Meghan Collins Sullivan/NPR
Misery, I tell you, it was misery having to choose just five from the incredible number of great mysteries and thrillers publishing in May and June.
In this batch below, you might travel from Europe to Africa to the Middle East to Russia and the United States — without leaving your hammock. I hope you are able to read them — and five (or 10 or 20) more.
The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters
Walters sets her debut amid the glamorous people of Lagos, Nigeria. There “Nigerwife” (a foreign-born woman who marries a Nigerian man) Nicole Oruwari’s life seems as well tended as her hair and skin — until she’s kidnapped, and her Auntie Claudine must step in from England to find out why. Nicole and Claudine both have secrets that will wash up as surely as the tide, but only Claudine can choose whether or not hers will remain hidden. The snap-crackle-pop dialogue is a treat, as is Claudine herself, a dignified woman who never lets encounters with both a modernizing world and a country that confuses her get in the way of doing right by her family.
Hope You Are Satisfied by Tania Malik
Malik (whose Three Bargains got a starred Publishers Weekly review) tells the story of guest workers in 1990 Dubai from the perspective of Riya, a young woman from India whose guide position with Discover Arabia Tours keeps her family back home afloat. Saddam Hussein has just invaded Kuwait, and no one knows what comes next, but even with disaster closing in, Riya and her friends have jobs to do and time to fill — and no chance of ever gaining citizenship in a city filled with money. A sketchy import/export magnate offers Riya the chance to make a killing, but the chance carries a lot of risk. As she processes the choice between tequila shots with her fellow young professionals, Riya begins to understand that the gap between them and the rich vacationers they cater to will never really close.
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak
Mallory’s chance for a new and stable life post-rehab takes a sinister turn when Teddy, her 5-year-old charge, starts drawing creepy scenes of violence that seem to center on his family’s New Jersey house. Rekulak, who has won an Edgar for The Impossible Fortress, works in the supernatural vein of Stephen King and Lauren Beukes, bringing readers close to Mallory’s search through Teddy’s sketches. If this were merely a ghost story it would be enough, especially with Teddy’s imaginary friend Anya in the mix, but Rekulak has the chops to push a bit deeper and make readers think about class distinctions and how they affect the people we believe about things we don’t understand.
The Puzzle Master by Danielle Trussoni
Trussoni’s last novel, The Ancestor, was wholly unexpected, a gothic horror story set in the remotest mountains of Italy. And her new novel, The Puzzle Master, which starts in New York’s Hudson Valley (but ventures far afield), is also wholly unexpected, almost three books in one — but three books blended so seamlessly that readers won’t even notice the author’s sleight of hand in turning what seems to be a book about cryptography into a book about hunting down a priceless artifact into a book about monsters. I’ll stop there so as not to risk spoilers. Mike Brink’s post-traumatic-brain-injury Acquired Savant Syndrome expertise in deciphering codes and puzzles makes him a good choice to help a young woman named Jess who is in prison for murdering her boyfriend. He connects a drawing by Jess to an ancient mystery, and then all bets are off, and your summer beach read is a lock.
The Dissident by Paul Goldberg
Jewish refusenik Viktor Moroz and his wife Oksana would be living happily in Israel if only the 1976 Soviet Union would allow them to leave. Moroz gets his chance at an exit visa after he’s seen leaving the murder scene of a gay man and a CIA operative; the KGB tells him if he’ll go on trial for the crime, he’ll wind up deported because U. S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is about to make a visit to Moscow. Goldberg’s perspective on the realpolitik of his adolescence has plenty of mordant humor to carry readers through long discursive sections on almost everything related to his characters and their milieu; it’s the kind of book you’ll want to savor, and then will wind up finishing too soon. There’s no need to have it set in a near-future dystopia, because late-20th-century Russia actually was a dystopia populated by spies, samizdat publishers, secret police, and citizens so world weary it’s a wonder they can wait in line for a case of vodka.
Bethanne Patrick is a freelance writer and critic who tweets @TheBookMaven and hosts the podcast Missing Pages.