The best thought-provoking thrillers

Who am I?

I love a good thriller, as my bookshelf will attest. Anything that can drag me to the edge of my seat, desperate to see how it ends, will always get a recommendation from me, but the books that endure and inspire me the most have always been the ones that keep turning over in my head long after I’ve discovered whodunnit or seen the villain taken down. I have so much admiration for the art of taking what is often the pulpiest genre and infusing it with something more. Closely studying the books that successfully pull that off, for me, gives thriller writers everywhere a benchmark to aspire to.


I wrote...

The Inheritance

By Gabriel Bergmoser,

Book cover of The Inheritance

What is my book about?

A young woman is hiding out in a sleepy North Queensland tourist town, trying to stay under the radar, when she stumbles across a dangerous drug cartel. Anyone else might back away shaking their head, pretend they hadn't seen anything, keep quiet, even though people are getting hurt. But Maggie is no ordinary girl. She's got skills, as well as plenty of secrets to keep, burdens to carry - and anger to burn. When circumstances mean that she has to get out of town - fast - she heads towards Melbourne, where she just might find the answers that she needs - answers about her family and who she really is. With a bent cop for a dubious ally, the police tracking her, and furious bikers on her trail, Maggie is in deep trouble. She's only got her ingenuity and wits on her side - and a determination not to inherit the sins of her father.

A powerhouse, fast-paced, high-adrenaline, and tense thriller from Gabriel Bergmoser, author of the critically acclaimed bestselling outback noir The Hunted.

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).

Red Dragon

By Thomas Harris,

Book cover of Red Dragon

Why this book?

There are only a handful of stories, whether page, screen, or stage, that I can definitively say changed my life. Reading Red Dragon at way too young an age (or maybe exactly the right age) was beyond formative for me, one of those thrilling moments of realising what fiction is capable of. Red Dragon is not only the first appearance of Hannibal Lecter (and a cracking thriller in its own right) but a troubling exploration of the capacity for darkness within us all, that never loses sight of its deep sense of empathy and humanity. It’s easily the best Lecter book and maybe the best crime thriller ever written.

Red Dragon

By Thomas Harris,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Red Dragon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of "Silence of the Lambs" and "Black Sunday", this is the book that introduces the most famous serial killer of them all - Hannibal Lecter.


Only Killers and Thieves

By Paul Howarth,

Book cover of Only Killers and Thieves

Why this book?

In interviews, Paul Howarth has discussed the ways in which colonial Australia was essentially a second Wild West, albeit one scarcely explored in fiction. Only Killers and Thieves leans into that understanding and in doing so creates a vivid, blood-soaked, Biblical saga about revenge, redemption, and the lies upon which nations are built, full of unforgettable characters and passages of writing that will make your breath catch. That it is followed by an even better sequel is the icing on a magnificent cake.

Only Killers and Thieves

By Paul Howarth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Only Killers and Thieves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tommy McBride and his brother Billy return to their isolated family home to discover that their parents have been brutally murdered. Haunted and alone, their desperate search for the killers leads them to the charismatic but deadly Inspector Noone and his Queensland Native Police - an infamous arm of colonial power whose sole purpose is the 'dispersal' of Indigenous Australians in protection of settler rights.

The retribution that follows will leave a lasting mark on the colony and the country it later becomes. It will also devastate Tommy - and destroy his relationship with his brother, forever.


In the Woods

By Tana French,

Book cover of In the Woods

Why this book?

Many thrillers go down like fast food – enjoyable in the moment, but instantly forgettable. Tana French’s novels are more like rich feasts, none more so than her debut, a novel that starts out with a compelling mystery and slowly descends into the psychological hell of a particularly clever horror movie. Uncompromising in its bold choices but always tender in how it treats its wounded, fractured but all-too-human characters. There are many reasons Tana French has gained such a fervent cult following, and all of them can be found in this book.

In the Woods

By Tana French,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling debut, with over a million copies sold, that launched Tana French, author of the forthcoming novel The Searcher and "the most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years" (The Washington Post).

"Required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting." -The New York Times

Now airing as a Starz series.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only…


The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Why this book?

I read The Talented Mr. Ripley in two days, even though I’d seen the movie and knew how it would end. The film is good but it doesn’t come close to capturing the chillier, darker depths of Highsmith’s imagination. Tom Ripley is a soulless void – fascinating because he can’t be explained even though glimmers of his history and his own idiosyncrasies make it tempting to try. We root for him even as his actions horrify us, maybe more so because Highsmith makes it all too easy to imagine doing the same. This is a book best enjoyed by just surrendering to its unique darkness and letting go of it at the end – the sequels all have something to recommend them, but too much time spent in Tom Ripley’s company can do strange things to your head.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Talented Mr. Ripley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a "sissy." Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante, and Ripley begins a deadly game. "Sinister and strangely alluring"…


Misery

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Misery

Why this book?

On the surface Misery is a clever thriller, something the film adaptation captured. But what makes the book brilliant is how it engages head on with the act of writing itself and the challenges of trying to satisfy yourself and your audience simultaneously. It is ultimately a portrait of an artist slowly learning he can’t escape his own limitations and slowly discovering a kind of acceptance and even exultance in that. That it takes some of King’s most personal writing and wraps in up in the trappings of an unpredictable one-sitting page turner might be the novel’s true genius.

Misery

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the exciting build-up to publication of Stephen King's new mainstream novel, LISEY'S STORY, enjoy this world-famous classic novel on audio.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in brothers, murder, and criminals?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about brothers, murder, and criminals.

Brothers Explore 67 books about brothers
Murder Explore 497 books about murder
Criminals Explore 49 books about criminals

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Road, and True Grit if you like this list.