The best thrillers to keep you awake at night and your heart racing

Who am I?

I am an avid reader and devour books of all types, but for pure entertainment I love a good thriller. These are the kind of books I read on planes and at the beach, and these are the kinds of books I shared with my late father. I contributed a piece on Rudyard Kipling’s Kim to the collection Thrillers: 100 Must Reads and am a member of the International Thriller Writers. While I write thrillers professionally, I remain a passionate reader of the genre and love to share the brilliant stories that kept me reading late into the night.


I wrote...

The Secret Cardinal

By Tom Grace,

Book cover of The Secret Cardinal

What is my book about?

Nolan Kilkenny accepts an invitation to consult with the Vatican Library but soon learns the real reason for his summons to Rome. In a private audience with Pope Leo XIV, Kilkenny learns of a recent atrocity committed against members of the persecuted Church in China and its link to Yin Daoming, the long-imprisoned Bishop of Shanghai. The frail and aging pope then reveals a secret he has kept for over twenty years and asks Kilkenny to devise a plan to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of liberating Bishop Yin.

The Secret Cardinal is a jailbreak thriller that races from the grandeur of the Vatican across the vastness of Asia, ultimately involving China, the Mafia, and the conclave of cardinals that will elect the next pope.

The books I picked & why

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The Black Angel

By John Connolly,

Book cover of The Black Angel

Why this book?

Connolly weaves taut crime thrillers that I have great trouble putting down once I start reading. Charlie Parker and the rest of the regular cast are beautifully rich characters I care about, which explains the 19 books in this series on my shelf. What sets Connolly apart is an undercurrent of supernatural evil that arcs through these crime stories. In The Black Angel, the shroud that conceals what the reader likely sensed in the early novels is pulled back a little to reveal an underworld of darkness beneath the stories. Charlie Parker is the detective you want on the case when there is more than just a crime and The Black Angel is a milestone in the series.

The Black Angel

By John Connolly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

EVIL TAKES MANY FORMS.
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR CHARLIE PARKER HUNTS THEM ALL.

The Black Angel is not an object. The Black Angel is not a myth. The Black Angel lives.

A young woman goes missing from the streets of New York. Those who have taken her believe that nobody cares about her, and that no one will come looking for her. They are wrong. She is linked to the killer Louis, the man who stands at the right hand of private detective Charlie Parker, and Louis will tear apart anyone who stands in the way of his attempts to find her.…


Raise the Titanic!

By Clive Cussler,

Book cover of Raise the Titanic!

Why this book?

Dirk Pitt’s career at the National Underwater Marine Agency—as well as the collection of classic cars and artifacts in his airplane hangar—chronicle daring adventures involving modern crises linked to lost pieces of history. In Raise the Titanic, tons of a rare ore smuggled out of Tsarist Siberia lies at the bottom of the Atlantic in the doomed Titanic’s hull. Decades after the sinking, the lost ore is now critical to an impenetrable American missile defense system. To succeed, Pit and his NUMA crew must evade Russian forces searching for the ore to thwart the American plans, locate the Titanic’s final resting place beneath miles of frigid ocean and somehow recover the cargo and bring it to the surface. I read this book as a teenager and it certainly influenced me as writer, it is that good.

Raise the Titanic!

By Clive Cussler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'Cussler is hard to beat' Daily Mail

The fantastic fourth Dirk Pitt classic from multi-million-copy king of the adventure novel, Clive Cussler.

A tidal wave of pounding excitement from the first page to the last . . .

Two and a half miles beneath the icy North Atlantic the mighty Titanic holds the key to the safety of the free world. The Americans want it. So do the Russians. Ace maritime troubleshooter Dirk Pitt faces one of the most stupendous tests of courage and ingenuity ever.

Raise the Titanic is a spellbinding blockbuster of action and…


The Master Executioner

By Loren D. Estleman,

Book cover of The Master Executioner

Why this book?

While not technically a fast-paced thriller, The Master Executioner is the compelling story of a young Civil War veteran who evolves into a methodical, professional hangman in the old West. After completing a carpentry apprenticeship, Oscar Stone goes west to seek his fortunes in the frontier. Finding construction work scarce, he accepts a commission to build the gallows for a hanging and his career plans find a new trajectory. Stone is as exacting as a hangman as he was a carpentry, from the quality of the rope to the length of the drop he strives to provide the condemned a quick and painless death. Estleman’s prose is exceptional, his dialog crisp, and his storytelling lean and well-paced. The pages of The Master Executioner fly.

The Master Executioner

By Loren D. Estleman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ordinary people do not understand Oscar Stone. Everything he does, he does impeccably. He is a profound student of his art, completely versed in its traditions over the centuries. He is a student of ropes and their properties, a master of the latest scientific knowledge about the human neck, a careful calculator of weights and drops, and an exacting observer of results. Far more than a quarter of a century he has worked to create a reputation as a man peerless in his craft: the master executioner. Yet he is utterly alone: His devotion to his work costs him his…

The Jefferson Key

By Steve Berry,

Book cover of The Jefferson Key

Why this book?

Steve Berry has built a successful writing career mining interesting nuggets from history and asking a simple what-if question that sends his imagination racing. The seventh Cotton Malone thriller opens with the failed attempt to assassinate President Danny Daniels. Berry links this attempt with the successful, but seemingly unrelated presidential assassinations in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963. The historical gold nugget at the heart of The Jefferson Key is a clause in the United States Constitution, contained in Article 1, Section 8. Malone races across the U.S. to break a cipher created by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a document drafted by the Founding Fathers in order to stop the secret society of American pirates.

The Jefferson Key

By Steve Berry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cotton Malone has been called on to defend his country's safety in many exotic locations around the world, often using his knowledge of history to get to the heart of mysteries and conspiracies stretching back for centuries. But never has the danger been quite so close to home.

A stunning opening sets the tone of explosive action and mind-bending intrigue as Cotton battles an extraordinary group of families whose unseen influence dates back to the pages of the U.S. Constitution - and whose thirst for power is about to be satisfied by the cracking of a code devised by Thomas…


Red Dragon

By Thomas Harris,

Book cover of Red Dragon

Why this book?

Hannibal Lecter. That alone is enough to recommend this brilliant Thomas Harris novel. Red Dragon serves as the literary debut of the iconic psychiatrist/gourmand serial killer. This tense, psychological thriller places FBI profiler Will Graham between the imprisoned but still dangerous Lecter and the titular character who slays entire families under the light of a full moon. The novel opens with Graham on leave and recovering from physical and psychological injuries sustained in Lecter’s capture when the urgency of catching this new killer presses him reluctantly back into service. Graham’s effort to aid the hunt of the Dragon from the shadows is thwarted when Lecter aims the killer at Graham and his family. Wicked fun.

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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, Thomas Jefferson, and the Titanic?

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