2020 Summer Thrillers Reading List

Summer Reading Pool Side


Beachy reads, women’s fiction, enemies to lovers romance….you won’t find any of those types of titles on this list. I have nothing against these genres which constitute the “typical beach read,” but today, I am focusing on readers who crave an edgier book while sipping their pool-side margarita.

If this is you, then take a look at my 2020 Summer Thrillers Reading List. It’s filled to the brim with mysteries and thrillers that make for perfect summer reads.

While some are older, back list titles and others are new releases, ALL will be sure to keep you guessing, turning pages and thrillingly entertained, all summer long.

Want even more thriller titles that are perfect for summer reading? Check out last year’s 2019 SUMMER THRILLERS READING LIST

New for this year’s list: It’s printable! Just click the download button at the bottom of this post.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I make a small commission (at no cost to you!).

Domestic Suspense Thrillers

Long Bright River book cover

Long Bright River by Liz Moore (Riverhead, January 2020)

This atmospheric literary thriller tells a story of two sisters, living in Philadelphia and caught in the middle of the frightening opioid crisis. One sister chose a dangerous career in law enforcement to provide for her young son. When women start turning up dead on her beat, she fears her sister, who has a history of drug use and is missing, might be the next. Can she piece together the mystery of the deaths and find her sister before it’s too late?

The Better Liar book cover

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones (Ballantine, January 2020)

One woman turns up dead, and her sister is desperate. Their inheritance can only go to both of them together, or neither one gets a dime. In order to avoid financial ruin, Leslie must figure out a way to resurrect her sister, Robin. A tale of deception and complicated family relationships, this is the story of the lengths one woman will resort to in order to get her due.

Family Upstairs book cover

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (Atria, 2019)

A dark tale of family history and personal identity, The Family Upstairs is a twisty and suspenseful look at familial ties and deep secrets. Libby has lived her life as an orphan. However, when she turns 25, she is finally made aware of the family and the past she lost. Then, she finds she is to inherit her real family’s mansion on the bank of the Thames in London, worth millions. Told from three different perspectives, this is the story of a troubled family and a house with a sinister past that will leave you breathless and turning pages right through to the end.

Last Day book cover

Last Day by Luanne Rice (Thomas and Mercer, February 2020)

Sisters Beth and Kate lost their mother and a valuable painting, Moonlight, in a single fateful night. Now, years later, Beth is found brutally strangled and Moonlight again is missing. The detective, Conor Reid, who helped them 20 years ago is assigned to their case. As Kate and Reid work to find Beth’s killer, layers of secrets are uncovered and questions about how the missing painting is connected combine to form a twisty tale of family bonds, betrayal, and infidelity in this domestic mystery from master storyteller, Luanne Rice.

The Look-Alike

The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler (St. Martin’s Press, January 2020)

When Sienna returns to stay in her mother’s house, who was murdered years before, her old fears return: was she the true target of her mother’s murderer on that night? Is that person coming for her now? Or is Sienna suffering from the same paranoid delusions that plagued her mother before her death? Not knowing what to believe, Sienna must determine if there is a killer coming to remedy his past mistake or if the similarities she has with her mother stop only at their looks.

My Sister, the Serial Killer book cover

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday, 2019)

Korede is forever cleaning up after her sister, Ayoola. But these are no ordinary messes; they typically include the dead bodies of Ayoola’s suitors. Then Ayoola, seemingly remorseless from the killing, starts dating someone Korede cares about and things get even more complicated. Korede loves her sister and family always comes first, but saving one person will mean sacrificing another in this dark, quirky and thrillingly unique debut novella.

A Good Marriage book cover

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight (Harper, May 2020)

Working late at her law firm, attorney Lizzie Kitsakis gets a call from an old friend. Zach is in trouble and needs her help. His wife has been found dead and he is the prime suspect. As Lizzie works on Zach’s case, she discovers her friend’s marriage was not what it seemed to be from the outside. And neither, it seems, is hers. Murder, intrigue and the difficulties that come with living up to the pressures of society combine in this thrilling story that the publisher calls a cross between Big Little Lies and Presumed Innocent.

Scary Thrillers

The Institute Book Cover

The Institute by Stephen King (Scribner, 2019)

Teenager Luke Ellis is kidnapped in the middle of the night from his quiet suburban neighborhood. His parents murdered, he wakes up at “The Institute,” a secret place where children with very special gifts are imprisoned and trained. But for what purpose? And what do they have to give in return? As Luke pieces together his horrific fate, he must find the strength to fight back and reach out to the outside world, before it’s too late for himself and his fellow prisoners.

Sun Down Motel book cover

The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James (Berkley, February 2020)

Carly comes to Fell, NY, to work at the Sundown Motel, just as her Aunt Viv did more than 30 years before. Viv disappeared back then and Carly soon becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. Sitting at the same desk where her aunt also worked, she witnesses strange happenings at the old motel and starts to wonder if there’s a connection between the dark entities that haunt the motel and Viv’s disappearance all those years ago. Told in shifting time periods and perspectives between before (Viv) and now (Carly), the mystery unfolds piece by piece revealing the malevolent events of the years prior and the sacrifices required when standing in the way of pure evil.

The Return book cover

The Return by Rachel Harrison (Berkley, March 2020)

Julie returns after being missing for two years and her best friend, Elise, is more than overjoyed to have her back. Except for one thing: Julie remembers nothing from the two years she was gone and she neither looks like or is acting much like her old self. Elise and Julie’s other close friends decide to plan a weekend away in order to rekindle their friendship, but it turns out to be more than just a girls weekend. When eerie events start occurring at the secluded hotel, it becomes more and more clear that there could be something truly wrong with Julie.

The Deep book cover

The Deep by Alma Katsu (Transworld Digital, March 2020)

This is a scary, supernatural twist to a historical fiction that begins with strange and sinister happenings on the Titanic and then, of course, it’s doomed fate. Years later, Annie, who was lucky to escape the Titanic wreck alive, is now working as a nurse on the Titanic’s sister ship, the Brittanic. This ship has been outfitted as a hospital during World War 1, and Annie runs into a soldier who looks familiar, but she knows he could not have survived the Titanic disaster. Or did he?

The Other People book cover

The Other People by C.J. Tudor (Ballantine, January 2020)

Gabe saw his daughter being abducted and swears he saw her face looking out from the car window that night. Obsessed with finding her even though no one believes him, he spends all of his time searching that stretch of road where he is sure he saw her. Then, a car is discovered in the bottom of a lake and Gabe’s search leads him to “The Other People.” If he enlists the other people’s help, will their brand of justice help him to find his daughter or just allow them the twisted revenge they seek?

The Toll book cover

The Toll by Cherie Priest (Tor Books, 2019)

A couple is on the road headed for a second honeymoon getaway canoeing on the Okefenokee Swamp in Florida. But their trip is interrupted late one night when they reach a rickety bridge and try to cross. The next morning, an ambulance arrives and paramedics find one person missing and one laying in the road. The police from the nearby town are called in but they seem to know more than they are saying about the bridge. Ghost stories from eccentric townsfolk in the nearby town point to a chilling supernatural culprit to the disappearance in this gothic horror tale.

Dead Girls Club Book Cover

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters (Crooked Lane, 2019)

Heather Cole and her group of best girl friends are enthralled with the macabre, spending their time talking about serial killers and monsters. And then Becca brings into their circle a story about the Red Lady, a witch who was buried alive centuries ago. Becca believes they can make her appear to them through a ritual with the chant, “Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face.” Fast forward about 15 years and Heather is now a child psychologist and she has put memories of that night behind her. Until she receives a necklace in the mail and the last time she saw it was that night, when they performed the ritual to call the Red Lady to appear and one of the girls paid the ultimate price.

The Shadows book cover

The Shadows by Alex North (Celadon, July 7, 2020)

Charlie Crabtree committed a horrible murder all those years ago. Paul and Charlie were friends when it happened. They were teenagers who spent time together as friends and classmates. Paul fled after the murder, trying to put the horrible crimes behind him. Now, he is drawn home to take care of his senile mother in her last days, and is forced into remembering more about the crime. As a copycat killer strikes in the town, Paul’s mother swears there is something dark and sinister in her house, and Paul starts trying to piece together his memories of what happened years ago. Is a copycat killer on the loose or does a new killer linger in the shadows. (RELEASES JULY 7th)

Investigative Thrillers

The Janes book cover

The Janes by Louisa Luna (Doubleday, January 2020)

Alice Vega returns in this crime thriller about two mysterious “Jane Doe” bodies that turned up outside San Diego. Police, nervous the unidentified bodies are connected to a larger human trafficking ring, call in private investigator Alice Vega. Alice is known for her intelligence and talents tracking missing persons. She and her partner, Cap, must work to find the identity of “the janes” and their killer. The popular, dynamic duo is back in this fast-paced follow up to Luna’s first book in the series, Two Girls Down.

The Holdout book cover

The Holdout by Graham Moore (Random House, February 2020)

Maya and her fellow jurors have come back together for a true crime docu-series that aims to revisit their controversial verdict from years before. During that trial, Maya was convinced of the defendant’s innocence and she was able to convince her fellow jurors as well. Now, as they are all gathered again, one of the jurors is found dead in her room and Maya is put in the position of having to defend her own innocence in this off-kilter crime thriller from the writer of the award-winning screenplay, The Imitation Game.

Death in the Family book cover

Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert (Berkley, February 2020)

After being attacked by a serial killer, Detective Shana Merchant takes a new job as an investigator in a small, sleepy town, hoping to leave that kind of work behind. Then, she is called to a privately-owned island to investigate a death…or is it a murder? As she interviews the family members present on the remote island, a dangerous storm rolls in, trapping everyone in the secluded spot. Shana finds herself back in the middle of her worst nightmare and must face her fears and race to find the killer, before he or she finds her.

The Echo Killing book cover

The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty (Minotaur, 2018)

One of the best crime reporters in the state of Georgia, Harper McClain truly loves her home city of Savannah. Even the unsolved murder of her mother there when she was a child cannot drive her away. Then, her obsession with finding her mother’s killer from years past turns into reality as she is called to a new crime scene. There are haunting similarities between this case and her mother’s and Harper must use her skills to decipher the clues. Could the killer be back?

A Better Man book cover

A Better Man by Louise Penny (Minotaur, 2019)

Chief Inspector Gamache is in his first day back as the head of the Surete de Quebec’s homicide division and a father comes to him, pleading for help. The man’s daughter is missing and among the chaos that ensues with rising floodwaters, Gamache realizes the search for the young woman must be abandoned. However, being a father himself, Gamache is haunted by one thought: what if that were his own daughter out there? He is driven to continue the search and soon discovers there is more to this missing person case than he bargained for.

The Chestnut Man book cover

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sviestrup (Harper, 2018)

The serial killer in this book from the creator of The Killing leaves a doll made with matchsticks and two chestnuts at his bloody crime scenes. Dubbed the “chestnut man,” two detectives who don’t get along must work together to solve the chilling mystery and find the psychopath who is committing these murders. Scandinavian crime fiction at its finest, this one will have you guessing right through to its gruesome end.

Raven Black book cover

Raven Black by Ann Cleaves (Minotaur, 2007)

This is a dark, slow burn thriller set in Scotland, on the Shetland islands. The murdered body of a young girl is discovered and local police Inspector Perez is on the case. The body is found near the house of Magnus Tait, a lonely outcast in the town who also has ties to an old missing person case from years before. All the clues point to Tait, but Perez thinks there is more to this case than meets the eye in this first book of the Shetland Island mystery series from Ann Cleeves.

Psychological Thrillers

The Other Mrs. book cover

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica (Park Row, Feb 2020)

Sadie and Will recently moved their family from the big city to a small town in Maine when the murder of their next door neighbor rocks the quiet community. As the newcomers increasingly come under suspicion, Sadie discovers the murdered woman’s secrets will affect her life more than she ever knew.

Eight Perfect Murders book cover

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (William Morrow, March 2020)

Bookseller Mal compiled a list of the most “perfect” murders from famous mysteries including iconic authors like Agatha Christie. Years later, he is contacted by the FBI because, it seems, someone is recreating the murders from his book. Not only is he under suspicion for the murders, but he feels like the real murderer is watching him. Thus, he is drawn in to investigate and as the murders continue, he must follow the same trail as the one he himself authored years before.

This is How I Lied book cover

This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row, May 12, 2020)

For decades, Maggie has been haunted by her sister, Eve’s, murder. While there were a few suspects, no killer was ever found. Now 7 months pregnant, Maggie finds herself in the middle of the reopened case, investigating what happened those many years ago. But in a small town, everyone is watching and Maggie learns that someone in town wants to keep the truth buried, no matter the cost.

You are Not Alone book cover

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanan (St. Martin’s Press, March 2020)

Shay is in search of something missing in her life. After witnessing a horrific suicide in the subway, she is introduced to glamorous sisters Cassondra and Jane Moore. What follows is a crazy turn of events that take you on a wild ride through the streets of New York as Shay is introduced to the world of the Moore sisters. That is all you should know ahead of diving into this wild and crazy page-turner from bestselling thriller author team Greer Hendrix and Sarah Pekkanen.

Emma in the Night book cover

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (St. Martin’s Press, 2017)

After enduring their mother’s self-serving behavior their entire lives, sisters Emma and Cass Martin go missing one night and are gone for three years. Until one night, when Cass returns with a story about being trapped on a secluded island and saying Emma is still there. As investigators aided by forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter work to get the story from Cass and close in on finding the island and Emma, they find that everything is not what it seems with the Martin family.

Bring Me Back book cover

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris (St. Martin’s Press, 2018)

Finn and Layla are in love and coming back from a trip when they pull into a truck stop late at night for a restroom break. When Finn returns, Layla is missing from the car and she is never found. Fast forward 12 years and Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen, having bonded over their shared despair from her disappearance. Just before the wedding, Finn learns that Layla has been seen alive. On top of that, some of her things start turning up around the house. Add to that his odd feeling that just maybe Ellen can’t be trusted and you have a twisty, crazy thriller that will take you on an edge of your seat ride to the end.

Lock Every Door book cover

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager (Dutton, 2019)

Jules, facing heartbreak and money troubles, can’t believe her luck at finding a job as a house sitter at the Bartholemew, apartment building to the rich and famous in Manhattan. The rules: no spending nights away and no bothering the other residents. Jules bonds with fellow house sitter, Ingrid, who oddly reminds her of the sister she misses so much. Then Ingrid tells Jules about the haunting past at the Bartholemew and it’s one Jules is not sure she should take to heart. Until Ingrid goes missing and Jules starts finding truth in the awful rumors about the gothic building and its residents, turning this dream job into a true nightmare.

He Started It book cover

He Started It by Samantha Downing (Berkley, July 28th, 2020)

Three estranged siblings go on a forced road trip together in order to be able to qualify for the inheritance from their grandfather’s estate. As they travel cross country together, secrets are uncovered and that (along with a body in the trunk) means a sibling rivalry tale you won’t forget in this sophomore novel from Samantha Downing.

What types of books do YOU like to read in the summer?

If you like this thriller book list, you might also like:

2019 Summer Thrillers List

Best Books of 2019: New Releases

Most Memorable and Best Books of 2018

10 Amazing Books You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale Book Review


Summer Thrillers with girl reading on beach in background

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