The best thrillers that make it weird (and weird makes it better)

Misha Burnett Author Of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Case Files of Erik Rugar
By Misha Burnett

The Books I Picked & Why

The City & the City

By China Miéville

Book cover of The City & the City

Why this book?

The City & The City is a police procedural novel in the style of Joseph Waumbaugh or Ed McBain. The Weird setting supercharges the jurisdictional barriers that are a staple of police novels and increases the power of the mystery by positing a literal “unseen world” for the detective to navigate through. 

The twin cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma exist side by side, sharing the same real estate but separated by an epistemological divide. The inhabitants of each have learned to “unsee” the other, consciously suppressing their awareness of the nation next door. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Besźel Major Case Squad investigates the murder of an unknown woman and finds himself the target of an international conspiracy that exploits the cities' unique mental geography.

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

By G. K. Chesterton

Book cover of The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Why this book?

The Man Who Was Thursday is a political thriller of the type that was common in the early 20th Century, much like The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Count Of Monte Cristo. The hero is a young man recruited to infiltrate an organization of anarchists that is dedicated to sowing chaos in the already unstable European monarchies. The Weird nature of the main antagonist increases the danger and the sense of paranoia that drives the story. What if the criminal mastermind you're pursuing really is something more than human?

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

By Ray Bradbury

Book cover of Something Wicked This Way Comes

Why this book?

A coming-of-age novel, dealing with the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood and the loss of innocence, combined with adventure in the style of Treasure Island and True Grit. The adventure that these boys undertake is Weird, a sinister and supernatural carnival that appears in town, out of season and bearing strange gifts. The nature of Codger & Dark's Pandemonium Show adds a deeper element to the danger, the peril in Something Wicked This Way Comes is not just physical but spiritual as well.

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Damnation Game

By Clive Barker

Book cover of The Damnation Game

Why this book?

Although it's generally listed as Horror, The Damnation Game is really Crime Fiction. We are introduced to the main character, Marty Strauss, as he is being released from prison on early parole, sponsored by a reclusive millionaire named Joseph Whitehead. Marty—a former semi-pro boxer—is told that he's being hired as Mr. Whitehead's bodyguard, but it soon becomes apparent that the job involves some very unsavory work. The Weird element is Mr. Whitehead's relationship with his former mentor, Mamoulian. Marty is forced to choose not only between going straight or returning to crime, but between Earth and Hell. 

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Declare: A Novel

By Tim Powers

Book cover of Declare: A Novel

Why this book?

A Cold War Era Spy Thriller that draws heavily on real historical events and persons, Declare ups the stakes enormously with the inclusion of Weird entities of devastating power. The spy game between East and West is often centered around new technological superweapons, but in this novel the weapons are literally apocalyptic.

In a world where no one is what they seem to be and allies may become enemies in the blink of an eye, Andrew Hale learns that not all of the players are human and that the real Great Game has been going on since the creation of the world.

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists