The best page-turning suspense fiction to keep you up all night

Who am I?

I've suffered from insomnia since I was a child, and the best way to pass the dark hours is to keep my mind engaged. Whether that means reading a thriller, murder mystery, or deep-rooted, life-altering tale, a novel has to do more than entertain me. It has to capture me. Draw my thoughts away from my bedroom’s black corners. Always, an e-book reader and paperback sit on my nightstand. If it’s past midnight and I’m awake, I hear them calling. If they are thought-provoking with lots of moving parts to keep me guessing? I can’t stop turning pages. I am CJ Zahner and I’m a true suspense junkie. 

I wrote...

Dream Wide Awake

By C.J. Zahner,

Book cover of Dream Wide Awake

What is my book about?

Boys are disappearing and six-year-old Mikala Daly dreams they are in a dark, damp cellar. A kidnapper scribbles quotes on three abduction notes. His fourth mentions Detective Jack Daly’s daughter Mikala. Is he someone they know? Jack crumbles the note and slips it into a pocket. He can't tell anyone she's dreaming. In this page-turning crime thriller, four words on Christian stationery force a father to work alone while narrowing a web of kidnapping suspects. Years before, Jack married into a family rumored to have a sixth sense. Now his daughter has inherited that “gift.” If he uses her dreams, will he risk her life?

"I picked this up and could. Not. Put. It. Down. I kept thinking about it for weeks afterward." – Amazon Reviewer.

The books I picked & why

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Defending Jacob

By William Landay,

Book cover of Defending Jacob

Why this book?

Defending Jacob is a page-turning legal thriller that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. I recommend this novel more than any other. Both voracious book lovers and occasional readers love it. The story is flawlessly told and superbly written, the POV so realistic you’ll feel as if you’re sitting in the courtroom right beside Andy Barber, the protagonist. Book clubs (and I’ve participated in many) eat this up. On the nights we discussed Defending Jacob, no one wanted to go home. Everyone debated: is the bond between parent and child sacred or sacrilegious? Read this and decide for yourself.

Rage of Angels

By Sidney Sheldon,

Book cover of Rage of Angels

Why this book?

Rage of Angels introduced me to kidnap crime thrillers and inspired me to write my own. I fell in love with Sidney Sheldon after reading this and went on to devour every book he wrote. Sheldon’s character development is brilliant. If you don’t fall in love with and root for Rage of Angel’s Jennifer Parker, then you’re not human. This is a page-turning whirlwind of a tale. You’ll question her morals, your morals, and you’ll ask yourself what you would do in her situation. You’ll love characters you shouldn’t and exhaust yourself trying to figure out Sheldon’s next twist. Totally worth the read. It’s the only 500-page book I didn’t want to end.

Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn,

Book cover of Gone Girl

Why this book?

Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. Conflictingly, Nick’s thinking bizarre thoughts about the size of his wife’s head while Amy’s elatedly writing a happy-with-her-life diary entry. Then she disappears and you are hooked. You don’t realize you’re reading anymore. You’re in a maze, searching for someone. Gone Girl is ingenious suspense. The POV seesaws between Nick and Amy, and if teetering makes you dizzy, get out early, because this psychological thriller will take you on a wild ride of what-the-heck-is-going-on. There are games involved. Scavenger hunts. Pay attention to every sentence in this one. I read it in mere hours. Closed the final chapter, exhausted and sweaty. Love, love, loved it.  

Nineteen Minutes

By Jodi Picoult,

Book cover of Nineteen Minutes

Why this book?

I’m a huge Jodi Picoult fan. When I’m hungry for a good read, I grab one of her books because I know a juicy story and flawlessly sweet writing await me. But Nineteen Minutes? It’s like a forbidden dessert, my favorite of all her novels. The opening grabs you and won’t let go. There’s a school shooting, lots of kids, parents, and an investigator who allows his niece to paint his toenails. (Picoult creates characters who quietly charm you.) The most thought-provoking suspense novel I’ve ever read, Nineteen Minutes describes the multi-faceted inner workings of teenagers’ minds and the fruitless attempts of parents (and investigators with pink toes) to understand them. If, like me, you like solving puzzles and enjoy stories with lots of moving parts, this one’s for you. 

Big Little Lies

By Liane Moriarty,

Book cover of Big Little Lies

Why this book?

In Big Little Lies, author Liane Moriarty interlaces the lives of five women: Jane, raising a son alone; Celeste, the quintessential beauty, hiding family secrets; Maddie, my favorite, the thinks-too-much, defends-the-weak, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer mom; Renata, the wealthy, most powerful mother at Pirriwee Public School; and Bonnie, the current wife of Maddie’s ex-husband. Never have I loved a female cast of characters as much as I love these women. This story cleverly wraps friendship foes, family saga, and Chick Lit into one page-turning murder mystery. You simply can’t put it down. The excellent writing and superb character development of strong, fierce women make this one of my all-time favorites. This was my introductory book to Lianne Moriarty. Now I read everything she writes. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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