13 Thrillers That Will Get Your Heart Racing
Today’s post was inspired by my friend Amber, who has been on a thriller kick lately.
One of my roles in my friend groups, which I take very seriously, is book recommender/reading material filter. Many of my friends are avid readers, yet while their 20-30 books read per year is far above the National average, it’s a small portion of my 100+. And because I read so many, I’m able to use my friends’ favorites as reference points to guide them toward similar and better reads!
So when Amber posted her 2017 book review last week, I knew that based on what she liked, I could steer her toward some gut wrenching thrillers. I gave her a handwritten list the other night at book club but of course I later realized I’d forgotten a few, and I know this genre is super popular right now so I figured I’d share the wealth!
My interest in reading thrillers waxes and wanes based on what I read. I’ll go through a phase of reading few good ones (which I’m in right now) and then I hit a dud and avoid the genre for a while.
One of the downsides of reading so many books is that it becomes increasingly difficult to find a unique storyline. With that being said, I’m a firm believer in the premise that there are no original ideas, everything is based on something that came before it. So I don’t have a problem with an author putting his/her own spin on a familiar tale. What I hate is encountering a book review (or worse, book cover) screaming this novel is THE NEXT GONE GIRL!!!
*Note to authors, don’t try to write the next Gone Girl. Try to write the first __________________ (Your title goes here.)
It doesn’t need to be a truly genuine concept. The Fatal Attraction thing has been done well many times, just make it true to you. Give us new characters to love/hate/fear. Give us a bizarre setting or creepy backstory.
Here is my list of thrillers that kept me up reading past my bedtime (and if you know me well, you know that’s a serious statement about a book!)
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
This is an epic thriller, much different from the genre standard. The plot took me from feeling bad to worse real quick, then had me cheering. It’s a thoroughly satisfying read, compelling all the way through. It had me up late at night, then reading on the treadmill and at my desk – all of which are unusual for me – I was desperate to finish!
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
Okay, so I’m still reading this one so it might turn out to be a flop but I doubt it. It’s intriguing enough so far to include, and is a 2018 release so might not be on your radar yet. Anna Fox is an agoraphobic who fills her time with an online life, and when she gets bored (and drunk), spies on her neighbors. But is what she’s witnessing real or a result of wine, prescription drugs, and delusions?
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
While I didn’t quite love this book, I can vouch for it being an intense emotional roller coaster ride. Joan and her 4-year old son visit the zoo regularly in the afternoons. When they become trapped there during an active shooter situation, it’s Joan’s familiarity with the zoo along with her tenacious maternal instincts that drive her actions.
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
This is one of my favorite reads from 2017. On the surface, it’s an exciting thriller about missing children, international travel, and horrible criminals. Deeper than that, it’is a beautifully written story of family, privilege, and perseverance. When a group of children disappear while ashore for an adventure in Central America while on a cruise for a family vacation, the three sets of parents are challenged in ways they’ve never faced before. The tale is told from alternating perspectives, as the parents search and the children struggle to return. The writing is vivid and uncomplicated. It’s an incredible exploration of human flaws and how we react under pressure.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
This is my favorite of the author’s three well known novels. It’s scary and complicated, the characters are disturbed yet relatable. Libby was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered. As the sole survivor of the massacre, she testified against her brother when he was tried for the crimes. 25 years later, a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes finds Libby and ask her to help them discover “the real killer.” Fast paced, gritty, and terrifying, this is a stellar example of the genre.
The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
At only 68 pages, this barely counts as a novella. A young woman making a living faking it as a cut-price psychic gets more than she bargained for when she is hired by a woman who believes the Victorian home she moved into with her family is watching them. This is a one sitting read that had me gasping in surprise more than once!
What Was She Thinking? (Notes on a Scandal) by Zoe Heller
I’m not sure this counts as a thriller in the traditional sense. It’s a suspenseful literary novel with twists, turns, and a traitorous female friendship. When Sheba begins her new teaching job, she is befriended by Barbara, an older teacher who has been living in solitude. As their friendship grows, so does an inappropriate relationship involving one of the women, which turns into a scandal.
YOU by Caroline Kepnes
When I finished this book I was legitimately nauseous. The whole entire thing is disturbing and incredibly compelling. I could hardly put it down. The narration style is unique and adds to the frantic pace of the story and creepiness of the narrator. I was almost feeling bad for the psychopath in a couple parts! This is a very well done thriller and you get a bonus because there’s a sequel that’s equally as frightening! (Hidden Bodies)
All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark
I discovered this author in middle school, although I have no idea how and I probably shouldn’t have been reading them, lol! I remember waiting for this book to come out and lying on my bed for hours and hours, devouring it. (I was binge-reading before that was even a thing!) it has stayed with me all this time, and more than any of the other many novels I’ve read by the same author. When 21-year old Laurie Kenyon is accused of murdering her English professor, she has no memory of the crime even though her fingerprints are all over the crime scene. During psychological evaluation for her defense, it is revealed that Laurie developed astounding coping skills after bring kidnapped at the age of four and victimized for two years. Once her terrible memories of those years come to light, the truth is revealed, along with abductor’s true plans.
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (Pen name for JK Rowling)
The second of what is so far a trilogy of mysteries is by far the creepiest and features the best writing. I would recommend you start with the first one for backstory, but read the second one regardless of how you feel about the first! (and the third is good too) Cormoran Strike is a wounded veteran turned Private Detective. After his success solving the murder of a movie star in The Cuckoo’s Calling, he is inundated with requests to take on strange mysteries. In The Silkworm, Strike takes on the case of a missing author who turns up brutally murdered in a bizarre scenario. The story involves the missing author’s latest manuscript so it’s basically two books together – incredibly impressive and well done, everything weaves together seamlessly.
Intensity by Dean Koontz
I was about 18 when I read this and it has stuck with me, which is saying a lot! It’s one of two novels I’ve read from Koontz, the second was about five years ago and I kinda hated it. This one definitely deserves it’s title! Taking place over 24 hours, it’s fast paced and doesn’t contain a single ounce of information that isn’t relevant to the story. 26-year old Chyna is kidnapped by a murderous sociopath, Edgler Foreman Vess. But Chyna is a survivor and at her only goal is to get out alive. That is until she learns the identity of Vess’s next intended victim, a faraway innocent. Now Chyna must rally every resource she has to save the next victim.
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
This was my first Grisham novel and my all time favorite book to film adaptation (which was my introduction to Matthew McConaughey – thank goodness.) It’s a dramatic story of family, retribution and justice. From Goodreads: The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes matters into his hands. For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life…and then his own.
The Firm by John Grisham
This was probably my second Grisham novel! It’s a classic in the corporate/legal thriller sub-genre. While it’s not scary in the traditional sense, it’s a terrifying concept! From Goodreads: When Mitch McDeere signed on with Bendini, Lambert and Locke of Memphis, he thought he and his beautiful wife, Abby, were on their way. The firm leased him a BMW, paid off his school loans, arranged a mortgage, and hired him a decorator. Mitch McDeere should have remembered what his brother Ray-doing fifteen years in a Tennessee jail- already knew. You never get nothing for nothing. Now the FBI has the lowdown on Mitch’s firm and needs his help. Mitch is caught between a rock and a hard place, with no choice– if he wants to live.
What do you think of these? What would you add to the list?