze, she goes to a friend’s funeral. A lovely eulogy … but it doesn’t sound like the friend Pru knew. No wonder … she’s at the wrong service. But everyone was very welcoming, and she had fun. So she buys little black dress and heads off to other funerals. Who knows … she may find herself a lonely widower. Such fun. Tinder Press

 Could. Not. Put. Down. Samantha Downing (of My Lovely Wife and He Started It … so we should have known it would be a killer read) has outdone herself with For Your Own Good. Teddy Crutcher – the very proud recipient of the Teacher of the Year award at the prestigious Belmont Academy – only wants what’s best for his pupils. Even those he doesn’t particularly like. His goal is to improve them … any which way he sees fit. But would this obnoxious teacher move the chip off his shoulder long enough to kill for them? Maybe. Maybe not. Since while there is a death, it appears there are many people at the school with grudges and agendas. Which makes for a brilliantly chilling, suspenseful read … you’re never sure who to trust. If you fancy psychological thrillers with plenty of twists, you will love this. Penguin, available at exclusivebooks.co.za

Blizzards. Strikes. Bodies. Power cuts. Terrorist threats. And Showaddywaddy’s Greatest Hits topping the album charts. 1979 started off badly, and it got worse. But, for journalist Allie Burns, someone else’s bad news was the sound of opportunity knocking. So it may well be the winter of discontent, but she’s one of the few women in the newsroom, and she’s chasing her big scoop. In 1979, the first of Val McDermid’s Allie Burns series, the journalist and a colleague are exposing the criminal underbelly of respectable Scotland, risking, obviously, making powerful enemies. Things hot up when she uncovers a home-grown terrorist threat, and comes up with a plan to infiltrate the group … a move where putting a foot wrong could be fatal. Val’s upped her already sky-high thriller level in this one … it’s not only the icy weather that makes it chilling. Little Brown

It’s Karen Rose. And there’s a cult. Do you need to know anything more before you rush out and buy this one? FBI Agent Tom Hunter is chasing leads to find the cult that damaged some of his closest friends. They managed to escape, but one of the cult’s leaders is hunting them down. He’s out of control; the only person who he may listen to is cult leader Pastor, a person no outsider has ever seen. When serious injury has Pastor having to venture outside the cult compound, it’s Tom’s chance to act, and bring the cult down. You had us a cult … you know Say Goodbye is going to be gripping, thrilling, and keep you up all night. It’s the third in the Sacramento series – read Say You’re Sorry and Say No More first, if you can, but this does also read well as a stand-alone. Headline

There isn’t a book by Nora Roberts that we haven’t loved – be it those under her own name or when she’s writing at JD Robb. Forgotten In Death, the latest in the Eve Dallas (sexy, tough homicide cop) series, kicks off with Eve called to a murder before she’s even got to work. A side-walk sleeper has been found stuffed in a construction site dumpster. Within hours, two more victims are found close by, a young mother and her baby. These bodies, however, have been buried for more than 40 years. Two crimes. Same location. Coincidence? As regular fans know, Eve doesn’t believe in coincidences. Soon she, sidekick Peabody, and gorg husband and richest man in the universe Roarke, are knee deep in shady dealings and Russian mobsters. This is the 54th (good grief) in the In Death series … and they’ve all hit the best-selling charts lists worldwide. They read as stand-alones, so you haven’t yet read one, now’s a great time to start. Piatkus

Nicci French’s called the master of psychological suspense for good reason. And she certainly earns the title in The Unheard, which revolves around a mum whose top priority has always been her daughter, Poppy. But splitting up with Poppy’s father means she can’t always be there to keep her daughter safe, and when she finds a disturbing drawing, dark and menacing, with the three-year-old’s otherwise brightly coloured paintings, she’s convinced that the child has witnessed something terrible. Twist after twist means she doesn’t know who to trust, and the reader has no idea what’s coming next. Simon and Schuster.

Wow. How fabulous is this month’s line up of thrilling authors! Joanne Harris is up there with the best of them … and A Narrow Door is a dark and sinister as you can get. The first headmistress of a once only boys’ school has spilled blood to get to the position, and the remains of a body are discovered in the school grounds aren’t going to get in the way of her rise to the top. She’ll bury the past so deep even she won’t remember it, just like she’s done before. Joanne’s hard hitting from the first page … a clever, twisted, atmospheric read you just  won’t be able to put down. Orion

White trash – a memoir

Terry Angelos was born in Rhodesia – a place that raised her to be strong-willed, fearless, curious. The daughter of two devoted, respectable, middle-class teachers, she was, she says, destined for success in a white-picket-fence, 2.5-children family. Instead, at 19 she drops our of her fine art degree, leaves South Africa and heads to London, and by the time she turned 20, she was a call girl, embroiled in the underworld of Chinese Mafia, depraved clients and blackmail. Now in her early 50s, she’s a visual artist in Durban, with three children and a pug. White Trash is her story … the heroic quest to reinvent herself. Honest, descriptive, beautifully written, heartbreaking, uplifting … it’s a story that took more than 30 years for her to feel ready to write. Now it’s written. Now she can shut the door. Melinda Ferguson Books

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