The Girl from Widow Hills
Corvus, £14.99, pp336
Olivia Meyer is a hospital administrator in North Carolina. But when she was six, her name was Arden Maynor, a little girl who sleepwalked out of her house, was caught in a flash flood and swept into the pipes that ran beneath the town of Widow Hills. She was missing for three days until she was found by an army of searchers. In this unnerving and extremely classy thriller by Megan Miranda – author of the bestselling All the Missing Girls – the adult Olivia is sleepwalking again for the first time in years, after learning that her estranged mother, who wrote a book about the case and put her through a media circus as a child, is dead. Olivia has never been able to remember what happened during her ordeal: “Before, there was darkness. Before, there were only the stories – the things people told me and the things I read. Sometimes I felt I was nothing more than a character brought to life by my mother’s book.” When she wakes from another bout of sleepwalking, finding herself outside again, with the body of a man at her feet, she begins investigating what really happened. “I trusted myself and my instincts. More even than my conscious thoughts. Because I knew, underneath, there was something stronger. Something that understood how to survive. That there was a person I could not remember who had endured something unimaginable for three full days before someone found me.”
The Other Passenger
Simon & Schuster, £14.99, pp416
Louise Candlish helped launch the “property noir” genre with Our House and Those People. In The Other Passenger, she brings murder to the London commute. Jamie and Clare live in an enviable house in a Georgian conservation area, thanks to Clare’s parents. Jamie – “I’ve got it made here. I’m #Blessed” – commutes to his job in a cafe in Waterloo by riverbus, enjoying the time he gets to spend chatting with his neighbour Kit, feeling superior to those crammed into the tube. When Kit doesn’t turn up one day, though, and when his partner Melia reports him missing, Jamie finds himself being questioned by police. The novel moves between Jamie’s present, his interrogation, and the period a year earlier when he and Clare first met the younger couple. But “this isn’t one of those stories of murder dispensed in drunken blackouts or PTSD fugues,” as Jamie, our potentially unreliable narrator, informs us. “I am 100% confident I did nothing wrong at Monday night’s drinks, other than knock back a bit more than planned, and if we’re going to call that a crime then this city’s going to need a couple of million more police cells.” That tempting trip down the river may never look quite the same again.
The Last Wife
Wildfire, £12.99, pp384
Marie, Karen Hamilton’s narrator in The Last Wife, is fairly sympathetic, to start with. She’s desperate to get pregnant with an increasingly uninterested boyfriend, her best friend, Nina, recently died, and she’s been caring to the best of her ability for Nina’s children and her widower Stuart. But Hamilton soon starts to let us know that something might be a little off – Marie, fiercely justifying it to herself, starts lying about being pregnant. She steps into Nina’s place ever so smoothly, running her book club, mothering her kids, muscling in on her business. Just what were the three promises she made to her late friend, and will she really keep them? And did Nina have secrets of her own? “There are practicalities to deal with in the aftermath of a big lie; enough of a reversal in order that I don’t have to confess outright,” Marie says airily. “There is an art to it: a mix of weaker lies, a dash of truth, a deflective comment, until I come up with something decent enough to let me off the hook.” This is fast-moving and fun, with an obsessive, machiavellian, yet enjoyably self-aware narrator.
The Silent Wife
HarperCollins, £20, 400pp
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s agent Will Trent, and medical examiner Sara Linton, are called in when a man is murdered in the state penitentiary. During their inquiry, a prisoner, Daryl Nesbitt, tells them that a recent attack on a young woman looks exactly the same as the one he was jailed for eight years earlier, which means a serial killer could have been operating ever since. Will is wary of looking into the case – the chief of police responsible for arresting Nesbitt was Sara’s late husband, Jeffrey Tolliver, who was murdered five years earlier. “Obviously, the worst part would be realising that a serial killer had been operating for years without their knowledge. The second worst part was more personal. A wrongful conviction was the kind of scandal that had onions inside of onions.” The Silent Wife is the 10th book in Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series, but such is her skill that it’s perfectly possible to join the story here, though be warned, if you do, you’ll want to go back to the beginning and discover just how Will and Sara (from her Grant County series) ended up together. As sharp and absorbing as ever.
• To order The Girl from Widow Hills, The Other Passenger or The Silent Wife, go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15