Crime Reading Pays in Thrills and Chills – Chicago Review of Books


Personally, I’ve already made a plan to forget 2021 ever happened—except when it comes to mystery and thriller reading. In that realm, it’s been a banner year.

Of course, I haven’t read everything published, so some crime fiction which has already seen huge success in sales or will soon dominate the awards programs next year may not show up here. Instead, consider this list a jumping-off point for adding some naughty and nice to your 2022 reading list.

The Turnout
by Megan Abbott
G.P. Putnam’s Sons

This book was a Good Morning America book club pick, and you guys? Jenna Bush is not OK. Abbott spins a tale of two sisters who have inherited their mother’s ballet studio—and all her dreams, desires, and destruction. This is tense stuff, but seasonal, actually, because the ticking time clock of the story is the annual Nutcracker performance.

What’s Done in Darkness
by Laura McHugh
Random House

A girl who survived a childhood kidnapping gets dragged back into the old story she’d rather forget when another girl goes missing from her backwoods Ozarks town. McHugh is a writer that gives you such readable stories even while the plot turns gut-wrenching, as this one does.

Dreamgirl
by Laura Lippman
William Morrow & Company

A novelist felled by a freak accident finds himself at the mercy of two women he barely knows: a bright young assistant and a night nurse with questionable bedside manners. And then the phone rings and it’s another woman he knows all too well: a character he created.

All Her Little Secrets
by Wanda M. Morris
William Morrow & Company

In this debut law thriller, the past comes for the protagonist. She’s the only Black person to have broken through the C-suite ceiling at her firm, but when she comes in early to meet her boss—and secret lover—and finds him dead, her lies and omissions start to collapse.

The Missing Hours
by Julia Dahl
Minotaur Books

If you think you couldn’t possibly stomach a #MeToo novel in which a drunken night ends with a sexual assault that’s been filmed and shared with the world—yes, me, too. But Dahl’s writing is readable and engaging while she writes her characters into impossible choices and back out.

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It
by Elle Cosimano
Minotaur Books

Now for something different: levity. Yes, Finlay Donovan is a thriller writer mistaken for a hit woman and hired to do the job and, yes, murder plays out. But you’ll have so much fun reading this book, you’ll look forward to Finlay’s next assignment. You might also be more careful what you say in Panera.

See Also


The Haunting of Alma Fielding
by Kate Summerscale
Penguin Press

This is nonfiction in the vein of true crime but is there a crime, or is there a ghost? Alma Fielding is a 1950s English housewife and mother whose life is upended by a poltergeist. Her “case” is subjected to scientific scrutiny, with results that are both unexpected and profound.

Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters, and Shapeshifters of the Feminine Persuasion
by Tori Telfer
Harper Perennial

Telfer collects from history a rogue’s gallery of scammers and shysters, all women, because gender doesn’t stand in the way of greed; these women will do anything (and did) to claim what’s theirs as well as what’s, well, everyone else’s. Like Telfer’s first book—about women serial killers—the tone is irreverent.

Closer to home, Chicago had a good year in crime fiction with new books from some of our favorites and a few new writers to watch. Historical mystery author Susanna Calkins brought out the fifth in her 17th century London series, The Sign of the Gallows, with Lucy Campion working through puzzles and cyphers. California author Naomi Hirahara researched the Chicago’s World War II history and the relocated Japanese community that once thrived here for Clark and Division. South Sider Tracy Clark’s Cass Raines series saw a highly satisfying fourth book, Runner, set during a freezing cold Chicago winter. Debut author Mia P. Manansala published Arsenic and Adobo, the first in a culinary “cozy” series set among the tastes and smells of a Filipino-American restaurant.

Lori Rader-Day

Lori Rader-Day is the Edgar® Award-nominated author of Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. She lives in Chicago, where she co-chairs the mystery readers’ conference Murder and Mayhem in Chicago. Her next novel, The Lucky One, is out from Harper Collins in February.



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