Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
When Amelia Wright wins a weekend away in Scotland, she feels it is the perfect opportunity to repair her marriage. Adam, her screenwriter husband, reluctantly agrees to the trip but has no intention of leaving his work behind as his wife requests. After driving through a blinding snowstorm, the couple arrive at their destination: a chapel converted into a house. The housekeeper is nowhere in sight, the house is neglected and the kitchen barely stocked, and the generator unreliable. On their first evening, Amelia spots someone spying on her through the window, and both Adam and Amelia hear impossible sounds in the house. This story is told through a decade’s worth of letters written on each wedding anniversary and through Amelia and Adam’s perspectives of their ill fated weekend away. I was completely surprised by the ending and more than a little annoyed with myself for not connecting the dots, which in retrospect, were connectable. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the characters in the end, which I think might have been the author’s intent, as no one is fully innocent or guilty in this one.
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
When Malcolm Kershaw opens his bookstore during a snowstorm, he does not expect any guests or customers. His plan is to feed the shop cat and get some work done while the rest of Boston takes refuge inside. Much to his surprise, he does receive a visitor, and she’s not there to shop. The FBI agent who visits the Old Devils Bookstore wants to talk about the blog post that Mal created years ago, a list he titled “Eight Perfect Murders.” The agent has seen some disturbing connections between Malcolm’s list and recent homicides in New England. Mal is eager to help, concerned that someone would copycat his list, but he’s also concerned the agent will uncover his biggest secret. While the other mysteries on this list all take place in isolated and snowed in locations, this is very much a city mystery. This is an excellent selection for book lovers with nods to great detective literature, a bookshop setting, and a bookstore cat. Overall, Eight Perfect Murders is a fun cat and mouse game, with a narrator who keeps you guessing.
The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf
True crime author, Wylie Lark, has decided to finish writing her newest book at the farmhouse where the crime took place. One evening, in the middle of a severe snowstorm, Wylie searches for her dog on the grounds, only to find that her dog has located an unconscious child in the snow. Bringing both the child and the dog inside, she finds the child is traumatized and unwilling to tell her anything about how they came to be outside in a snowstorm. The Overnight Guest tells three intertwining stories: Wylie’s in the present day, Josie’s story twenty years ago when she was the sole survivor of a brutal crime, and that of an unnamed girl living with her mother. This is more unsettling than most of the list. Think In Cold Blood meets Room. If I had known going in that this was about the murder of a family, I might have hesitated to begin. This is not to discourage people from reading it, as it is a good book and intricately plotted, merely to say it’s not for all readers, as it is scarier and more violent than your average mystery/thriller.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
West Hall, Vermont, 1908. Sara Harrison Shea is found murdered in her yard weeks after the death of her small daughter, Gertie. Her niece publishes Sara’s journal, which talks of fortune telling and spirits wandering the woods behind the farmhouse. Sara’s journal is the source of all West Hall legends, but many residents can’t help but suspect there is truth there. Everyone in town has either known someone who has disappeared without a trace or seen something they cannot explain, and the oldest residents have always left out offerings for Sara’s restless spirit. With the exception of drunk teenagers and UFO enthusiasts, the town avoids the woods and the Devil’s Hand, the mysterious rock formation within the woods. In the present day, college student Ruthie lives in the farmhouse. When Ruthie’s reclusive mother goes missing, Ruthie and her little sister search the home for clues of their mother’s whereabouts, only to find all clues lead back to Sara Harrison Shea and her diary. As the only supernatural thriller on this list, The Winter People will appeal to a reader looking for a complex ghost story with a quirky Twin Peaks-esque setting.
One by One by Ruth Ware
Snoop, a successful English tech start up, is holding their corporate retreat in a chalet in the French Alps. When they arrive at the chalet, dressed in designer clothes and already drunk, caretaker Erin knows exactly how to handle their kind as she has done it hundreds of times before. But when the Snoop crew gets down to work, Erin begins to realize that things are a bit strange here. With the offer of a company buyout, the shareholders are torn between the two warring cofounders, Eva and Topher. And strangely, all of the pressure seems to be on Liz, the shy and awkward former secretary of Snoop. After one of the group goes missing while skiing in dangerous conditions, an avalanche isolates the Snoop staff in the chalet, and then they are murdered one by one. A well-written mystery with isolated And Then There Were None vibes, One by One is a definite page-turner.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
They were the best of friends at Oxford, but they grew apart over time. Still they travel to an exotic location each year to celebrate the new year, and this year they find themselves in a luxurious yet isolated hunting lodge in Scotland. Beautiful Miranda has been disappointed by her lack of professional success in life, and so she keeps a grip on her role as queen of the friend group. Workaholic Katie wishes she hadn’t come. Emma, who joined the group as Mark’s girlfriend, wants to cement her status in the glamorous friend circle by planning the best new years celebration yet. Everyone at the lodge is hiding a secret, even the housekeeper Heather and gamekeeper Doug, and on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead. Told from alternating points of view, The Hunting Party is a suspenseful mystery.