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11 Of My Favorite Thriller, Crime, And Mystery Books

Most of my followers know I read a lot of crime books, thrillers, and mysteries. But this wasn’t always the case, actually. A few years ago I realized that forcing myself to like books that were a certain kind of genre — full of a certain level of writing, or a specific type of elevated language — was a waste of my time. Reading is one of the greatest, most simple pleasures in life. It can lift you, pull you, drag you out of whatever anxiety, pain, worry you’re going through at the moment. Few things can do that in this world so instantly. No matter what you like to read, the act of reading itself, and the escape it offers is flat-out joyful. When you let go of any expectation of what you’re supposed to be reading, it’s even better.

I get a lot of questions about my favorite books — what I liked, what I didn’t like, and everything in between. The below books aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s part of reading (and of liking anything, really). Most of them didn’t leave me with an epiphany about life, or writing (although some did), but all of them had one thing in common: I didn’t want to put them down, and they truly forget about whatever it was at the time that was bothering me, or weighing heavy on my mind. These days, that’s all I really want out of a book.

This isn’t a definitive list of favorites for my whole life, but rather a mix of old favorites, recent gems, and stand-outs from the past couple years in my mind. And if you have any favorites on your mind that you think I should be reading, please share.

1. The Girl Before

Ah, yes, another book with “Girl” in the title. Jokes aside, though, this ‘girl’ thriller is actually pretty darn good. This book hops from past to present, which isn’t usually my thing, but the author somehow manages to make it work. This book was engaging, thoughtful, and made you see a lot of good in the “bad characters” and vice versa.  

2. Under The Harrow

Don’t ask me why, but I am particularly fond of crime thrillers set in the UK. Maybe it’s because it adds another layer of “foreign, yet familiar-ness” to the story. Who knows? Either way, I almost always like them at least a little better than anything set anywhere else. This novel is short, intense, and at times a little graphic (including one scene involving a dog that’s particularly upsetting), but manages to go beyond the regular murder “who dunnit” plot line in a really interesting way.

3. What She Knew 

Stories about missing children are sometimes too much for me, but this one is an exception. The ending is good, the beginning is good, and the middle is good. Few lengthy thrillers can manage that in my opinion, but this one manages to do it quite well with plenty of twists and turns.

4. Sharp Objects


Yes, sure, everyone’s read Gone Girl and most people have read Gillian Flynn’s other stuff… but if you haven’t for whatever reason, jump on it. Now. The writing is remarkable, the stories are nuanced and dark and almost creepy enough that you want to stop reading… but you won’t. Just read it. 

5. Dark Places

Read this one too — also by Gillian Flynn. Almost better than Sharp Objects IMO.

6. In The Woods

I credit this Tana French thriller as one of the first that got me hooked on the genre for good. Set in Dublin, this story is incredibly dark, but the real depth of it comes from the main characters’ (both detectives) background stories, in my opinion. The mystery itself is engaging, but the psychological elements and characters make it even better. 

7. And Then There Were None

Before there was Tana French’s In The Woods, there was And Then There Were None. The famous Agatha Christie novel was maybe my first inclination that I loved thrillers and mysteries so much. Granted, I chose to ignore the thought for about 10 years before getting into them again. But if you like mysteries at all, don’t read anything else before you read this. It’s the OG thriller. And it’s just as good as anything else you’re reading these days. 

8. City Of The Lost

I don’t know how I came to own this book, or why I picked it up because this is not my typical read. I don’t like supernatural elements in mysteries almost ever, but this one hooked me and I could not put it down for an entire day. Even the more fantastical parts of the plot line pulled me in. It pulled me out of my own brain for hours upon hours and brought me somewhere else. Simply put, it was just a (scary) joy to read

9. Dark Matter

This is another book that is not usually my thing (it has a heavily sci fi-based plot). However, once I heard everyone and their mother talk about how good it was, I decided to give it a try. And it quickly exceeded every expectation I had — and I’ve ever had for a sci fi-ish book. I’ve told every person I know about this book. What more is there to say?

10. Redemption Road

A solid thriller from start to finish. There are twists and a good deal of suspense, and just when you think you have it figured out, you’re simply wrong. The writing in this book washes over you if you let it. It’s just good.

11. Behind Closed Doors 

This book is flat-out creepy — there’s nowhere else to really start with this one. It will scare you. There are some plot holes and aspects to it that I didn’t like. But for a good, easy gets-under-your-skin thriller, it’s perfect. It’s not a traditional mystery, but I struggled to put it down because of the sheer creepiness of it all. 

And there you have it. Eleven books that are as creepy as they are entertaining. Happy reading, my friends!

For anyone wondering about my book shelves (pictured in the main image): They are the Eky Jarpen wall shelves from IKEA. We painted the brackets gold (as I do with almost everything to be honest) with this easy, gold metallic spray paint.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links which may result in personal financial gain.

  1. Diane Neer

    September 4th, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    A couple recommendations:
    White Crosses by Larry Watson. I read this and n 1997 based on a recommendation from an usenet newsgroup (look it up…it was our version of social media) in 1997. I know. You were 4. I remember one plot twist that made me literally gasp.

    Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski. I read this in 2008, based on a glowing review by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly, in which he laments that the book had not gained traction in sales because of its cover. After that article, sales soared.

    Take my advice and keep a list of books you have read. So 30 years from now you can give book recommendations to your daughter’s college roommate!

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