Few things mark the arrival of summertime like an epic camping trip — driving to your favorite forest, staking out the perfect woodland nook, stocking up on tons of chocolatey smores, and building the perfect campfire. But as all book lovers know, no camping trip is complete without a stack of scary campfire stories that’ll totally freak you out, all night long. The good news is, this summer is seeing its fair share of new thrillers, taking you from one summertime locale to another: a zoo turned-terrifying, an eerie mountainside campsite, an idyllic island with a dark side, a New England river with a history of secrets, and more; all making for great (and totally heart-pounding) books to read around the campfire.
The only thing better than kicking back and eating your weight in melted, marshmallowy goodness is scaring the pants off yourself and your fellow campers, with some of the best thrillers of the summer. Just be sure you have a flashlight ready (and maybe your car keys, just in case you all need to high-tail it out of there after reading one too many moonlit chapters.)
Check out these 11 scary new books, perfect for your campfire reading this summer.
1'Fierce Kingdom' by Gin Phillips
Your childhood memories of summertime zoo trips we’re nothing like this — at least, I hope not. On sale July 11, Gin Phillips’s thriller Fierce Kingdom, tells the story of one mother’s routine trip to the zoo with her son, turned terrifying. Leaving the zoo just before closing, Joan and four-year-old Lincoln suddenly find themselves trapped behind the zoo’s gates, on an evening-long run from a gunman who peruses them through one exhibit after another, with Joan doing everything in her power to stay one step ahead of their pursuer. Unfolding over the course of a mere three hours, every corner Joan turns could be the decision between life and death for her and her son — culminating in a shocking ending.
2'The River at Night' by Erica Ferencik
This is the kind of thriller that will have you closing down camp and heading home in no time flat — so if you’re sharing this one around the campfire, do so with caution. The River at Night by Erica Ferencik introduces readers to Winifred Allen—recovering from loss and heartbreak and in desperate need of a vacation, she heads into the Maine wilderness on a girls-only hiking and rafting trip alongside her three best friends. But when an accident leaves the women stranded and fighting for their lives, they seek refuge in a mountainside camp — until they discover the threats posed by the campsite might turn even worse than the risks of fending for themselves.
3'The Weight of Lies' by Emily Carpenter
Emily Carpenter’s The Weight of Lies introduces readers to Meg Ashley, the daughter of a bestselling horror novelist who is in the midst of writing a tell-all memoir about a lonely and isolated childhood spent in the shadow of her mother’s success. As she begins to mine not only her own past, but the history of her mother’s book as well, she finds herself drawn to a remote island, the woman said to be the inspiration for her mother’s book, and a decades-old murder — suddenly discovering disturbing truths about her mother and putting her own life in danger.
4'The Destroyers' by Christopher Bollen
Another thriller that takes readers deep into an idyllic setting turned ugly, Christopher Bollen’s The Destroyers is set on the Greek island of Patmos, where Ian and his childhood friend Charlie used to play a game of instinct and survival, called The Destroyers. But when Charlie disappears Ian finds himself caught in a web of lies, and realizes he might be trapped in the adult-version of their childhood game as well.
5'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins
Published earlier this year from the author who gave us the much obsessed-over The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins’s Into the Water takes readers to a small New England town, where a teenage girl and later a single mother are found drowned in the nearby river — a river that has seen a disturbing number of drownings of women before: women who didn’t follow rules, didn’t keep quiet, and dared to get in the way. The two deaths bring long-buried local mysteries back to the surface of daily living, disturbing the town and its residents in ways that will haunt you long after this book is over.
6'The Breakdown' by B.A. Paris
On sale from St. Martin's Press on July 18 The Breakdown, by the author of Behind Closed Doors, thriller-writer B.A. Paris, begins with a wooded, winding rural road; a rainy night; a lone vehicle. On that night, Cass sees a woman sitting in a parked car in the middle of a downpour — a woman who was later killed. Since then, Cass finds herself forgetting things: where she let her car, whether she's taken her pills, what her alarm code is, and why she’s ordered herself a baby stroller when she doesn’t have a baby. But can't forget the woman, and she can’t remember why she didn’t stop to help. And when she realizes someone has been watching her, Cass’s situation suddenly becomes even more dire than ever.
7'If We Were Villains’ by M.L. Rio
A Shakespearean drama for modern readers, debut author M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains dives headfirst into the world of college theater students, specifically a group of seven soon-to-graduate thespians who find that life and art reflect one another in more ways than they could have ever expected. The tension, betrayal, and violence of Shakespeare’s plays jump directly off the pages of their schoolbooks and into real life, as these students find themselves playing fictional roles off stage as well — trying to convince the police, their community, and each other of their innocence in a very real crime.
8'Bring Her Home' by David Bell
On sale July 11, Bring Her Home by David Bell takes readers to small-town America, where Bill Price’s 15-year-old daughter Summer, and her best friend Haley, disappear. Just days later, the girls are tragically found in a city park, where Haley is dead and Summer is fighting for her life. But as Bill begins to search for answers in his daughter’s attack, he discovers the teen was harboring secrets he couldn’t have ever imagined — and they will bring back the heartbreak and pain he and his family have struggled to bury for years.
9'The Child' by Fiona Barton
Fiona Barton's last novel, The Widow, was a New York Times bestseller and spent seven weeks on the hardcover list— and for readers who couldn't get enough of Barton’s protagonist, reporter Kate Waters, she reappears again in The Child. Centered on the discovery of a long-buried child, this thriller alternates between several perspectives: that of Kate, as she digs into the history of the working-class neighborhood where the baby was found; and those of the three women whose lives and long-kept secrets are suddenly upended by the discovery of the child.
10'The Readymade Thief' by Augustus Rose
The Readymade Thief, by debut novelist Augustus Rose, will take you into the unmapped corners found in every major American city — the empty aquariums, deserted motels, night-patrolled museums, and more, where 17-year-old Lee Cuddy has joined a cooperative of runaways after a family betrayal she might never forgive. Peopled by hackers, artists, and fanatics, the cooperative reveals a sinister agenda that Lee suddenly finds herself at the center of. Somebody is after her, and eventually she will be forced to face who it is.
11'The Girl Before’ by J.P. Delaney
The great outdoors will look particularly welcoming after reading this thriller about a smart house that becomes deadly. In J.P. Delaney’s The Girl Before, Emma’s apartment is broken into she’s desperate for a new place to call home, fast. One Folgate Street seems perfect, if odd — the architect still retains all aesthetic control over the home, refusing its new residents things like books, throw pillows, and personal photographs. Then there’s also Jane; in need of a fresh start and certain One Folgate Street is the perfect place to find it. Until she learns about the strange death of the woman who lived there before her, and discovers the eerie similarities the two women shared.