On Saturday, the International Thriller Writers announced the winners of the 2020 ITW Thriller Awards. Usually part of a banquet at the climax of the organization’s annual ThrillerFest conference, this year’s festivities were of necessity as virtual as the event itself.

The awards were presented in a recorded session, with special guest presenters that included thriller-genre luminaries R.L. Stine, Sandra Brown, Walter Mosley, Lisa Gardner, Scott Turow and Don Winslow. Check it out, along with lots of free content from the conference, on the International Thriller Writers Facebook page.

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL

The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Mulholland Books) | AZNB&NIndieBoundBookshop

Your child’s been kidnapped. The only way to get your kid back is pay a ransom and kidnap another child. If you don’t, or the next parents in line fail in their task, your child will be murdered. Welcome to The Chain. It’s a scheme that will make the masterminds wealthy, but what’s more terrifying is that they aren’t in it for the money. Think of it more as a sociology experiment, a stroke of malevolent entrepreneurialism, with the added benefit of riches. And kidnapping is just the beginning of the unconscionable acts demanded of their victims. Faced with protecting our children, McKinty reveals that we are all capable of the most monstrous deeds. Read Casey Barrett’s full review here.

Runner ups included One Good Deed by David Baldacci (read Jon Land’s review), Rag and Bone by Joe Clifford, They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall, and Conviction by Denise Mina.

BEST FIRST NOVEL

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) | AZNB&NIndieBoundBookshop

According to Jean Kwok, author of Searching for Sylvie Lee, “this novel about a murder trial involving a Korean immigrant family after their medical facility explodes is a suspenseful, deep read.” The medical facility in question is a hyperbaric chamber used to treat conditions as diverse as infertility and autism, and the reason for the explosion? Well, for one thing, it wasn’t an accident. Hank Phillipi Ryan says that the book “relentlessly keeps you guessing about what really happened, who killed who, and who was to blame. It’s a heartrending story of family loyalties, and what happens when a family’s life and expectations are caught in the legal wringer. Both gentle and terrifying, this is an innovative and brave new direction in the genre.” 

Runner ups included My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing (read Neil Nyren’s review here), The Good Detective by John McMahon, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (read Neil Nyren’s review here), and American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson.

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL

The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan (Penguin Books) | AZNB&NIndieBoundBookshop

When Dr. Emma Sweeney stumbles across the victim of a hit-and-run outside Galway University early one morning, she calls her boyfriend, Detective Cormac Reilly. The dead girl is carrying an ID that will put this crime at the center of a scandal — her card identifies her as Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company, and a funder of Emma’s own research. Set in the fiercely competitive, cutthroat world of research and academia, full of twists and turns, this case will lead Cormac to question himself and the beliefs that he has long held as truths. Who really is Emma? And who is Carline Darcy? (Read AudioFile’s review of the audiobook here.)

Runner ups included Girl Most Likely by Max Allan Collins, Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin, Jihadi Bride by Alastair Luft, The Bird Boys by Lisa Sandlin, and Such a Perfect Wife by Kate White (read Meagan Foy’s review here).

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan (Albert Whitman & Company) | AZNB&NIndieBoundBookshop

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him ― easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer ― who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody ― friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case ― is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

Runner ups included Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry by Jen Conley, Catfishing on CatNet by by Naomi Kritzer, We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund, and Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay.

BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL

Close to You by Kerry Wilkinson (Bookouture) | AZNB&NIndieBoundBookshop

In this psychological thriller, personal trainer Morgan Persephone is subject to a terrifying series of events surrounding her late husband. When a photograph taken at an awards event where she was a guest of honor captures the image of a man who appears to be her ex, Morgan is stunned. Not so much because her husband David is dead, but because she’s the one who killed him. Is he a ghost? Or is there another, more logical explanation? But as strange coincidences pile up, she wonders, is she going crazy? Told across two timelines, one in the present and one set during the time Morgan was married to David, this thriller has a twist ending that you’ll never see coming.

Runner ups included Night Man by Brett Battles, The Deep Abiding by Sean Black, Murder Board by Brian Shea, and Leave No Stone by Lyndee Walker.

BEST SHORT STORY

“The Long-Term Tenant” by Tara Laskowski (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Mae knew Lee was trouble from the moment he checked into Room 312 at the Kewa Come and Stay Inn, the motel she runs on behalf of her hard-drinking, hard-gambling husband, Rolly. She knew he was trouble when he started flirting with her, and she knew he was trouble when they started sleeping together. What kind of trouble, however, she’s not sure of — that is, until two policemen show up to search Lee’s room for evidence of his involvement in a grisly murder. But is Lee really the killer? Killer or no, Lee excites Mae in a way that only freedom and danger can, and she’s determined to stand by him, no matter the cost to her husband, her business, or possibly her life. Listen to the author read her story on the Ellery Queen Mystery Podcast here.

Runner ups included several other stories from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: “Call Me Chuckles” by Michael Cowgill, “Snow Job” by Lia Matera, and “Fathers-in-Law” by Twist Phelan.