The best page-turning assassin thrillers

The Books I Picked & Why

The Hunter

By Tom Wood

Book cover of The Hunter

Why this book?

Tom Wood immediately swept to the top of my list of great thriller writers when I read this book. It’s the first in the Victor Assassin series and its adrenaline-fuelled excitement gripped me from the first sentence to the final full stop.

Victor is hired to kill a man in Paris and to take the memory stick he is carrying, but Victor’s paymasters aren’t all they seem, and Victor quickly finds himself at the wrong end of a gun barrel when a hit squad is sent to eliminate him.

But Victor won’t be taken out that easily. He shoots his way free of the ambush and fights to stay alive long enough to work out who’s behind what’s happening. The underlying plot is slowly revealed and leads to a great dramatic conclusion.

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The Accident Man: A Novel (A Samuel Carver Novel)

By Tom Cain

Book cover of The Accident Man: A Novel (A Samuel Carver Novel)

Why this book?

This is the first book in Tom Cain’s series about the assassin Samuel Carver. It’s full of believable action and has a great storyline. Do you remember the conspiracy rumours surrounding the death of Dianna Princess of Wales? Well, in this story, Carver was responsible for the car crash that killed her, having been tricked into setting it up.

It’s a great thriller, full of exciting action from start to finish as he tries to work out who set him up. Carver then becomes the target himself when those who tricked him realise he is learning too much and has to be silenced.

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The Bourne Identity

By Robert Ludlum

Book cover of The Bourne Identity

Why this book?

No list of assassin thrillers can be complete without this book by Robert Ludlum. It set a high bar for all assassination tales and still maintains its supremacy forty years after its first publication.

The reader is quickly drawn into the mystery of the amnesiac who’s pulled barely alive from the sea and has obviously been shot. The only lead to his identity is an account number and a Swiss bank address found printed on a small celluloid slip implanted just beneath the skin. When he visits the bank to try to discover who he is, he finds himself the target of killers; the only way to stay alive is to find out who wants him dead. 

Even if you read this book in the eighties, it’s definitely well worth a re-read. Ludlum was the supreme master in this genre.

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The Operators: On the Streets with Britain's Most Secret Service

By James Rennie

Book cover of The Operators: On the Streets with Britain's Most Secret Service

Why this book?

Although this is non-fiction, I’ve included this book in my list because it’s written in a thriller style. The true-life security service missions it describes are written like a first-person novel and are as page-turning as many thrillers.

The author was an officer in a secret group responsible for counter-terrorism, and these tales of his missions are delivered, not like a record of events, but as a story. I don’t frequently read non-fiction, but I recommend this because of the way in which the content is presented. You’re there – you feel the adrenalin, the fear, and the tension as the missions unfold on the pages.

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By Stephen Leather

Book cover of Takedown

Why this book?

This is another book of heart-pounding excitement from first page to last. Lex Harper is an assassin used by the British government’s shady department called The Pool, which has the remit to work in unconventional ways to achieve its goals.

The main storyline relates to a rogue soldier who persuades ISIS to support his desire to launch an attack on British soil. When The Pool learns what is happening, they hire Harper to neutralise him.

I wouldn’t rank it as highly as my other favourite picks because I found a few parts of the plot rather unrealistic, but the never-ending action and excitement dragged me through the book at high speed, so I definitely still enjoyed it overall and award it a place among the others.

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