One these dark, dangerous, fast-paced thrillers should be your next beach read

Three thrillers to read on the beach, beach reads, thrillers to read in 2020

Or you know you curl up in your backyard or balcony or on your couch and fake bake and pretend you breathe in that salty air. These are the three books I spend a few hours under my beach umbrella with this month.

The Voter File by David Pepper
Three thrillers to read on the beach, beach reads, thrillers to read in 2020

It is less than 100 days until the US election, and things are getting tense out there. If you want to add to your worries, and why not, what is one more, dig in into The Voter File. What I liked the most about this fastpaced thriller is that although it involves Russian meddling, it came up with a completely new concern, a problem most people aren't even aware of. Terrifying. I appreciate it when a thriller is so currant and still ahead of the curve, a hard thing to do these days when the news circle moves at breakneck speed.
I was not aware that campaigns assign numbers to their registered voters, to distinguish between the people they still have to convince and those who have to turn up. Now, if somebody would mess with that system, a lot of things would go wrong.
Investigative reporter Jack Sharpe is fired from his high-profile gig with a national news channel. He is approached by grad student Tori Justice, involving a story about voter fraud in a local election. What follows is a sharp and exhilarating cat and mouse chase that will determine the future of the USA and cost people's lives. The Voter file reads like a dream, and if the coming election keeps you up at night, what better way to spend it, than reading a book that will confirm all your fears.

Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben
Three thrillers to read on the beach, beach reads, thrillers to read in 2020

This is the second book I read this year by Harlan Coben. It was so good. I also binged every Netflix show, based on his books, which might have set my expectations a bit too high.

I like that in many of his books, Coben merges kids' and parents' lives. Each group is dealing with their stuff while getting reeled in tighter and tighter into the central mystery.  That is the same in The boy from the Woods. The book starts with the always intriguing story of a boy found in the wild; they have no idea how long this boy, concisely named Wilde, was out there and who left him. We know Wilde learned to cope beautifully. Thirty years later, an adult Wilde still lives alone in a self-sufficient pod; he is an ex-marine who works as an investigator. He has friends, but his past left him emotionally stunted. He has on and off relationship with the widow of his best friend. Her son is worried that a girl at his school, who was severely bullied, has disappeared.  Wilde is asked to investigate by the grandmother, the TV lawyer, Hester Crimstein. Wilde becomes entangled in a plot that touches on the dirty deeds of awful spoiled rich guys, from young to old—even involving a Trump wannabe.
In other Coben books, the intersection of teenagers and parent's life is weaved masterfully, here the difference between the two worlds felt jarring.  Sometimes even far fetched. Now the political stuff was not unlikely; we have seen the real Mr. Orange do far worse. That is the problem nowadays. Where once a political aspect was entertaining, our world became so absurd, so beyond our imagination that fiction pales in comparison. How can you keep up, when the current situation surpasses whatever you made up every day. Wilde is a great character, and I hope he will be a recurring one. In the end, I liked how it all came together, and like all Coben's books, his pacing is relentless. In the end, I had the feeling he had all these characters ready, and they all come alive beautifully, but then he had to invent this plot to use them, and that worked out a bit awkwardly.

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
Three thrillers to read on the beach, beach reads, thrillers to read in 2020
Pretty Things may be my favorite book I read this year. I knew that once I read the beautiful prologue describing Lake Tahoe. I know Lake Tahoe only from The Godfather, and so already thought it was a menacing, depressing but beautiful place. And Pretty Things elevated that notion. Etched the image of this impenetrable, deep, black, foreboding, and mysterious lake in my mind forever. I spend this summer biking around Loch Ness, and that lake was a colossal disappointment. When I read the prologue, it made up for that day. It transported me instantly, like the best books can do, to this dark, dangerous, alluring locale. I could feel the breeze coming off the water, chilling your bones. I saw myself standing in the shadow of the pine trees—what a perfect stay at home book. 
Two girls face-off, one, Vanessa, is the spoiled instafamous daughter of an old moneyed dynasty, the other, Nina, is the brilliant and unsuccessful daughter of a grifter. Many years ago, Vanessa's brother was Nina's best friend. A love story developed. Till it blew up, and the fallout took Nina's promising future down with it. Hardened, an adult Nina is now following in her mother's footsteps. Seeing the chance to take revenge on the family that ruined her life, she partners up with her mother's partner to scam Vanessa. This a grifters story, contorted; dark, tender, devastating.
This could easily have been a trashy soap opera. It has all the elements: money, a dynasty, adultery, rich people messing up other people's lives, mental illness, but the tone is darker, pitch-black like the depths of Lake Tahoe. The self-assured tone elated Pretty Things from a trashy family saga to an entertaining, juicy, heartfelt, gritty, compelling, and contemporary story. The voices are sparkly, authentic. Nina and Vanessa are both likable. The style is hard-boiled, contorted, gorgeous, inevitable, in line with a writer like Megan Abbott: The relationship between mother and daughter reminded me of White Oleander.
So well-plotted and structured. Not one false note. Steely, tender, human.  It mixes those hard-boiled sensitivities with a satire on the Instagram famous; it gives a wild beating heart to what would have been caricatures. Twists are earned—a genuinely satisfying book.