These novels are built on gaining the reader’s attention and keeping it as details are revealed, a bit at a time, throughout the entire book. Often, the best suspense novels, including those on this list, feature surprising and unexpected twists and turns.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The generally undisputed champion of suspense writing is Agatha Christie. She is best known for her exploration of human nature and stories of mystery. This classic novel takes place on an island off the coast of mainland England where ten people gather and begin dying one after another. The reader is left baffled by these strange deaths and on the edge of their seat as they try to determine who could be behind the grizzly murders. A memorable quote from the novel reads:
Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a contemporary novel that will keep you interested until the final pages. It focuses on a husband, Nick Dunne, whose wife, Amy, disappears without a trace. The cops, his friends, and the neighbors all believe that he must be responsible for Amy’s disappearance and perhaps her death. The author throws in so many twists and turns that you’ll undoubtedly find a novel hard to put down!
A Simple Favor: A Novel by Darcey Bell
A Simple Favor: A Novel is another contemporary suspense novel that has recently been adapted into a major motion picture. The book follows Stephanie, a mother, and blogger, whose life is turned upside down when she meets a mysterious woman, Emily. The latter thrives on collecting thrilling secrets from those she knows but reveals little of herself or her intentions. Who is Emily? And what does she want?
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is one of the that’s known suspense novels of recent years. It’s incredibly interesting and is generally categorized as a psychological thriller. The main character is a psychotherapist who treats a woman who’s apparently gone mute after murdering her husband. But, things aren’t exactly what they seem, and you’ll no doubt enjoy the race to find out what really happened.
Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson
Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson explores a terrifying case of anterograde amnesia. It focuses on Christine Lucas, who, at the beginning of every day, forgets what happened previously. She leans heavily on her journal to understand who she is and how she got to where she is today. But, her journal may not always tell the truth or hold all the answers she so desperately needs
The Woman At The Window by A.J Finn
The Woman At The Window by A.J Finn is certainly one of the thriller novels of all time. It follows a woman, Anna Fox, who lives as a recluse in New York City and struggles to leave her apartment. Suddenly, a terrifying event she observes outside her window brings chaos to her already unbalanced life. Sorrows from her past and confusion about the present make for a highly readable suspense novel.
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Most people know Shutter Island because of the ever-popular adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But, if you haven’t seen the film or want to explore even more of Lehane’s universe, the novel is nearly unbeatable when it comes to suspense and a twisting, surprising plot line. It focuses on Teddy Davis, an investigator who goes to Shutter Island to learn more about an inmate’s disappearance. But, the story unfolds very differently from what one might expect. Here’s a thrilling quote from the book:
She was afraid of all that and so much more, but what terrified her most was inside of her, an insect of unnatural intelligence who’d been living in her brain her entire life, playing with it, clicking across it, wrenching loose its cables on a whim.
The Couple Next Door: A Novel by Shari Lapena
The Couple Next Door: A Novel follows seemingly normal Anne and Marco Conti. But, their life is upturned when their six-month-old daughter goes missing. It soon becomes clear that the couple is holding onto life-changing secrets that could reveal that the very worst possible outcome is the truth.
Descent by Tim Johnston
Descent by Tim Johnston is similar to some other novels on this list in that it begins with a seemingly normal family whose lives are upended in a series of traumatic events. The family, the Courtlands, are on vacation when their daughter Caitlin goes missing after enjoying a mountain run. The story investigates what happened to the college-age daughter and what secrets the couple is holding onto that could be related to her disappearance. Here’s a quote from the book:
Long after everyone else has given up and gone home and gotten on with their lives, he would keep on believing because, without evidence, you could never kill his belief.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
Koch’s The Dinner takes place over a single evening and begins with a normal family meal. What feels initially highly relatable and even mundane transforms when a conversation sheds light on the darkness at the heart of the family. It engages with themes of choices and how far parents are willing to go to protect their children.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a very well-known historical suspense novel featuring the famed protagonist, Robert Langdon. It takes readers around the world to unbeatable museums and mysterious ancient churches and leaves you guessing until the final pages. Dan Brown is very well known for writing easy-to-read suspense novels that are hard to put down.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is another suspense novel that has been turned into a highly successful adoption. It takes place in a normal coastal town and follows several women, all of whom harbor secrets and mysterious pasts. Here is a quote from the book:
It’s because a woman’s entire self-worth rests on her looks,” said Jane. “That’s why. It’s because we live in a beauty-obsessed society where the most important thing a woman can do is make herself attractive to men.
What is the best suspense novel ever written?
Some of the best thriller novels ever written include Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, and The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.
What is the difference between thriller and suspense?
These two genres are quite similar. But, the main difference is that suspense focuses on tension and what could happen in the future, while thrillers usually lean more heavily on the dynamic between a protagonist and an antagonist.
Who is the best mystery thriller writer?
Agatha Christie is generally considered to be one of the best mystery thriller writers of all time. Other famous examples include Thomas Harris, Daphne du Maurier, James Patterson, Truman Capote, and P.D. James.
What is the greatest mystery novel of all time?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Complete Sherlock Holmes is certainly one of the best examples of a mystery novel. Others include The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.