I love a good romance novel as much as the next person. I’m a sucker for a classic love story no matter how cheesy it may be. But sometimes you just need a break from the romantic universe, and when that time comes nothing is better than a suspenseful thriller. These are the type of books that hook you in right away and keep you turning the pages just dying to know what happens next.
With all the great suspense novels coming out recently, I’ve been binge reading them all. It seems like every author is trying to one-up the next, and TBH I’m loving it. It’s not just recent novels either, there are tons of oldies, too. If you haven’t jumped on the suspense novels bandwagon yet, now is the time! So we’re helping you out with 16 suspense novels to read (before you pick up your next romance book).
16. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Sure you’ve heard of Gone Girl, but have you read Gillian Flynn’s other novels? If you’re looking for a good suspense book, she’s got you covered. In Sharp Objects, reporter Camille Preaker (who just had a brief stint at a psych hospital) heads back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. She is forced to reconnect with her hypochondriac mother and eerie thirteen-year-old half sister whom she has hardly spoken with in years. In order to get the story she wants, Camille has to revisit her troubled past.
A creepy small-town murder, crazy mother, and a moody teen? This book has all the makings of the perfect suspense novel!
15. In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware is definitely establishing herself as a well-known suspense writer, and In a Dark, Dark Wood was her debut novel. This book tells the story of Nora, a writer who is invited to the bachelorette party of an old friend she hasn’t spoken to in years. On a whim, she decides to attend and next thing she knows she is waking up not remembering anything from the night before. Usually, this is a sign of a successful bachelorette party, but not in this case. She has woken up in a hospital, someone is dead, and Nora not being able to remember anything isn’t helping her case.
This book covers it all: creepy, suspenseful, and dramatic. But maybe refrain from reading it while you’re in the woods, which is exactly where I read it.
14. Disclaimer by Renee Knight
Catherine Ravenscroft didn’t know what to expect when a book turned up by her bedside table, but she quickly realizes it’s all about her. In fact, it’s actually about one of her deepest secrets, something she has been hiding from everyone. The only catch is, the only other person who knew about this secret is dead. Catherine’s world starts to fall apart while her past catches up with her. It seems like a constant theme in suspense novels is facing your past!
Here’s my own disclaimer about this book: it’s an emotional roller coaster, and while at points you’ll want to throw it against the wall and give up, the big reveal in the end brings everything together in such a satisfying way.
13. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
This book takes place in Chicago during the 1983 World Fair and covers true events which makes it that much creepier. The story follows Daniel H. Burnham, the architect behind the World Fair, as well as notorious serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes, who lured his victims to their death. It has mixed reviews, but come on, a true story of a serial killer who constructed his own “Murder Castle” has to be pretty scary. If you’re not down for the full read, Leonardo DiCaprio purchased the film rights in 2010, so just hold out until the movie comes out.
12. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware is coming through for you again! This is her most recent book, it actually just came out. But we love Ruth, so we trust it’s good. The book is about Isa and her friends from school, who used to play a little something calling the Lying Game. Their lies got them in trouble at school and eventually, they were expelled. But now… you guessed it! They have to face issues from their past!
I’m getting some Pretty Little Liars vibes from this one and I’m loving it… which is also funny because the author of PLL also wrote a different book called The Lying Game (also a show that aired on Freeform) but that’s not the one we’re talking about here.
11. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Here’s another book which inspired a movie that you have likely seen, but it’s basically a known fact that books are always better than the movies. Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee, is given the task of issuing a questionnaire to the cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. The real task at hand is getting Lecter’s help in the hunt for another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Long story short, Starling and Lecter develop a pretty strange relationship, and suspenseful drama ensues!
10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
In Cold Blood is the non-fiction tale of the murder of all four members of the Herbert Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Truman Capote was fascinated with the murder and traveled to Kansas to write about the crime before the killers were captured. This book is one of the best selling crime novels of all-time, so you know it’s worth a read.
9. The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad
Frank Rath is done with his detective days and has turned in his badge to become a private investigator. Then the police discover an abandoned car on the side of the road and the owner, a teenage girl, has disappeared without a trace. Rath is thrust into the investigation and pretty soon more girls are disappearing one by one. Sorry, Frank, it looks like the private investigator lifestyle is just as crazy as being a detective!
8. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Mia is the daughter of a prominent Chicago judge and during a late night out, she is kidnapped for ransom by a man hired to approach her at the bar. Instead of handing her over to the man who hired him, her kidnapper takes her to a remote cabin in the woods. Meanwhile, Mia’s mother is freaking out and is wondering why Mia’s father doesn’t seem to care all that much. TBH we’re wondering the same thing!
7. The Secrets You Keep by Kate White
Bryn Harper’s husband was great in the beginning (aren’t they all?), but after moving into a new house together he becomes secretive and elusive. In the midst of Bryn wondering what the eff his deal is, a hired caterer from their dinner party is murdered. Pretty soon another woman in town is murdered and suddenly Bryn’s world begins to unravel. Maybe being single isn’t so bad after all!
6. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Snowmen usually make me think of snowy nights and warm hot chocolate, but after reading Jo Nesbo’s book, this connotation totally changed. One night a young boy wakes up and discovers his mom has vanished, the only trace of her is a pink scarf worn by a mysterious snowman outside. Inspector Harry Hole discovers a pattern over the past decade of women disappearing on the first day of snow. Ugh, nothing ruins the holiday season like a serial killer on the loose. Read this book fast to solve the mystery before the movie hits theaters in October!
5. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
When Catherine Bailey met Lee Brightman she was swept off her feet in love. Until their relationship becomes obsessive, controlling, and even violent. She tries to break it off, no one believes her, and she is forced to develop an escape plan. Years later and Lee is behind bars while Catherine tries to start over. And everything is going according to plan until one day the phone rings… the suspense is already killing me!
4. In the Woods by Tana French
Anything with “woods” in the title is automatically at least a little creepy, so get ready to be scared. One summer evening in a Dublin suburb, a mother calls her children back home but three don’t return. One child is found in the woods, gripping a tree trunk and covered in blood. Conveniently, he also doesn’t remember anything. Years later the boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad (which is a little troubling considering his traumatizing past). When a young girl is discovered murdered in the same woods, Ryan must take a look into his past to help solve an eerily similar mystery.
3. Tell No One by Harlan Coben
Not a day goes by that Dr. David Beck isn’t haunted by the death of his wife. And when a message appears on his computer with a phrase only his wife knows, he is convinced that somewhere she could still be out there. He tells no one, as he’s been warned not to, and begins a chase after the hope that his wife is still alive. But what Beck doesn’t know is he’s being hunted, because he’s close to discovering a secret someone definitely doesn’t want him knowing.
2. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Two men who meet on a train propose to “trade murders.” Charles Anthony Bruno will kill Guy Haines’ wife if Haines agrees to kill Bruno’s mother. That way no one will have motive and it’s a perfect crime, what could possibly go wrong? Well for starters, Haines didn’t think Bruno was being serious. So when Bruno kills his wife, he wonders if he should go to the police. As his guilt grows and he becomes more involved, pretty soon there are fatal consequences for everyone involved. The book was originally adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock, but there have been talks of Davind Fincher and Gillian Flynn working on another adaptation. I’m totally down for that!
1. The Shining by Stephen King
Practically everyone has seen the classic horror movie, The Shining, but did you know that Stephen King basically hated it? Okay maybe he didn’t hate it but he definitely didn’t like it. He has previously dissed Jack Nicholson’s character’s development, said “the book is hot, and the movie is cold,” and described Wendy Torrance as “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film” (which TBH, I agree). Needless to say, King thinks the book is worth a read!
If by some chance you have no idea what The Shining is about, Jack Torrance, his wife, and son move into a hotel while he is the winter caretaker. While they are cut-off from civilization for a few months, Jack plans to beat his writer’s block as well as his alcoholism and anger issues. In hindsight, this doesn’t seem like the best idea!