15. -17.  Three Modern Thrillers

Like many of you, I’m a sucker for a good modern thriller.  In my opinion, it’s the perfect airplane /want-to-devour-something-in-one-sitting read.  Here are three I’ve read recently, in order of how much I liked them.


“I am running.

I am running through moonlit woods, with branches ripping at my clothes and my feet catching in the snow-bowed bracken.”

In A Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware

This one I did buy in the airport - on our way to our recent trip to Florida.  I’d brought The Path to Power by Robert Caro, figuring if I brought one huge book to read it would slow me down and last me the whole week.  And it did - I’m still reading, it, actually, but when I was in the airport confronted by an “Instant New York Times Bestseller” with a cool cover and good title, I bit.

And I’m glad I did.  This isn’t Shakespeare, but it’s a well-written suspenseful thriller.  Even if, in retrospect, the solution seems sort of obvious, I only figured it out about five minutes before the protaganist, and I enjoyed every page.  The blurbs (including one from Reese Witherspoon, who has optioned it for a film - hope it comes out as good as Big Little Lies), tell you to expect to be scared.  I wasn’t scared by it - guess I’m tougher than Tracey Flick - but I did find it compelling, and unputdownable, which is exactly what you want in an airplane book.

Nora is an author who lives a relatively solitary life in London, with few friends - and is in touch with almost no one from her past.  When she is contacted to attend her childhood best friend’s bachelorette party, she has no intention of going.  But another friend is going, and on a whim she decides to attend as well.  They arrive in an isolated cabin in the woods (NOTE - I did not know England even HAD spooky woods.  Reese, I recommend you transpose this to Maine or Vermont.  Or the Pacific Northwest), and things quickly take a turn for the sinister…

To say more would be to ruin it.  Suffice to say, if that premise sounds like something you’d like - if you liked Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and books of that ilk, this is a pretty fun read.


“In hindsight, I should have known right away that something wasn’t quite right.”

Don’t You Cry, Mary Kubica

Another New York Times bestselling author!! In downtown Chicago, Esther Vaughan disappers from her apartment without a trace, leaving her friend and roomate Quinn Collins desperate to find her and make sure she is ok.  In a small lake town, a mysterious woman appears, and local boy Alex Gallo’s innocent crush draws him into a sinister situation.  Mayhem ensues.

I’m mocking a little - the plot is sort of basic, and when you find out what’s really going on, it’s sort of silly, but damned if this one didn’t draw me.  The characters are what got me - both Quinn and Alex seemed like real, flawed people who were drawn into a bizarre mess, and acted like real flawed people would when confronted with these strange events.  Read this for the characters, rather than the thriller part, and you’ll enjoy it.  And, if you accept the sort of bonkers central mystery, I found the outcome of what happened to be realistic and a bit of a gut punch.  


“When I saw the girl in the grocery store, my heart stopped.”

Somebody I Used to Know, David Bell

Well, they can’t all be winners.  This one has a great premise, but the solution is ridiculous.  The writing is ATROCIOUS.  And the narrator is a moron.  And yet, I read the whole thing to find out how it wrapped up.  That’s the curse of the trashy thriller.

Anyway, Nick Hansen is in a grocery store when he sees a woman who is the spitting image of his long dead love, Marissa Minor (BTW, no one has ever been named Marissa Minor.  Nor Jade Minor, Marissa’s younger sister).  He goes up to talk to the woman and she flees in fear.  The next day she is found murdered - with a slip of paper with his name on it in her pocket…

Excellent, no?  But oh, my lord, you are going to have to suspend some disbelief here.  And believe in grudge holders who are both criminally insane and extremely competent.  And the writing is just so clunky and terrible.  I should have realized that a book blurbed by Nelson DeMille and Jeffery Deaver was not going to be for me, but this is pretty dumb.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017