The most recommended mystery thriller books

Who picked these books? Meet our 1,161 experts.

1,161 authors created a book list connected to mystery thriller, and here are their favorite mystery thriller books.
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Book cover of Atomic Love

Kitty Zeldis Author Of The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights

From my list on historical novels that feature bad-ass women.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a girl growing up in the 1960s, I loved books that were set in the past—Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn were among my favorites. But those books weren’t historical fiction because they were written back then. So discovering that I could set my own books in the past was a thrill. I love evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of the past. And I especially love describing what my characters wear. Vintage clothes are my passion and being able to incorporate that love into my work is an ongoing delight.

Kitty's book list on historical novels that feature bad-ass women

Kitty Zeldis Why did Kitty love this book?

A novel about a young woman who worked on the atomic bomb and fell in love with one of the other scientists on the project who breaks her heart into a million pieces so she abandons her career and takes up as a shop-girl? Add in an FBI agent who is on the tail of the cad and wants her help in finding him? Count me in!

Fields is terrific at creating mood and the 1950s milieu. And the unexpected romance between Rosalind, the one-time scientist, and Charlie, the FBI agent, is both moving and immensely satisfying—these are two wounded souls who manage to find each other and by the end, you’re out of your chair and cheering.

By Jennie Fields,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The stunning novel about our fiercest loyalties, deepest desires and the power of forgiveness

'A highly-charged love story' DELIA OWENS, bestselling author of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

'This story has everything. Just thinking about it makes me feel that lovely feeling where your heart seems to skip a beat' 5***** Reader Review
________

Chicago, 1950: Rosalind Porter is unfulfilled, heartbroken and angry.

Five years ago her career as a scientist was sabotaged by the man who also broke her heart: former Manhattan Project colleague Thomas Weaver.

Now, out of the blue, Thomas gets back in touch: he urgently needs to…


Book cover of Lock No. 1

Andrew Hook Author Of Candescent Blooms

From Andrew's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Punk Surrealist Reader Traveller

Andrew's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Andrew Hook Why did Andrew love this book?

I've read quite a few Maigret's now, but this is my favourite so far. As a detective, Maigret is the opposite of Columbo. There's never "just one more thing here". In fact, there's rarely any questioning at all.

By his very presence, Maigret seems to invite confessions, for the 'villains' to bottle everything up in fear of interrogation only for themselves to let everything out. It's a tour de force of sustained suspense to keep a novel at that bubbling point, and the plot here is intricate and tragic; essentially, a man who has worked his way up to have everything but through egoism and happenstance can't find the right people to share it with.

And even more tragic, he finds himself harking back to those simpler times, undoing his status. There's much to relate to here, and the prose is knife-edge sharp.

By Georges Simenon, David Coward (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lock No. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The father of contemporary European detective fiction' Ann Cleeves
Cars drove past along with the trucks and trams, but by now Maigret had realised that they were not important. Whatever roared by like this along the road was not part of the landscape. ... What really counted was the lock, the hooting of the tugs, the stone crusher, the barges and the cranes, the two pilots' bars and especially the tall house where he could make out Ducrau's red chair framed by a window.

Penguin is publishing the entire series of Maigret novels in new translations. This novel has been…


Book cover of The Redbreast

David Wickenden Author Of The Home Front

From my list on Nazis and the threat they posed in the past and today.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can recommend this topic because of my interest in anything about WWII and the Nazi horror. It also comes from the recent revival of the ideology, even though the entire world fought to defeat them seventy years ago. I have been haunted by PTSD because of my experiences as a first responder and can speak to that personally. As a former reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces, I also have experience in firearms and munitions. I have recently written my own story, The Home Front, which deals with the rise of the neo-Nazis in the United States through the eyes of a WWII veteran.

David's book list on Nazis and the threat they posed in the past and today

David Wickenden Why did David love this book?

Another cautionary story. This story shows that the Nazi movement is growing worldwide and that governments need to keep these organizations under wraps before allowing them to carry out their own agendas. 

When a mistake causes an international incident during a US Presidential visit to Norway, Detective Harry Hole is placed out of sight in the Federal Police Department, until matters settle. Unable to sit still, Harry investigates a neo-Nazi group and comes across someone practicing with an exotic rifle that would only be used to assassinate someone. Now he must identify both the target and the killer.

By Jo Nesbo, Don Bartlett (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Harry Hole faces a new rising enemy.

'A page-turner you won't want to put down' Time Out

Harry knows he shouldn't get involved.

A report of a rare and unusual gun - a type favoured by assassins - being smuggled into the country sparks Detective Harry Hole's interest.

Evil is closer to home than he knows.

Then a former WW2 Nazi sympathizer is found with his throat cut. Next, someone close to Harry is murdered. Why had she been trying to reach Harry on the night she was killed?

As Harry's investigation unfolds, it becomes clear that the killer is…


Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

Book cover of Conditions are Different After Dark

Owen W. Knight Author Of The Visitors

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Visionary Compassionate Imaginative Conspiracist Apophenia (or apophenic)

Owen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In 1662, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. Awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.

Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They discover their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected? They fear their choice of new home is no coincidence. Unexplained events hint at threats or warnings to leave. They become convinced the village remains cursed despite their friends’ denials. Who can they trust, and who are potential enemies?

Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

What is this book about?

In 1660, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. While awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.
Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They learn that their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected?
Faith and James fear that their choice of a new home is…


Book cover of Method 15/33

Thomas A. Burns Jr. Author Of Sister!

From my list on dark mysteries you should read with the lights on.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not sure why the dark side of humanity has always fascinated me, as it does so many others. I’ve read mystery and horror stories ever since I was a young boy, gravitating to ever darker books as I aged. I’m a pantser—that means that I don’t totally know where a story is going when I start, so I discover it right along with the characters. I think evoking emotion is key to writing a riveting tale, so I try to imagine what my character is feeling as I chronicle their experience. Part of being able to do this well is reading other writers who can, such as the authors on this list.

Thomas' book list on dark mysteries you should read with the lights on

Thomas A. Burns Jr. Why did Thomas love this book?

Method 15/13 is a book about a pregnant teen who is kidnapped by a gang who wants her child so they can sell it on the black market.

However, what they don’t know is that she’s an autistic prodigy with sociopathic tendencies who’s planning her escape and revenge from day 1.

This is Home Alone on steroids, and the young woman’s precise planning is so positively chilling that I almost felt sorry for the bad guys. Almost.

By Shannon Kirk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Method 15/33 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

USA Today Best-Selling Author Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal Winner National Indie Excellence Award Winner Kidnapped, pregnant teen plots a calculating escape and merciless revenge Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who's just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped . . . Alone . . . Terrified. Now forget her . . . Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn child and to exact merciless revenge. She…


Book cover of Daughters of Night

Eric Van Lustbader Author Of The Quantum Solution

From Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sociologist Futurist Humanist

Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Eric Van Lustbader Why did Eric love this book?

There are, at the moment, a glut of authors writing about England in the 1800’s, but none of them can hold a candle to Laura Shepherd-Robinson.

Her prose is so immersive you are almost instantly transported back in time and place. Settle in for a fantastic experience, exploring the squalid and eye-opening underbelly of London’s ladies of the night.

One of this author’s trademarks is creating full-blown characters who you come to know and love within a few pages of their being introduced. Chief among them, and why I love this book above her other two, is her main character, Caroline Corsham, easily one of my favorite characters.

Caro is everything you want in a hero – smart, tough-minded, persistent in running down the perpetrator of the murders that keep the plot of this book racing along mud-splattered roads. I think about Caro all the time and sincerely hope the…

By Laura Shepherd-Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The best historical crime novel I will read this year' - The Times

From the pleasure palaces and gin-shops of Covent Garden to the elegant townhouses of Mayfair, Laura Shepherd-Robinson's Daughters of Night follows Caroline Corsham as she seeks justice for a murdered woman whom London society would rather forget . . .

'This is right up there with the best of C. J. Sansom and Andrew Taylor' - Amanda Craig, author of The Golden Rule

London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline 'Caro' Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she…


Book cover of Pines

Danielle Girard Author Of Up Close

From my list on thrillers set in small towns with big secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first books were set in and around San Francisco, an area I knew well and with plenty of opportunities for crime stories. When we moved to Montana twenty years ago, people asked when I’d write one there. I resisted setting dark stories in my own city, where my kids were growing up. Reading about the Bakken Oil Formation in North Dakota, a boom of wealth and expansion and a subsequent bust, offered a perfect storm—the kind that drives desperation, where locals conflict with newcomers, where money—new and old—drives people to make bad decisions. After a visit to the area, the fictional town of Hagen, North Dakota, and the Badlands Thriller Series was born. 

Danielle's book list on thrillers set in small towns with big secrets

Danielle Girard Why did Danielle love this book?

Pines, book 1 of the Wayward Pines trilogy is a tense thriller with an irresistible dystopian twist.

When Secret Service agent Ethan Burke is sent to Wayward Pines, Idaho, he’s charged with finding two agents who went missing from this peaceful-seeming town a month prior. Upon arrival, Burke is involved in an accident and when he wakes in this hospital, his possessions—ID, phone, suitcase, are all missing.

Worse, no one believes him when he tells them who he is and he can’t reach the outside world. Then there is the matter of the scary electric fences that surround Wayward Pines. Are they keeping something out? Or in? This one was a propulsive read, wrought with twists and rising stakes. Such a fun read.

By Blake Crouch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The one-million copy bestseller that inspired the Fox TV show.

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels...off. As the days pass, Ethan's investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can't he get any…


Book cover of The Fourth Monkey

Katherine Black Author Of Leverage

From my list on dark and twisted psychological thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing for a long time and reading even longer. I enjoy intelligent books that are well written—not overwritten or over punctuated—and as we all do both of those, I mean that it’s been well edited. And I understand the struggle which is why four of my five choices are from indie authors like myself.

Katherine's book list on dark and twisted psychological thrillers

Katherine Black Why did Katherine love this book?

I loved this book. This is the tenth book I’ve read this month and I haven’t had a bad one yet, so either I’m really good at picking, or the standard of writing out there is improving all the time. I would give this book 9.5 out of 10. I couldn’t wait to get my day finished so that I could settle and read in the evenings. Can’t praise this highly enough.

The plot was riveting, the pace built well, the characterisation is up there, and his description is powerful and draws you right into the visuals and meaning of the story.  What really captured me with this book was the child’s voice. It was so damned subtly done. If anything, the boy is written in an understated way—but before it ever got sinister, you just knew with that creepy little kid’s voice that it was going to. The ‘out…

By J.D. Barker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Fourth Monkey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`The Fourth Monkey has one of the most ingenious openings that I've read in years. This thriller never disappoints.'
James Patterson

`Superbly constructed and immaculately paced' - The Daily Mail

Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.

That's the Four Monkey Killer or `4MK'. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK's victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer's twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible - find 4MK's latest victim before it's…


Book cover of The Big Nowhere

Steven Powell Author Of Love Me Fierce In Danger: The Life of James Ellroy

From my list on the king of LA noir James Ellroy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by James Ellroy’s life and writing since I first discovered it as a lonely teenager on a rainswept family holiday. He went through dark times; the unsolved murder of his mother and his subsequent struggles with addiction. But how he overcame this to become one of America’s greatest writers is an inspiring story and has inspired me to get through my own personal turmoil. Indeed, many Ellroy readers will attest to how his life story and writing helped them overcome their struggles. Now as Ellroy’s biographer, I am continually drawn back to his work. Reading just a few pages allows me to contemplate what Ellroy calls ‘the Wonder’.

Steven's book list on the king of LA noir James Ellroy

Steven Powell Why did Steven love this book?

This is a personal favourite as it’s the Ellroy novel that carries the biggest emotional punch. Although it didn’t match the sales of its predecessor The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere is a more accomplished novel. The setting is LA, 1950. A murder plot is interweaved with the politics of the Red Scare, and a Hollywood milieu at the height of the film noir age. This is the novel that proved Ellroy was a literary writer, and not just a genre one.

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The D. A.'s brass, a sheriff's deputy, and a rough-and-tumble bagman are unknowingly chasing a nightmare in this thrilling novel from the author of "some of the most powerful crime novels ever written" (New York Times).
Los Angeles, 1950 Red crosscurrents: the Commie Scare and a string of brutal mutilation killings. Gangland intrigue and Hollywood sleaze. Three cops caught in a hellish web of ambition, perversion, and deceit. Danny Upshaw is a Sheriff's deputy stuck with a bunch of snuffs nobody cares about; they're his chance to make his name as a cop...and to sate his darkest curiosities. Mal Considine…


Book cover of Where the Truth Lies

Steven Jankowski Author Of Below the Line

From my list on noir crime with characters that aren’t detectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a screenwriter I’ve always enjoyed noir stories, whether books or movies. Stories where the characters are not your squeaky-clean “good guys.” I like to see “ordinary” people; people who are flawed (like all of us), or maybe with a shady past, who are swayed or manipulated by dire circumstances into doing something they would not ordinarily do. I enjoy stories with unique, interesting characters that are not your run-of-the-mill private eyes, and whose moral compass might be a bit off. I particularly like stories where characters are forced to become investigators because of a situation they are thrust into, whether by accident or by their own dubious actions. 

Steven's book list on noir crime with characters that aren’t detectives

Steven Jankowski Why did Steven love this book?

Set in the seventies, a sexy female celebrity journalist sets out to find the reason for the break-up of a singing/comedy duo alá Lewis and Martin and uncovers a gruesome murder. Full of sex, drugs, and behind-the-scenes entertainment business debauchery, this story is told in a masterful way that is funny, frightful, suspenseful, and disturbing. A truly unique noir tale where no one comes away clean. Just how I like it. And written by my good friend and former employer, Rupert Holmes. The same guy that gave us “Escape, The Pina Colada Song” and the Broadway hit The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

By Rupert Holmes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

O’Connor, a vivacious, free-spirited young journalist known for her penetrating celebrity interviews, is bent on unearthing secrets long ago buried by the handsome showbiz team of singer Vince Collins and comic Lanny Morris. These two highly desirable men, once inseparable (and insatiable, where women were concerned), were driven apart by a bizarre and unexplained death in which one of them may have played the part of murderer. As the tart-tongued, eye-catching O’Connor ventures deeper into this unsolved mystery, she finds herself compromisingly coiled around both men, knowing more about them than they realize and less…


Book cover of Killing Trail

Peggy Rothschild Author Of Playing Dead

From my list on mysteries for dog lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong mystery fan and animal lover. I’m drawn to mysteries that provide a window to a new world. And, since I love animals, I enjoy the added fun of having a realistic animal sidekick in the mix. All the books I’ve recommended here pulled me into their worlds, letting me spend time with fascinating characters as they untangled various mysteries—as well as with their wonderful, if fictional, canine companions. 

Peggy's book list on mysteries for dog lovers

Peggy Rothschild Why did Peggy love this book?

I love all of the books in Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series and though you can start anywhere, this book was my introduction to Mattie Cobb and her dog, Robo.

The partnership between these two characters is wonderful as is the scene-setting, ancillary characters, and—of course—the actual mystery!

Mattie’s the sort of person I would enjoy spending time with in real life—along with Robo.

By Margaret Mizushima,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An RT Book Review “Top Pick” and “Best First Mystery" nominee
A Library Journal “Debut of the Month”

Fans of K-9 mysteries and C.J. Box will love this debut police procedural that introduces Colorado’s best crime-fighting duo: Mattie Cobb and police dog, Robo.

While investigating the mysterious death of a young girl, Officer Mattie Cobb uncovers frightening secrets about her small Colorado hometown . . .

When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the…