Last year was a great reading year for me — with almost twenty books under my belt, I feel like I read a lot of the titles on my TBR while at the same time picking up some new releases that were new and exciting to make my way through. In this post I’m going to share five of my top reads from 2021 — literally all of them are mystery thrillers but what else can you expect from me, really.
One By One — Ruth Ware
Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers… and you can’t trust any of them?
When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?
Trust me when I say that you will not be able to put this book down. It has everything I love in a cosy thriller and more. The ending is a masterpiece!
The Last Time I Lied — Riley Sager
Fifteen years ago, summer camper Emma Davis watched sleepily as her three cabin mates snuck out of their cabin in the dead of night. The last she — and anyone — saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
Now a rising star in the NYC art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings. They catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of the very same Camp Nightingale — and when Francesca implores Emma to return to the camp as a painting counselor, Emma sees an opportunity to find closure and move on.
Yet, it is immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by surfacing memories, Emma is suddenly plagued by a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca, and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian apparently left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. And as history begins to repeat itself and three girls go missing again, Emma must face threats from both man and nature in order to uncover all the buried secrets — including what really happened all those years ago.
This is one of those novels that switches between the past and the present, all the while building mass amounts of tension within the reader. When I say the ending quite literally made me gasp out loud, I’m not lying. You’ll love this one.
Verity — Colleen Hoover
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
Verity is the kind of story that stays with you forever. Be warned that once you’ve read it, you’ll be in one of two camps: manuscript or letter. I’m very firmly in camp manuscript, but that’s just me. Still have no idea what I’m talking about? Well…
The Lying Game — Ruth Ware
On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…
The next morning, three women in and around London — Fatima, Thea, and Isabel — receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”
The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other — ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose [who also happens to be Kate’s father].
Ruth Ware is one of those writers that can build a world so clearly within her writing and this book is no exception. Pack this one in your bag the next time you’re headed to the beach. It’ll keep you hooked until the very last page.
Home Before Dark — Riley Sager
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivalling The Amityville Horror in popularity — and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself — a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.
If I could choose one book to read over and over for the rest of my life, it would be this one. It gives off major The Haunting of Hill House vibes and is just so beyond eerie. A must read.
Interested in more reading recommendations from me? You can find my top reads of all time on my Book Club page.19