We’re halfway into October, the month of ghosts, skeletons, and all things creepy. And if you’re like me, someone who loves hot chocolate, falling leaves, sweaters, and a good pumpkin pie, you probably like thriller and mystery novels as well. The longing suspense and heart-hammering plot twists of thriller novels aren’t for the faint of heart. But if you’re like me and you love the not-knowing, you’re going to like this list of thriller and mystery novels I’ve put together. So without further ado, here’s a list of my personal favorite thriller novels.
1. The Woman in The Window by A.J. Finn
If you read thrillers rapaciously, you’ve definitely heard of this gripping novel. However, for those of you who are just dipping your toes into the world of chilling, suspenseful reads, let me be the one to introduce you to this tour de force.
In The Woman in the Window, agoraphobe Anna Fox peeps on the lives of her neighbors through her window and a pair of binoculars. Anna used to be a child psychologist, but now she spends her days indoors by herself and occasionally with her therapists. Anna has separated from her husband and her young daughter has gone off with him, and so she is utterly alone in her house, forced to rely on the lives of her neighbors to fulfill her own.
However, things change when the Russells move in across the street. Charming couple Alistair and Jane and their young son Ethan seem to be the picturesque family, at least at first. Anna has interactions with kind Jane and sweet Ethan before one day, she sees through her window, a knife through Jane’s heart. The very next day, once she reports the murder to the police, a very different woman shows up posing as Jane Russell. And neither Alistair nor Ethan acknowledge that this Jane is different from the one Anna spoke to before.
As you can tell, this book is psychologically thrilling, keeping you on your toes from plot twist to plot twist until the end leaves you in shock. The Woman in the Window is a must-read for all mystery lovers.
2. One Of Us is Lying By Karen M. McManus
One of us is Lying has been on shelves and bestseller lists all over the world, and for good reason too. McManus’s debut novel will have you laugh and cry, take you on the topsy turvy rollercoaster of high school, all with a sprinkle and twist of murder and mystery.
In One of us is Lying, which is, impressively, told from four different points of view, five students walk into detention. And on that fateful afternoon, only four walks out alive. Bronwyn, the nerd, Addy, the princess, Cooper, the jock, and Nate, the criminal, are all very much high school stereotypes. And when Simon Kelleher dies during detention, eyes are cast on the four of them from all corners of the school as the killers. After all, who else could it be?
Leaving us to wonder, as the title so aptly puts it, which one of them is lying. How did Simon die? And is one of the characters you grow to love and root for over the course of the novel the killer?
One of us is Lying is a great read for teens who love realistic fiction but are interested in trying out a lighthearted mystery novel.
3. …and The Sequel, One Of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus
One of us is Next, the sequel to One of us is Lying, doesn’t feature the points of view of our four favorite students. But it does feature cameo appearances from all of them.
In One of us is Next, a mysterious text is being sent to students. It’s a truth or dare chain, something that’s pretty common amongst a normal high school. But this truth or dare game isn’t so normal. Because first, it’s blackmail, and then, it turns deadly. Told from three points of view, Maeve, Phoebe, and Knox try to figure out who the mysterious texter is before their lives are turned upside down by the text chain and its ugly rumors.
While the murder mystery aspect is less prominent in this novel than in One of us is Lying, McManus still pulls off an outstanding feat of plot twists and turns that will keep you at the edge of your seat.
4. Sadie by Courtney Summers
Sadie is going to make you sad. Maybe even cry a little. But that’s how you know it’s well written. Courtney Summers does a fantastic job of ingratiating two completely different points of view in this heart wrenching saga about revenge and love.
When her little sister Mattie’s body is found, Sadie is out for revenge. Their mother is absent, and Sadie’s tough. She’s raised herself, and she loves her sister more than anything. Armed with a blade, Sadie travels across the country to find the man who killed her sister, determined to bring him to justice. At the same time, radio show host West McCray is informed of Sadie’s disappearance and Mattie’s death. He’s intrigued immediately. West starts a podcast chronicling Sadie’s journey, following her journey, trying to figure out what Sadie had already pieced together.
Sadie is a poignant, beautiful read that will keep your heart beating fast long past the final pages of the novel.
5. The Last Witness by Claire McFall
Set on the Irish coast, The Last Witness will have you changing your mind, ping-ponging back and forth, until the very last page.
When Heather and four of her friends go out for a camping trip on the beach, the last thing they expect is for only two of them to survive it. Told in flashbacks from the asylum where she is housed, Heather recounts the story of her friends’ deaths, explaining to her psychologist how she couldn’t possibly have caused their demise. Her psychologist doesn’t believe her. You’ll go back and forth between believing Heather and doubting her, and by the end, your brain is going to be tired of guessing.
Luckily, the ending is going to be something you would’ve never guessed. McFall does a wonderful job of creating both likable and unlikeable characters, and an even better job of causing the reader to doubt themselves. A great read for those who enjoy the psychological aspects of thrillers and mysteries.
6. Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes
Liars, Inc., is not your cut and dry teen mystery novel. It is an electric, thorny mystery novel. And it’s a fantastic one, too. Stokes has plotted an intricately beautiful novel where every small detail isn’t one you want to miss. The characters are unique and the plot line is crafted so well, you’ll be reeling in shock at the end.
In Liars, Inc., adopted Max Cantrell spends his time on the beach, or with his beautiful girlfriend Parvati, or his jock best friend Preston. He doesn’t know where he fits in with the two of them except for the fact that the three of them love scheming. And when they set up Liars, Inc., a way to make fast cash where they fake sick notes and permission slips for students at their school, Max has no idea what it’s going to get him into. Because one day, Preston asks for a cover, so he can go to Vegas to meet a woman.
He never comes back.
The police believe Max to be the number one suspect in Preston’s disappearance. And since Preston is the son of a state senator, this case is all the more hurtful for Max’s reputation. Max and Parvati rush to rescue Preston before it’s too late for either of them. But what they find next, it turns Max’s world upside down.
You aren’t going to put Liars. Inc, down, I promise you that. Stokes is a genius plotter, and it’s evident through this read.
7. That Night By Cyn Balog
Kirkus Reviews calls this one a “twisted, engrossing tale,” and I’ve got to agree. That Night is a twisty, dark story that you won’t be able to put down until you find out what really happened to Declan.
Hailey’s boyfriend Declan died over a year ago. Suicide is what everyone says. But Hailey doesn’t think so. There seems to be a problem, though, and it’s that Hailey’s blocked out the memories from the time Declan died in her head. Completely erased, as a way to protect herself. But when she discovers something strange in Declan’s bedroom, the memories come flooding back, and Hailey’s astonished at what she finds.
This story is great if you’re looking for a murder thriller that couples with the realistic fiction element of high school drama. If One of us is Lying appealed to you This Night will as well, it’s a slightly darker theme off the same kind of book.
That Night keeps your heart pounding and your brain active, and you’ll be thinking about it long after it’s done.
8. Truly Devious, The Vanishing Stairs, and The Hand On The Wall by Maureen Johnson
I could go on and on about this beautiful, intricately plotted, electric beauty of a book series. For your sake, I’ll keep it short. But if there’s one I recommend on this list more than any others, it’s this series. Not only is it compulsive, draws you in with its beautiful and eloquent writing, the plot is so intricately woven I wonder myself how Johnson put it together. It must have required several bulletin boards.
The Truly Devious Series tells the story of two mysteries. Or is it one? The first is the kidnappings of mogul Albert Ellingham’s wife and child in the early 1900s. The other is a series of murders at a remote boarding school in Vermont in 2019. How are these two mysteries connected? That’s what Stevie Bell needs to find out. When she first joins the selective Ellingham Academy, her goal is to solve the Ellingham murders. A true crime aficionado, Stevie is determined to find out who kidnapped Iris and Alice Ellingham. Her plans are thrown askew when her classmate Hayes Major is killed.
Told through three equally well written novels, Johnson kept us in suspense for three years with the release of her books. Luckily for you, they’ve all already been published. And if you love them as much as me, which you will, you’re going to want to finish all of them in one sitting. I wouldn’t blame you. These books are the very fiber of the reason that I love thriller and mystery novels, and they’ve sparked my love for the genre. I highly, highly recommend them.
I hope you enjoy these reads, sitting in your blanket with a mug of hot cocoa and a roaring fireplace nearby! That’s the best (and in my opinion the only) way to devour a mystery.