Best Thriller/Suspense 2018!
By this point in my reading life, I think I am a pretty good resource for thriller/suspense recommendations. I can’t help it- if there’s a buzzy thriller floating around Instagram, chances are I’m going to pick it up. Because when a thriller works, it WORKS. Unfortunately, finding great thrillers is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle (though all of marketers comparing their book to the next “Gone Girl” are sure trying). Thrillers can be polarizing. For me, I’m looking for believable characters, a plot that draws me in, and a solid ending. I know some people can see a predictable ending from a mile away and get annoyed by that, but I don’t necessarily need to be surprised. I think that’s where a lot of thrillers go wrong for me- when authors try to wrap things up in such an innovated/extreme/out there way that it throws off the whole story.
All of that said, here were my favorite thriller/ suspense novels written in 2018!
The Woman in the Window | AJ Finn
This one is the most cinematic. An agoraphobic psychologist believes she’s witnessed a crime in her neighbors’ house- but when she finally works up the courage to report it, no one believes her. Heavy influences by Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but totally entertaining.
Watching You | Lisa Jewell
Another pick with nosy neighbors central to the story. This takes place on a nice street in Bristol, England, where there’s no shortage of money or secrets. We know from the beginning that someone gets murdered, and the rest of the story works back through the events that led to it. There were a few nice twists that kept me guessing- best for readers who don’t mind keeping track of a lot of characters.
Then She Was Gone | Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell only author that makes my list twice. I love her writing style- the pacing is spot on and her characters are vivid. Laurel’s daughter disappears, never to be seen again. 10 years later, Laurel has mostly put the pieces of her life togethe. She meets a man she can finally see herself with and things are going well, until she meets his daughter. Poppy is unnerving- she's the spitting image of the daughter she lost. I guessed some of the plot points early, but that did nothing to diminish my interest.
Sunburn | Laura Lippman
This is more noir than thriller, but I loved it. The story slowly unravels toward the satisfying ending. Polly and Adam both have secrets. Neither one really trusts the other, but a murder in town forces them to decide what’s more important- their relationship, or themselves. I really enjoyed Lippman’s writing and the strong female lead. She’s got a large back catalog, so if you like this, there is more where that came from.
Sometimes I Lie | Alice Feeney
One of my favorites from early 2018- this was one of the more “traditional” psychological thrillers in the bunch. Amber Reynolds is in a coma. She doesn’t quite know how she got there, but has a feeling that her husband has something to do with it. She can’t move and can’t speak- no one around her knows that she's awake. The story flips between her present, to days before the accident, and to her childhood diaries from 20 or so years ago. It’s best not to know much about the plot and to go in blind- I so enjoyed the ride.
The Wife Between Us | Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen | Review
The story is told from two angles- from a young wife who is about to marry the enigmatic and powerful man of her dreams and from the ex wife of the same man. I tend to take notes when I read so that I can draw on them later, but all I had for this was “I’m so sweaty!” You think it’s going to be a predictable thriller, but once you think you figure things out- the authors will throw a curve ball to make you think you’ve got it all wrong. Really fun.
Cross Her Heart | Sarah Pinborough | Review
Their story is told from three viewpoints- Ava, the daughter, Lisa, the mother, and Marilyn, Lisa’s best (and only) friend. It’s clear that Lisa has gone through some trauma and we find out that she’s got some quirks in addition to being an overprotective mom. Part 1 was a slower, but the action really ramps up by the second half. The characters were realistic and I found myself rooting for them. If you like British thrillers or enjoyed the author’s last book but could have done without the supernatural ending, then I highly recommend you get this sophomore novel a try.
Believe Me | JP Delaney
This book might have the most far fetched premise, but the story was gripping and kept me entertained. It has such a unique premise- Clare is a young British woman who has come to New York to pursue acting. Instead, she finds herself with a more unique job- she is paid to get cheating husbands to sleep with her to get evidence for the wives. The book took many turns and I never could tell what was real and what was an act. I loved the author's last book, The Girl Before, and I think I enjoyed Believe Me even more.
Bring Me Back | BA Paris
This is a pick that some people hated- but I couldn’t put it down. Finn and Layla are young and in love, until Layla disappears. Brought together by grief, Finn falls in love with Layla's sister, Ellen. And they're happy, until months before the wedding clues begin to surface that suggest Layla might still be alive. And that she might want Finn back. I found this to be a total page turner- a contained thriller with a few red herrings thrown in that kept me guessing throughout.
Our Kind of Cruelty | Araminta Hall
This is one of the more dark picks, and also one of the most unique. Mike is a man with a rough past who is completely devoted to his longtime girlfriend, Verity. He's worked hard to build the perfect life for them... she’s marrying someone else. However, he sees the signs she’s putting out and knows it’s just a part of the games they like to play with each other This has obsession, stalking, sex games, mind games... But I couldn't stop reading. I thought the author did a great job building suspense and playing with the reader and it's best if you go in without knowing too much of the plot. If you're comfortable being inside the mind of a disturbed individual, you might like this. (Think You, by Caroline Kepnes).
Verity | Colleen Hoover
Speaking of women named Verity… I debated putting this one on the list because it’s definitely the most provocative of them all. Colleen Hoover is best known for her romance books and Verity was a pet project of hers, but based on this I’d say she has a future writing in this area. Verity is a famous author who’s been in a horrific accident, rendering her unable to write. Lowen is a writer who’s had mild success who gets the offer of a lifetime- to continue writing the last few books in Verity’s wildly popular series. If you love psychological suspense but are sick of the formulas... here you go.
Luke and Clara are a happy couple until one day out of the blue, Luke goes missing. Clara thought she knew him, but the more research she does into his disappearance, the more surprises she finds. In an alternative timeline, Beth is struggling to connect with her daughter, Hannah. Not only are they not connecting, Beth is genuinely afraid of her. I initially had trouble connecting with either of the stories in this but was propelled to keep reading because I wanted to see how the two groups of characters would intersect. (And happily- they did-in a very satisfying way). Pay attention to the clues- they are there along with some convincing red herrings. This makes my “good” thriller list because it was clever and the effort to follow along was worth it.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway | Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware is back, baby! I’ve read all of her books now and this was my favorite. I also loved her first book, In a Dark, Dark Wood, but this one just barely edged that out. I didn’t love The Woman in Cabin 10 (ending didn’t work for me) or The Lying Game (hated the characters) but The Death of Mrs. Westaway really worked. Now, this is a slow moving suspense novel that’s more dark and moody than thrilling, but once all of the pieces were falling into place I couldn’t put it down. Hal is a down on her luck tarot reader who is desperately trying to hang on after the sudden death of her mother. A letter in the mail arrives, asking her to come and claim her inheritance from the death of her grandmother, Mrs. Westaway. Problem is, she doesn’t have a grandmother named Mrs. Westaway. If you’re willing to wait until about 60% of the novel for things to really get going, then the payoff is definitely worth it.
Frustratingly, all of these authors in my list are white. It’s no secret that there’s a lack of popular thrillers written by Authors of Color and it’s my mission in 2019 to find some. If you have any recs- let me know!
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