As someone that lives in one of the sunniest corners of Australia, I find myself increasingly drawn to thriller novels that are set in dark, snowy, ice-covered landscapes. It’s beyond backwards, but I find them really cosy to read, especially during the colder months. Throw in an icy avalanche that cuts a group of people off from society, plus a killer hell-bent on revenge and I’m so down.
Here are five cosy thrillers I recommend picking up this winter — from a girl that likes her thrillers extra dark and extra scary.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
In this book we’re introduced to a group of characters who were close friends at Oxford University a decade ago and have since all-but fallen out. Their annual New Years get-together seems to be the only thing keeping them in touch, and the building resentment from years of forced connection shows. None of them really like each other, and as a reader, you can understand why. Each of these characters is flawed, deceptive and horrible in their own way, so when you learn that one of them has been killed you don’t feel all that sad about it. But the mystery is which one, and why. The secrets these people hold over one another are almost as unforgiving as the desolate landscape in which they are now stuck, due to an unrelenting snow storm that rewrites history forever.
The Scottish Highlands at New Years. A blizzard that cuts our characters off from society — and from safety. Sounds like the perfect wintry weekend read to me.
One By One by Ruth Ware
Set in a luxurious, rustic chalet amidst the breathtaking French Alps, a group of employees from the uber-trendy music app Snoop are spending a week on a work retreat. You’ve got nine Snoop team members that are all as interesting as they are different, and you’ve got the two employees of the ski chalet that have to cater to their guests every request — even when things go wrong. Which, of course, they absolutely do.
There’s an avalanche — one that almost swallows the chalet and its guests whole. But that’s not the only concern. A Snoop employee — one of the co-founders to be exact — goes missing while skiing down an off-piste slope just before the avalanche hits. It must have been a terrible accident, surely? A horrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? It couldn’t have anything to do with the generous buy-out offer she received and is the process of pursuing for Snoop — that her fellow co-founder is against, I might add — could it? This buy-out would be huge for Snoop, but it’s also a major point of contention between the shareholders of this multi-million dollar business.
And then, the second Snoop employee is found dead… Is somebody killing them off, one by one?
Give me a secluded snowed in chalet and a bunch of shady characters with no way to get out of the situation they’re in — throw in a psychopathic murderer — and you’ve got my ideal thriller.
The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware
Our protagonist is Hal Westaway, and she is on the verge of losing everything. She’s beyond broke after her mother was tragically killed by a hit and run, and — in a time of vulnerability as a newly orphaned young adult — has utilised the services of a loan shark. Now, the loan shark wants his interest paid and he’s proven he doesn’t care how violent he has to be to get what he wants.
Hal earns a somewhat dishonest living through reading tarot cards from her mothers booth at the Brighton pier, and is dangerously out of options when a letter arrives at her flat informing her of a large inheritance that is due to be hers from a recently deceased woman named Mrs Westaway, who it is said in the letter is Hal’s maternal grandmother. Identical surname aside, Hal knows she doesn’t have any relation to the woman, but decides to utilise the opportunity and travel to the late Mrs Westaway’s funeral in Cornwall in the hopes that things might go her way. At this point, she truly has nothing to lose.
It’s when Hal arrives at the funeral that she starts to see there’s something wrong with this family. There are too many secrets and half-truths and pieces that just don’t add up. Will Hal make it out of there before they realise who she really is?
Slightly less snowbound but still cosy — this story is set in the quaint English seaside town of Cornwall, inside a decaying mansion full of draughty hallways and icy stone floors. This one gives me rainy-day-in-front-of-the-fireplace vibes and I’m so here for it.
No Exit by Taylor Adams
On her way to visit her dying mother, college student Darby gets caught in a blizzard in the mountains of Colorado that’s destructive enough to render her stranded — luckily there’s a rest-stop nearby where she can safely wait out the storm.
At the rest-stop she meets four other travellers who have also been stopped on their journeys by the snowstorm. It’s when Darby is outside of the rest-stop, trying to make a call to her sister to let her know of the delay, that she looks inside the window of one of the vehicles parked in the lot and sees a young girl, tied up and locked in a crate, crying for Darby to help her.
Darby is faced with a risky decision — does she go in and confront the four strangers and demand answers to find out who is behind this, or does she break into the car and help the girl? How dangerous is the person behind this, and what help can she be, really, when there’s no reception to call the police and the roads are snowed over? What if the person who tied the girl up in that car is willing to kill Darby and everyone else at that rest-stop to protect their secret? Who can she trust?
A locked-room inspired mystery with whodunnit elements and the constant threat of the blizzard outside compared with the constant threat of the kidnapper inside. This book will make you never want to go on a solo road-trip again. You never know who you’ll meet out there.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
It’s November in Oslo and the first snow of the season has fallen. A young boy wakes in the night to find his mother has disappeared, and at the same time, a snowman has appeared in his yard — wearing his mother’s pink scarf.
Detective Harry Hole is tasked with the case, and he realises quickly that this disappearance may be linked to the disappearances of a dozen other women — all of whom also vanished on the day of the first snowfall. It’s not long before Hole discovers he has intentionally been brought into a sick and twisted game, the rules of which are being constantly revised by the killer.
Cosy Nordic Noir vibes in snowy Oslo where the weather is almost as brutal as the killings themselves. Fair warning — this one gets really dark.9