Best Thriller Novels: Top 5 Suspenseful Stories Most Recommended By Experts

The suspenseful build of a great thriller novel can cause many readers to tear through the narrative at a blistering pace. Stumbling protagonists, shadowy foes, and dangerous events are all the hallmarks of a great thriller narrative. Cool autumn days are perfect for curling up with a good book and reading the day away. We researched the top five best thriller novels for those who want to scare up a good read.

For some readers, nothing beats the feeling of a real book for the best literary experience. Digital books on tablets, smartphones, and devices like Amazon’s Kindle are certainly convenient, but according to a new survey, most people still prefer a good old-fashioned paper book. There’s just something satisfying about turning the page and holding a physical book in one’s hands, as over two-thirds of adults say they always opt for a real book over digital reading. Put together by Oxfam, researchers polled 2,000 respondents in the United Kingdom regarding their thoughts on paper books versus digital books. Close to half (46%) enjoy physically turning pages, and 42 percent prefer the feel of a physical book in their hands. One in four say they love the smell of paper books. Meanwhile, another 32 percent feel like they become much more immersed in the story while reading a paper book, and 16 percent go for traditional books because they remind them of libraries.

There are plenty of things to see and do outdoors, but reading a book may be the best thing for your eyes. Researchers from the State University of New York’s College of Optometry are shedding new light on what keeps our eyes healthy. Their study finds daylight improves visual brain cells, helping people to distinguish faint details better. The discovery could lead to improvements in smartphone screens, further protecting humans from poor vision habits. Too much screen time has already been linked to a phenomenon dubbed “computer vision syndrome.” Computer vision syndrome is an umbrella term for conditions that result from looking at screens at arm’s length or closer for long periods of time. They include dry eyes, caused by a lack of blinking, and eyestrain due to brightness or glare. The study results seem to favor paper-bound books over digital proxies. With this in mind, grabbing a great book and getting comfortable outside could have healthy benefits.

There is a certain appeal to reading a book that has an exciting plot, and thriller books can offer the craziest twists and turns. Our trusted sources were indispensable for ranking our list of the best thriller novels. Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

silhouette of man inside the forest during dusk
Ominous silhouette of man inside the forest during dusk (Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash)

The List: Best Thriller Novels Most Recommended By Experts


1. “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn (2012)

This psychological suspense novel was wildly popular on its initial release and remains so today. Just two short years after the book’s release, it was adapted into a major motion picture starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in 2014. Books and Bao raves, “This is a novel of two halves, with an enormous midpoint twist separating it into two distinct narratives. In the first half, we follow a pretty standard investigation, with public interest in the case gaining steady momentum, and Nick in the spotlight. But that twist changes and refocuses everything we thought we knew. Few thriller books nail their execution and pacing as well as ‘Gone Girl’ does, making it a real masterpiece of the genre.”

Gone Girl: A Novel
“Gone Girl” (2012)

Penguin Random House praises, “Gillian Flynn has made a name for herself with incredibly dark, twisting narratives centered on complex, seemingly unsympathetic female characters… The story of Nick and Amy’s courtship, crumbling marriage, and Amy’s eventual disappearance is an extraordinary exercise in literary sleight-of-hand. It’s nearly impossible to put down until the final devastating page.”

Pan Macmillan exclaims, “This twisty psychological thriller became a phenomenon when it was published, selling over twenty million copies worldwide and being adapted into a hit film… When Nick Dunne wakes up on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife missing, he quickly becomes the police’s chief suspect.”

2. “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides (2019)

This more recent entry is the debut novel for author Alex Michaelides. The jarring setup sets the stage for a suspenseful page-turner. Oprah Daily says, “The standout 2019 thriller follows Alicia Berenson, a celebrated painter married to a famed fashion photographer. But one day, she shoots her husband in the face…five times…and never speaks again.”

The Silent Patient
“The Silent Patient” (2019)

“The story is told from the perspective of a forensic psychotherapist named Theo Faber who becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth behind Alicia’s silence. He becomes her therapist in the hope of getting her to speak and finally unravel the mystery of what led to her husband’s murder,” describes Novel On My Mind.

“When a new psychotherapist joins Alicia’s care team, he’s determined to get her to reveal the truth about what happened that night while harboring some secrets of his own. Raised in Cyprus, Alex Michaelides cites Greek myths and tragedies as the major inspiration behind his debut novel,” elaborates Stacker.

3. “My Sister, The Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite (2019)

“My Sister, The Serial Killer” is a macabre tale filled with dark humor. This contemporary work explores the complexity of sibling relationships. Rated as number one, Pure Wow comments, “More cheeky than creepy—but with plenty of heart-stopping suspense—this dark comedy about a Nigerian woman whose sister has a nasty habit of murdering her boyfriends kind of stole our hearts. The novel follows Korede, a woman who has always been an unwitting accomplice to her (sort of sociopathic) sister Ayoola’s crimes.”

My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel
“My Sister, the Serial Killer” (2019)

“Braithwaite employs short, rhythmic chapters to march you along, as if a drumbeat is propelling your page-turning, all while inching you closer to the edge of your seat as this stunning story reveals itself and you discover if blood is truly thicker than water. If your sister is also your bestie, she’ll love these books about friendship,” adds Reader’s Digest.

Books List Queen writes, “How far would you be willing to go for someone you love? Koreda has the routine down pat when her little sister calls in a panic. This is the third time Ayoola has killed her boyfriend in ‘self-defense’ and Koreda knows equally what to do. When Ayoola begins dating Koreda’s boss and long-time love interest, Koreda must decide where her loyalties lie in this darkly comic psychological thriller book.”

4. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

This disturbing narrative is focused on an initially unlikable character that commits terrible deeds. Yet, through the course of Highsmith’s prose, her self-titled bloody protagonist becomes relatable as a sort of horrible vigilante. Parade explains, “Tom Ripley is not just a classic antihero, he is a precursor to so many flawed men we’re meant to root for—from Don Draper to Tony Soprano… It’s a delicious irony at the heart of so many crime novels: you’re not supposed to root for the criminal or vicariously enjoy someone knocking off those people who really, really ‘deserve it.’”

The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley on Amazon

“Patricia Highsmith was a master of macabre scenarios and the grand dame of the psychological thriller. In Tom Ripley, she created one of literature’s most fascinating characters — charming, intelligent, utterly ruthless, and amoral,” says Penguin Random House.

Stacker states of this classic book, “Of the 22 books she wrote, Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thrillers are perhaps her best known. In ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’ the first installment in the ‘Ripley’ series, Highsmith introduces audiences to the charming, sinister, ruthless, and intelligent character, who isn’t afraid of committing a little—or a lot—of violence in order to lay claim to the life he feels he deserves.”

5. “In The Woods” by Tana French (2007)

This 2007 novel launched a well-received series from author Tana French. “The Dublin Murder Squad” series currently contains six novels. “The first novel in Tana French’s ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ series, ‘In the Woods’ tells the story of a decades-old crime that seems to be repeating itself in modern-day Ireland. Rob Ryan, a detective, is the lone survivor of a mysterious incident he can’t fully remember. When an eerily similar crime occurs in the same woods where Ryan lost his memory, he begins to investigate, hoping that solving the case will jog his memory about what happened to him when he was merely a child,” reviews Stacker.

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, Book 1) on Amazon
“In the Woods” (2007)

Parade claims, “Detectives Maddox and Ryan investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl, which (as will happen in crime novels) links to Ryan’s past. Author French is deeply invested in the interior lives of her characters, which makes sense since she was a working actress when this came out in 2007. That makes her ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ series and stand-alone books far more than thrill rides, though thrill they do.”

Penguin Random House adds, ‘“In the Woods’ introduced readers to the detectives of the ‘Dublin Murder Squad,’ as well as the nuanced and emotionally resonant thrills of Tana French… It is an atmospheric, ingenious, and unflinchingly bleak thriller that’s sure to keep readers guessing until the final reveal.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.


  1. You may want to include three novels by Kate Atkinson, which feature Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, now Private Investigator. The titles in the order of their appearance are: CASE HISTORIES; ONE GOOD TURN; and WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS.
    In addition to being riveting mysteries, they are also enormously funny.

  2. If you want to read a mystery/thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat with unexpected twists….read Freida McFadden books. I have read 7 of them so far and am hooked. Check out the reviews on Amazon on her books. I recommend starting with The Housemaid 😁

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