Why You Need a Speculative Thriller More than Sunscreen this Summer

Read Jeremy Finley's exclusive guest post, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of his debut thriller, The Darkest Time of Night!

Think of the most mind-numbing thing you’ve read lately, and I’ll ask you to hold my beer.

A big win for an investigative reporter is to dig up enough misdeeds on the part of an elected official or an agency that the state launches an audit, so it was with a degree of glee that I received a transportation audit last week. It came after a series of stories I’d done about a deeply troubled agency that serves the poor.

It didn’t take long to find one section that stunned me with its complexity and dullness. The header read: “Perform Reconciliation Techniques to Ensure the Veracity of Farebox Revenue.”

The next time someone asks me why speculative thrillers line my bookshelves, I shall shout to the heavens, “Because I had to read the section about performing reconciliation techniques to ensure the veracity of Farebox revenue, that’s why.”

Read an excerpt from Jeremy Finley’s The Darkest Time of Night!

Seriously, life can throw us some seriously boring roadblocks to joy. Balancing checkbooks (am I the last person on earth still doing this?), making spreadsheets, creating subfolders to folders, filling out expense forms, going to conferences in Des Moines, Iowa.

To me, a good thriller paperback is more essential for a business trip than underwear (TMI, I know. I try to remember both). I mean, if you’re stuck in the Spring Hill Suites, a good Grisham will give you reason to live in the hours before the complimentary pancakes are on the warmer.

But friends, pack along a Stephen King or a Jennifer McMahon or a Robert McCammon and everything—even the stale coffee—disappears. A great speculative thriller takes our world, full of its disappointments and frustrations and boredom, and reveals that there’s still so much more we don’t know. That we couldn’t imagine.

So in the thick of summer, should you have an impending trip to the beach with your wife’s cousin’s husband who can’t stop talking about his job in data entry, then fear not, I’ve got you covered with five of my favorite speculative thrillers.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

I discovered this book a few years ago, and I still think about it every time the first hint of fall creeps in. Creep, being the figurative word. Set in Vermont, McMahon hooks you from the very sentence, about what a child sees in the woods that is certainly not of the world we know. But it’s what’s hidden in the floorboards that has you tearing through to the end.

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

What I love about this book is the normalcy of it, set in Indiana in a beautiful hotel. Koryta hooks you by thinking you’ve figured out the true villain, only to realize that there is a greater evil waiting in something as benign as water. You will not take that next drink from the fountain without thinking of this book.

The Keep by F. Paul Wilson

The genius of this book is that everyone is a bad guy. I mean, the people in peril are Nazis. Yet, when they arrive at the keep in the Romanian Mountains and crosses are found on interior walls facing inward, you consider wanting the despicable soldiers to get the hell out of dodge. I’m not ashamed that I took great joy in seeing what waits for them in the dark.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

When I heard that the master himself had written a sequel to The Shining, I was counting down the days to the release. I mean, how do you top one of the greatest horror thrillers of all time? He does it by introducing us to an all-grown-up Danny Torrance, who finds that the ghosts from The Overlook Hotel have nothing on the evil that is hunting him and a girl who shares his extraordinary powers. Take note: this is how you do a sequel well.

Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon

McCammon’s novel first grabbed me as a college student and has never let me go. Part coming-of-age novel, part murder mystery, what our hero encounters in floodwaters, and later at the circus, is so unexpected and thrilling that it makes me want to stop writing this and go reread the book for the 1000th time.

Now you’re armed—even if it’s only for that overnight trip with the sales staff to debate email strategies. If you forget that sunscreen, just hold up any of these books and hide in their shadows.

Read Weston Ochse’s glowing review of Jeremy Finley’s debut novel, The Darkest Time of Night!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

The Darkest Time of Night Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/why-you-need-a-speculative-thriller-more-than-sunscreen-this-summer-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) July 12, 2018. Sweepstakes ends at 12:59 p.m. ET July 31, 2018. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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  1. Phyllis McGuire

    Looks very interesting!!!!

  2. John Smith

    Read the excerpt–sounds like the novel has sort of a fairy-tale quality to it!

  3. Thomas Walker

    sign me up for a copy

  4. Anne

    Fascinating and intriguing novel which I would enjoy.

  5. Joye I

    I am always looking for new authors to read. This book sounds like the kind I enjoy reading.

  6. Toni A Laliberte

    This book looks fantastic! I love a good mystery/thriller.

  7. MM

    Thank you for the opportunity to win!

  8. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  9. Mitch Schaub

    This book sounds intriguing!

  10. Nirmala89

    Count me in, please!

  11. SqueegyBeckinheim

    I really enjoy speculative Fiction and horror. I see a few to add to my list. 🙂 I couldn’t get into The Winter People unfortunately.

  12. Jennifer A Connolly

    My students love murder mysteries. Would love to check it out!

  13. Cecelia Rohrbacher

    this would be a great book to win – thank you for the opportunity – the review made it sound like something I would truly enjoy

  14. mary pirmorac

    looking forward to reading this book

  15. Adrien Toro

    This book looks scary and mysterious. I’d love to read it.

  16. John Davis

    Intrigue, by an investigative reporter? Wonderful! And an author with a sense of humor! Even better!

  17. becky

    I have really enjoyed many debut authors as of late~ will add to my TBR!

  18. Jean Feingold

    Interesting to think of audits as a source for mystery plots.

  19. Jackie Wisherd

    I would enjoy reading this book.

  20. Joanne Ahearn

    Looks like a novel I would enjoy!

  21. Christine Royer

    I love mysteries and thrillers. Sounds like a great book to check out! Thanks!

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  23. Trisha McCullough

    Would love a chance to win this.

  24. JLWalling1

    I’ve read a couple of the books but now, including yours, I have more to add to my list!

  25. Randi Oaklief

    Sounds fascinating, thanks!

  26. Sara M Lontcoski

    Enjoyable reading.

  27. pat murphy

    Very interesting .

  28. Brad Bonds

    I’d like to read this book.

  29. Annie Buck

    I really liked The Winter People. It actually made me feel cold physically. I would look up and realize I was in my living room in June instead of cold and grim Vermont!

  30. Janet West

    The darkest time of the night is the scariest.

  31. Shirley Evans

    This looks like a very interesting mystery to read. Thanks for the chance to win.

  32. Catherine Myers

    would love to read

  33. Jess

    I would love the chance to read this and share my thoughts with my very active online book club of over 10K members!

  34. Jeffrey Malis

    Thank you for the insightful post, review link, excerpt and entry opportunity!

  35. David Siegel

    Would love these.

  36. Anita Sue Hamilton

    Might be humorous rendition of a investigative

  37. katevocke

    sounds amazing – thanks!

  38. susan beamon

    I have read The Keep and I have an unread copy of Dr Sleep in my TBR pile. Send me more books.

  39. Tina Chavez-Caddey

    I am excited to read The Darkest Time of Night. Please enter me in your giveaway. Thanks!

  40. carloshmarlo

    Not only are those books good in the daytime, they’re great for a late night read in the cool summer evening. Thanks!

  41. bellecindy87

    Several of my favorite authors: Stephen King & Robert McCammon.
    You should also include Tami Hoag and Patricia Cornwell.
    Look forward to reading your book. Thank you.

  42. Ashley Baker

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

  43. Carolyn

    Looks like a great list for summertime reads – including your new book! Looks good!!!

  44. Becky

    I love a good summer thriller…or fall thriller…or winter thriller…or spring thriller!

  45. Ronald Roseborough

    Sounds just creepy enough to make a good read. Count me in.


    I have reserved all five of these books at the library! If Jeremy Finley loves them, then I definitely want to read his book!

  47. Lelia Taylor

    I read a lot of milder stuff and a good thriller is just what I need to cleanse the palate 😉

  48. Melissa Lawrence

    Would love to win this…you never can read too many thrillers! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  49. Michael Carter

    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  50. Louis Burklow

    I’d like to read this even though I don’t have any business trips planned.

  51. Jennifer Sakurai

    This looks very interesting, and I appreciate the chance to win. However, I dare say that if I read it while outside this summer, I’ll still need sunscreen!

  52. Sandra Brossart

    I am looking forward to a new read and some chills and thrills – no business trips planned and I live in the sunniest place in the USA anyway – so lots of sunscreen on hand 🙂

  53. Janet Gould

    All of these books look great.

  54. Dawn Owen

    I’d love to read this one. Thanks for the chance!

  55. Carol Lawman

    What a great selection! I’m dying to read them…

  56. Sherry Soobotin

    I’d love to win a copy of the book!

  57. Tiffany

    These look so good

  58. Lori P

    Expect I’d be reading such as these in the evening, so wouldn’t be needing sunscreen. Thanks for these suggestions.

  59. Sally Schmidt

    Yes, there is nothing better than a thriller, and this is a great excerpt of one. On my TBR list for sure. Thanks for the giveaway.

  60. Melinda

    Sounds sooo good! Can’t wait to win or purchase a copy of this book!

  61. Cherie Gravette

    This sounds like a must read! Thank you for this chance!

  62. Burma Turner

    Sounds like something I would enjoy! Thanks for the chance 🙂

  63. L

    I have to say I agree with all of Mr. Finley’s observations. And, I love the books he recommended. Thus, I can assume that his own book is going to be one heck of a good read. Can’t wait!

  64. James Patrick Joyce

    Sounds like fun. And, for the record, Boy’s Life is one of the most amazing books about childhood that I’ve ever read.

  65. Jodi Scott

    Would love to read this

  66. Robert Grieco

    The cover gives me the “woolies”. 🙂

  67. Teresa Young

    The excerpt has a science fiction aspect, sounds intriguing.

  68. Joyce Benzing

    Always interesting to read someone’s first novel. Thanks for the chance!

  69. Marjorie Manharth

    I’ve never read Jeremy Finley – but, wow, what credentials! Would love to read this book.

  70. Saundra K. Warren

    Going on my TBR list!!!!

  71. Tawney Mazek

    Well, the except and review certainly whet the appetite. Another one for The List.

  72. Susan Morris

    Can hardly wait to get my hands on this book! I have two of the novels he lists as his favorites, so I know we have that in common. (Also on the lookout for the other three!) Thank you, Mr. Finley!

  73. Sherman H.

    Sounds like a great book to read since the weather is hot and inside it is cool!

  74. Maureen Wynn

    I definitely need some summer reading!

  75. Elena L.

    I enjoyed the dark feeling of the cover which really enhance the thrilling emotion!!

  76. Terri M Lannan

    Would love a new book to read!

  77. Marilyn Clement

    I look forward to determining which of these authors have influenced Finley the most.

  78. Karen Terry

    Sounds like a winner.

  79. Susan Wise

    I always enjoy a good thriller and it would be great to win this.

  80. Rhonda Stefani

    Good thrillers are just the best, and yes Doctor Sleep was excellent! Now sitting on my bookcase, would love to add The Darkest Night. It’s been one of my really, really want to read! Thanks for the suggestions.

  81. vicki wurgler

    I love to read a good thriller book

  82. Patricia Nicklas

    Sounds like a great read. Thanks for the giveaway!

  83. Barbara Lima

    Sounds like his main character is introspective.

  84. ViolinGeek

    Sounds like a winner. I have 3 more books to add to my ‘must be read’ list! Thanks!

  85. Jen H.

    Thank you for the chance to win. I cannot wait to see what unfolds!

  86. nancy wolfe

    Your book definitely sounds like a must read. Thank you for the giveaway.

  87. Rebecca Boukikaz

    I am going to have to read this book. It sounds like a winner.

  88. Beth Talmage

    I would love to get away with a stack of books–this one included. Thanks for the chance to enter.

  89. Daniel M

    sounds like a fun one

  90. Linda Cosby

    Sounds like a great book.

  91. Karen Minter

    Love mysteries. I just finished reading a fantastic one and now I’m ready to start another!

  92. Vernon Luckert

    I love a good thriller!

  93. Laurent L

    Sounds a like a fun thriller to read during the summer.

  94. Debra Patton

    Thank you for sharing. I love a good thriller!

  95. Vicky Bair

    I must read this! I read the excerpt! This would make an awesome movie too!

  96. DebP

    Both speculative and scary. Sounds like a book I really need to read.

  97. cl whipple

    fascinating titles!


    Fascinating read!!

  99. rebecca ward

    Excited to read the books if the titles are any indication.

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