The best suspense novels that are actually about something bigger

Who am I?

I love crime fiction—mysteries, thrillers, espionage, you name it, plots and puzzles that excite and confound and ultimately gratify. I also love the non-genre called literary fiction, sharply observed and beautifully written books that move me, and leave me with a slightly better understanding of humanity. And I think the sweetest spot of all is the intersection of the two, with sparkling prose, fully realized characters, and interesting settings combined with an insistent, credible plot that makes it a matter of urgency to turn the page, presenting the exquisite dilemma of wanting to race through the excitement but also the opposite urge to slow down and enjoy it all.


I wrote...

Two Nights in Lisbon

By Chris Pavone,

Book cover of Two Nights in Lisbon

What is my book about?

Ariel Pryce wakes up in Lisbon alone. Her husband is gone—no warning, no note, not answering his phone. Something is wrong. She starts with hotel security, then the police, then the American embassy, at each confronting dubious men and questions she can’t fully answer: What exactly is John doing in Lisbon? Who would want to harm him? And why does Ariel know so little about her new—and much younger—husband? The clock is ticking. Ariel is increasingly frustrated and desperate, and the one person in the world who can help is the person she least wants to ask. According to Stephen King, “There’s no such thing as a book you can’t put down, but this one was close.”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mercy Street

Chris Pavone Why did I love this book?

This bighearted, heartbreaking story about the abortion wars is also paradoxically one of the funniest books I’ve ever read; there’s a page in the middle that I’ll reread again and again whenever I need a smile. The plot revolves around Claudia, a longtime employee of a Boston clinic that’s besieged by protesters who threaten the sort of political violence that’s become all too commonplace in polarized America, creating an insistent drumbeat of menace. But Mercy Street is not a polemic, and the antagonists are treated with deep empathy and humanity. Possibly my favorite novel of the past few years.

By Jennifer Haigh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"Ms. Haigh is an expertly nuanced storyteller long overdue for major attention. Her work is gripping, real, and totally immersive, akin to that of writers as different as Richard Price, Richard Ford, and Richard Russo."-Janet Maslin, New York Times

The highly praised, "extraordinary" (New York Times Book Review) novel about the disparate lives that intersect at a women's clinic in Boston, by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh

For almost a decade, Claudia has counseled patients at Mercy Street, a clinic in the heart of the city. The work is consuming, the unending dramas of women in…


Book cover of Lush Life

Chris Pavone Why did I love this book?

Richard Price’s propulsive plots revolve around crime, but the novels are always about something much bigger, and Lush Life merges many of his favorite themes into one masterpiece: ambition and compromise, race and class, gentrification and crime, the push-and-pull of a city’s progressive leanings against reactionary forces for law and order and property values. Price’s city is constructed on a bedrock of conflict between those who’ve come to New York struggling to create art, those who were born here struggling to get by, and the cops struggling to hold the middle, in a spectacular kaleidoscope of a downtown scene at the turn of the millennium, of hipsters and gangsters, housing projects and trendy restaurants, all these subcultures clashing in one microcosm of urban life.

By Richard Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'So, what do you do?' Whenever people asked him, Eric Cash used to have a dozen answers. Artist, actor, screenwriter But now he's thirty-five years old and he's still living on the Lower East Side, still in the restaurant business, still serving the people he wanted to be. What does Eric do? He manages. Not like Ike Marcus. Ike was young, good-looking, people liked him. Ask him what he did, he wouldn't say tending bar. He was going places - until two street kids stepped up to him and Eric one night and pulled a gun. At least, that's Eric's…


Book cover of Long Bright River

Chris Pavone Why did I love this book?

This tense, gripping novel about the opioid crisis’s devastation of a family—of parents and children, siblings and cousins, and the extended family that’s a police force, all in Philadelphia—lays bare the intimate, heartbreaking costs of a mass epidemic. As has become abundantly clear in the past couple of years, we can all too easily become numb to massive numbers of sick and dead. It’s on the human scale of individuals, one person at a time who’s suffering and dying, that we can fully absorb the true costs of epidemics, whether of opioids or covid or whatever’s next. That’s what this book is really about.

By Liz Moore,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Long Bright River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY NPR, PARADE, REAL SIMPLE, and BUZZFEED

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK

"[Moore’s] careful balance of the hard-bitten with the heartfelt is what elevates Long Bright River from entertaining page-turner to a book that makes you want to call someone you love.” – The New York Times Book Review
 
"This is police procedural and a thriller par excellence, one in which the city of Philadelphia itself is a character (think Boston and Mystic River). But it’s…


Book cover of True Story

Chris Pavone Why did I love this book?

A rumor about teenage sexual assault has long-term repercussions on a handful of characters in this superb novel that toggles among different genres—thriller, mystery, women’s fiction, coming-of-age literary, even screenplays—with voices in first, second, and third person, a fascinating way of looking at a single event from every angle. The characters are astoundingly well-drawn, in particular the spot-on portraits of teenaged boys, which are a master class on how to write credible, realistic, and true characters that are well beyond the novelist’s own experience. Even the title itself is a clever subversion.

By Kate Reed Petty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A gripping, ripped-from-headlines tale." -People

"Spellbinding." -Megan Abbott, The New York Times Book Review

Tracing the fifteen-year fallout of a toxic high school rumor, a riveting, astonishingly original debut novel about the power of stories-and who gets to tell them

2015. A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she can't tell: the story of, as she puts it, "the things that happened while I was asleep."

1999. Nick Brothers and his lacrosse teammates return for their senior year at their wealthy Maryland high…


Book cover of Your House Will Pay

Chris Pavone Why did I love this book?

Is there any subject more complex, fraught, and important as race in America? And perhaps nothing is more challenging to write about, riskier, presenting nearly unlimited opportunities for disagreement, which seems to get more and more passionate, more and more polarized, every day. This remarkable novel by Steph Cha unflinchingly tackles the subject head-on in Los Angeles—the city of the Rodney King beating as background, and the city of today as foreground—through the lens of a multigenerational entanglement of a Korean American family with an African American one, defying the simplistic and reductionist tendencies of so much writing about race.

By Steph Cha,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Your House Will Pay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two families. One desperate to remember, the other to forget.

Winner of the LA Times Book Prize, Best Mystery/Thriller
Winner of the California Book Awards' Gold Medal for Fiction
Shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger
Shortlisted for the Macavity Awards, Best Mystery Novel
Shortlisted for the Anthony Awards, Best Novel
Finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award

'Masterful.' Ruth Ware

'A searing examination of racial and family politics that is also an immaculately constructed whodunit.' Daily Telegraph, Summer Reads

'Writing a page-turner about racial politics in the U.S. is a delicate enterprise fraught with pitfalls, but Cha…


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Quoz: A Financial Thriller

By Mel Mattison,

Book cover of Quoz: A Financial Thriller

Mel Mattison Author Of Quoz: A Financial Thriller

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’m a huge thriller fan, and I love finance. In fact, I worked in the industry for over twenty years. I have an MBA from Duke and have been the CEO of three different SEC/FINRA-registered broker-dealers. Unfortunately, I’ve found myself deep into a thriller with a financial component that turns out to be implausible, overly simplistic, or both. It breaks the narrative for me. With these books, that’s not a concern. Financial thriller aficionados unite!

Mel's book list on exploring the dark side of finance

What is my book about?

It’s 2027. Rory O’Connor is the financial genius who helped create ICARUS, a quantum computer that controls the world’s stock markets with AI and algorithms. But Rory has recently suffered some tough breaks. He’s checked out of high finance and into a luxury Caribbean condo. After a former colleague finds anomalies with ICARUS, Rory quickly finds himself at the nexus of a high-stakes international conspiracy.

In the process, he discovers a hidden thumb drive that contains the mysterious and encrypted Vega files. Now, Rory must travel to Switzerland, access the ICARUS mainframe, decrypt the drive, overcome his demons, and save the world from financial chaos. If he fails, the globe descends into an economic Armageddon controlled by madmen and psychopathic bankers.

Quoz: A Financial Thriller

By Mel Mattison,

What is this book about?

Quantum AI, corrupt central bankers, and the blockchain collide in a stock market supernova. The annihilation of the global economic order is just the beginning.

"As governments around the world seek to exert tyrannical control over currency, Quoz serves as a cautionary tale for what lies ahead. You've been warned." -Trey Radel, Former Member of United States Congress

It's 2027. The AI revolution has merged with quantum computing to take control of global financial markets. Operated by the mysterious Bank for International Settlements based in Basel, Switzerland, the quantum supercomputer known as ICARUS has promised the world a more stable…


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