Thrillers dominate summer beach reads in 2021

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Romance novels take a back seat to thrillers as the go-to genre for beach reads this summer season. Here are six Southern novels ranging from whodunits to horror stories that are perfectly suited for poolside binge-reading.

Courtesy of St. Martin's Press
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Courtesy of St. Martin's Press

‘The Newcomer.’ Georgia’s queen of the beach read, Mary Kay Andrews, kicks off the season with a murder mystery. The retirees and snowbirds that patronize a mom-and-pop motel in a sleepy Florida beach town are suspicious of newcomer Letty, who’s hiding out there with her 4-year-old niece Maya, a bag of cash and a big diamond ring. Little do they know, Letty’s shady sister Tanya has just been murdered in her New York City townhouse, and she left word that if anything bad happened, her husband Evan was to blame. Instructed to take Maya and run, Letty snatches the child and follows a cryptic clue to the Florida motel, where she fends off the attentions of a handsome police detective and tries to solve her sister’s murder. (St. Martin’s Press, $28.99, out now)

ExploreHot new Southern books put the sizzle in summer 2021
Courtesy of Penguin Random House
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Courtesy of Penguin Random House

‘The Invisible Husband of Frick Island.’ When Tom Parrish’s crab boat capsizes in Chesapeake Bay, his body is never found. But instead of holding a memorial service and mourning the loss of her beloved husband, Piper Parrish acts as though nothing happened. She still cooks him breakfast and pretends to walk him to the docks every morning. And she continues to dine at the One-Eyed Crab for their weekly dinner date. Mystified but supportive, the town of Frick Island goes along with Piper’s fantasy that Tom is still alive. But when an ambitious reporter gets wind of the situation, he threatens to tell the story on his podcast, exposing Frick Island and the grieving widow to ridicule. By Atlanta author Colleen Oakley. (Penguin Random House, $17, May 25)

Courtesy of Story Plant
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Courtesy of Story Plant

‘Impacted.’ Atlanta author Benji Carr’s debut novel is a darkly comic thriller about teenage Wade Harrell, whose life is spinning out of control. He’s just 17 years old, but Wade is already a father who’s sharing parenting duties with a girlfriend who doesn’t know he’s gay. When a searing pain in his jaw sends him to the dentist in search of relief, he finds himself in the arms of Dr. Emmett and begins a journey of sexual awakening. But when Wade tries to end the affair, things turn ugly. (Story Plant, $14.95, July 6)

Courtesy of Berkley
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Courtesy of Berkley

‘The Final Girl Support Group.’ Author of the wildly popular 2020 comic horror hit “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires,” Grady Hendrix returns with another fast-paced, satiric thriller. In horror movies, the “final girl” is the last woman standing at the end of a slasher flick — the one who witnesses all her friends get slaughtered and manages to defeat the villain after much mayhem. The Final Girl Support Group is a secret group of real-life final girls — young women who have survived traumatic experiences. But now they’ve been discovered, and someone is out to get them. (Berkley, $26, July 13)

Courtesy of Harper Collins
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Courtesy of Harper Collins

‘False Witness.’ In this standalone thriller by Karin Slaughter, two sisters confront a traumatizing event from their youth that they’ve spent a lifetime trying to keep secret. Callie is a former cheerleader who’s suffered a debilitating injury that has led her down the dark path of drug addiction. Leigh is a recently divorced defense attorney co-parenting a daughter through the COVID-19 pandemic while reluctantly defending a serial rapist. When Leigh discovers the defendant has a connection to her past, she realizes it’s no coincidence she was hired to defend him. As he threatens to reveal her secret, she enlists her estranged sister to help her keep the past in the past. (Harper Collins, $28.99, July 20)

Courtesy of Harper Perennial
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Courtesy of Harper Perennial

‘When the Reckoning Comes. Mira couldn’t get away from her small, Southern hometown fast enough after she graduated from high school. But she returns 10 years later at the request of her former best friend Celine. Once ridiculed for being a white girl whose only friends were Black, Celine has risen up in the world of segregated Kipsen, and she wants Mira there for her wedding to pedigreed fiance Phillip Hunnicutt. The wedding is being held on the grounds of Woodsman Plantation, the site where a dare almost got Mira’s high school crush arrested for murder back in the day. It’s also haunted by the spirits of slaves who died there, and they are seeking vengeance. “When the Reckoning Comes” is LaTanya McQueen’s debut novel. (Harper Perennial, $17, Aug. 3)