The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is one of the most hyped thrillers of 2021. It was the May pick for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club and has already been optioned for a streaming series starring Julia Roberts. Expect a slow-burn suspense novel about family, trust and identity. Readers may find themselves wondering how well they ever really know other people, even close friends and family. I was immediately hooked into the story and stayed up way too late reading to get answers.
Hannah is head over heels in love with her husband of two years, Owen. She’s working hard to win over his 16-year-old daughter Bailey. One day Hannah receives a note from her husband with only two words: “Protect her.” She knows right away he must mean Bailey, but the reason for the note is a total mystery and Owen does not return her messages or calls. Before the day is out, Hannah hears on the news that her husband’s Internet start-up company has been raided and the FBI arrested his boss for fraud.
Hannah picks up her stepdaughter from practice and finds out Owen left a duffel bag full of cash in her locker at school. Where is Owen and why did he run? Hannah and Bailey don’t really get along, but they both love Owen and believe he’s innocent of wrongdoing. In flashbacks to the couple’s early days we see red flags Hannah missed. Bailey and Hannah need to rely on each other as they chase down clues to who Owen truly is and where he’s gone. The stakes are high.
While you wait to get your hands on this one, check out these twisty reads about disappearances, alternate identities, secrets and tangled family relationships.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell is one of the reigning queens of the twisty suspense novel. I’ve enjoyed every Jewell book I’ve read and I rarely see the final twist coming. In Then She Was Gone a 15-year-old girl disappears without a trace one afternoon. Her mom, Laurel, spends 10 years chasing down leads and trying to find her brilliant, friendly girl. Laurel’s marriage ended 3 years after the disappearance and she has no plans to start a new relationship. Then she meets a man so charming that she’s drawn into an unexpected romance. Things get weird when she meets his 9-year-old daughter, a girl who looks so much like Laurel’s missing daughter that she feels as if she’s seen a ghost. This book is available with no holds as an audiobook on Hoopla.
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
Oh, this is a good one! Amy is the mom who has it all together. She takes great care of her husband, teen stepdaughter and baby girl. Amy bakes cookies and helps her best friend run a neighborhood book club. Life is sweet. Then a new neighbor moves in and begins a dangerous game of blackmail. She knows Amy’s secrets, she knows who Amy really is. To protect her family and her new life, Amy works to best the blackmailer at her own game. This story will keep you guessing until the end. Available instantly as an audiobook read by the author on Hoopla.
Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
This book truly gave me chills. A former nanny, Rowan Caine, tells her story in letters to a lawyer as she awaits trial for the murder of a child in her care. She says she’s innocent and wants someone to hear her side of what happened.
Rowan had been searching for a break. She was working an exhausting daycare job that paid her enough to get by but just barely. Rowan was a young woman adrift with no family, few friends and not many prospects. When she landed a live-in nanny job with a dizzying salary in a beautiful home, she thought it was a perfect opportunity. True, the house was isolated and the children were not easy, especially the surly and disobedient middle girl. The family had gone through four nannies in the last year, despite the generous pay.
Rowan wanted to be part of a family and she was sure she could handle anything. Even a note from the previous nanny warning her to be careful. Even a hidden poison garden, a secret attic and rumors of ghosts. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear Rowan is hiding secrets from her past. The ending comes with a series of shocking twists I did not see coming. Thinking about this book gives me goosebumps and makes me want to read it all over again.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Laura Dave was inspired to write The Last Thing He Told Her by watching the fallout of the Enron scandal as it dominated the news. In The Glass Hotel Emily St. John Mandel tells a story of financial corruption, fraud and greed inspired by the Madoff scandal. Like Dave, Mandel focuses on the personal lives of people caught in the wake of a such a scheme.
The book opens with a young woman disappearing from a cruise ship without a trace. Then the story flashes back and forth from present to past to tell a tale of deceit, bad decisions, tangled family connections and ghosts. Mandel is skillful at writing stories that reveal all of the ways each life touches so many others. This ripple effect is both beautiful and devastating.
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
Northern Spy is another domestic suspense novel from Reese’s Book Club list. It’s set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles (1968-1998). Though this book is a page-turner, the focus is on how the domestic terrorism and constant threat of violence and injury affects two sisters’ lives and their relationships with each other.
Tessa works for the BBC and she’s been raised to believe that violence in the name of nationalism is wrong. She’s stunned to see her sister’s face on footage of an IRA gas station robbery. Tessa refuses at first to believe her sister is involved with the violent organization. As she learns more, Tessa is drawn into a web of espionage, secrets and disappearances. She and her sister will be forced to examine their own loyalties and make hard choices that will impact themselves, their family and their country.