The worlds of arts, letters, and academia have long been fertile territory for novels of intrigue. Molly Odintz, writing on CrimeReads, pointed to Dorothy L. Sayers’s 1935 novel Gaudy Night—set at a fictionalized version of the author’s alma mater, Somerville College, Oxford—as “the academic mystery that started them all.” Daniel Silva has spent two decades writing the exploits of Gabriel Allon, art restorer and intelligence operative; July’s The Cellist (Harper) is the 21st installment.

The coming months bring books whose insular communities, whether academic or artistic, may at first appear idyllic, but there’s always something more complex, and sinister, lurking beneath the surface.

Dream Girl

Laura Lippman, Morrow, June

Life seems to imitate art in Lippman’s latest, in which novelist Gerry Anderson, bedridden in his apartment after an accident, believes he’s receiving phone calls from a woman claiming to be the main character of his latest book. Even worse, she says she’s coming to see him soon.

For Your Own Good

Samantha Downing, Berkley, July

Downing takes on private schools through the lens of Teddy Crutcher, a teacher beloved by students and parents alike. The author’s previous books deployed unreliable narrators, so it’s safe to say that Teddy—whose wife hadn’t been seen in some time, and who seems unconcerned by the mysterious death of a school parent—isn’t necessarily what he seems.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife

Ashley Winstead, Sourcebooks Landmark, Aug.

In Winstead’s debut, Jessica’s close-knit friend group fell apart when one of their number, Heather, was murdered on Duquette University’s picturesque campus, and another was accused of committing the crime. A decade later, Jessica, back for the 10-year class reunion, is eager to project the image of a successful, confident woman, unaware that someone has plans to unearth long-buried secrets and name Heather’s real killer.

Lesson in Red

Maria Hummel, Counterpoint, June

Hummel introduced Maggie Richter, a staff editor at the fictional Rocque Museum in L.A., in 2018’s Still Lives, a Reese’s Book Club pick. In the amateur sleuth’s second outing, a rising art-world star is found dead on her college campus. Maggie discovers clues about what might have happened to her in the artist’s latest provocative documentary, and works to put together the pieces before she becomes the next target.

The Maidens

Alex Michaelides, Celadon, June

Fresh off his 2019 blockbuster debut, The Silent Patient (647,000 print copies sold, per NPD BookScan), Michaelides returns with the tale of a Cambridge University secret society, the Maidens. When one of the group is found murdered, therapist Mariana Andros, whose niece was a friend of the victim, becomes consumed with exposing the person she believes responsible: handsome, charismatic Edward Fosca, a professor of Greek tragedy.

Never Saw Me Coming

Vera Kurin, Park Row, Sept.

Social psychologist Kurian’s debut novel follows Chloe Sevre, a seemingly normal college student who is also a psychopath. In exchange for free tuition, she and six other students—none of whom experience guilt or fear—agree to participate in a clinical study that monitors their moods. A murder among the participants unites unlikely allies in an effort to catch the killer.

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The Plot

Jean Hanff Korelitz, Celadon, May

“Korelitz deserves acclaim for her own perfect plot,” PW’s starred review said of this psychological thriller, in which Jake, a down-on-his-luck instructor in an MFA program, steals the plot for his next novel from a promising young student who died before publishing. While on tour for what becomes a bestselling book, Jake is contacted by someone who threatens to expose his deception.

The Turnout

Megan Abbott, Putnam, July

Abbott specializes in psychological thrillers that pry open insular, largely female worlds, as in 2016’s You Will Know Me, set among elite adolescent gymnasts. Her new book centers on ballet, and two sisters, Dara and Marie, who run a dance school with Dara’s husband, Charlie. The three keep things humming along, but a newcomer’s arrival and a suspicious accident threaten their finely tuned equilibrium.    

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