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Thrillers That Will Leave You Thinking

"We are drawn to stories that are fast-paced and gripping on a plot level—think mysteries and thrillers—but that also delve deeper and continue to resonate long after the turning of the final page."

Book Cover Stealing John Hancock

In our thriller Stealing John Hancock, we use an identity theft story to explore the nature of identity and how we each construct our own sense of self. When you lose everything, right down to your name, who are you really? We are drawn to stories that are fast-paced and gripping on a plot level—think mysteries and thrillers—but that also delve deeper and continue to resonate long after the turning of the final page. We like to be entertained and made to reflect. Here are some books that have done that for both of us.


Book Cover We Spread

We Spread, by Iain Reid

We were really moved by this poignant portrayal of aging with dementia. Penny is summarily put in a long-term care facility of a strange nature. Is her memory further failing or is there something more sinister lurking in the environment? It’s unsettling and spurs Penny and the reader to unravel the true nature of what is transpiring, making the book hard to put down. While masterfully exploring issues of old age, the cruelty of time, art as transformation, and the interconnectivity of all life, the book is at the same time gripping, with understated, slow-build suspense, comprising situations that are slightly out of kilter. This story gave us chills, made us think, and will stay with us a long time.

Book Cover Everything Turns Away

Everything Turns Away, by Michelle Berry

This book has it all: the intrigue of a mystery, the pacing of a thriller, beautiful prose, and captivating characters. It is centred around two couples whose lives are forever changed in a day when their neighbour is murdered, their babysitter goes missing, and the World Trade Centre collapses. We found that the deeply flawed characters lent a grittiness to the narrative, making this captivating thriller a startling exploration of relationships and how they fall apart. 

Book Cover Please Join Us

Please Join Us, by Catherine McKenzie

This enthralling thriller weaves such an intricate web that we didn’t foresee a way out for Nicole, a high-powered lawyer grappling with downturns in her life and career. It’s a fast-paced, spellbinding story of a woman who becomes entwined in a secret-society “girls’ club” in an attempt to combat the “boys’ club” networks. This book made us think about how far a “good” person will veer to survive real or perceived pressures of society, family, and job, and how manipulation can shift cooperation to blind adherence. The climax is brilliantly crafted with a twist within a twist within a twist. Not to be missed for thriller enthusiasts!

Book Cover Every City is Every Other City

Every City is Every Other City, by John McFetridge 

While a light and entertaining read with streamlined writing and dry humour, we found that the subtly interwoven themes elevated the narrative. Gordon Stewart, a location scout in the film industry, has a side business as a private investigator, and his production manager on set asks him to find her missing uncle, who the police believe killed himself. The case leads Gordon to learn about the shocking suicide rates and mental health struggles amongst middle-aged men, and where that can lead, including family abandonment and attempts to escape societal pressure by assuming new identities and starting again. The sparse prose and even-keeled, cynical protagonist, make this an easy read, but the brushes with toxic masculinity, the role of privilege in society, and mental health struggles left us with lots to think about.

Book Cover Blaze Island

Blaze Island, by Catherine Bush 

A near-future reworking of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this climate-change thriller is set on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland that has a massive hurricane heading towards it. 19-year-old Miranda has fled to the island with her climate-scientist father in the wake of disasters that have forced them into hiding. In addition to the stirring environmental warnings, the other aspect that struck us about this story was the unique dimension the setting adds to it. With characters living off-grid, studying weather, foraging, and learning survival skills—the island is brought to life, emerging as almost a character in itself, and a haunting one at that. 

Book Cover In the Dark We Forget

In The Dark We Forget, by Sandra SG Wong

This psychological thriller kept us engrossed from the beginning when, on the side of a highway far from home, Cleo, a Chinese Canadian young woman, wakes battered, drugged, and with amnesia. Then her parents and a 47-million-dollar lottery ticket are missing. Who is the perpetrator? The RCMP, Cleo, her brother, and the reader are anxious to find out. With amnesia-stricken Cleo as the unreliable narrator, Wong masterfully creates tension and suspense. Cleo doesn’t know if she should trust herself, and neither did we. This book draws light to Asian stereotyping, especially of women, in Canadian society; strained family dynamics in a cultural context; and how far family loyalty can be pushed. This thought-provoking novel had us riveted. Is it better to stay in the dark or painfully remember?

Book Cover The Maid

The Maid, by Nita Prose

A maid in a grand hotel, Molly Gray delights in proper etiquette, cleaning, and donning her crisp uniform each morning. After a guest is found murdered in his hotel room, Molly quickly becomes the prime suspect. While it isn’t stated, Molly is clearly neurodivergent. Her way of dealing with a world that she finds unpredictable is to keep things “simple and neat.” A murder investigation is anything but that. We found that the of clash those two realities heightened the tension, and showcased Molly’s unique perspective. We attended a book event where the author said that she used to have a job working with autistic people and that some of Molly’s characteristics were inspired by what she learned from them. With novels as portals into characters’ minds, it’s transformative to discover different ways of experiencing the world. We’d love to see mysteries and thrillers with autistic characters written by autistic writers.

Book Cover Pacifique

Pacifique, by Sarah L. Taggart

This is not your usual mystery nor thriller. No crime, no chase, no “bad guy,” no case. But it is definitely both. It’s a mystery as to what is real and what is delusion. Does Pacifique, the love of Tia, actually exist? It’s a thriller in the tension and suspense created by the inconsistencies in Tia’s world. After waking in an ambulance after an accident, Tia frantically insists on Pacifique’s existence and ends up in a psychiatric ward, where she continues to try to unravel and make sense of her perceptions. And then there is Andrew, a fellow institution-mate, with his own set of issues, who loves Tia. What role will delusion play in their relationship and in their lives? And in the end, as in life, does it matter if it’s actual or imagined because it’s true to the person experiencing it, nonetheless. The book’s stunning imagery sets a tone that mesmerized us and had us float through the prose without marking its passage. 

Book Cover Stealing John Hancock

Learn more about Stealing John Hancock:

John "JP" Hancock's day just got a whole lot worse. After a nasty breakup and being scammed into an acting job that doesn't exist, JP suddenly finds himself the unwitting victim of an identity theft that has police detective Nya Grey hot on his heels for multimillion-dollar real estate fraud he didn't commit. 

With the police closing in, JP finds an unlikely ally in the Vindicator, a secretive and brilliant hacker who agrees to help clear his name by whatever means necessary. But there's more to the story than meets the eye, and they soon find themselves at the centre of a high-stakes international pursuit with a master con artist. Failure to outwit him could land them in prison or far worse, but if they succeed, the payoff includes the ultimate revenge.


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