If you are anything like me, you can appreciate a deliciously twisty thriller! I will admit, I am a picky thriller reader so today’s post is for thriller readers that do NOT desire a predictable ending, appreciate an unreliable narrator, and love to flip those pages until the wee hours of the morning. I’m sharing 19 of my favorite thrillers with you and can’t wait to hear what YOUR favorites are too.
There are two essentials that have really helped me finish those thrillers a little faster. When listening to thrillers on audiobooks, I swear by these inexpensive earbuds. I get a lot of mine in over my morning chores or even a soak in the tub with a glass of wine! The other essential is either this gadget or one of these trusty lights. Honestly, who needs sleep when there are amazing books to be read?
If you want to expand that stack, I find that this subscription service offers an excellent thriller each month and you can explore our free book club group for recommendations from my favorite bookworms.
Here are my 19 thriller recommendations to keep you up all night (and not one of them is Gone Girl- hahaha!)
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
The May Mothers are a local mom’s group that meet twice a week at the park to share their challenges with new motherhood. The ladies have yet to socialize outside of this though so they decide to meet at a hip bar in town for drinks to get to know each other better and get a break from their babies.
Winnie, a single mother, is reluctant to leave her child for the outing, but is convinced that this will be a good move to get away for a bit and relax. Her child is kidnapped though and Winnie, an extremely private person, finds that her whole life has been opened up for the whole world to see.
Though none of the moms are close, they all go to risky lengths to try to help find her son. Told from alternating perspectives, each mother is carrying a few secrets of her own and as the police begin to uncover them, they began to wonder if one of these ladies just might be involved.
I recommend this one on audiobook since the narration is so great. Although this one starts pretty pedestrian, as far as thrillers go, the smart whodunit twists are clever and well-written!
Are You Sleeping? by Kathleen Barber
Serial fans will LOVE this fantastic debut novel that explores a fictional murder and a podcast that decides to reopen a thirteen-year-old murder case. If you are looking for a fun book to enjoy on audiobook, I HIGHLY recommend it since it reads as part novel and part podcast.
Josie has started a new life in New York and hasn’t even shared her real past with her partner. It is only when her mother dies that she has to confront her demons and one person is determined to leave no stone unturned. An investigative reporter has decided Josie’s father’s murder is worth exploring in her podcast and her family’s old secrets are exposed, forcing Josie to deal with her past and her estranged twin sister.
I really enjoyed this one and thought the pacing was so great. It also gives you food for thought on our own obsessions with true crime and what that might be like for a family who has become the topic of exploration.
The One by John Marrs
Black Mirror fans may recall an episode of the show where potential mates are matched in a very science-fiction type of way. This thriller explores the concept of DNA matching in a similar fashion, but goes much deeper into the complexities of love and lust that happen when we are told that someone is scientifically matched to you.
There are several amazing stories going on- a straight man who finds out he is matched to a man, a woman who discovers her match has died before she has connected with him, a woman who finds out that her match is terminally ill, the founder of the profiling system and the relationship with her match…Oh, and did I mention, a serial killer who is out on the loose and pursuing a few matches of his own?
I listened to this one on audiobook and the narration is absolutely fantastic. There wasn’t a dud in the stories and I loved, loved, loved the plot twists in this one.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”
From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.
This is a book of cat and mouse, mouse and cat, cat and cat…Really, the reader just doesn’t know where this one will go and who to trust. The author does a great job of weaving narrators and twisting the plot so that the reader is left guessing up until that final page.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
It is no secret that I am a huge horror movie fan and, “Baby Teeth,” was as incredible as any horror flick I’ve seen!
Suzette has a chronic and debilitating illness and knew that if she ever had children that it would be difficult on her body. She knows though that her husband would love to have a child and that is how she finds herself with their daughter, Hanna.
Hanna isn’t like other children though and has not spoken yet, even at seven-years-old. What Suzette had discovered though is that Hanna doesn’t need words to manipulate her father and to pit her against her husband. Hanna has been kicked out of her school for her defiant behavior and Suzette has been given the impossible task of parenting a child that she tries to love, but doesn’t really like.
When Hanna begins to talk to Suzette, it is with an accent and she claims to have been a witch. As Suzette uncovers the disturbing story, that Hanna claims as her own, Suzette doesn’t know if this possession is real or if Hanna is just a remarkably manipulative child.
Stage delivers a book that should be seen on the big screen and it was just as satisfying and fun as I had hoped.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer- do not read if you cannot handle graphic sexual abuse or violence against women!
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.
As a lover of horror films and fiction, I can say that this book is the first book that has absolutely terrified me and kept me up at with nightmares at night…and I loved it. Slaughter perfectly crafts each character so well that it is as though you are watching a film. Dark, psychologically twisted, and oh-so-evil, you won’t be able to put it down.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Malerman succeeds in writing a perfectly gripping and creepy psychological page-turner that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, just as all good thrillers should!
With the creatures lurking, a woman and her two children try to flee to safety blindfolded along a river. If they see what is lurking, they die a horrific death inflicting pain upon themselves to stop seeing the horrors of what they have seen. Interweaving past (pre-creatures) and present (a post-creature world), you go along on a terrifying ride as Malorie tries to save herself and her children blindfolded, never knowing what is lurking around every turn.
I loved it and I think you will too especially if you love classic Stephen King or if you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts as much as I did. Be sure to check out our interview with the author to learn more about the inspiration behind this incredible thrill ride!
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and was one of those books that I have to say was super fun and interactive on my iPad because of the mixed media approach towards piecing together this mystery and thriller.
Ashley Cordova, daughter of the famous horror movie producer Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
If you love a good mystery, you will love the interactive nature of this book. The reader gets to surf through web discussions, magazine articles, medical files, news clippings, and photographs to piece together the mystery.
My only critique on this one is that it was about two hundred pages too long and the build-up kind of left me feeling a defeated as to what the mystery was surrounding the death.
I still think it is an absolutely genius use of mixed media and getting to feel like a detective for a week. It was the most fun I have had with a book in a long time, but I do recommend splurging for the digital version to really enjoy those interactive features.
Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon
Looking for a thriller with a plot that you probably have never considered? Self-Portrait With Boy is also one of the most inventive plot concepts that I’ve read in a long time and absolutely captivated me.
This novel is about a struggling photographer who lives in an artist loft where she has been working on a personal photography project taking a daily self-portrait. A little boy, in the apartment above her’s, tragically falls to his death and Lu happens to be taking an image of herself when the tragedy occurs. Upon development, she sees that it is one of the most beautiful images she has ever taken and has to grapple with the decision to let this work be seen.
As the tenants grow closer together following the tragedy, she finds herself entangled in a friendship with the mother and must decide if she is going to share the image of her son with the world.
Adding to the deep moral dilemma, she is barely making ends meet and her father has to undergo a pricey surgery. It isn’t just about the fame, it’s about survival. This image could help her become known in her field, but at what cost?
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
This is the type of book that keeps you on your toes as the plot takes you down many different rabbit trails only to realize it isn’t what you had thought all along. Aren’t those just the best?
Nellie thought she had the perfect marriage with Richard until she didn’t. Down on her luck and struggling financially to keep up, she discovers that Richard is engaged to be married again, really shortly after the end of her own marriage. Nellie becomes obsessed with this woman and talking with her and the reader is left guessing from start to finish just why it is so important that Nellie connect with his new wife.
Everything is not as it is seems, as all good thrillers should be, and this one had surprise after surprise. This dynamic writing duo really pulled together a fantastic 24-hour escape that you won’t be able to put down.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
To set this one up, the author’s marketing team started the hashtag #wtfthatending that you can tweet when you finish and, that, I think sets you up for an unexpected ride. As a seasoned thriller reader, I thought I had it solved and then I didn’t… And then I REALLY didn’t.
It’s impossible to talk about this book without a big reveal so let’s focus on the generic plot points and say that this is a love triangle between a gorgeous wife, her dashing husband, and the slightly frumpy secretary. When the wife decides to pursue a secretive friendship with her husband’s secretary, a game of cat and mouse begins.
Here’s the thing, the reader will never guess the cat or the mouse and I told my husband, bewildered, that I was almost finished with the novel and still clueless where it is going. And then…well, #wtfthatending.
You’ll love it or you’ll hate it and there shall never be a mediocre opinion on it. I sat in the middle for a bit, not sure what to think about it and then decided it was pretty brilliant. I will say, in the end, I appreciate that this wasn’t the same old, same old, BUT a reader must set aside a bit of reality for this genre-bender. If you want to learn more about the story behind the story, head to my interview with Sarah!
You by Caroline Kepnes
This is a twisted love story told from Joe, our obsessed narrator, who finds love in his bookshop after cyber-stalking a girl who used her credit card at his store. We watch as Joe becomes more and more unhinged as he discovers love is nothing like the books he’s read and the movies he’s watched- a fact that he is most displeased with. Twisted humor makes for laugh-out-loud moments and cleverly woven pop culture themes add a little lightness to the dark.
Lucky for you, this is the first in a trilogy so we can look forward to more antics from Joe! Be sure to check out the second book if you are hooked on Joe like I was or just enjoy this first one fully and call it done…if you can.
Be sure to check out our interview with Caroline Kepnes in our Sundays With Writers series to get the scoop behind this guilty pleasure read!
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
I don’t want to give very much away because half of the fun is the discovery of what is actually going on behind these closed doors in this captivating novel. A perfect marriage though is rarely what it seems and Jack & Grace are the perfect example of a marriage that looks beautiful on the outside, but is far different on the inside. From page one, you realize the cat-and-mouse game that Grace is in and the reader is pulled along from the first day that they met, giving you a chance to witness a rather unique marriage in a chilling way.
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
I do love a good thriller and Bonfire is an excellent debut novel from actress, producer, and writer Krysten Ritter.
This follows the story of an environmental lawyer, Abby Williams, who has been assigned a case in her hometown of Barrens, Indiana. She has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the company that supports and has its hand in every pie in town, to discover if any of their business practices have been causing health problems for the town’s residents.
Returning home is never easy and Abby has left behind a lot of secrets of her own and many stories of the bitchy mean girls that seemed to have it out for her. With loads of suspense the past and the present come full circle, as Abby becomes more and more unhinged and unreliable as the book’s narrator.
Fans of dark thrillers will love this gritty suspenseful page-turner. Don’t discredit this writer for her Hollywood creds, it’s definitely worth your time!
Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
If you are looking for an absorbing story, you definitely will want to dive into, Watch Me Disappear.
The story centers on a mother who goes on a solo hike in the Desolation Wilderness and vanishes from the trail. Although her body is never found, they conclude that she fell to her death, never returning again to her husband and daughter.
When her daughter begins having visions of her mother, she starts to believe that she is still alive and guiding her to where she is. When she reveals her mother’s secrets to her father, her husband also becomes convinced that there is more to this story.
Prepare for a very twisted and unpredictable plot right up until those final pages. Brown captures her reader in this clever thriller and won’t let go until you have made your way through the entire spider web of mystery.
If you are looking for a fresh book club pick, I would highly recommend this one as it explores the subject of finding and sometimes the losing of our identities as mothers.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
The book opens with the following words, “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia is unlike her parents in every way, content with her life as an inner-city school teacher. When she finds herself at a bar one night alone, after being stood up by her boyfriend, she meets a guy. Her plans for a one-night stand quickly turns into the worst mistake of her life.
I don’t want to say anymore because the beauty in this book is those plot twists you never see coming! Once you finish though, be sure to head to my interview with Mary to learn more about her story behind the story!
Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia
Hattie Hoffman has always spent her life dutifully doing exactly what she is supposed to. That is why it shocks the town when Hattie is found brutally stabbed to death since no one could ever imagine something like that would happen to someone who is so perfect.
Ah, but things aren’t what they seem and Hattie has a few secrets up her sleeve that include a scandalous relationship that leave the reader guessing just who would have wanted Hattie dead more.
I really enjoyed this one and Mejia carves a few smart twists that I think you will really enjoy. It’s one of those that you just HAVE to finish in a day and if you love Shakespeare, I think you will appreciate this one even more.
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of any reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She lets go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. Shocking already, right?
This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taken on plot twists that will leave you gasping. This is, truly, the next Gone Girl, friends, don’t miss it!
Check out my interview with Clare Mackintosh and hear about the case that inspired her book and the life experience that shaped the raw grief of the mother in her story!
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Leonora, a reclusive writer, receives a surprise invitation from an old friend inviting to her to a weekend away as one last hurrah before she gets married. Set in a glass house in the woods, the four acquaintances share revelations and begin to realize their party is not alone. Forty-eight hours later, Leonora (Nora) awakes in a hospital bed knowing that someone is dead. Nora desperately tries to piece together what happened, forcing her to revisit times in her past that she would rather leave buried.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to thrillers and this one delivers beautifully. The pacing is perfect and reads like a great whodunit mystery. Enjoy the ride and then get ready to see this one brought to life on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon’s production team.
To learn more about the story behind this book, be sure to read my interview with Ruth Ware!
Not enough picks? Here are a few others I have loved!