What鈥檚 that in the bushes? Look out behind you! Is it a murderer? A psychopath? An evil clown? No鈥 it鈥檚 new novels! The new thrillers in this week鈥檚 book club will each take you on a fascinating ride, whether it comes from the masterful manipulations of a so-called 鈥渂est friend,鈥 the turbulent world of high-stakes art, or even a questioning of reality itself. Read on for enough intrigue to last you for days.

1. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine ($26): Envy is a tricky thing. Sometimes, it spurs us to great heights, challenging us to do better. Other times, it produces an evil, choking bitterness that ruins lives. Anyone who has ever asked, 鈥渨hy her and not me?鈥 may be able to identify at least a little bit with Amber Patterson, resident nobody, who hungrily looks into the wealthy town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. Nondescript and unhappy, she鈥檚 obsessed with the life of rich, beautiful Daphne Parrish, who has everything she could possibly want 鈥 looks, power, a gorgeous husband named Jackson 鈥 except for a real friend and confidante. Well, Amber鈥檚 happy to oblige.

鈥淎mber Patterson was tired of being invisible. She鈥檇 been coming to this gym every day for three months 鈥 three long months of watching these women of leisure working at the only thing they cared about. They were so self-absorbed; she would have bet her last dollar that not one of them would recognize her on the street even though she was five feet away from them every single day. She was a fixture to them鈥 unimportant, not worthy of being noticed. But she didn鈥檛 care 鈥 not about any of them.鈥 Amber鈥檚 cold, calculating personality is revealed by the novel鈥檚 constant foray into her inner thoughts as she plays Daphne like a stolen Stradivarius; gleefully malicious, she has barely a shred of sympathy for the woman.

Making up a deceased sister with Cystic Fibrosis to match Daphne鈥檚 own, she insinuates herself into the woman鈥檚 life, and closer and closer to her husband. Like many who haven鈥檛 been betrayed often by life, Daphne is painfully trusting, and Amber learns her secrets, including the fact that the marriage is slightly strained over the complete lack of male children Daphne鈥檚 been able to produce. Now Amber has a new, terrifying plan. Whether you love Amber or love to hate her, watching her set the wheels in motion is a pulse-pounding delight.

2. The Appraisal by Anna Porter ($16): When Geza Marton鈥檚 family was fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust, a starving refugee bartered away the family鈥檚 treasure: a Titian painting now worth extravagant sums of money. Now in his 80s, Marton wants the painting back. He hires art appraiser Helena Marsh to authenticate the painting, procure it, and get it to Toronto from Budapest, Hungary; no small feat, as 鈥淥ld Masters鈥 paintings aren鈥檛 allowed to leave the country. Helena finds that even buying the painting is going to be difficult, as it鈥檚 not just a matter of money. There are others who want the painting, particularly some Ukrainian criminals, and they鈥檒l stop at nothing to get it. Helena鈥檚 going to have to rely on her arsenal of disguises, her artistic expertise, and possibly even some martial arts training to stay alive and free from prison:

鈥淪he opened her black canvas holdall and arranged her clothes over the bedcover: black pants, a grey woollen sweater, black T-shirt, a black hoodie, faded black Nike running shoes, thin skin-coloured pantyhose, a short white cardigan, a small-brimmed foldable hat, five cell phones, black leather gloves, dark-rimmed glasses, a long pearl-grey linen jacket with a high collar, a raincoat, a cross-strapped navy bathing suit, four passports, a clear plastic bag containing a black wig with a fringe and a light-brown one, a small Revlon makeup case, a vial of face cream, the photograph Kis had given her, a foldable flashlight, wire cutters, a pocketbook, a Nikon Coolpix 16MP, a suede sheath containing a long-handled straight knife with a thin blade, a snub-nosed SwissMiniGun with six bullets.鈥

None of this is going to be easy, as Helena鈥檚 being tailed by Attila Feher, a retired Budapest police officer who takes on freelance detective work. As if things couldn鈥檛 get any worse, a body is found in Helena鈥檚 hotel room. It鈥檚 a race to discover the shady connections, get the painting, and clear her name. And why does her employer seem to have connections to Stalin鈥檚 prison camps? The Appraisal is not just a simple thriller but a detailed work with scholarly elements informed by the author鈥檚 research into art and Hungarian history.

3. Infinite Ground by Martin MacInness ($26): Most thrillers just leave you questioning whodunit, or who鈥檚 going to survive. It takes a special kind of investigation to get you to question the very nature of existence. When the hero of Infinite Ground, an unnamed detective, takes on the case of a missing man named Carlos, his (and the reader鈥檚) perception of the world might change forever. Carlos gets up from his family dinner in an anonymous city in Latin America, and he never returns. The trail to find him gets more and more confusing, around the city, and into the rainforest. No person the detective questions is as he or she seems.

鈥淭he inspector found it a little confusing to begin with, going over his questions with the people concerned 鈥 family, friends, the staff at La Cueva, adjacent diners on the evening Carlos 鈥 as their answers seemed labored, artificial. People responded to his enquiries without any evidence of thinking. They spoke, almost to a person, in the manner of a performance.鈥 The company the missing Carlos works for, supposedly nameless due to a merger, turns out to be a front for something else that might not actually exist. People are hired to be false workers, as workers paid to pretend to work tend to work harder than actual workers. Even the missing man鈥檚 mother might be a planted actress.

Further discombobulated by the oppressive heat and transit strike, the inspector finds himself less and less certain about what is real, particularly when confronted with the nameless corporation鈥檚 attempt to occupy land that is supposed to belong to indigenous people. The novel asks questions about memory, perception, and the stories we tell ourselves and others based on that perception. Rated best of the year in The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Herald and The Scotland on Sunday, it promises to be a thoughtful meta-thriller with a side of philosophy.

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