20 Female Mystery Authors Share One Book at the Top of Their Summer TBR

While this summer is bound to be different, one thing remains the same: We’ll be spending it with our nose in a good book. If you’re in the mood for a chilling mystery or gripping thriller this summer, you’re in luck. We’ve asked 20 female mystery authors to share one book at the top of their TBR pile, and their recommendations are not to be missed.

The Swap by Robyn Harding

“Robyn Harding is a must-read author for me, so I was thrilled to get an early copy of The Swap. I appreciate writers that take chances, and Harding is a fearless writer. She tackles out-of-the-box scenarios and turns then into compulsive thrillers, and The Swap is no exception. This is a story of love, lust, and—most importantly—obsession. Throw in the suggestion of spouse-swapping, and this twisted book really takes off. Who’s good and who’s bad? Impossible to know until you get to the end, and maybe not even then.”Samantha Downing, author of He Started It

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

“Set in Seattle, Jennifer Hillier’s latest psychological thriller hits all the right notes for the perfect summer read. When her young son is taken one day at the market, Marin’s world falls apart. A year later, she discovers that her husband is having an affair, and she becomes obsessed with the other woman… an obsession that takes her back to the dark days of her son’s abduction, and the secrets that people keep. Hillier’s writing is so addictive that her fans (and fans of psychological thrillers in general) are sure to be pleased.” —Sheena Kamal, author of No Going Back

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

“I’m reading Kimberly Belle’s Stranger in the Lake. Belle excels at twisty domestic thrillers and this is no exception. Charlotte marries a wealthy widower and life is good until a body appears in the lake near their isolated home. It shouldn’t have anything to do with them but Charlotte recognizes the victim—her husband was talking to her in town the day before. And then there’s the fact that Paul’s first wife also drowned in that exact same spot years ago. Charlotte thought she knew Paul and the small town they live in, but everything and everyone she thought she knew soon gets turned on its head.” —Catherine McKenzie, author of You Can’t Catch Me

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

“Next on my TBR pile is Catherine House, a debut by Elisabeth Thomas. This literary thriller promises to hit all the right notes for me. It’s set in an exclusive, cult-like college hidden deep in the Pennsylvania woods where students live isolated from the outside world for three years, then emerge to become leaders in their chosen fields. The protagonist is a smart but damaged misfit—my favorite kind of character. The icing on the cake? A bit of science fiction in the mix as students begin to disappear and then reappear in an oddly altered state. Something is definitely very wrong at Catherine House, and I can’t wait to find out what it is.” —Heather Young, author of The Distant Dead

Remain Silent by Susie Steiner

“I’m very much looking forward to the third installment of Susie Steiner’s British detective series: Remain Silent. The first two books—Missing, Presumed and Persons Unknown—were whodunnits on paper but so much more in the reading of them. The prose is rich, the dialogue amusing. They are stylish, literary crime novels following the professional caseload and personal life of the sarcastic, loveable, and insecure Manon Bradshaw. If you’re looking for character-led police procedurals for feminists, look no further than Steiner.”Gillian McAllister, author of The Choice

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Wanting to explore the grittier side of Los Angeles, I picked up Your House Will Pay, and it’s a literary revelation. This taut novel features a raw and gripping storyline. There are no easy answers or flat characters in Cha’s latest. Instead, it offers an expertly drawn dual perspective on racial relations through its main characters, Grace Park and Shawn Matthews. Rooted in historical detail based on the unrest of the early 1990s, Cha pens an illuminating work about racism, family, and society—a timely read for us all.” —Jennifer J. Chow, author of Mimi Lee Gets a Clue

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

“As soon as I read the blurb for The Wives by Tarryn Fisher, I knew it was the sort of book I would love. A husband shared with two other wives that you’ve never met, a husband that you only see one day a week, a story of obsession and betrayal, a plot that is clever and original with a twist that you really can’t see coming. What is there not to love? Captivating and intriguing, this is a must-read.” —BA Paris, author of The Dilemma

A Good Family by A.H. Kim

A Good Family feels like a tell-all exposé of one family’s secrets, starting when the most famous member—the gorgeous, wealthy, and successful Elisabeth Lindstrom—catastrophically falls from grace after a whistleblower lawsuit. Layers of truth are peeled away as affairs, lies, and deaths refuse to be ignored. The question of why Elisabeth truly landed in jail prevails while readers wonder whether she will survive the world of incarceration. Author A.H. Kim weaves in the intricate Korean-American family dynamics of several characters, bringing another layer of welcomed complexity. This is a gem of a book from start to finish, and a fantastic debut novel.” —Lydia Kang, author of Opium and Absinthe   

The Streel by Mary Logue

“When I heard about The Streel by Mary Logue, I instantly put it on my TBR list. Set in 1880s Deadwood, South Dakota, during the Black Hills gold rush—I love it already—The Streel features Brigid Reardon, a determined young female immigrant. In Deadwood, Brigid must survive by her ‘wits and grace’ as she investigates to clear her missing older brother of a heinous crime while managing his mining claim. History, mystery, and even a little romance await. I’m looking forward to diving into this one!” —Ann Parker, author of Mortal Music

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

“At the top of my summer reading list is the first book in the new Ice Cream Parlor mysteries: A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette. The cozy series takes place in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and follows recent MBA graduate, Bronwyn Crewse, as she tries her hand at taking over her family’s ice cream shop. Unfortunately, things don’t go so smoothly for Win, as unexpected construction, early winter weather, and a murdered family rival steal the show. I’m looking forward to devouring this new addition of stories set in Northeast Ohio with its quirky characters that will surely have us screaming for more.” —Vivien Chien, author of Death by Dumpling

Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

“Is a thriller even thrilling without at least one deadly sin? In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s Sister Dear, Eleanor Hardwicke learns two shocking things: the man she thought was her father actually isn’t, and her newly discovered half-sister, Victoria, is everything Eleanor wishes she could be – beautiful, thin, rich, and married to a handsome, successful man. Eleanor sets out to get close to her, without ever telling Victoria they’re related. Does Eleanor actually want a sister, or does she want to be her sister? Envy is my favorite deadly sin, and it makes for one hell of a delicious read.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Little Secrets

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

I’m looking forward to reading Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby. This Southern Noir crime novel is a glimpse into the life of Beauregard ‘Bug’ Montage, an ex-criminal now trying to lead an honest life… that is until someone from his old life presents him with a jewelry store heist. Described as Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive, this story is a window into the great American traditions—class struggles, racism, and violence. Blacktop Wasteland is a must-read.” —Rachel Howzell Hall, author of And Now She’s Gone

The Other Couple by Louise Candlish

“I absolutely adored Louise Candlish’s Our House, a twisty turny domestic noir which asks, what if you came home to find new owners moving into your beloved family home? For that reason, I jumped on an early copy of her latest, The Other Couple. The novel begins on a riverboat in the Thames, where one passenger is accused of the murder of his commuting partner and neighbor, Kit. I’m only partway through, but Louise Candlish has become known for her sucker-punch endings, so no spoilers please!” —Ruth Ware, author of The Turn of the Key and One by One

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

“Big Lies In A Small Town may appear to be women’s fiction but there is a big mystery at the heart of the story that will have you riveted to your seat trying to figure out what has happened and whodunnit. The story begins in contemporary times but the mystery stems from events in the past—my favorite kind of mystery. The tone is slow and simmering, the setting of Edenton, North Carolina, a small waterfront community known for its history and charm, is picturesque and the characters are beautifully flawed.” Esme Addison, author of A Spell for Trouble

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Four young men from the Blackfeet tribe kill a pregnant elk, and years later, momma’s back for revenge in author Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians. There’s no way I’m missing the latest book from the ‘Jordan Peele of horror literature,’ especially because this is a story centered on Native men, both on and off the reservation—a perspective not to be missed in Jones’ terrifyingly talented hands.” —Vanessa Lillie, author of Little Voices and For the Best

The Keeper of Bees by Gregory Ashe

“Gregory Ashe is one of my favorite LGBTQ+ mystery authors and his characters, Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset, are two of my favorite fictional investigators. As they juggle wedding planning, growing pains at work, and a terrifying serial killer, Hazard and Somerset are sure to be put through the wringer and readers will no doubt be in a similar state, racing through pages to see how Ashe masterfully weaves it all together.” —Layla Reyne, author of Variable Onset

The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne

“I used my ninja skills to finagle an early copy of The Wicked Sister because Karen Dionne’s internationally bestselling The Marsh King’s Daughter is one of my all-time favorite psychological thrillers. Once again, Dionne’s characters and visceral descriptions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula captivated me. I would have lingered, but the tension she created between her past and present timelines became so unbearable I had to race through the last half of the book to reach the end. I plan to enjoy this story, again, at a more leisurely pace. Highly recommend!” —Tori Eldridge, author of The Ninja Daughter

The Shadows by Alex North

“Alex’s North’s bestseller The Whisper Man had pretty much everything I’m looking for in a thriller (pacy and disturbing but with an emotionally authentic heart) and his ‘atmospheric and deliciously creepy’ follow-up looks set to deliver a similar punch. Once again set in the English village of Featherbank and featuring DI Amanda Beck, The Shadows tells a haunting story of murder, childhood, and parental sacrifice, which I’m sure will scare me witless. Will it also tug at my heartstrings? Who knows? One thing’s for sure: when it’s released in July, I will be first in line at the bookstore.” —Anna Downes, author of The Safe Place

The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce

“After reading and absolutely loving the highly riveting Blood Orange, I’m excited to read Tyce’s second novel. The Lies You Told promises to bring a new layer of visceral, addictive dark to domestic noir. Drawn to Tyce’s strong, complicated female protagonists, I’m keen to meet Sadie. I have a desire to dive right in this summer and see what dark lies—as the title suggests—were told and whether Sadie’s sudden close friendship with another mother will prevent her from seeing the truth…” —Maxine Mei-Fung Chung, author of The Eighth Girl

Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert

“Tessa Wegert’s debut is an atmospheric novel with a flawed protagonist beset by flashbacks and deep-seated insecurities. Former detective Shana ‘Shay’ Merchant doesn’t trust herself. She isn’t sure if she can recognize good people from bad, which considering her new job with the FBI, isn’t a good thing. Called to a private island isolated due to a relentless storm to investigate a missing person, she struggles with self-doubt as she interrogates the occupants—the Sinclair family. Driven by decaying family relationships and fortune, one, she is sure, has taken to murder. Death in the Family is a twisted locked room mystery where personal revelations and keen deductive reasoning lead to resolution and redemption.” —Abby Collette, author of A Deadly Inside Scoop

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

  1. I am retired and I read a book every 3-5 days. I have read most of JA Jance, Janet Evonovich, All of Lee Childs. Stuart Woods,Sandra Brown David Baldachi Joseph Finder ‘plus many more. I just reviewed your 20 top female mystery writers and am going to read the authors I think I will like.
    Please keep me informed of new books and authors.

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