1. Odd Child Out, by Gilly Macmillan, $20
The three main characters in Macmillan’s third thriller flit across the book’s first three pages, to devastating effect. First come Noah and Abdi, 15-year-old best friends, the former chased by the latter after dark in a Bristol scrapyard and ultimately pleading — for what? — when they reach the edge of the canal that runs through the city like a “black ribbon.” And then comes Detective Inspector Jim Clemo, who kisses his therapist at the end of his last mandatory session — maybe because he’s so happy to be out of there, or maybe because her slim elegance makes him forget himself… In any case, you’re hooked.
2. The Party, by Robyn Harding, $22
The unravelling of what happened “that night” — the night of Hannah Sanders’s 16th birthday party, when her friend Ronni wound up in hospital, covered in blood and at risk of losing an eye — is the project of this domestic thriller. The narrative rotates between the voices of Hannah, her mother, Kim, her dad, Jeff, and Ronni’s mother, Lisa, in short chapters that move quickly forward in time, making for a crisp pace and steady diet of revelations.
3. In Case I Go, by Angie Abdou, $18
Eli, narrator of Abdou’s fifth novel (the Vancouverite also wrote The Bone Cage, a finalist in 2011’s Canada Reads), was born three months premature, and has been small, sickly and just different for all of his 10 years. So when the older girl next door, Mary, who never speaks a word, begins talking to Eli, it’s unclear whether he’s imagining it or there’s something magical going on between them. In Eli’s voice, Abdou has struck gold — he’s both sage and fretful, a reliable storyteller who is also at the vortex of the book’s mercurial plot. Abdou consulted with Ktunaxa Nation in writing the novel, as a number of characters are Ktunaxa.
4. Heather, the Totality, by Matthew Weiner, $25
This domestic drama comes from one of the creators of Mad Men, and is similarly elegant and quiet while leaving an indelible impact. Heather is the beautiful and beloved only daughter of ambitious couple, Mark and Karen Breakstone; she attends Manhattan’s most prestigious private schools. Bobby is the abused and neglected only son of a heroin addict; he winds up in a New Jersey prison for sexual assault. Their paths seem destined to cross after Bobby gets out of jail, lands a construction gig on the Breakstones’ swanky street and becomes obsessed with Heather. The writing is spare but vivid, and the suspense builds brick by brick.
5. Local Girl Missing, by Claire Douglas, $23
Twenty years after her best friend, Sophie Collier, went missing at age 21, Frankie Howe receives a phone call from Sophie’s brother, Dan: he believes Sophie’s remains have finally been found. Frankie returns to their small seaport hometown in southwest England, revisiting the secrets she and Sophie shared as well as old feelings she seems to still harbour for Dan. In between Frankie’s present-day account, Sophie interjects from the past, edging the reader closer and closer to those secrets she shared with Frankie, as well as the ones she didn’t, and the truth of what happened to her all those years ago.
6. The Lost Ones, by Sheena Kamal, $33.50
Kamal’s first novel is built on one of the genre’s most irresistible foundations — the painful past of a hardened protagonist who can’t resist playing detective in a drama that directly involves said painful past. Nora Watts, who lives in Vancouver’s downtown east side, gets a call before five one morning from the father of the girl she gave up for adoption 15 years earlier. Everett Walsh wonders if Nora’s heard from his daughter, Bonnie, who’s been missing for two weeks. It turns out Bonnie knows Nora’s name… Will Nora find Bonnie? Will she meet her? Will looking for her change Nora in some way? These questions are present from the moment Nora picks up the phone.
7. The Fall of Lisa Bellow, by Susan Perabo, $34
Get ready to be transported back to middle school, when mean girls were so mean they’d actually ask you to “please sit on the middle of your chair so your butt’s not hanging over the side? We’re trying to eat.” Whichever side of the cafeteria you sat on back then, it’s not hard to conjure the mortification and fury Meredith Oliver felt when Lisa Bellow called those words out to her one lunchtime. But then, one day after school, Meredith and Lisa find themselves facedown on the floor of a deli, ordered there by a man with a gun. The girls support each other through the terror until the man takes Lisa away with him. In the ensuing weeks and months, as the search for Lisa yields nothing, it’s unclear whether Meredith, whose purchase on reality has loosened considerably, is ever really going to come back either.