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Katherine Faulkner’s 7 Recommended Thrillers to Cozy Up With This Winter

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

By Katherine Faulkner

Not everyone agrees that winter is the ‘most wonderful time of the year,’ but most book lovers agree on one thing: the colder months are the perfect time to curl up indoors and settle in with a good thriller. Especially if there’s snow falling at the windows, logs crackling in a fireplace, and a killer skulking in the wings.

As a writer, I’ve always found the darker, colder months, and frozen settings, somehow more conducive to dark stories. As the nights draw in, it is easier to conceive of the dark deeds and shadowy assignations I’ve written about in both Greenwich Park and my new novel, The Other Mothers, which tells the story of a freelance journalist and new mother, Tash, whose investigation into the murky death of a local nanny leads her uncomfortably close to the sordid secrets of the well-heeled mothers at her son’s playgroup.

To honor the latter’s publication, I’ve prepared a wintery smorgasbord of my favorite frosty crime thrillers, all guaranteed to chill. Now all you need to do is get snowed in at your wood cabin in the forest (or in your imagination), so you have an excuse to put your feet up by the fire (or a suitably seasonal candle) and enjoy!

One by One by Ruth Ware

Ware is the queen of the locked-room mystery, and the creepy setting of this thriller—dubbed the 21st century answer to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None—makes it my favorite of Ware’s novels. When the founder of trendy London-based tech start-up Snoop takes the team on a getaway to a remote lodge among the stunning pistes of the French Alps, it starts out like any other corporate retreat. But it’s soon clear to everyone, including the housekeeper and chef, that not all is well. The team is divided over a lucrative buyout offer, and with millions at stake and secrets from the past struggling to stay buried, a storm is brewing both inside and outside their luxurious chalet. When a deadly avalanche strikes, leaving someone missing, the group are cut off from the outside world. As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic sets in. Power disappears, water pipes freeze, and, as the chalet grows colder, the group dwindles further…one by one. Ware handles the mounting claustrophobia brilliantly, building to a terrifying game of cat and mouse. A hugely addictive read.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

It sounds like the perfect new year getaway at a hunting lodge among the stunning vistas of the Scottish Highlands. But it’s not long before a body is found, a snowstorm descends, and dark secrets from the past emerge among a group of college friends. Foley is brilliant on the fissures in her characters’ friendships—cracking that gape ever wider as she ratchets up the tension in her remote, wintery setting. “Even as they laughed and jostled and teased one another, I could sense something underneath it—something off,” the lodge’s manager, Heather, tells us. And her clever narrative—shifting back and forward from the group’s arrival to the discovery of a body, then deeper into their shared past–quickly makes clear just how much darkness lies beneath seemingly festive smiles. A real triumph of a thriller.

Sleep by C.L. Taylor

A master of the genre, Taylor had me guessing until the very end in this twisty tale set on the stormy Scottish Isle of Rum. Protagonist Anna has taken a job at the island’s Bay View Hotel hoping for a quieter existence, and relief from the insomnia and night terrors she’s been experiencing since her involvement in a deadly car accident. But when she is joined by seven other guests—all with secrets of their own—her retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare. When a storm sets in, the hotel is cut off from the rest of the world with no phone signal or WiFi, and the only way out, over a local river, is flooded. Then things start to go missing, creepy messages appear in the condensation of windows, and Anna starts to wonder whether it’s her own guilt stalking her, or if someone in the hotel is really out to get her.

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

Even seasoned thriller readers will be caught wrong-footed again and again by this high-octane page-turner by the author of The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls. Hannah awakens to the carnage of a coach that has careened over a hillside road in a snowstorm. She and a handful of survivors now face the cold and a creeping contagion, with no way to call for help. Meanwhile, up in the mountains, Carter and his group of misfits are eking out a meager existence in an abandoned chalet, manufacturing vaccines against a deadly virus in exchange for essentials. But as their generator begins to falter, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger. Their fragile bonds will be tested when the power finally fails for good. With a storm raging, and a stealthily spreading virus threatening all of humanity, it’s clear that not everyone will survive. Complex, terrifying, and utterly unpredictable.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

In rural England in the middle of a blizzard, a school is under siege from a gunman. Students and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, and the theater. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help trapped students, while parents gather desperate for news, and police psychiatrists scramble to identify the gunmen. Told over three intense hours, with a setting and characters that burst from the page, this is not only a tense, exhilarating thriller, but also a deeply elegant and affecting read. Three Hours takes an unflinching look at the very best and worst of humanity.

My Darling Girl by Jennifer McMahon

As she prepares for Christmas with her family in their cozy Vermont home, Alison receives the news that her alcoholic mother Mavis has only weeks to live, and she wants to come and stay with her. Reluctant to unearth memories of her traumatic childhood, Alison nonetheless agrees to care for Mavis in an attempt to heal their bond. When disturbing happenings start to disrupt the safety of the family home Alison has built for herself, she begins to suspect her mother is not quite who she seems, ultimately forcing her to decide how far she is willing to go to protect her family. A dark and horrifying tale, in which McMahon expertly navigates the boundary between the psychological and the paranormal, will keep you gasping until the final page.

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister, Persephone, went out with her boyfriend and never made it home. She was missing for three days before her body was found in the snow—and years later, her unsolved murder still haunts Sylvia and her estranged mother, Annie. With Annie undergoing cancer treatment, Sylvia returns home to care for her mother, and is forced to confront the secrets that fill the family home, her own guilt, and the truth about what really happened on that winter night. Collins paints a vivid portrait of the close bond between sisters, and how a terrible act of violence can haunt a family for years.

Katherine Faulkner, an award-winning journalist, studied history at Cambridge. She has worked as an investigative reporter and an editor and was formerly the joint Head of News at The Times (London). She lives in London, where she grew up, with her husband and two daughters. She is the author of Greenwich Park, and her new novel, The Other Mothers, is on-sale December 5 from Gallery Books.

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