You’ve probably binge-watched all the top thriller movies out now on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, but have you read the best thriller books of all time? We’re presenting our take on the best thrillers of all time, spanning the best psychological thrillers, crime novels, and mysteries.
Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend’s sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed…
Tragedy strikes a Native community when the Hill family’s handsome seventeen-year-old son, Jimmy, mysteriously vanishes at sea. Left behind to cope during the search-and-rescue effort is his sister, Lisamarie, a wayward teenager with a dark secret. She sets off alone in search of Jimmy through the Douglas Channel and heads for Monkey Beach — a shore famed for its sasquatch sightings. Infused by turns with darkness and humor, Monkey Beach is a spellbinding voyage into the long, cool shadows of B.C.’s Coast Mountains, blending teen culture, Haisla lore, nature spirits, and human tenderness into a multi-layered story of loss and redemption.
At first, Logan Ramsay isn’t sure if anything’s different. He just feels a little … sharper. Better able to concentrate. Better at multitasking. The truth is, Logan’s genome has been hacked. Worse still, what’s happening to him is just the first step in a much larger plan, one that will inflict the same changes on humanity at large — at a terrifying cost. Because of his new abilities, Logan’s the one person in the world capable of stopping what’s been set in motion. But to have a chance at winning this war, he’ll have to become something other than himself. Maybe even something other than human…
Patricia Highsmith was a master of macabre scenarios and the grand dame of the psychological thriller. In Tom Ripley, she created one of literature’s most fascinating characters — charming, intelligent, utterly ruthless, and amoral. Over the course of five novels, beginning with The Talented Mr. Ripley, she built a character who was both completely without a conscious and yet unnervingly sympathetic. The Talented Mr. Ripley is equal parts a subtle character study and an edge-of-your-seat exercise in sinister thrills.
Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are investigating a brutal murder with dire implications. Meanwhile, Jane’s intrepid mother, Angela, is looking into a mystery of her own. With so much happening on their case, Jane and Maura already struggle to see the forest for the trees, but will they lose sight of something sinister happening much closer to home?
Gillian Flynn has made a name for herself with incredibly dark, twisting narratives centered on complex, seemingly unsympathetic female characters. With Gone Girl, Flynn brought readers deep inside a narrative hall of mirrors — a slow burn, noir-tinged maze built to keep the reader constantly off-balance.The story of Nick and Amy’s courtship, crumbling marriage, and Amy’s eventual disappearance is an extraordinary exercise in literary sleight-of-hand. It’s nearly impossible to put down until the final devastating page.
A young Indian woman finds the false rumors that she killed her husband surprisingly useful — until other women in the village start asking for her help getting rid of their own husbands… What happens next sets in motion a chain of events that will change everything. Filled with clever criminals, second chances, and wry and witty women, Parini Shroff’s The Bandit Queens is a razor-sharp debut of humor and heart that readers won’t soon forget.
Natsuo Kirino’s award-winning Out follows the intersecting lives of four women who work the night shift together at a factory in Tokyo where they assemble boxed lunches. The women become more than coworkers when Yayoi, the youngest of the four, seeks out their help after she murders her abusive, compulsive gambler of a husband. Together the women cut up and dispose of Yayoi’s husband’s corpse, a gruesome act that seals their bond with each other. By covering up Yayoi’s crime, their bloodstained solidarity gradually turns the group into accidental vigilantes as they struggle to navigate life in a city dominated by the patriarchy’s grip. A literary predecessor of the #MeToo Movement and #TimesUp, Kirino’s Out is an ominous snapshot of trauma, vengeance, and survival.
Published posthumously, Toni Cade Bambara’s final novel, Those Bones Are Not My Child, is described as her magnum opus by her editor and close friend Toni Morrison. Inspired by the tragic rampage of Atlanta serial killer Wayne Williams — who James Baldwin’s The Evidence of Things Not Seen also examines — Those Bones Are Not My Child unfolds with the disappearance of a twelve-year-old boy and his mother’s tireless search to find him. Throughout the pages of the novel, Bambara envelops readers into the mindset of a community turned upside down by violence and grief.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic comes a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film — and awakens one woman’s hidden powers.
While Carrie and Salem’s Lot introduced Stephen King as a writer to watch, The Shining firmly situated him as one of his generation’s preeminent voices in horror literature. The Shining was King’s first hardcover bestseller and it made him the household name he is today. King’s story of a troubled man’s slow descent into madness while serving as the winter caretaker of an isolated and haunted hotel makes The Shining a truly unsettling, unforgettable thriller.
Bestselling author Riley Sager returns with a Gothic chiller about a young caregiver assigned to work for a woman accused of a Lizzie Borden-like massacre decades earlier. The young woman is convinced there is more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor’s departure come to light, the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought…
Inspired in part by his experiences in the 1950s as an orderly in a mental health facility, Kesey’s novel left permanent scorch-marks on the American conscience, and as a result has been continually challenged in schools and libraries ever since. His anti-hero Randle McMurphy (played by Oscar-winner Jack Nicholson in the inevitable film adaptation) confronts institutional oppression head-on, and Kesey’s electric prose makes a strong case for the neglect of our inmate populations as a reflection on our society at large.
Lisbeth Salander returns, in a trailblazing new installment to the bestselling Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. A pulse-pounding thriller, The Girl in the Eagle’s Talons sees Salander and Blomkvist navigating a world of conspiracy and betrayal, old enemies and new friends, ice-bound wilderness and the global corporations that threaten to tear it apart.
Ray McMillian is a Black classical musician on the rise — undeterred by the pressure and prejudice of the classical music world — when a shocking theft sends him on a desperate quest to recover his great-great-grandfather’s heirloom violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world.
William Wooler is a family man, on the surface. But he’s been having an affair, an affair that ended horribly this afternoon. So when he returns to his house to find his difficult nine-year-old daughter, Avery, unexpectedly home from school, William loses his temper. Hours later, Avery’s family declares her missing… Suddenly the neighborhood doesn’t feel so safe and William isn’t the only one on the street who’s hiding a lie. As witnesses come forward with information that may or may not be true, Avery’s neighbors become increasingly unhinged.
After over two decades in the trenches of sci-fi and horror fiction, Koontz earned his first hardcover bestseller with 1986’s Strangers, which revolves around a band of individuals who find themselves drawn to a motel in the Nevada desert from thousands of miles apart, united in an escalating sense of terror which manifests differently in each of them. This page-turner signifies the moment when Koontz announced himself to the mainstream as an indisputable authority on the art of building suspense.
In Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, the emotionally fraught Rachel Watson wrestles with her obsessive feelings for her ex-husband. As she tries to heal after their relationship dissolves, Rachel manages to sift through her thoughts and fears during her daily train commute from Oxfordshire to London. Each day during the trek, the train passes the house she used to live in with her ex. In an attempt to distract herself from the reality of their separation, Rachel shifts her attention to a home she can see from the train, occupied by a man and a woman who she imagines are happy and deeply in love. When the woman goes missing and her disappearance becomes fodder for the local tabloids, Rachel’s life is turned upside down. An exhilarating glimpse into one woman’s inability to cope with the past, The Girl on the Train articulates a distressing truth about violence and love.
Chester Himes’s Harlem Detectiveseries has proven to be a groundbreaking piece of hard-boiled noir fiction — and it all started with A Rage in Harlem. Set in a Harlem that at once feels larger-than-life and authentic, A Rage in Harlem introduces Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones to a rough and tumble world of grifters, prostitutes, and dangerous vendettas. It’s a landmark piece of crime fiction that put Chester Himes in the company of names like James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler.
Published in 1938, Daphne du Maurier’s romantic thriller Rebecca has never gone out of print. A bestseller in its day and beyond, spawning a film adaptation by none other than the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, Rebecca takes inspiration from one of the greatest novels in the English language, Jane Eyre. A nameless narrator has married a European playboy and moved into his vast manse. But she finds herself haunted by the memory of his dead wife, Rebecca, and her still very loyal servant, Mrs. Danvers.
When considering the thriller as literature, The Big Sleep should be one of your first destinations. Not only does it serve as the debut of hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe, it showcases Chandler’s ruthless economy with words, wringing the maximum amount of tension and atmosphere from the sparsest descriptions. The title (a euphemism for death) couldn’t be more misleading — once you begin, you’re barely going to blink until you’ve turned the last page.
In the Woods introduced readers to the detectives of the Dublin Murder Squad, as well as the nuanced and emotionally resonant thrills of Tana French. The story follows Detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox as they investigate a bizarre murder with disturbing similarities to a horrifying event from Ryan’s past. It is an atmospheric, ingenious, and unflinchingly bleak thriller that’s sure to keep readers guessing until the final reveal.
Paloma decides to sublet the second bedroom of her overpriced San Francisco apartment to Arun, who recently moved from India. Paloma has to admit, it feels good helping someone find their way in America — that is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her own fragile place in this country. Before Paloma can pay Arun off, she finds him face down in a pool of blood. She flees the apartment but by the time the police arrive, there’s no body — and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place. Did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?
While Nordic noir existed long before the late Stieg Larsson introduced the world to a misanthropic hacker named Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo brought the genre to an international audience in a way few others have. It is a bleak and labyrinthine exploration of a decades-old missing person’s case, long-held familial secrets, and the damaged psyche of one of the most fascinating heroines in recent memory.
Like the previous twenty-four novels in Sue Grafton’s acclaimed Alphabet/Kinsey Millhoneseries, Y is for Yesterday deftly and steadily ratchets up the tension through Grafton’s clever plotting and incisive character work. Y sees private investigator Kinsey Millhone embroiled in an unnerving mystery centered around a decade-old sexual assault and murder at an elite private school. Amidst this twisted drama, Millhone finds herself matching wits with a volatile sociopath who holds a longstanding grudge against the private eye. Unfortunately, Y is the last in the late Sue Grafton’s acclaimed and long-running series. It’s also one of her best.
Anyone who’s ever been to Vegas knows what a different world awaits once you step off the strip. Abani’s novel plays upon the reader’s dreams of the desert city, constantly shifting locations and perspectives to tell a sordid story about lives and histories spiraling far outside the mainstream, leaving investigators with a trail of horrifying murders to study. Those who prefer a revenge plot will find plenty to salivate over, but none of it would fly without Abani’s knack for convincing, utterly unusual characters.
Tom Clancy has made himself synonymous with the tech-savvy military thriller. The Hunt for Red October is where it all started and remains one of his best. It laid the groundwork for much of Clancy’s later work, including the introduction of CIA analyst Jack Ryan. The novel is a well-hewn game of cat-and-mouse in which Jack Ryan tracks down a high-tech Soviet submarine and its crew of defectors. With The Hunt forRed October, Clancy cemented himself as a marquee thriller writer and proved he’s the best in the game.
When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness.
The Shadow of the Wind incorporates a host of elements that could each sustain a thrilling read: a young man caught up in a conspiracy he barely understands, an investigation of a mysterious death decades later, and the horrific authoritarianism of Franco-era Spain. Here, all of them are interwoven with the history of a mysterious novel — one that obsesses some and drives others to murder.
John le Carré is truly in a class of his own. His densely-plotted spy fiction essentially reinvented the genre, largely due to le Carré’s own experiences working as spy and intelligence agent. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold launched le Carré’s career as an internationally bestselling author — and brought his intelligence career to an end. It also introduced readers to George Smiley, an unassuming and methodical man as far removed from the likes of James Bond as one could imagine. With its twisting narrative, duplicitous machinations, and devastating conclusion, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold remains the standard against which all other espionage fiction is measured.
A series of misfortunes plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos, unknowingly propelling them into one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history. As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains.
With searing prose and a collection of antiheroes who push at the limits of morality, James Ellroy’s take on detective fiction (including the Los Angeles Quartet) revolutionized the genre. In American Tabloid, he moved from the local scene to the national one, describing a series of interwoven conspiracies leading up to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Yu-jin discovers his mother’s murdered body at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life? Thus begins Yu-jin’s frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family. A shocking and addictive psychological thriller, The Good Son explores the mysteries of mind and memory, and the twisted relationship between a mother and son, with incredible urgency.
Sarah Waters, author of cult classics Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, delves into the gothic Victorian ghost story with 2009’s The Little Stranger. After WWII, a doctor visits a decrepit old house inhabited by a similarly aged family who find themselves in dire straits, claiming the house is haunted. Diverting from her other work on the lesbian experience, The Little Stranger is a compelling thriller that at its heart, like all great ghost stories, is a fascinating allegory of a rapidly changing world.
To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Ray Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. Cash is tight, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either. Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
John Grisham is the undisputed king of the legal thriller. As both a former practicing attorney and politician, he brings a fascinating sense of authenticity to the high stakes schemes that populate his thrillers. While The Firm made him an immediate household name, Grisham really hit his stride with A Time to Kill. This shattering tale of racial tensions, vigilante justice, and horrific crime is as thought-provoking and unsettling as it is thrilling.
The personal and the political intertwine in this courtroom procedural. Despised by the police for her liberal politics, a Minneapolis Judge who showed leniency towards a serial killer may become the escaped murderer’s next target. Hoag may have started her career as a romance writer, but the tight prose and deeply dynamic characters of Prior Bad Acts proves her adeptness in more than one genre.
While HBO’s award-winning adaptation shed a new light on this thriller from Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies was a riveting bestseller before Reese Witherspoon and company entered the picture. Set in a small, posh, Australian community, Big Little Lies traces a tangled web of lies and secrets that eventually proves deadly.
Celeste Ng’s New York Times bestseller begins with the death of Lydia Lee, the beloved daughter of a multiracial Chinese-American family from a suburban town in 1970s Ohio. When Lydia’s body turns up in a lake, her family is left to reckon with the loss of a daughter who they hoped would fulfill all of their dreams. Through the lens of Ng’s masterful storytelling, Everything I Never Told You captures a family faced with the realization that the daughter they loved so deeply lived a life filled with secrets. Beautifully written and undeniably moving, Ng’s novel is as suspenseful as it is perceptive.
McCarthy’s bleak masterpiece strips back any veneer of respectability related to America’s origins, following a young protagonist who joins a band of bounty hunters paving the way for Westward expansion by slaughtering Native Americans and others who stand in the way. Mercenary instincts give way to pure nihilism, and a shattering conclusion that underscores the destiny that awaits those who willingly give up (or even sell) their humanity.