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Here are six thrillers that have as many twists as a pretzel – including one set on a reality TV cooking competition in the Vermont woods.

Red Queen, Juan Gomez-Jurado, translated by Nick Caistor (Minotaur, 384 pages)

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Red Queen, by Juan Gomez-Jurado.Supplied

It was an ugly, sleeting Saturday and I was desperate for a getaway. Lucky for me I had The Red Queen waiting for me. It has a fascinating female lead and is set in Spain. There’s very little sex or violence but a whole lot of intellectual fodder – I loved it from page one.

The story begins with some light blackmail: Inspector Jon Gutierrez of the Bilbao Police is in deep disgrace. Why is irrelevant; what matters is that, in order to salvage a bit of his career, he has to persuade a woman named Antonia Scott to rejoin the world. Scott is a genius, a woman with a mind divinely designed for crime solving. But after personal trauma, she stopped working and has refused to return. Why Gutierrez might succeed in convincing her is as much a mystery as anything else.

The case she’s needed on involves a boy, son of a Spanish billionaire, who has been abducted from his school, murdered and then posed on the sofa in his parents’ home. Because this is a case revolving around the highest echelons of Spanish society, it must be kept a total secret and so the call goes out to Red Queen, a group of secret detectives led by a man known only as Mentor. Antonia is essential to Red Queen and soon, Gutierrez discovers why.

This book has plenty of interesting action and wonderful trips around Madrid, and Antonia never fails to fascinate and enlighten as the story moves. The great twist comes in the final few pages so don’t think of reading the end first. It appears Gutierrez and Antonia may return; I hope very soon.

The Body by the Sea, Jean-Luc Bannalec, translated by Sorcha McDonagh (Minotaur, 304 pages)

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The Body By the Sea: A Brittany Mystery, by Jean-Luc Bannalec.Supplied

What’s better than a trip to Spain? How about a casual stroll on the Brittany coast? That’s the haunt of Commissaire Georges Dupin in this excellent addition to an already superb series. The plot is classic French detective work with descriptions of Breton scenes and food that had me cruising Expedia for flights. Bannalec’s style hearkens back to the wonderful George Simenon and it’s a treat to read.

This eighth Dupin novel is set in the Commissaire’s hometown of Concarneau, or Ville Bleue as it’s called. It’s a gorgeous watery paradise with three harbours, big ships, fishing boats and everything else you’d imagine. It’s also the location for L’amiral, Dupin’s favourite restaurant and, on this Pentecost long weekend, it’s time to dine well. Dupin is holding down the police fort since most of his colleagues are gone for the holiday. But all is upset when a local doctor is killed, pushed to his death from the top floor of L’amiral. Dupin is alone in the investigation with only a pair of new recruits for assistance. This is one of Bannalec’s best.

The Golden Spoon, Jessa Maxwell (Atria, 288 pages)

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The Golden Spoon, by Jessa Maxwell.Supplied

I love The Great British Baking Show and its Canadian cousin. I’ve seen every episode more than once and cheered when my pick got Best Baker. So when I opened The Golden Spoon, a debut novel set on a ritzy estate in the Vermont woods where a group of home cooks descend to vie to be the best, I fell in love from the first page.

This being a TV show, we have a group of disparate souls chosen to meet the needs of the audience. There’s the scientific specialist, the pretty young girl, the woodsy outdoorsman, the grandma, the billionaire tech wizard and the woman who’s only been cooking for a year. The judge and show creator is Betsy Martin, owner of luxurious Grafton Manor where the action takes place over a week. Betsy is the adored queen of cooking but her crew thinks she needs a bit of a pick-me-up so after 10 years they’ve saddled her with a co-host.

The Golden Spoon is a classic little whodunit by a writer of real talent. She slips from narrator to narrator, keeping the action seen only by one player at a time and, in the same style, filling in essential but not obtrusive character development. There is one surprise, which everyone will see coming, but the why and how as bodies, literally, drop is a nice twist for the end.

The Only Survivors, Megan Miranda (Scribner, 352 pages)

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The Only Survivors, by Megan Miranda.Supplied

If you haven’t already discovered Megan Miranda (All the Missing Girls, The Last to Vanish), this is the perfect book to start with. She’s at her best with plots that twist like pretzels, and this one, with old mysteries and current dead bodies, is a doozy.

The current setting is the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but it all began in a Tennessee ravine 10 years ago. Two vans carrying students and teachers on a school trip crashed, leaving multiple people dead; nine students survived and walked out of the woods changed forever. A year later, one survivor has died, by suicide, and the rest make a pact to meet once a year to remember their luck and the dead. On the 10th anniversary of the crash, Cassidy Bent has decided she won’t attend any more reunions, until she receives a text that another survivor has died, sending her back to the group.

The reunion begins but she is aware that the mood is strange. There’s something wrong and then the weather turns foul and memories of another storm, another time and old memories are revived. The suspense doesn’t let up until the final pages.

The Angel Maker, Alex North (Celadon Books, 322 pages)

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The Angel Maker, by Alex North.Supplied

This creepy, suspenseful story about murder and vengeance with some religious zealotry thrown in may sound like a dog’s breakfast but it all works a treat. Katie Shaw led a charmed life, growing up in a manor in the English countryside. There was the perfect family, the loving boyfriend and her devotion to her little brother, Chris. Perfection ended when a violent criminal invaded the house and permanently damaged Chris, and Katie is left with overwhelming guilt.

Years later, Katie has a child of her own and she’s still tied to Chris. When he disappears, she’s his only lifeline. Then he seems involved in a horrible crime.

Detective Laurence Page is investigating the murder of an eminent professor. Shortly before his death, the professor fired all his staff and settled his affairs. He was part of the investigation of Katie’s family’s trauma, as well as that of a notorious serial killer who appears to be able to predict the future. Could Chris have committed murder? This is a truly twisty tale with great characters.

Picture in the Sand, Peter Blauner (Minotaur, 340 pages)

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Picture in the Sand, by Peter Blauner.Supplied

A thriller based on the history of Cecil B. DeMille’s epic film, The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston? Yes, please. The shooting of that film in the Egyptian desert in 1954 is just the starting point for this terrific tale about a young man coming of age at a time of great social and political upheaval. His job as DeMille’s driver leads him to a mistake that takes him to prison and eventually to the U.S. Fifty years later, rebellion takes his beloved grandson to a jihadi training camp in Syria. There’s also a love story and, of course, plenty of action. This is escapism with a solid political and historical base, which makes it an irresistible read.

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