The best suspense novels to keep you reading past your bedtime

Robert Westbrook Author Of Walking Rain
By Robert Westbrook

Who am I?

I grew up in a bookish family. My mother, the Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham, was the last love of F. Scott Fitzgerald and I grew up in the company of authors and editors. The books I loved as a child were the Hardy Boys, Treasure Island, Jules Verne—adventure stories with whopping good plots. My first book was published when I was 23, The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, a coming-of-age novel. From here I turned to mysteries because good suspense fiction keeps readers turning pages (or they won't get published.) That's what I like in a novel. I want a great story!


I wrote...

Walking Rain

By Robert Westbrook,

Book cover of Walking Rain

What is my book about?

Walking Rain is the 8th novel in the Howard Moon Deer mystery series set in the tourist town of San Geronimo, New Mexico, where newcomers arrive in SUVs, skis on the roof, looking for peace of mind but often find murder instead.

 Howie is a Lakota Sioux working on his Ph.D dissertation who takes a job as a seeing-eyed assistant to blind ex-cop, Jack Wilder, who needs his help to set up a P.I. agency. Together, Jack and Howie solve mystifying cases in the new American West, a land of billionaires, survivalists, artists, real estate scams, and locals who now can barely afford to live in the place of their birth. Danger is everywhere!

The books I picked & why

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The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Why this book?

Raymond Chandler remains the King of Noir, the god of mystery writers everywhere. He's dated, you couldn't have a fast-talking, ironic P.I. like Philip Marlowe today. But he was a fabulous stylist, his books are great fun, and his descriptions of Southern California in the 1930s, with all its sunshine and sin, remain the gold standard for all of us crime writers who follow. I grew up in L.A. in a Show Business family so the setting has particular meaning for me: the American Dream gone wrong.

The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Big Sleep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raymond Chandler's first three novels, published here in one volume, established his reputation as an unsurpassed master of hard-boiled detective fiction.

The Big Sleep, Chandler's first novel, introduces Philip Marlowe, a private detective inhabiting the seamy side of Los Angeles in the 1930s, as he takes on a case involving a paralysed California millionaire, two psychotic daughters, blackmail and murder.

In Farewell, My Lovely, Marlowe deals with the gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women.

In The High Window, Marlowe searches the California underworld for a priceless gold coin and finds himself…


Blood Work

By Michael Connelly,

Book cover of Blood Work

Why this book?

In my opinion, Michael Connelly is the best American mystery writer working today, though his recent novels aren't as good as the early ones. Harry Bosch is his most famous protagonist, along with Harry's half-brother, Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer. But if you haven't read Connelly before, I suggest starting with his 1998 novel Blood Work, featuring ex-FBI agent Terry McCaleb. Much of the suspense is due to the fact that Terry is recovering from a heart transplant and the reader worries he might keel over dead at any moment. In my series, my detective Jack Wilder is blind, and I used this in a similar fashion to create suspense.

Blood Work

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Blood Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Terry McCaleb, one of the most effective serial-killer investigators in the history of the FBI, hunts down his heart donor's killer. An unputdownable story from the award-winning No. 1 bestselling author.

'Blood Work' - that's what Terry McCaleb used to call his job at the FBI. Eight weeks ago he was a dead man, but now someone else's heart is keeping him alive. Then a newspaper report of his brush with death brings him an unwanted visitor. Graciela Rivers reveals to McCaleb that the anonymous donor of his heart was her murdered sister, and that the police investigation into the…


Pietr the Latvian

By Georges Simenon, David Bellos (translator),

Book cover of Pietr the Latvian

Why this book?

This is the first Maigret mystery by Georges Simenon who went on to write 75 novels featuring the French detective, Jules Maigret, who is a pipe-smoking commissaire of the Paris Brigade Crimminelle. These are wonderful books, especially if you love Paris (as I do). Simenon famously wrote many of these novels in 3 or 4 days, holed up in his Paris flat. I'm frankly envious, being a slow writer myself! 

Pietr the Latvian

By Georges Simenon, David Bellos (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pietr the Latvian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel which appeared in Georges Simenon's famous Maigret series, in a gripping new translation by David Bellos.

Not that he looked like a cartoon policeman. He didn't have a moustache and he didn't wear heavy boots. His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands.
But his frame was proletarian. He was a big, bony man. His firm muscles filled out his jacket and quickly pulled all his trousers out of shape.

He had a way of imposing himself just by standing there. His assertive presence had…


The Inspector and Silence: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery

By Håkan Nesser,

Book cover of The Inspector and Silence: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery

Why this book?

Let's go Swedish! Henning Mankell and Stieg Larson are the most famous Swedish mystery writers, but my favorite is Håkim Nesser who has written ten books featuring Inspector Van Veeteren, and quite a few other suspense novels as well. Van Veeteren is a subtle, quiet detective who observes life closely and ends up running an antique book store, from where he still solves the occasional crime. I'm not sure why the Scandinavian countries are producing such wonderful suspense authors. Perhaps it's the cold brooding weather, the snow! The introspection!

The Inspector and Silence: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery

By Håkan Nesser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It’s a sweltering summer in Sweden and Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is long overdue for a holiday when a secretive and dubious religious sect comes under investigation. One of its members, a girl on the cusp of adolescence, is found dead in the forest near their holiday camp, brutally raped and strangled; the discovery of her body has been phoned in by an anonymous caller.
 
The members of the sect, the Pure Life, are led by Oscar Yellinek, a charismatic but unnervingly guarded messiah figure. In an act that mystifies and infuriates Van Veeteren and his associates, the members of…


Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of Rebecca

Why this book?

I simply couldn't have a list of my 5 favorite suspense novels without including Rebecca, which is the ultimate classic of the genre. I've read this multiple times, trying to figure out why it's so good—hoping it might infuse my own writing with the magic of suspense. This is a book that crosses genres. It's a romance, a ghost story, a gothic novel that harkens back to 19th century stories such as Jane Eyre. Daphne du Maurier is an author best read on a dark and stormy night!

Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Rebecca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, romantic love, and France?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, romantic love, and France.

Private Investigators Explore 203 books about private investigators
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France Explore 693 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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