Scare Easily? These 2 Thrillers Are Worth It.


Dear readers,

What I admire about the thrillers I recommend today (and I say this as someone so skittish that I read Henry James with a paw clamped over one eye): They give you no chance to chicken out. You are indicted as a co-conspirator on the first page.

These books waste no time and neither will I. You can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Joumana, lifelong wimp


“Ayoola summons me with these words — Korede, I killed him.

“I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

Talk about an efficient opening! We’re in Lagos, Nigeria, plunked in the crossfire of a knotty sibling dynamic. Korede, the older daughter, is responsible to a fault, a neat freak, “composed only of hard edges.” Ayoola, her sister, is unthinkably gorgeous, indolent, childish — and deadly. The opening scene’s murder is her third kill. Chapters move at a pleasingly staccato clip, headed by nervy chapter titles: Bleach, Body, Knife, #3.

Korede brings a cool precision to all she does, whether it’s managing the staff at the hospital where she is head nurse or pouring homemade ammonia solution over the blood stains in her trunk. She is in love with a colleague, and is gutted when he begins to pursue Ayoola.

In an attempt to alleviate her guilt, she confesses to a comatose patient, which inevitably backfires. Somehow, despite this crucible of pent-up frustration, there’s room for compassion and even humor.

For a novel with a not-insignificant body count, the murders take a back seat to the sisters‘ interpersonal drama. Korede’s corrosive jealousy is somehow more noxious than her blood-scouring cleaning agent, and it’s a marvel to witness. Here she is, in a fit of romantic pique: “I console myself with the knowledge that even the most beautiful flowers wither and die.”

Read if you like: #Cleantok, the third season of “Arrested Development,” “Killing Eve”
Available from: The “staff favorites” table of the local bookstore, waiting rooms, wherever books are sold


Fiction, 1962

Indoor cat that I am, I gravitated right away to the bones of this story: prickly loners who need a hobby, catnapping receptionists and, yes, purloined keys. By the first three pages, I was hooked. There’s a traffic accident, a case of disguised gender and a bushel of questions, and that’s all before we learn about the kidnapping of a young child that’s at the heart of the novel.

Welcome to the K Apartments for Ladies, a community for single women in post-World War II Japan. The building is home to plenty of eccentrics, and as it turns out, plenty of secrets. You might never look at a violin the same way after finishing this novel.

The apartment tower is about to be shifted over by four meters, with the inhabitants still in place during the move. The physical displacement, it turns out, is the least disruptive part of the renovation; the building’s history and its residents’ most shameful detours are necessarily brought to light.

(I was inspired to dive into Tokyo noir after picking up some books by the author Natsuo Kirino, best known among English readers for her novel “Out” — an ingenious story that centers on four women who work at a bento factory and explores a seamier side of the city, complete with yakuza and illicit baccarat and prostitutes and murder. The translation is a bit wooden to my ear, but we’re living in a golden age of Japanese literature available in English; maybe Sam Bett or David Boyd or Margaret Mitsutani could be persuaded to take it on?)

Read if you like: “Only Murders in the Building,” snippy bridge club conversations, lesser-explored corners of Japanese society
Available from: EBay, book resellers, recently excavated holes near you



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