Murder, rape, a couple of plane crash survivors, a boogie man, a bunch of missing children, a ghost or two, a vampire, tons of lost memories, and a whole pack of creepy stuff happening in small towns.
Those were just some of the subjects of my favorite fiction books of 2020.
I read 150 books in 2020. Of those, I gave 37 fiction books perfect grades. And, in my typical style, most of them were thrillers. I just love a good whodunnit with a plot twist.
Here are my reviews of my 37 favorite fiction books of 2020 in the order I read them.
1. Thief River Falls
Author Lisa Power is essentially a hermit, living a remote farmhouse and using her writing to cope with the loss of her family in her hometown, Thief River Falls.
But when a boy shows up at her house in the middle of the night after witnessing a murder, Lisa has to figure out how to keep him safe, perhaps even from the police.
Can someone who has a history of losing everyone she cares about really help save this young victim?
2. When I Was You
Brienne Dougray doesn’t leave her house after being injured in an attack that left her with terrible headaches and memory loss. But when she finds out that her identity has been stolen and a person is walking around living as her, she has no choice but to leave home and hunt her down.
Brienne discovers that the person she is hunting may not be pretending to be her. Is she the fraud? Or are others just trying to convince her of that?
3. Dear Edward
Edward Adler, 12, is flying to Los Angeles with his parents and older brother when the plane crashes. Edward is the only survivor.
Edward has no choice but to live with his mom’s sister and her husband as he tries to make a life for himself outside of the media attention of being a miracle survivor.
Edward tries to piece together his feelings about the family he lost and the new family he has while everyone treats him like he’s the lucky one. But he’s not certain that a part of him wasn’t permanently attached to the other people who died in the plane crash and he wants to know all of their stories.
4. The Whisper Man
Tom Kennedy is trying to start over after his wife’s sudden death, so he moves to Featherbank with his son, Jake. But Featherbank may not be the best place to start anew.
Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. The killer, Frank Carter, was dubbed “The Whisper Man” because he whispered through his victims’ windows at night.
A boy vanishes just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home. Then Jake starts hearing whispers, suggesting that The Whisper Man may not have been caught after all.
5. WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
Locals call Kya Clark the “Marsh Girl.” She’s lived alone in a shack in the North Carolina marsh since her family one-by-one left her there when she was a girl.
To survive, Kya lives a lifestyle that locals think is strange. She lives on little that doesn’t come from nature and doesn’t readily take to other people for fear that they will leave her alone again.
When Chase Andrews, the town’s former quarterback superstar, is found dead, locals immediately suspect Kya. With one of the few people she’s allowed into her life dead, Kya has to turn to the others for support and protection.
6. THE BOY IN THE PHOTO
Megan’s 6-year-old son Daniel disappeared when his abusive father picked him up from school and went on the run.
Six years later, after searching endlessly for him, Megan gets the call she’s been dreaming of. Daniel was found. He walked into a police station in a remote town just a few miles away.
Megan is thrilled that her son is coming home. But home is different from what he left. Not only does Megan live in a new house, she also remarried and has an infant daughter.
Megan isn’t the only one who’s changed. Daniel is just not the same. Daniel was able to escape his father after police say the man died in a fire. Megan is left to try to rediscover her son and help him heal.
7. How to Walk Away
Margaret Jacobsen is living the dream. She excelled in business school and just landed her dream job. She has a handsome boyfriend she adores, and she has a feeling that they’re about to start their lives together as husband and wife. Then, during what should be a fairytale proposal, Margaret is injured in a plane crash. She’s lucky to survive, but her life thrown far off path.
Margaret is hospitalized and trying to learn to deal with her injuries, which include burns and paralysis. At the same time, she has to cope with her family’s quirks, her fiance’s ghost act and her annoying physical therapist. But Maggie’s new normal becomes something even she couldn’t have planned for.
8. THE SUN DOWN MOTEL
I love thrillers, but I usually don’t like Sci-Fi or ghost stories. The Sun Down Motel was a little bit like Stephen King meets a thriller, and I loved it.
Carly Kirk has never been able to get over the story of her aunt, Viv Delaney, disappearing from her job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel. When Carly’s mother, Viv’s sister, dies in 2017, Carly decides to return to Fell, N.Y., and try to solve the mystery of her aunt’s disappearance.
Wouldn’t you know it, when Carly arrives in Fell, the night clerk job at the Sun Down is available and the woman living in her aunt’s old apartment is looking for a roommate. Pretty soon Carly finds herself living a modern version of her aunt’s life, but not everyone in Fell, living or dead, is happy to revisit the past.
9. SUCH A FUN AGE
Alix Chamberlain is scandalized when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler at a local high-end supermarket.
The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping 2-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira, 25, is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. As Alix works to do what she thinks will better Emira’s life, the women discover that they have someone in common who has the ability to change both of their lives.
10. SOMETIMES I LIE
When Amber Reynolds wakes up in a hospital she can’t remember what happened to put her there.
Amber can’t move, speak or open her eyes, but she can hear what others around her are saying. It’s through their words and conversations with each other that Amber starts to piece together what happened and realizes that she may still be in danger.
But how do you protect yourself when you can’t speak or move?
11. TELL ME LIES
In the Audible Original Tell Me Lies, Psychologist Margot Scott has a life most women would envy, including a husband, two children, and a successful career. But when their home is set fire with the family in it, Margot begins to understand that one of her clients is trying to harm her. Suddenly everyone she talks to in her practice seems like a suspect. Margot just needs to figure out who it is and why they’re after her before her family is in further danger.
This book starts with a 14-year-old girl, Gloria Ramirez, escaping her rapist after a brutal Valentine’s Day night that she barely survived.
Gloria, nearly dead, somehow runs to Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house. Mary Rose meets her on the front porch, her own young daughter inside. Then, when Gloria’s attacker shows up, the pregnant Mary Rose holds him at gunpoint in the front yard until police arrive.
But justice doesn’t come easily in 1976 rural Texas. Mary Rose is criticized for protecting the hispanic girl and risking her own family. She is condemned in the court of public opinion and threatened by the men in town. Even her husband doesn’t appreciate how she saved Gloria’s life. But the strongest women in town somehow find a way to ban together and support each other.
13. MY DARK VANESSA
Vanessa Wye, 15, develops a relationship with her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane. At least she thinks it’s a relationship, a true love… sometimes.
As Vanessa gets older and more worldly she begins to question if what she thought was a relationship all these years actually was sexual abuse. She struggles with what Jacob, who she’s still in contact with, is to her as he is accused of sexual abuse by another former student.
The other victim reaches out to Vanessa and she has to decide whether to stay silent and cling to the belief that she was an equal participant in the relationship or admit what she’s denied all these years—that the man she thought was her first true love actually was her abuser.
14. GO ASK ALICE
I had to look it up to determine if this book was real or fiction. It’s fiction, but it’s written in a diary format that makes it seem real.
The book is the first-person account of a girl named Alice’s drug addiction. Alice’s addiction started innocently enough. She was served a soft drink laced with LSD at a party. She had such a great time with the popular kids that she decided there was no harm in just trying other drugs, just to see what they were like. Soon Alice is an addict, running away from home, doing unspeakable things to get a fix and leaving her family to pick up the pieces every time she tries to get clean.
15. A GOOD MARRIAGE
I’m not usually a fan of Stephen King. I love his writing style, but I don’t like the Sci-Fi genre, in general. My husband listened to this book, which is one of King’s short stories, and told me I should do the same. I’m glad I listened. I listened to the book and watched the movie in the same week, amazed by how much King modeled the story after the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader. The movie also was good and followed the book closely.
Darcy Anderson’s husband of more than 20 years is away on a business trip when a search for batteries in the garage results in a horrific discovery. Darcy knocks over a box under a worktable and finds evidence that her husband is a rapist and murderer.
What do you do when you discover that your husband, the father of your children, is a serial killer? Do you keep his secret to protect your own life and theirs?
16. IN AN INSTANT
Finn Miller has a normal 16-year-old life with a teenage crush, a fashionable best friend and an annoying family. When a devastating car accident sends her and 10 others over the side of a mountain, Finn watches from between worlds as her family and friends try to survive the wreck.
Finn watches as her brother also dies, her parents struggle with blame and reveal secrets, her best friend searches for the truth of what happened while the group fought for survival, and her sister copes with grief and her own personal injuries.
17. THE LIES WE TOLD
When Clara’s boyfriend, Luke, goes missing, she discovers that the perfectionism she saw in his family was all a facade.
Clara discovers that Luke’s sister, who disappeared when he was much younger, and a strange girl named Hannah, who has been stalking and threatening him, may be connected.
Now Clara has to figure out the connection and find Luke before it’s too late. But first she has to convince his family to tell the truth about the secrets they’ve been keeping.
18. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Cassandra and Jane Moore are everything Shay Miller wants to be. The sisters are beautiful, stylish, rich, successful, and they seem to have the answers to every one of Shay’s problems, sometimes before she even knows she has them.
When the Moore sisters befriend Shay, she thinks her life is improving. But soon she realizes that they may have been involved in an “accident” she witnessed and could even be framing her for murder.
Shay finds that she may not be safe from these women or the rest of her new circle of friends. She needs to discover the truth before she has an “accident” of her own.
19. THE HOLDOUT
Bobby Nock, a 25-year-old black teacher, is about to be convicted of murdering his 15-year-old student, Jessica Silver. There’s just one problem for the prosecution—Maya Seale.
Maya is convinced that Bobby isn’t guilty or at least there is reasonable doubt. She persuades the rest of the jurors to return the verdict of not guilty, a controversial decision that changes all their lives.
A decade later, a true-crime film crew reassembles the jury. They want to retell the story, with a focus on Maya, who has become a defense attorney. When one of the jurors is found dead in Maya’s hotel room, she has to prove her own innocence while revisiting the original crime that brought the group together.
20. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Patricia Campbell is a bored housewife. She loves her family, of course, but taking care of two teenagers, a husband who is always at work and an ailing mother-in-law gets old. Trying to seem perfectly put together and happy while doing it gets even older. That’s why Patricia loves her book club.
In the beginning, the book club is just as fake as Patricia’s life. They pretend they’re going to read deep, meaningful, important books and have equally deep, meaningful discussions about them. Then they discover true crime books and the club starts getting real. They are obsessed with the cases and the killers.
Then strange things start happening in the neighborhood. Patricia is randomly attacked by an elderly rabid neighbor while walking home from book club one night. When the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, comes into town, the women start wondering if they’re living in their own true crime novel.
21. The Nowhere Child
Jack and Molly Went’s daughter, Sammy, disappeared almost 30 years ago from their Kentucky home. Now Kimberly Leamy receives information that she’s the Wents’ missing daughter.
The woman she knew and loved as her mother is dead, so Kimberly goes to find out if she’s the Wents’ daughter and how she ended up being raised by another woman, in another country, with another name. She discovers is that her disappearance may have something to do with her birth mother’s involvement in a local, fanatic church. But some of the church’s leaders don’t want Kimberly to discover the truth, and they’re prepared to do what they have to do to protect their own.
22. The Girl from Widow Hills
Arden Maynor was a little girl when she was swept away by flooding waters during a rainstorm. Most people thought she was dead, but they continued to search and amazingly found the girl two days later, holding onto a storm drain.
Arden’s mother wrote a book, making her famously known as “the girl from Widow Hills.” But Arden didn’t love the attention that came with her notoriety. As she grew older, she decided to leave it all behind, moving and even going by her middle name, Olivia.
As the 20th anniversary of her rescue approaches, Olivia begins to think she’s being watched. Then she starts sleepwalking again, which is what she was doing when she was swept away in the flood. Only this time she wakes up standing over the dead body of a man from her hometown. It doesn’t take long for people in her new town to figure out who she is and for Olivia to begin questioning the story she was told about herself so long ago.
23. The Guest List
When a magazine publisher and a reality television star get married, the wedding has to be an event. That’s what leads a group of posh people to a remote island off the coast of Ireland, where the cell reception is bad and a storm is rolling in.
Pretty soon the drinks are flowing and some members of the wedding party and other guests start behaving oddly. Then, as the storm hits, a body is found and the whodunnit begins.
24. The One
What if you could take a DNA test to find out who your soulmate is?
That’s the promise of a company of scientists who say they’ve found a gene that can determine the single other person you’re supposed to be with for the rest of your life. It sounds pretty amazing, but what happens if, for example, you are already married to someone else? Or if your soulmate is unexpectedly the same sex?
What seems like the end to the dating game results in relationships being destroyed. But what if there are mistakes? Or if the database is hacked? What happens if the science isn’t foolproof?
25. A Cold Trail
Our favorite homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite returns to her hometown of Cedar Grove to build a home with her new husband, Dan, and their baby girl.
Tracy intends to stay home with the couple’s baby, but she’s soon recruited by the local police to help with a case. A police officer’s wife who worked as a journalist was murdered while investigating a cold case involving the murder of another young woman in the town. Now Tracy has to try to protect her own family while solving the new and old murders.
Imagine that the husband of a world-famous author hires you to complete her last book. That’s what happened to struggling writer Lowen Ashleigh.
Jeremy Crawford hires Lowen to complete his bestselling wife’s books, which she is unable to write because of a permanent injury.
To finish the books, Lowen must visit the Crawford home to do research. She plans to only stay a night or two, but she uncovers a hidden autobiography manuscript in Verity Crawford’s office. Lowen becomes absorbed in the manuscript, which appears to tell all of the author’s secrets.
While reading the manuscript and researching the book, Lowen finds herself falling in love with Jeremy. She also becomes increasingly convinced that Verity is not as injured as she seems.
27. Playing Nice
Pete and Maddie are busy raising their 2-year-old son, Theo, when they get news that changes their lives forever. Theo isn’t their son. It seems their son and Theo, who actually belongs to Miles and Lucy Lambert, were switched at the hospital at birth. To make matters more complicated, Pete and Maddie’s birth son, David, has many developmental delays and needs around-the-clock care.
At first it seems like they can work together with the Lamberts to raise both boys, who already are accustomed to their environments. But then it becomes apparent that the uber-wealthy Miles will stop at nothing to get his perfect son back. But is the Lamberts’ home the best place for Theo? Also, Maddie, who once thought the Lamberts’ money was best to provide care for David, is growing increasingly concerned about her biological son’s treatment.
28. The End of Her
Stephanie and Patrick are happy, despite having colicky twin babies that are taking everything out of them. Then a woman named Erica shows up.
Erica is the best friend of Patrick’s first wife, who Patrick claims died in an accident. Erica says her friend’s death was no accident. She says Patrick murdered her and Stephanie is next.
Stephanie, who inherited a lot of money from her parents, doesn’t believe Erica at first. But the more she learns about her husband’s past and the more she observes his odd behavior where Erica is concerned, the more questions she has. Who should she trust? Maybe neither of them.
29. Little Disasters
Liz and Jess have been friends for a decade, raising their children together. Liz admires Jess. Jess seems to be a perfect stay-at-home mom. The Pinterest Mom to Liz’s Amazon Mom.
Then Jess shows up at the hospital with an injured baby and a story that doesn’t add up. Liz, who happens to be the doctor on call, can’t fathom that Jess would ever hurt her child, but the little girl has a head injury and the only explanation Jess can provide is full of holes.
30. Dark Highway
The parents of a missing young woman hire private investigator Jessica Shaw to find their daughter. What Jessica discovers instead is that three women have gone missing through the years on the same rural stretch of Twentynine Palms Highway.
Jessica and her partner, Matt Conner, discover a link between all three of the woman and a group of men who were in the same fraternity years ago. As soon as they begin questioning the group and others from their defunct university, the parents suddenly want the investigation to end. But Jessica can’t let it go until she discovers the truth.
31. The Bullet
Caroline Cashion is suffering from headaches and numbness in her side, so her doctor orders an MRI. He discovers that Caroline has a bullet lodged in her head. How the heck can you have a bullet in your head without knowing?
Caroline does the obvious thing and questions her parents. They eventually come clean and tell her that she was adopted when she was 3 years old. Her biological parents were murdered in their home. Caroline was the only survivor, but she was shot and the doctors feared she would die if they removed the bullet.
Caroline returns to her hometown to find out everything she can about her parents and how they died. Her reappearance opens up the old case into their murder more than three decades before.
32. To Tell You the Truth
Lucy Harper is a bestselling novelist who writes thrillers with the same main character—a sort of twisted imaginary friend who has lived in her head since she was a little girl.
The “friend” was the only other “person” there when 9-year-old Lucy’s little brother, Teddy, went missing in the woods. Lucy was the last person to see the boy, who was never found.
When Lucy’s husband, Dan, goes missing after he buys a house near the same woods in her hometown, it looks like history may be repeating itself. The only commonality seems to be Lucy and the voice in her head.
33. Confessions on the 7:45
Be careful who you sit next to on the train.
Selena Murphy strikes up a conversation during her evening commute with a woman sitting next to her, Martha. Pretty soon the two women are sharing a snuck drink and confessions. Martha is having an affair with her boss. Selena’s husband is having an affair with the nanny.
The women part and Selena thinks that she’ll never see Martha again. She’s actually pretty embarrassed to have told her secrets to some stranger on the train. But then she starts getting texts from Martha and the nanny disappears.
Could Martha be involved? Is Selena’s husband involved? How does she stop whatever she’s accidentally set into motion?
34. One by One
The founders of Snoop, a tech start-up, organize a retreat for their team at a ski chalet in the French Alps. There are some tensions between the cofounders because of a big buyout option, but everything else seems to be pretty normal, although some of the team likes one another better than others.
Then an avalanche leaves the group without power and stuck at the chalet. Even worse, one of the cofounders never made it back from skiing on the mountain. While they’re trying to decide if it’s safe to go looking for her, more and more of the team winds up either missing or dead. It becomes clear that someone among them is a murderer, but who and why?
35. Goodnight Beautiful
Sam Statler and Annie Potter are newly married and beginning their life together in Sam’s hometown in upstate New York. Unfortunately, things aren’t exactly what Annie expected when they moved out of New York City. Sam, a therapist, sets up a practice in a first-floor office while Annie spends most of her time alone.
What Sam doesn’t know is that all of his clients’ sessions can be heard through a vent in the room upstairs. Pretty soon, the intimate details of his patients’ lives are no longer a secret and the doctor/patient relationships will cost him.
Do you believe in love at first sight? Leeds doesn’t until he meets Layla. Then he’s certain that he’ll spend the rest of his life with the captivating woman. It appears Layla feels the same way.
Then, just before the couple gets engaged, they are attacked by Leeds’s crazy exgirlfriend and Layla is left fighting for her life. When she finally recovers, Layla isn’t the woman she used to be. Leeds tries to be undersatnding of the changes, which he thinks likely are the result of trauma, but he misses the woman he fell in love with.
In an effort to try to rekindle their romance, Leeds takes Layla back to the bed and breakfast where they met and fell in love. The place is now abandoned. When even stranger things start happening with Layla after they arrive, Leeds is left with another important question. Does he believe in ghosts?
37. Bad Memory
Private investigator Jessica Shaw is hired by Rue Hunter’s sister to try to keep the murderer from being executed.
Rue doesn’t remember what happened 30 years ago when her two high school best friends were murdered. What’s clear is that she ended up with the murder weapon, blood all over her clothes and a terrible nightmare of when the killings occurred. Now Jessica has to figure out what really happened before it’s too late for Rue.
There they are, my 37 favorite fiction books of 2020. I hope you’ll find something here to read and love. I’d also love to know what fiction you read and loved in 2020.
As always, happy reading!
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