What you need to know about this winter's best thrillers books

Subfreezing temperatures, icy streets, ominously gray skies — it can mean only one thing: It’s thriller season! Here’s your complete breakdown of some of 2019’s chilliest page-turners — including how many tropes they have in common, whether they stick the landing with the perfect, twisty payoff.

The Burglar, by Thomas Perry

The Premise: Meet Elle: carefree twentysomething by day, scrupulous cat burglar by night. She finds three bloody dead bodies on a job — and soon realizes she’s the next target.

Exotic Location(s): The glam streets of Bel Air, where Elle nabs expensive treasures from towering, sparkling mansions.

Tropes: Secret conspiracy and a strong female lead.

Read If You Like… The best of Perry’s sneaky novels, chiefly his Jane Whitefield series — which also focuses on a witty lady with a knack for solving crimes.

Critic’s Take: Perry’s a pro, and the book’s first act offers taut mystery. But the wheels fall off this one: The story zigs and zags wildly, leaving you more exhausted than surprised.

Shock Rating: 😱😱

No Exit, by Taylor Adams

The Premise: Undergrad Darby is heading home to see her ill mother when a blizzard lands her at a grim rest stop — and straight into a cat-and-mouse nightmare with its other odd occupants.

Exotic Location(s): The rest stop is all ugly formica and bad coffee, but trust that the majestic Colorado Rockies are out there.

Tropes: Dangerously obsessive villain, secret conspiracy, mommy issues, and a strong female lead.

Read If You Like… The carefully layered drawing-room psychology of Agatha Christie, cross-pollinated with the pure, squishy terror of Stephen King.

Critic’s Take: Adams nails his setup and builds some truly distinctive characters, though the piled-on revelations of Exit‘s last third can’t help but loosen the grip of its early trapped-animal intensity.

Shock Rating: 😱😱😱

Freefall, by Jessica Barry

The Premise: Allison awakens from a plane crash with a dead fiancé, a bad leg wound, and the sure sense that she needs to run. But what, her estranged mother wants to know, was she caught up in?

Exotic Location(s): Allison’s flight from Chicago goes down in the Rockies; Mom is left to crack the case back in rural Maine.

Tropes: Secret conspiracy and a strong female lead.

Read If You Like… The corporate malfeasance and shady conspiracies of John Grisham, with the frank feminism of two rounded female protagonists.

Critic’s Take: Barry (a pseudonym) teases her convoluted mystery out smartly, if a little slowly. And there’s a refreshing resilience to her women, though the book could use fewer “Don’t go in the basement!” moments.

Shock Rating: 😱😱😱

Her One Mistake, by Heidi Perks

The Premise: No one understands why gregarious Charlotte and shy, awkward Harriet are friends — even less when Harriet’s little girl goes missing under Charlotte’s half-distracted care.

Exotic Location(s): The ruggedly beautiful coast and picturesque villages of England, from Dorset to Cornwall.

Tropes: Dangerously obsessive villain, secret conspiracy, mommy issues, and a strong female lead.

Read If You Like… Narratively tricky British mysteries like The Girl on the Train, along with any other masochistic pick from the missing-child panic genre.

Critic’s Take: Perks lays down a major twist halfway through, but the book is also a clever, thoughtful study of the fraught power dynamics between women — as well as the people they love (and, sometimes, fear).

Shock Rating: 😱😱😱😱

The Killer Collective, by Barry Eisler

The Premise: A Seattle cop investigating a child-porn ring stumbles onto a much bigger mess involving the FBI, the CIA, and the highest halls of government. To crack it, she’ll need a crew.

Exotic Location(s): From the Pacific Northwest to the streets of Paris, with pit stops in Japan, Thailand, and Virginia.

Tropes: Dangerously obsessive villain, secret conspiracy, mommy issues, and a strong female lead.

Read If You Like… Smart airport reads stacked with creative deaths, political intrigue, and heavily stamped passports, à la Lee Child or Robert Ludlum.

Critic’s Take: Ex-CIA operative Eisler is working mostly with returning characters from his two series, and he does it well, even if his hard-boiled squad — bantering, weaponized assassins all — is a little too impossibly cool.

Shock Rating: 😱😱😱

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