The best books with a twist you won’t see coming

Who am I?

My previous job was as a counsellor, so I’m fascinated with why people make the decisions that they do. When a writer can craft a great story, that also explores a character’s motivations, I’m always a fan. As someone who writes, and teaches creative writing to others, the ability to set up a great twist with realistic characters that both surprises me and also leaves me with the: “Of course! Why didn’t I see that coming? impresses me. 


I wrote...

You Owe Me a Murder

By Eileen Cook,

Book cover of You Owe Me a Murder

What is my book about?

Kim never expected to plot a murder. But that was before her boyfriend broke her heart. Now, Kim’s stuck on a school trip to London with him and his new soulmate and she can’t help wishing he was a little bit dead, even though she knows she’d never hurt anyone.

But when Kim meets Nicki, a stranger on the plane who’s more than willing to listen to Kim’s woes, things start to look up. Nicki's got a great sense of humor, and when she jokes about swapping murders, Kim plays along—that is, until Kim’s ex-boyfriend mysteriously dies. Blackmailed by Nicki to fulfill her end of the deal, Kim will have to commit a murder or take the fall for one.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Strangers on a Train

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of Strangers on a Train

Why this book?

Patricia Highsmith is the original queen of psychological thrillers. This book, later made into a film by Hitchcock, was the inspiration for my novel. I wanted to see how the story could play out in modern times with young women as the lead characters. While I used Strangers on a Train as the jumping-off point, my own story went in slightly different directions.

In Highsmith’s book, when the main character is pulled into what he believes is an idle question on how one could get away with the perfect murder, he has to determine how far he’ll go to escape being blamed for a very real crime. Highsmith excels at getting ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and then pushing them to see how they will react.

Strangers on a Train

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Strangers on a Train as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic thriller behind the Hitchcock film, and Highsmith's first novel - soon to be remade by David Fincher, director of Gone Girl, with a screenplay by Gillian Flynn.

By the bestselling author of The Talented Mr Ripley and Carol

The psychologists would call it folie a deux . . .

'Bruno slammed his palms together. "Hey! Cheeses, what an idea! I kill your wife and you kill my father! We meet on a train, see, and nobody knows we know each other! Perfect alibis! Catch?'''

From this moment, almost against his conscious will, Guy Haines is trapped in a…


Wrong Place Wrong Time

By Gillian McAllister,

Book cover of Wrong Place Wrong Time

Why this book?

As one who teaches plotting for writers, I can vouch this is a master class in twists and turns. McAllister turns a murder mystery upside down by having the main character go back in time after she witnesses her son commit a crime to determine what was the start of things going bad. 

I love a book that starts discussions. This book had me talking with friends about: How far would you go to save your child? What is the beginning of someone’s life getting off track? What in your own life would you go back and change if you had the opportunity, and what did you not see that you wish you had?

Wrong Place Wrong Time

By Gillian McAllister,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wrong Place Wrong Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

CAN YOU STOP A MURDER WHEN IT'S ALREADY HAPPENED?

'Perfection, every word, every moment. One of the best books I've ever read' LISA JEWELL
'Ingenious. A book to blow your mind and break your heart' ERIN KELLY
'Extraordinary' HARRIET TYCE
'I am totally in awe. This is one story I will not forget' HEIDI PERKS
'Genre-bending and totally original. A tour de force!' CLAIRE DOUGLAS

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK EVERYONE HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT
_________

It's every parent's nightmare.

Your happy, funny, innocent son commits a terrible crime: murdering a complete stranger.

You don't know who. You don't know why. You…


The Guest List

By Lucy Foley,

Book cover of The Guest List

Why this book?

Lucy Foley excels at the “closed door”/ Agatha Christie-type mystery. She takes classic tropes and spins them for a new audience. As someone who loves to travel in books, the setting of this one on a remote island off the coast of Ireland pulled me in from the first page. (Who doesn’t want to run away to a manor home in Ireland? Well, except for the murder part.) 

The story is told in rotating points of view so you’re never sure who to trust. Each character attending this wedding has a secret and a reason to be behind the crime. I had fun trying to decide who was the guilty party.

The Guest List

By Lucy Foley,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Guest List as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*The brand new thriller from Lucy Foley - THE PARIS APARTMENT - is available to pre-order now*

The No.1 Sunday Times bestseller

*Over 1 million copies sold worldwide*
*One of The Times and Sunday Times Crime Books of the Year*
*Goodreads Choice Awards winner for Crime & Mystery 2020*

A gripping, twisty murder mystery thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

'Lucy Foley is really very clever' Anthony Horowitz
'Thrilling' The Times
'A classic whodunnit' Kate Mosse
'Sharp and atmospheric and addictive' Louise Candlish
'A furiously twisty thriller' Clare Mackintosh

On an island off the windswept Irish…


The Perfect Family

By Robyn Harding,

Book cover of The Perfect Family

Why this book?

Robyn Harding’s secret skill is peeling back the layers of a family to expose both the love and the possible darkness hiding inside. When a “perfect” suburban family begins to be harassed by a mysterious stranger they first chalk it up to random vandals, until they begin to suspect that it’s being done for a very particular reason. 

The trick that Harding does is to give each family member a reason to be the target. She unravels the myth of perfection and kept me turning pages to determine the motivation behind the crime. I am always much more interested in the why of a mystery novel than the who—and this book delivers exactly that.

The Perfect Family

By Robyn Harding,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Perfect Family as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling author of the The Swap explores what happens when a seemingly perfect family is pushed to the edge... and beyond in this "propulsive, constantly surprising" (Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of The Girls Are All So Nice Here) thriller.

Thomas and Viv Adler are the envy of their neighbors: attractive, successful, with well-mannered children and a beautifully restored home.

Until one morning, when they wake up to find their porch has been pelted with eggs. It's a prank, Thomas insists; the work of a few out-of-control kids. But when a smoke bomb is tossed on their front lawn, and…


Unraveling Oliver

By Liz Nugent,

Book cover of Unraveling Oliver

Why this book?

The opening line of this novel, I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.grabbed me, and the story didn’t let go until the final page. Nugent’s ability to write from the perspective of a compelling-can’t-turn-away villain reminds me of Patricia Highsmith. Her characters may be dark, but there’s no denying they’re fascinating. 

Also, as a writer, I always love a book that gives a peek behind the publishing business. The main character is a children’s writer whose wife illustrates his books. But there are many surprises for the reader about just where these book ideas originate.

Unraveling Oliver

By Liz Nugent,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Unraveling Oliver as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Searing, searching, finally scorching. Think Making a Murderer via Patricia Highsmith: an elegant kaleidoscope novel that refines and combines multiple perspectives until its subject is brought into indelible, tragic focus.” —A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

“Pitch-black and superbly written.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10

“Top-notch grip lit…incredibly brilliant.” —Marian Keyes, New York Times bestselling author

Oliver Ryan has the perfect life. Elegant and seductive, he wants for nothing, sharing a lovely home with his steadfast wife, Alice, who illustrates the award-winning children’s…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, family secrets, and criminal investigations?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murder, family secrets, and criminal investigations.

Murder Explore 502 books about murder
Family Secrets Explore 113 books about family secrets
Criminal Investigations Explore 281 books about criminal investigations

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Crime and Punishment, The Silent Patient, and The Killer Inside Me if you like this list.