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5 new mysteries and thrillers for your nightstand this spring

NPR

Welcome back, mystery and thriller devotees! These books will take you from murder in present-day Texas to cryptography in Cold War Berlin to an online community that might hold the solution to a missing-person case.

Happy reading!

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera

Savannah Harper, the sweetheart of Plumpton, Texas, died from blows to her head. A few hours later, her best friend forever, Lucy Chase, was found wandering the town streets covered in blood. While Lucy was never formally charged with the murder, the community convicted her lock, stock and a full plate of barbecue. Five years later, Lucy has come home just as true-crime podcaster Ben Owens arrives to produce an episode of his show "Listen for the Lie."

As Ben encourages the tetchy, secretive Lucy to share her side of the story with him, she relaxes beneath his sunny, handsome gaze and starts to look at the truth. Unfortunately, truth doesn't matter much to the residents of Plumpton, who long ago made up their minds about a young woman whose persona chafes against their ideas of femininity. Fortunately, by the time you meet the Plumptonites, you'll have been mesmerized by Lucy's hilarious, self-deprecating first-person narration. "It's probably unfair to say that a podcast ruined my life," she tells readers, and then, as she talks about making dinner during which she'll break up with her clueless boyfriend: "Let this be a lesson to all the men out there who can't handle conflict — man up and dump your girlfriend, or you might end up living with a suspected murder indefinitely."

Podcast episodes interspersed between Lucy's chapters form a clever way for Tintera (already a bestselling YA author; this is her debut for adults) to draw out the suspense. Revealing too much about the other characters might ruin that cleverness, but it's important to note that even when the story has ended and the murderer found, there are secrets within secrets, the kind that women have long used to protect each other.

Where You End by Abbott Kahler

Abbott Kahler's debut centers on a young woman named Katherine "Kat" Bird, who has a near-death experience after her car collides with a deer, and wakes to near-total amnesia. She remembers her twin sister, Jude, who tries to fill in all of the blanks in Kat's memory, but as Kat slowly recovers, she realizes Jude's recounting of events contradict her own.

Did the sisters have an idyllic childhood, or were they raised in a cult? If the latter is true, why would Jude be trying to pretend it never happened? Kahler (who has written acclaimed nonfiction as Karen Abbott) constructs a thriller so perfectly paced that you actually will not be able to put it down. You'll be longing at each step to see how much Kat remembers and how much Jude complicates the memories. Each clue (there are few pictures of the sisters together, for example) has a flip side, a structural technique that works particularly well since the book is set in 1970s Philadelphia, with all of that city's grittiness, community, and culture.

Kahler based her novel on the real-life story of Alex and Marcus Lewis, 18-year-old British identical twins. In 1982, Alex awoke from a coma following a motorcycle accident and remembered nothing except his brother's name and face; Marcus decided to use the opportunity to invent new lives for them both. Kahler expands on their situation by going deeper into the effects of trauma for women and girls, making Where You End incredibly relevant, right up to the truly shocking ending.

The Night of the Storm by Nishita Parekh

Answer to a question you didn't ask: In the UK, the board game Clue is known as Cluedo, a portmanteau word for "clue" plus "ludo," the Latin for "I play." In Nishita Parekh's debut, a locked-room mystery that toys with everyone's memories of playing Clue, readers may want to keep that active verb in mind. Set in Houston among a group of upperclass suburban Desi friends, The Night of the Storm puts family drama above anything resembling, say, Cape Fear-style hijinks — but the word "storm" in the title can mean so many things.

Protagonist Jia Shah, single mom to Ishaan, decides they'll both shelter from Hurricane Harvey at her sister Seema's large home in Sugar Land. Seema's husband Vipul and some of his relatives make things more complicated for Jia, through both their busy presence and because Jia and Vipul have some sexual tension going on; one of the things that makes this book fascinating is the look at a second-generation immigrant family enjoying their new country while also feeling the pull of hereditary expectations.

If you're looking for a thriller — and this book is labeled one — you've come to the wrong place. The Night of the Storm resembles nothing so much as a Golden Age mystery, and if you appreciate those, you've come to the right place. Parekh has clearly read her Christie, Marsh, and Allingham; she also clearly relishes those authors and their attention to cohesion and convention. Come on in and shelter from this Storm with a truly unreliable cast of characters.

Rabbit Hole by Kate Brody

A decade ago, Teddy Angstrom's older sister Angie disappeared at age 18. When their father chooses suicide on the anniversary of Angie's death, the now 26-year-old Teddy leaves the private school in Maine where she teaches English for home to sort out family matters with her grieving mother. Teddy discovers Mark Angstrom had grown obsessed with Reddit boards about true crime, some of them specifically about Angie's case.

Her initial look at the discussions soon turns into an obsession equaling her father's, one that will pull her into the orbit of 19-year-old Mickey, a local college student with multiple tattoos and perhaps multiple motives for the assistance she gives Teddy. The weird friendship these women create reflects the darkness into which Teddy descends, continuing her addiction to the internet as she develops an addiction to alcohol, and accidentally outing herself as Angie's sister to the various members of the Reddit boards.

Brody wisely builds the suspense around Teddy's dissolution and paranoia, rather than focusing on the details of Angie's fate, creating an atmosphere so suffocating and panicky that readers will feel the effects of loss, grief, and confusion as surely as if they were inside Teddy's very smart and once better-adjusted mind. Teddy's longing not just for her sister's survival but for their ability to share life as 20-somethings marks her more indelibly than Mickey's body ink.

The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay

Brilliant cryptographer Luisa Voekler, whose talent was nurtured by her grandfather's frequent code-based scavenger hunts, wants to move up in the CIA, but finds her career sidelined in the late 1980s as she translates World War II documents. One day she recognizes a tiny symbol that will lead her down a dangerous path. Her discovery involves her father, Haris, who remains in the East Berlin his family left in 1961 as the East German government put up a wall dividing the city.

Reay has written a number of novels based on Brontë and Austen characters, as well as a couple of lighthearted looks at women's friendships in Illinois, but in 2021 she turned to darker territory, setting books about spycraft in London, Moscow — and now Berlin and Washington, D.C. The cover of The Berlin Letters announces both its relatively recent time period, with the figure of a young woman dressed in contemporary clothing, yet also nods to the singularity of modern Berlin, with a backdrop of the Wall covered in graffiti and the trunk of an iconic East German Trabant or "Trabi" auto (known for being constructed from lightweight resin).

The author knows East and West Berlin inside out, discussing details like the houses on Bernauer Strasse that allowed inhabitants, for a time, to easily defect simply by walking out of their front doors. However, those details never overwhelm a fast-paced story told by father and daughter from their different vantage points, as Luisa learns the truth of her past, and both stories reach the shocking, history-making night when The Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989.

Bethanne Patrick is a freelance writer and critic who tweets @TheBookMaven and hosts the podcast Missing Pages.

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