Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture, was so grief-stricken after Hades abducted her daughter that she brought the seasons to a standstill and almost destroyed life on Earth. She is perhaps literature’s first desperate mother, but she is certainly not its last: the protagonists of several forthcoming books go to extreme lengths to protect their children. As PW said of Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke’s November release, Piece of My Heart, which treads similar thematic territory, “A mother can turn into a courageous warrior when her child’s life is at stake.”

Do No Harm

Christina McDonald. Gallery, Feb. 2021

The title of McDonald’s third suspense novel (after 2019’s Behind Every Lie) alludes to the Hippocratic Oath, which protagonist Emma, a doctor who lives outside Seattle, has trouble honoring. When her son develops a rare form of cancer, she begins selling opioids to finance his treatments. Her scheme enmeshes her in a criminal underworld and is complicated by the fact that her husband is a police detective.

The Lies You Told

Harriet Tyce. Grand Central, Dec.

Tyce follows her debut psychological thriller, 2019’s Blood Orange, with one set in the cutthroat world of elite private education. After enrolling her daughter in a posh London school, Sadie, a criminal defense lawyer, must contend not only with playground bullies but their equally fearsome mothers. After her daughter goes missing, Sadie’s life and career unravel in a succession of twists that, PW’s review said, “keep the pages turning.”


Never Far Away

Michael Koryta. Little, Brown, Feb. 2021

“Fans of nail-biting suspense will be in heaven,” PW said in its starred review of Koryta’s 15th novel, in which a woman named Nina reunites with her children in Maine after having faked her death a decade earlier. But all is not right: the children believe Nina is their aunt Leah, for one thing, and Nina’s former employer, whom she faked her death to escape, appears to have picked up her trail.


People Like Her

Ellery Lloyd. Harper, Jan. 2021

The protagonist of this first novel by Lloyd, a pseudonym for married coauthors Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos, is a British “Instamum” celebrity who publicizes, and distorts, her domestic life for fame and income. She soon discovers the dark side of virality: her marriage is crumbling and, as PW’s review put it, “someone watching their lives unfold online deeply resents their ‘perfectly imperfect’ existence.” 


The Woman Outside My Door

Rachel Ryan. Gallery, Jan. 2021

In Ryan’s debut, Dublin housewife Georgina becomes convinced that her young son’s imaginary friend, “New Granny,” a seeming stand-in for Georgina’s recently deceased mother, is not imaginary at all. Given Georgina’s history of mental illness, she can’t be sure whether her protective instincts are warranted or if she might be the one imagining things. “Fans of psychological suspense will be satisfied,” PW’s reivew said.


You’ll Thank Me for This

Nina Siegal. Mulholland, Mar. 2021

Siegal, an American writer who lives in Amsterdam, centers her third novel on the Dutch tradition of “dropping,” wherein parents strand groups of children in the wilderness and leave them to find their way home. If that sounds horrifying, it is, at least for 11-year-old Karin, who becomes separated from her peers, and her mother, whose fear for her daughter is compounded when Karin’s disappearance becomes a media spectacle.   

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