As a woman of color who writes thrillers, I often feel like the oddball at almost every writing event I attend. Historically, the broad genre of crime fiction has belonged to white men, and while I’ve learned so much about writing from many of them, I find myself yearning to read books written by authors whose experiences more closely reflect my own. After all, crime is diverse. Crime fiction should be, as well.
Lately, it’s become something of a mission to read as many books written by women as I can, and amplify the voices of writers of color like me.
Here’s a list of ten mystery/suspense/thriller novels written by women of color that I’m most excited to read, releasing in 2020:
UNTAMED SHORE by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Out February 11 from Agora Books.
This first thriller by renowned author Moreno-Garcia is set in Baja California, Mexico. It’s 1979, and Viridiana, a bored young woman who spends her days watching dead sharks pile up on the seashore, is befriended by a group of wealthy American tourists who make it seem like everything she imagined about America through Hollywood films is really true. When one of them turns up dead, Viridiana is sucked into a web of lies and deceit, surrounded by predators who may turn out to be more dangerous than sharks.
Here at Ms., our team is continuing to report through this global health crisis—doing what we can to keep you informed and up-to-date on some of the most underreported issues of this pandemic. We ask that you consider supporting our work to bring you substantive, unique reporting—we can’t do it without you. Support our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.
EGG DROP DEAD by Vivien Chien
Out February 25 from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
When a domestic worker is found dead at Lana Lee’s first catering job, Lana wonders if Donna Feng, the owner of the shopping plaza where her family’s Ho-Lee Noodle House restaurant is situated, has something to do with it. This fifth book in Chien’s delightful Cleveland-set Noodle Shop Mystery series promises more of what makes her books so much fun to read. A cozy mystery paired with dim sum? I’m in.
FIGHT LIKE A GIRL by Sheena Kamal
Out March 10 from Penguin Teen.
Award-winning thriller writer Kamal’s first YA novel stars Trisha, a young girl of Trinidadian descent who trains in Muay Thai kickboxing as a way to deal with the violence she witnesses every day in her own home. When she accidentally runs over her abusive, drunk father in the car she’s just learning to drive, her mother finds finally finds peace—until she meets a new man, and the pattern begins again. Set in Toronto, I would buy this book based on the title alone.
THE EIGHTH GIRL by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
Out March 17 from William Morrow.
In this debut thriller by psychoanalytic psychotherapist Chung, only three people know that Alexa Wú has multiple personalities: her psychiatrist, her stepmother and her best friend, Ella. But when Ella begins working at a high-end gentlemen’s club, Alexa learns a terrible secret that draws her into her friend’s dangerous new inner circle. Will her multiple personalities be her greatest asset, or her greatest obstacle?
A DEADLY INSIDE SCOOP by Abby Collette
Out May 12 from Berkley.
A snowstorm keeps customers away on her family’s ice cream shop’s opening day, but that’s not the worst thing to happen to Bronwyn Crewse: She discovers a dead body in the snow, and her father is implicated in the man’s death. This first book in Collette’s new Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series promises two scoops of amateur crime-solving and fun.
WHAT YOU DON’T SEE by Tracy Clark
Out May 26 from Kensington.
This third book in Clark’s Chicago Mystery series promises to be the best so far. Former cop turned private investigator Cass Raines reluctantly agrees to be a bodyguard for one of the city’s most powerful celebrities, a woman named Vonda Allen whom everybody admires but nobody actually likes. Babysitting a celebrity might have been a boring job—until two of Allen’s employees turn up dead.
OPIUM AND ABSINTHE by Lydia Kang
Out July 1 from Lake Union.
I was a huge fan of Kang’s A BEAUTIFUL POISON (2017), and her next novel is once again a blend of history and mystery, with a touch of the supernatural. Set in New York City in 1899, Tillie Pembroke discovers her sister dead, drained of blood, with two puncture wounds on her neck. An avid researcher who doesn’t believe vampires actually exist, the opium that Tillie’s addicted to might just be affecting her judgment, helped not at all by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which has just been published.
AND NOW SHE’S GONE by Rachel Howzell Hall
Out September 22 from Forge.
I love a good cat-and-mouse thriller, and I love secrets, and Hall’s forthcoming thriller promises to deliver on both. Grayson Sykes is a rookie private investigator hunting for Isabel Lincoln, who may or may not be missing. Bestselling author Wendy Walker (THE NIGHT BEFORE, 2019) declares it “one hell of a read.”
THE NINJA’S BLADE by Tori Eldridge
Out September 1 from Agora Books.
Eldridge (THE NINJA DAUGHTER, 2019) is back with her second thriller in the Lily Wong series, and this time the Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja goes undercover in the dark, dangerous world of sex trafficking in search of a missing high school girl. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, Lily’s ninja training is no match for her controlling, manipulative grandparents, who’ve just arrived in LA from Hong Kong.
THE CIPHER by Isabella Maldonado
Out November 1 from Thomas & Mercer.
Maldonado, a retired police captain and former commander of special investigations and forensics, is known for writing strong female leads. The first book in her new series stars Nina Guerrera, who escaped from a serial killer when she was only sixteen. Now an FBI special agent, a video of Nina going toe-to-toe with an attacker in a park goes viral, thanks her to superb fighting skills. The man who abducted her as a teenager sees it—and does everything he can to recapture the victim that got away.
The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving. During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.