Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Read this if: you like stories set in the affluent parts of New York, you’re fascinated by gothic-era inspired buildings and you’re in the mood for some eerie, page-turning supernatural themes.
This was my first Riley Sager read and it exposed me to the incredible world-building ability that Sager has. Having never travelled to New York, I felt immersed in it from the very first page. The gothic-era buildings, the old money, and the profound ability for some to simply just… survive. That’s what our protagonist, Jules, is trying to do. She’s nearing broke after being laid off, and she’s recently single after discovering her boyfriend in a compromising position with one of his classmates. She needs something that will get her out of the awful situation she’s in, and finding an apartment sitting opportunity in the classifieds has done just that.
Here’s the deal: Jules will get paid twelve thousand dollars for a three month apartment sitting stint at The Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most recognisable apartment buildings. One of the rules of owning an apartment in The Bartholomew is that your space cannot be vacant for more than a month at a time — it’s a bad look for such a prestigious building in the middle of New York — so the wealthy owners utilise apartment sitters to make the place look occupied. The twelve thousand dollars is more than enough to get Jules back on her feet, and all she has to do is live in a stunning twelfth floor apartment overlooking Central Park. No smoking, no parties and no partners… easy enough. She even meets another apartment sitter not long after moving in whose financial struggles seem almost identical to her own, and they quickly become friends.
But things, of course, are not always as they seem. There are whispers of girls going missing while apartment sitting in The Bartholomew, and before long, Jules’ new friend has disappeared — quite literally without a trace. The quietly wealthy residents of The Bartholomew dismiss her concerns, and the employees of the building act as though there was never a second apartment sitter to begin with… Will Jules find out the secrets of The Bartholomew before it swallows her whole, too?
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Read this if: you’re a fan of locked room mysteries, you enjoy reading stories set in the unforgiving isolation of the Scottish Highlands amidst a blizzard and you’ve got a low key obsession with groups of old college friends who kind of hate each other.
Should I mention that one of the characters disappears and is later found dead? Don’t worry — that’s not a spoiler. We learn this within the first few pages.
See, you’ve got 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 — yes, this is a thrilling 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.
Stalker by Lars Kepler
Read this if: serial killer thrillers are your preferred genre, you enjoy a diverse range of characters and tropes, and you’re looking for a story that is scarily realistic.
The Swedish National Crime Unit receives a video showing a woman being filmed in her home. She’s doing all of the usual things adults do during evenings while at home alone, except she’s doing it with an audience she knows nothing about. Not long after the authorities receive the tape, they are called to a crime scene where that very woman from the tape has been murdered — brutally.
And then the next tape arrives…
This serial killer thriller is juicy and gritty and everything you want in a Scandinavian crime novel — a great cast of characters, action-packed plotting and a twist that’ll take your breath away.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
Read this if: you’re looking for the kind of book that you read in one sitting, you enjoy a little romance with your terror, and you need a book to discuss with all of your friends after reading it.
I’ve been a Colleen Hoover fan for a long time and I love her ability to write the kind of books that you devour in one sitting. Verity is a new genre venture for this author, as her work previous to this was all classified as contemporary romance. Verity could be classified a contemporary romance, however it’s rose-tinted facade is darkened with shadows of mystery and suspense.
Our protagonist is Lowen. She’s a struggling writer on the verge of bankruptcy, spiralling in the aftermath of losing her mother to prolonged illness. She gets the offer of a lifetime — ghostwrite the remaining books in a popular series the original author is unable to finish due to a paralysing injury. She’s able to write the books under a pseudonym so as to not effect her future as a writer, and the cheques are enough to set her up comfortably for a few years until she gets back on her feet.
Is this all too good to be true? You’ll have to read it to find out. Trust me when I say that this book is mind bending at the best of times and perspective shattering at the worst. You will not be able to put this down until you’ve finished it, and even then — it will never ever leave your mind.
The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard
Read this if: you enjoy a book within a book, you’re after a different perspective and you’re fascinated by the Golden State Killer case — this book was inspired by it!
Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle is enthralled by a newly published non-fiction book that appears on the shelves at his workplace. So enthralled, in fact, that he simply cannot put it down — to the point that his life starts falling apart because of it. Why? Because it’s about him, of course.
Jim Doyle is The Nothing Man, a once-prolific serial killer that stalked and murdered his victims brutally in their own homes. And he’s just discovered that his only surviving victim is hunting him down, one page at a time.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Read this if: you’re a sucker for a creepy old mansion, you enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House and you don’t want to sleep tonight.
Maggie Holt’s father has just died. In his final will and testament, Ewan Holt left the magnificent Baneberry Hall and it’s sprawling grounds to his daughter. The very same Baneberry Hall that Maggie and her parents fled from in the dead of night twenty-five years ago, never to return. The very same Baneberry Hall that inspired the infamous nonfiction novel, House of Horrors…
Maggie has no memory of the things her father claimed true in his best-selling book. In fact, she thinks of her father as a liar, and her mother his accomplice — the book did make them rich after all. But, after all these years, both of her parents have maintained that Maggie should never return to Baneberry Hall. It’s simply too dangerous for her.
Now an interior designer and decorator by trade, Maggie has given herself the task of cleaning out and restoring Baneberry Hall for sale. The money that could be made from selling such an estate is simply too good to pass up, and the things her father wrote about Baneberry Hall are a work of fiction, are they not?
But — things are still amiss in the great rooms of Baneberry Hall. In the first few days of her residency, strange things start to occur in the dead of night — things that are reminiscent of the very horrors her father wrote about all those years ago. You see, Baneberry Hall remembers. And it wants Maggie to remember, too.