Despite the title of Karin Slaughter’s latest work, Girl, Forgotten, it’s pretty clear that Emily Vaughn’s idyllic little hometown has never truly forgotten her. Told half in the present, where the case has been reopened by newly minted US Marshal Andrea Oliver, and half in the past, where Emily lives out the days before her own murder, her voice isn’t silenced for long. That can make the horrific things she endured – rape by someone who knew she was drugged, ostracization by former friends, loss of her future, and unexpected pregnancy – difficult to bear. It is clear throughout that Emily was a sweet, good person who intended to make the most of her situation moving forward. Unfortunately, she never gets the chance to do so.
Carol Goodman has been killing it. She’s writing the kind of standalone, psychologically suspenseful novels that are incredibly popular at the moment, but she’s been doing it for twenty years. She’s a tight storyteller and a smart one, and she’s great with character and setting – in fact, she’s the whole package. Her new novel, The Disinvited Guest, posits that we have emerged from a worldwide pandemic, albeit briefly, and been plunged into another one. Her book is set very slightly in an unfortunately believable future.
If you know Chevy Stevens you know Dark Roads will be a great read because, well, all her books are great reads. No one does the kind of contemporary suspense, rooted in the fabric of the way we live now (pre-covid anyway) like Chevy. She’s kind of a female Harlan Coben, but to me she writes with more compassion and greater depth.
The titular dark road is Cold Creek Highway, a lonely, desolate stretch where many women have disappeared over the years and not quite as many bodies have been found. Hailey McBride moves into the town of Cold Creek to live with her aunt after her father dies, only to find that this refuge has a decided drawback in the form of her aunt’s new husband, the menacing cop Vaughn.
Nobody does a great set-up for a thriller like David Bell, which is not to say he’s shabby at the execution either. His latest, Kill All Your Darlings, is no exception, starting with an irresistible premise — English professor Connor Nye is on the wrong side of publish or perish when a great novel lands in his lap. It was written by one of his students who turned it in as her thesis and then promptly disappeared. He polishes it up and publishes it under his own name. Unfortunately, it contains details about an unsolved murder that only the murderer would know. And then the student shows up in disguise at one of his readings.
I loved Goodman’s novel last year, The Sea of Lost Girls, and I love this one even more. It’s very of the moment, as it involves a powerful newspaper magnate who has been sexually harassing his female employees. Like last year’s novel, Goodman’s concern is the shame the women feel for something that is not their fault. She expands these horizons, making the book specific (an element in every successful novel, to my mind, is specificity) by tying the shame element to her two main characters as well.