The best thrillers that changed the game

James P. Sumner Author Of True Conviction: A Thriller
By James P. Sumner

Who am I?

The novels I write aren’t typically like other thrillers out there. I want to stand out from the crowd and not be restricted by the expectations readers have nowadays. I compiled this list of thrillers I’ve read that I feel either redefine the genre or break the mould completely. These aren’t conventional. These don’t conform with mainstream expectations. They’re original and much better for it. These are the novels I want people to place alongside mine one day.


I wrote...

True Conviction: A Thriller

By James P. Sumner,

Book cover of True Conviction: A Thriller

What is my book about?

An action-packed thriller that puts you inside the head of the world’s deadliest assassin, Adrian Hell. His unorthodox approach to his profession makes him unlike any character you’ve read before. This first novel sees him take a contract that goes wrong, leaving him caught in the middle of a Nevada mob boss and an extremist terror group, both vying for something important that Adrian finds himself in possession of. He must fight to survive long enough to prevent an attack that could lead to a global conflict.

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).

Killing Floor

By Lee Child,

Book cover of Killing Floor

Why this book?

This is a masterful thriller—easily Child’s strongest entry in the Reacher series. The story is complex and original. The pacing and narrative are inch perfect from cover to cover. This book should be the template for all thriller writers. My father gave me this book when it was first released, with the promise that I wouldn’t be able to put it down. He was right. This book kickstarted my love of the genre, and I read it once a year without fail.

Killing Floor

By Lee Child,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Killing Floor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He's just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he's arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Reacher knows is that he didn't kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn't stand a chance of convincing anyone. Not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.


Lethal People

By John Locke,

Book cover of Lethal People

Why this book?

I bought this book on a whim, intrigued by the cover. It’s a hard-hitting, fast-paced thriller that is like nothing I’ve ever read before. The approach to the genre and the narrative was original, and this book single-handedly inspired me to start writing myself. I remember reading it and thinking, I could do something like this… but I would do it a little differently. I then found out the author was the first self-published author on Amazon to sell a million copies. That’s when I decided to start to write and publish my own work.

Lethal People

By John Locke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Would you let a child die if your family were threatened?

When the government wants someone to disappear without a trace, they put in a call to Donovan Creed. Creed is a man of many identities, a ruthless assassin with access to all the technology that the military can offer. You don't want to take on Creed. But then again, most don't even see him coming.

When Creed meets an orphaned girl, she reminds him of his own daughter, and he swears to protect her from the men who killed her parents. But when his involvement becomes public knowledge amongst…


Dirty White Boys

By Stephen Hunter,

Book cover of Dirty White Boys

Why this book?

Another recommendation from my father, this book has the best opening line I’ve ever read! It’s a gritty, hard-boiled prison drama featuring realistic and largely detestable characters that you can’t help but root for. What stood out to me with this book is how the characters evolved over the course of the book. I personally related to the meek, perpetually terrified artist, who went from being a scared new inmate to the top boy, all through the life lessons he learned from the people around him. It isn’t always pretty, but it’s a hell of a good read!

Dirty White Boys

By Stephen Hunter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dirty White Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three convicts on the run with an arsenal of weaponry and only one rogue cop can stop them. Lamar Pye has escaped from Oklahoma State Penitentiary, accompanied by his idiot cousin and a vicious, but cowardly artist. To have stayed in prison was certain death, but his chances on the outside are not much greater: his excesses know no bounds - one killing follows another. But one murder brings his nemesis upon him: Bud Pewtie of the Highway of the Highway Patrol loses his partner in a blood-soaked shoot-out with Lamar, and from that moment on, nothing will stop him…


Exit Wounds

By Shaun Hutson,

Book cover of Exit Wounds

Why this book?

This author was one of my own discoveries as a young reader. Predominantly known for his horror novels, he had a sideline in gritty crime thrillers, and Exit Wounds is by far his best one. Set in London, it focuses on a small group of ageing criminals planning a robbery, only to get caught in the middle of a turf war between two gangs of Yardies. It’s violent, and you need a strong stomach at times, but this is one of the most gripping thrillers I’ve ever read. The signed copy I have stands proudly on my bookshelf!

Exit Wounds

By Shaun Hutson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It begins with a murderous chase through the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. When a local hard man escapes, the action moves to an unsuspecting Britain where Yardie drug dealers and criminals begin to die horribly. Meanwhile a small-time crook, Frank Newton, has gathered his posse to pull off the robbery that will finally give them financial independence - unaware that half the haul belongs to a London gang boss who knows who they are.In return for their lives they have to eliminate a merciless new Yardie chief, while they themselves are being shadowed by a tenacious police team. With millions…


Angels & Demons

By Dan Brown,

Book cover of Angels & Demons

Why this book?

Before the movies, this was the lesser-known prequel to the hit novel, The Da Vinci Code. Laced with mind-blowing historical conspiracy and written at a detailed yet break-neck pace, this for me is Brown’s greatest novel. At the time, there was nothing that had this much research and detail behind it in the genre, which really set it apart from any conspiracy thriller out there. A true page-turner and a must for anyone’s collection.

Angels & Demons

By Dan Brown,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Angels & Demons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

CERN Institute, Switzerland: a world-renowned scientist is found brutally murdered with a mysterious symbol seared onto his chest.

The Vatican, Rome: the College of Cardinals assembles to elect a new pope. Somewhere beneath them, an unstoppable bomb of terrifying power relentlessly counts down to oblivion.

In a breathtaking race against time, Harvard professor Robert Langdon must decipher a labyrinthine trail of ancient symbols if he is to defeat those responsible - the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood presumed extinct for nearly four hundred years, reborn to continue their deadly vendetta against their most hated enemy, the Catholic Church.

Origin, the spellbinding…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, gangster, and authors?

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

Private Investigators Explore 196 books about private investigators
Gangster Explore 7 books about gangster
Authors Explore 99 books about authors

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like World War Z, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Deal Breaker if you like this list.