Fall is here, which brings with it pumpkin spice-flavored beverages, cozy sweaters, and the sort of increasingly crisp weather that encourages us all to spend a prodigious amount of curled up under a blanket with a good book. And maybe it’s another trick of the weather, but there’s something particularly…well, dark about this time of year that seems to relentlessly draw readers toward thrillers and mysteries (and things that go bump in the night, but that’s another list altogether).
Thankfully, the arrival of Fall also means that the publishing industry can see the lucrative Christmas shopping season from where we’re standing, which means that a positive deluge of great titles are basically hitting shelves every week from Labor Day onward, with stories for every kind of reader.
Here are our picks for the can’t miss thrillers of Fall 2022.
Release Date: September 13 from Zando
Why You’ll Love It: A creepy dual perspective tale that switches between a notorious serial killer and the medical examiner following where his trail of victims leads, The Butcher and the Wren is already one of the buzziest titles of the Fall. If you somehow haven’t already heard about what the big twists of the story are already, do your best not to find out until you get the chance to experience Alaina Urquhart’s debut for yourself.
Publisher’s Description: Something dark is lurking in the Louisiana bayou: a methodical killer with a penchant for medical experimentation is hard at work completing his most harrowing crime yet, taunting the authorities who desperately try to catch up.
But forensic pathologist Dr. Wren Muller is the best there is. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of historical crimes, and years of experience working in the Medical Examiner’s office, she’s never encountered a case she couldn’t solve. Until now. Case after case is piling up on Wren’s examination table, and soon she is sucked into an all-consuming cat-and-mouse chase with a brutal murderer getting more brazen by the day.
Release Date: October 4 from Ace Books
Why You’ll Love It; A murder mystery set in space—on a sentient space station no less—Station Eternity is perhaps the least traditional entry on this list. Featuring a heroine who seems to have an unnatural tendency to find herself in close proximity to people getting killed and a bizarre talent for writing the stories of how they died, her involvement in an extraterrestrial murder will finally to spur her to figure out why she keeps finding herself in these positions.
Publisher’s Description: From idyllic small towns to claustrophobic urban landscapes, Mallory Viridian is constantly embroiled in murder cases that only she has the insight to solve. But outside of a classic mystery novel, being surrounded by death doesn’t make you a charming amateur detective, it makes you a suspect and a social pariah. So when Mallory gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she thinks she has the solution. Surely the murders will stop if her only company is alien beings. At first her new existence is peacefully quiet…and markedly devoid of homicide.
But when the station agrees to allow additional human guests, Mallory knows the break from her peculiar reality is over. After the first Earth shuttle arrives, and aliens and humans alike begin to die, the station is thrown into peril. Stuck smack-dab in the middle of an extraterrestrial whodunit, and wondering how in the world this keeps happening to her anyway, Mallory has to solve the crime—and fast—or the list of victims could grow to include everyone on board….
Release Date: November 1 from Thomas & Mercer
Why You’ll Love It: I’m always a sucker for true crime-style thrillers set in the not-too-distant past, and this coming-of-age story about the disappearance of a local teen in a small Minnesota town is full of creepy 1970s vibes. Loosely based on an unsolved murder from the author’s own hometown, the story follows a ?group of best friends who witness something terrible in the twisting tunnels that connect all the basements in their neighborhood (remnants of the system factory workers used to get to their jobs in inclement weather) and vow never to tell anyone. Until girls start disappearing, the girls start realizing no one is who they appear to be.
Publisher’s Description: Minnesota, 1977. For the teens of one close-knit community, summer means late-night swimming parties at the quarry, the county fair, and venturing into the tunnels beneath the city. But for two best friends, it’s not all fun and games.
Heather and Brenda have a secret. Something they saw in the dark. Something they can’t forget. They’ve decided to never tell a soul. But their vow is tested when their friend disappears—the second girl to vanish in a week. And yet the authorities are reluctant to investigate.
Heather is terrified that the missing girls are connected to what she and Brenda stumbled upon that night. Desperately searching for answers on her own, she learns that no one in her community is who they seem to be. Not the police, not the boys she met at the quarry, not even her parents. But she can’t stop digging because she knows those girls are in danger.
She also knows she’s next.
Release Date: November 1 from Minotaur Books
Why You’ll Love It: An almost painfully timely thriller about the culture clash in a small Colorado town when a Syrian refugee is murdered, Blackwater Falls follows the story of Detective Inaya Rahman who is assigned to solve the crime, and local attorney Areesha, who offers her assistance when they discover two Somali girls have also gone missing. Their investigation is compelling, but the story’s most interesting aspect is its deft exploration of the ways that ideas of race and justice intersect and the specific pressures and problems faced by Muslim American women who attempt to live their faith in communities that are often openly hostile toward them for ignorant or racist reasons.
Publisher’s Description: Girls from immigrant communities have been disappearing for months in the Colorado town of Blackwater Falls, but the local sheriff is slow to act and the fates of the missing girls largely ignored. At last, the calls for justice become too loud to ignore when the body of a star student and refugee—the Syrian teenager Razan Elkader—is positioned deliberately in a mosque.
Detective Inaya Rahman and Lieutenant Waqas Seif of the Denver Police are recruited to solve Razan’s murder, and quickly uncover a link to other missing and murdered girls. But as Inaya gets closer to the truth, Seif finds ways to obstruct the investigation. Inaya may be drawn to him, but she is wary of his motives: he may be covering up the crimes of their boss, whose connections in Blackwater run deep.
Inaya turns to her female colleagues, attorney Areesha Adams and Detective Catalina Hernandez, for help in finding the truth. The three have bonded through their experiences as members of vulnerable groups and now they must work together to expose the conspiracy behind the murders before another girl disappears.
Release Date: November 1 from Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Why You’ll Love It: A rare murder mystery that puts its young female victim center stage and allows her voice to take precedence in telling the story of her (life and) death rather than focus on the monster who killed her, Before you Knew My Name is a furiously feminist breath of fresh air.
Publisher’s Description: When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.
Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.
Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?
Release Date: November 8 from Flatiron Books
Why You’ll Love It: In this buzzy debut, female detective Marlitt Kaplan investigates a hit-and-run accident at a local fraternity that leaves one of the brothers dead—and a lot of unanswered questions. And a dark academia thriller set in the Greek system of an elite university that digs into the secrets of the privileged is basically everything I need for Fall, is what I’m saying. Sign me the heck up.
Publisher’s Description: On a chilly November morning at the University of Georgia, a fraternity brother steps off a busy crosswalk and is struck dead by an oncoming car. More than a dozen witnesses all agree on two things: The driver looked identical to the victim, and he was smiling.
Detective Marlitt Kaplan is first on the scene. An Athens native and the daughter of a UGA professor, she knows all its shameful histories, from the skull discovered under the foundations of Baldwin Hall to the hushed-up murder-suicide in Waddel. But in the course of investigating this hit-and-run, she will uncover more chilling secrets as she explores the sprawling, interconnected Greek system that entertains and delights the university’s most elite and connected students.
The lines between Marlitt’s policework and her own past increasingly blur as Marlitt seeks to bring to justice an institution that took something precious from her many years ago. When threats against her escalate, and some long-buried secrets threaten to come to the surface, she can’t help but question whether the corruption in Athens has run off campus and into the force and how far these brotherhoods will go to protect their own.
Release Date: November 8 from Sourcebooks Landmark
Why You’ll Love It: The first installment in a brand new crime series, this latest twisty mystery from Clare Mackintosh sees the bestselling writer turn her attention from psychological thrillers to a more traditional crime story. When a local celebrity turns up dead during a traditional New Year’s Day swim in North Wales, prickly DC Ffion Morgan will have to sort out which attendee of his swanky New Year’s Eve party did him in. Lots of suspects and plenty of twists make for a fun ride.
Publisher’s Description: On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests. His vacation homes on Mirror Lake are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbors.
But by midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.
On New Year’s Day, Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects. The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbors, friends and family—and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.
With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead…but who finally killed him.
Release Date: November 8 from Park Row
Why You’ll Love It: A locked room thriller that turns a weekend getaway into a literal trip to die for, Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six is bursting with messy relationships, long-buried secrets, and more.
Publisher’s Description: What could be more restful, more restorative, than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, complete with spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s loving and generous tech-mogul brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’s his birthday gift to Hannah and includes their spouses and another couple. The six friends need this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R, far from the chatter and pressures of modern life.
But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep. How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? And who is the new boyfriend, crashing their party? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact payback.
Release Date: November 29 from Park Row
Why You’ll Love It: A twisty story that explores the dark side of the digital world, The Personal Assistant follows the story of an Instagram influencer named Alex whose assistant AC goes missing after the two spend a night out drinking. As she struggles to manage the fallout from a controversial post that goes viral without AC’s expert help, the police start asking questions and Alex begins to wonder whether her husband knows more about what happened to her assistant than he’s letting on.
Publisher’s Description: When Alex first began posting unscripted family moments and motivational messages online, she had no intention of becoming an influencer. Overnight it seemed she’d amassed a huge following, and her hobby became a full-time job—one that was impossible to manage without her sharp-as-a-tack personal assistant, AC.
But all the goodwill of her followers turns toxic when one controversial post goes viral in the worst possible way. Alex reaches out to AC for damage control, but her assistant has gone silent. This young woman Alex trusted with all her secrets, who had access to her personal information and front row seats to the pressure points in her marriage and family life, is now missing and the police are looking to Alex and her husband for answers. As Alex digs into AC’s identity – and a woman is found murdered – she’ll find the greatest threat isn’t online, but in her own living room.
Release Date: December 6 from William Morrow
Why You’ll Love It: The highly anticipated new novel from the author of the bestselling Pretty Little Wife, The Last Invitation is a gripping, twisty and generally entertaining thriller about an exclusive club of women who punish the prominent and powerful men for their wrongs. The central premise is delightfully fun, the chapters are faced paced, and its questions about whether the justice system is truly capable of protecting women are sadly all too timely.
Publisher’s Description: They meet the second Tuesday of every month and vote…and then someone dies.
Over the last few years, prominent people—a retired diplomat, beloved basketball coach, the CEO of an empire—have died in a series of fluke accidents and shocking suicides. There’s no apparent connection, no signs of foul play. Behind it all is a powerful group of women, the Sophie Foundation, who meet over wine and cheese to review files of men who behave very, very badly, and then mete out justice.
Jessa Hall jumped at the mysterious, exclusive invitation to this secret club. The invite comes when she’s at her lowest, aching for a way to take back control. After years of fighting and scratching to get ahead, she’s ready for a chance to make the “bad guys” lose. Jessa soon realizes, though, just how far she’s willing to go and how dangerous this game has become.
Once in the group, it’s impossible to get out. She has nowhere to turn except former friend Gabby Fielding who is investigating the mysterious death of her ex-husband. Aligned in their goal to take down the Foundation, Gabby and Jessa need each other but working together doesn’t mean they trust each other…or that either will survive to tell the truth.
Release Date: December 6 from Minotaur Books
Why You’ll Love It: Set in Hello, Transcriber’s bleak Black Harbor Wisconsin, Hannah Morrissey’s second novel The Widowmaker switches focus from police transcriber Hazel Greenie to photographer Megan Mori and investigator Ryan Hudson as they attempt to solve a second cold case involving a business mogul who disappeared twenty years ago and a mysterious key whose purpose is unknown.
Publisher’s Description: Ever since business mogul Clive Reynolds disappeared twenty years ago, the name “Reynolds” has become synonymous with “murder” and “mystery.” And now, lured by a cryptic note, down-on-her-luck photographer Morgan Mori returns home to Black Harbor and into the web of their family secrets and double lives. The same night she photographs the Reynolds holiday get-together, Morgan becomes witness to a homicide of a cop that triggers the discovery of a long-buried clue.
This could finally be the evidence to crack open the chilling cold case, and Investigator Ryan Hudson has a chance to prove himself as lead detective. If only he could stop letting his need to solve his partner’s recent murder distract him. But as Morgan exposes her own dark demons, could her sordid history be the key to unlocking more than one mystery.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.