If you love Agatha Christie’s classic play The Mousetrap, or you’re longing for a good high school theater production, you should read Two Truths and a Lie by April Henry. It’s packed with classic characters from stage play whodunits, updated for more realistic diversity of course, and it’s an homage to theater and murder mysteries.
Nell and her theater friends are on their way to a conference and competition, and their spirits are high – until a blizzard chases them off the road and into a weird motel in the middle of nowhere. It’s full of strange knick-knacks, it’s oddly laid out, and it’s nearly deserted, except for a few truckers, a handyman, and the owner. Luckily another group of high schoolers turns up similarly stranded, and the evening turns to games and flirtation. But during a group session of Two Truths and a Lie, a terrifying anonymous message is found: “I like to watch people die. I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve killed.” When students start to go missing it’s a terrifying scramble to find them and figure out the truth, even as the storm gets worse outside…
Tropes and references to horror movies and stage plays (Agatha Christie in particular) abound; these are theater kids, after all, and so the book can read as staged in places. Also familiar is the love triangle/mysterious love interest, but the other characters are diverse in race, religion, and sexuality in an authentic way. The plot is also suspenseful enough to keep you hooked and full of twists and surprises.
Don’t miss this snowed-in teen thriller for chills of all kinds! This title is also available on Overdrive.
Heather Gudenkauf is an author of eight novels. She is Edgar Award nominated, which honors the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television. Heather is also a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel was an instant bestseller and spent 22 weeks on the New York Times list. Her books have been published in over 20 countries and have appeared on many book lists.
Heather was born in South Dakota, but moved to Iowa at the age of three with the rest of her family. Heather was born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment. As a result, she turned to books as a way to relax and retreat. She read many many books as a child, which helped fuel her desire to become a writer. Heather currently lives in Iowa with her family and her dog, Lolo.
Her latest book, The Overnight Guest, is the story of a true crime writer searching for answers. Suffering from writer’s block while working on her latest book, Wylie Lark decides to escape to an isolated farmhouse in Iowa to hopefully finish her book. She has worked to keep her distance from the residents of Burden in order to not have to answer questions about what she’s doing there and why she’s staying at such an isolated location. When Wylie learns that a big snowstorm is rolling in, she isn’t too worried. After all, she came prepared. She has a fireplace, silence, and a dog to keep her company. She also needs to finish writing her book which is more than enough to keep her busy. The only hiccup to her perfect plan: twenty years ago in the house that she is staying, two people were murdered and a girl disappeared without a trace.
The storm becomes much worse than Wylie expected. She finds herself trapped in this haunted house, trapped with the secrets of who killed those two people and trapped with her own reasons for wanting to escape her family back home. On one of her trips outside, Wylie makes a shocking discovery: a small child lying in the snow. When Wylie brings the child inside to warm them up, she immediately starts searching for answers as to why and how they ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere outside the farmhouse. While she questions them, the storm rages outside bringing more than snow, wind, and ice to her door. Wylie discovers that she isn’t as isolated as she thought she was and what she thought was true was all a lie.
This book is also available in the following formats:
Author photo credit: Erin Kirchoff
A teen thriller that keeps ratcheting up the tension, in the midst of a blizzard Iowans will understand all too well, Five Total Strangers is a suspenseful tale of not-so-chance coincidences and danger that creeps in from every direction.
For Mira, nothing has ever been the same since her aunt died last Christmas – especially since she had to leave her grieving mom to go back to school across the country. Now, it’s Christmas again and Mira is desperate to get home and be there for her mom, but the weather isn’t cooperating. Her connecting flight was just grounded, so the only way to get home in time is to accept a ride from her charming seatmate and her friends. But once underway, Mira realizes that none of her fellow passengers know each other, and she just can’t shake the feeling that something sinister is going on – especially when their things start to go missing. And all the while, the roads just keep getting worse…
The genius of this book for me is the tug-of-war between logic and instinct, as Mira struggles between what her primal, gut-level feelings tell her about a situation and what her logical, civilized brain says. I thought this brilliantly captured what it’s like to be in a scary situation in today’s world, where we know the odds of danger and catastrophe are low…but never zero. The descriptions also vividly conjure up all the unpleasantness and otherworldliness of road travel, including car sickness, dingy rest areas, and dicey gas stations, all overlaid in this case with an unspecified menace, coupled with the frustrating uncertainty and powerlessness that comes with being young. Interspersed with the chapters are ambiguous handwritten notes which suggest nothing is as coincidental as it appears, and which help the tension build to a twist you probably won’t see coming.
Those who like thrilling, suspenseful mysteries, locked room mysteries (with a mobile twist), and vivid casts of characters (all hiding secrets) will want to try Five Total Strangers – if only to remind themselves why winter road trips are an absolutely terrible idea.
This book is also available on Overdrive.
What would you do if you were stuck in a remote lodge in the middle of winter for a long weekend? This lodge has hiking trails, a library, fireplaces, and other outside activities. Sounds pretty idyllic, right? I thought so! Author Shari Lapena takes every bookworm’s dream weekend getaway and turns it into a nightmare in her newest novel, An Unwanted Guest. Fans of murder mysteries will want to read this book as Lapena crafts a book with descriptions similar to an Agatha Christie novel.
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena tells the story of a group of people headed to a cozy mountain lodge named Mitchell’s Inn in the Catskills for a perfect weekend retreat. Things start to turn dicey on the drive to the lodge as a winter storm starts to barrel down on the area. Once everyone is settled at the lodge, they all settle in for various romantic, relaxing weekend activities. As events unfold, it becomes obvious that each person is not what they seem. When planned activities come to a screeching halt as the weather increasingly becomes worse and worse, the guests are forced to rely on each other for companionship.
As more and more guests arrive at the inn, they greet each other with interest, wondering about their reasonings for being there, but not wanting to get involved. The weather keeps guests and limited hotel staff stuck inside the Mitchell Inn without any hope of rescue from the outside. Waking up to a horrifying scream the next day, guests discover a dead body laying at the foot of the stairs. As the weekend progresses, the situation further deteriorates out of control with a frightening new truth coming to light. There’s a killer in their midst. None of them can escape. There is nowhere to run. They’re trapped, desperate for help, and finding that their trust in others is quickly slipping away. Searching for the truth, tensions run high as they all try to find out who is the killer and, most importantly, stay alive!
This book is also available in the following formats: