Top 100 Killer Thrillers

This is one of the 280 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

    In this gripping psychological thriller, a young FBI trainee is enlisted to interview an incarcerated and manipulative cannibalistic serial killer to gain insight into the mind of another active serial murderer. The trainee must navigate a complex game of cat and mouse, using her own wits and the killer's insights to understand and anticipate the criminal's moves before he strikes again. As she delves deeper into the investigation, she confronts not only the horrors of the criminal mind but also the darkness within her own past, leading to a tense and chilling confrontation.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

    A disgraced journalist is hired by a wealthy industrialist to solve a forty-year-old mystery involving the disappearance of his niece. He is assisted in his investigation by a brilliant but deeply troubled hacker. As they delve deeper into the mystery, they uncover a twisted web of family secrets, corruption, and murder. The story is a dark and gripping exploration of Swedish society, as well as a thrilling mystery.

  • Kiss The Girls by James Patterson

    In this gripping thriller, a detective and forensic psychologist embarks on a harrowing investigation to track down a serial kidnapper and murderer who refers to himself as "Casanova." The stakes are raised when the detective's niece becomes one of the victims, leading to a desperate race against time. As the detective delves deeper into the case, he discovers that Casanova is not the only predator at large—another killer, known as "The Gentleman Caller," is committing similar crimes across the country. The narrative weaves a tale of suspense and terror as the detective must unravel the twisted motives of these killers while trying to save the lives of their captives before it's too late.

  • The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

    In this gripping espionage thriller, a man is found adrift in the Mediterranean Sea with no memory of his identity but with an array of extraordinary skills that suggest a dangerous past. As he embarks on a desperate quest to discover his true identity, he learns that he is known as Jason Bourne and is pursued by assassins and government agents. Tangled in a web of covert operations, Bourne must outmaneuver his enemies while piecing together fragments of his past, which lead him to confront a global conspiracy and the realization that he was once a highly skilled operative.

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    This true crime novel tells the story of the brutal 1959 murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two of their children in Holcomb, Kansas. The narrative follows the investigation led by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation that ultimately leads to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers. The book explores the circumstances surrounding this horrific crime and the effects it had on the community and the people involved.

  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

    This thriller novel follows symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptographer Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The murder leads them to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, revealing a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years. The mystery involves a conspiracy within the Catholic Church and threatens to overturn the foundations of Christianity.

  • The Shining by Stephen King

    A recovering alcoholic accepts a job as a winter caretaker at a remote Colorado hotel, hoping the isolation will help him reconnect with his wife and young son, and work on his writing. However, the hotel has a dark history and a powerful malevolent presence that influences him into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future. As the winter weather leaves them snowbound, the father's sanity deteriorates, leading to a terrifying climax.

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

    In this classic mystery novel, ten strangers are invited to a secluded mansion on a private island by a mysterious host who is nowhere to be found. As the guests begin to die one by one, mirroring a creepy nursery rhyme that hangs in each of their rooms, they realize that the killer is among them. As suspicion and fear escalate, they must uncover the murderer before no one remains.

  • The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

    This novel details the story of a high-ranking Russian submarine captain who aims to defect to the United States without sparking a war between the two nations. The American government, upon receiving information about the captain's intentions, sends its best analyst to aid in the successful defection of the captain and his crew. The novel is a thrilling tale of espionage, filled with suspense and detailed technical descriptions of military technology and procedure.

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

    This classic mystery novel follows a detective and his partner as they investigate a supernatural hound that has been haunting the Baskerville family for generations, supposedly causing the death of the recent family head. As the pair navigate the eerie moors surrounding the Baskerville estate, they unravel a plot of deception and murder, all while trying to protect the new heir from the same grisly fate. The story is a thrilling blend of mystery, suspense, and horror.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker

    This classic horror novel tells the story of Count Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The narrative is composed of journal entries, letters, and telegrams written by the novel's protagonists, providing different perspectives on the gruesome events unfolding. The book touches on themes of sexuality, gender roles, and the clash of modern science with traditional superstition.

  • The Stand by Stephen King

    This post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel presents a world devastated by a deadly plague, killing 99% of the population. The survivors, drawn together by dreams of a charismatic and benevolent figure, gather in Boulder, Colorado to form a new society. However, a malevolent figure also emerges, attracting a following of his own and setting the stage for a classic battle between good and evil. The story delves into themes of community, morality, and the capacity for both destruction and regeneration within humanity.

  • The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver

    In this gripping crime thriller, a brilliant forensic detective and a young officer team up to catch a sadistic serial killer who leaves behind a trail of bone-chilling clues. As they race against time to solve the puzzle, they must navigate through a labyrinth of gruesome crime scenes and outsmart the ruthless murderer who always seems to be one step ahead. With unexpected twists and heart-stopping suspense, this novel keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the final shocking revelation.

  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

    A billionaire entrepreneur, with the help of genetic scientists, creates a wildlife park on a secluded island filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs. When a small group of experts are invited to the park for a preview, things go awry as the security systems fail and the dinosaurs break free. The group must survive and escape the island while dealing with the dangerous prehistoric creatures and the moral implications of tampering with nature.

  • Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

    In this fast-paced thriller, a renowned symbologist is called to the Swiss research facility CERN to investigate a mysterious symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. His investigation leads him to the Vatican City, where he uncovers the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati. As a conclave is underway to elect a new Pope, the symbologist and a gifted Italian scientist race against time to prevent a powerful time bomb from destroying the Vatican. They embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, and deserted cathedrals, following a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that snake across Rome to the long-forgotten Illuminati lair.

  • A Time To Kill by John Grisham

    In a racially charged courtroom drama set in the Deep South, a young, white attorney takes on a controversial case defending a black father who takes the law into his own hands after his ten-year-old daughter is brutally assaulted by two white men. As the lawyer struggles against personal threats, social outrage, and political pressure, the town is torn apart by violence and prejudice, forcing its inhabitants to confront their own beliefs about justice, equality, and retribution. The narrative weaves through themes of racial tension, legal ethics, and the quest for vengeance, culminating in a tense and morally complex trial that puts the entire community's values on trial.

  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

    In "The Andromeda Strain," a team of scientists investigates a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism that has wiped out an entire town. As they race against time to understand and contain the mysterious organism, they must navigate through various obstacles, including the threat of a potential outbreak and their own internal conflicts. With a blend of science, suspense, and government secrecy, this thrilling techno-thriller keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the very end.

  • Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

    "Mystic River" is a gripping tale set in a close-knit neighborhood in Boston, revolving around three childhood friends - Jimmy, Sean, and Dave. Their lives are irrevocably altered when one of them, Dave, is abducted and sexually abused. Years later, they are brought back together by a horrifying event - the murder of Jimmy's daughter. As Sean, now a detective, investigates the murder, suspicion falls on Dave, leading to a tense and tragic conclusion.

  • The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

    "The Day of the Jackal" is a suspenseful thriller that revolves around an unnamed and highly skilled professional assassin who is hired by a French dissident paramilitary organization to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. The novel intricately details the meticulous preparations of the assassin, his many disguises, and his method of operation, while also depicting the desperate efforts of the French police to uncover his identity and prevent the assassination, leading to a tense cat-and-mouse chase across Europe.

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    A young woman marries a wealthy widower and moves into his large English country house. She quickly realizes that the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, haunts every corner of the estate. The housekeeper's obsessive devotion to Rebecca and the mysterious circumstances of her death continue to overshadow the second wife's attempts to make a happy life with her husband. As secrets about Rebecca's life and death are revealed, the new wife must grapple with her own identity and place within the household.

  • Eye Of The Needle by Ken Follett

    Set during World War II, the novel revolves around a ruthless German spy known as 'The Needle' due to his preference for a stiletto as his killing tool. His mission is to uncover the Allies' invasion plans and relay them to Hitler, potentially changing the course of the war. However, his plans are threatened when he becomes stranded on an isolated island with a young, lonely woman and her disabled husband, leading to a tense game of cat and mouse.

  • It by Stephen King

    A group of seven childhood friends, known as The Losers Club, come together in their small hometown to confront an evil entity that they first battled as children. This malevolent force, which often takes the form of a terrifying clown, preys on the children of their town by exploiting their deepest fears. The friends must confront their own personal demons and past traumas in order to once again face this entity, and the novel alternates between their childhood and adult experiences with this evil.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    A young sailor, unjustly accused of treason, is imprisoned without trial in a grim fortress. After a daring escape, he uncovers a hidden treasure and transforms himself into the mysterious and wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. He then sets out to exact revenge on those who wronged him, using his newfound power and influence. Throughout his journey, he grapples with questions about justice, vengeance, and whether ultimate power can ultimately corrupt.

  • The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

    In this gripping thriller, a young woman with a troubled past and exceptional hacking skills becomes the prime suspect in a double homicide after her fingerprints are found on the murder weapon. As she goes on the run to clear her name, she must also confront figures from her dark history and unravel a deeper conspiracy linked to the sex trade. Meanwhile, her friend, an investigative journalist, works to uncover the truth and prove her innocence, leading to a dangerous confrontation with powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets.

  • Jaws by Peter Benchley

    In this thrilling novel, a small resort town is terrorized by a great white shark that preys upon the local beachgoers. As the body count rises, the town's leaders grapple with the decision to close the beaches, while a trio consisting of the police chief, a marine biologist, and a grizzled shark hunter embark on a desperate quest to kill the beast. Their harrowing battle with the monstrous predator unfolds in a crescendo of suspense and terror, reflecting the primal fear of the unknown lurking beneath the ocean's surface.

  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr

    Set in 1896 New York City, the novel follows a journalist and his friend, a psychologist (or "alienist"), as they work on an investigation into a series of gruesome murders of boy prostitutes. The team employs psychological profiling and early forensic methods to hunt down the serial killer. The book delves into the seedy underbelly of the city, exploring the grim realities of life at the time.

  • Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

    A former FBI profiler, who is renowned for capturing a notorious serial killer, is lured out of retirement to track down a new killer who has a taste for families. The new killer, dubbed "The Tooth Fairy", is a complex character with a troubled past that leads him to commit his heinous crimes. As the profiler delves deeper into the investigation, he is forced to confront his own demons and the manipulative games of the serial killer he previously captured, who is now behind bars.

  • Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

    A gripping legal thriller, this novel follows the story of a chief deputy prosecutor who finds himself accused of the brutal murder of his colleague, with whom he had a passionate extramarital affair. As the evidence against him mounts, he struggles to prove his innocence while uncovering corruption and deceit within the very system he once served. The story is a riveting exploration of the complexities of the legal system, human nature, and the concept of presumed innocence.

  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

    This classic detective novel follows a private investigator who is hired by a mysterious woman to track down her missing sister. The case quickly becomes complicated when the investigator is caught up in a dangerous hunt for a priceless artifact, the Maltese Falcon. As he navigates a world of treachery, deceit, and murder, he must use his wit and courage to outsmart his enemies and solve the mystery.

  • The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

    In this thrilling conclusion to a popular trilogy, the protagonist, a brilliant but troubled hacker, lies in critical condition in a hospital, charged with attempted murder. As she fights to prove her innocence and unravel the corrupt political and business ties that threaten her life, her allies, including a determined journalist, work tirelessly to expose the deep-rooted injustices that have entangled her. Together, they must navigate a web of hackers, hitmen, and government officials in a high-stakes battle against a shadowy group willing to go to any lengths to protect their secrets. The story combines elements of mystery, espionage, and courtroom drama, culminating in a gripping finale that addresses themes of power, corruption, and redemption.

  • No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

    This novel is a gripping tale of a cat-and-mouse chase set in the harsh landscape of 1980 Texas. After stumbling upon a drug deal gone wrong and a suitcase full of money, a Vietnam War veteran finds himself pursued by a relentless hitman. As the veteran attempts to keep himself and his wife safe, a local sheriff struggles to keep up with the increasing violence and brutality of the modern world. The narrative explores themes of fate, conscience, and circumstance, painting a bleak and riveting picture of the human condition.

  • Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane

    In this gripping crime thriller, two private investigators, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, are hired to find a missing four-year-old girl from a Boston neighborhood. As they delve into the case, they uncover a tangled web of corruption, deceit, and moral ambiguity within the criminal underworld and law enforcement. The investigation challenges their own ethical boundaries and forces them to confront the harrowing question of what is ultimately right when the lines between justice and vengeance blur. The novel explores the complexities of child abduction and the profound impact it has on a community, all while delivering a tense and emotionally charged narrative.

  • Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

    In the heart of Moscow, three corpses found in Gorky Park lead a dedicated Soviet police investigator on a complex and dangerous trail that entangles him in the web of the KGB and the FBI. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a chilling conspiracy and faces moral dilemmas that challenge his very principles and integrity. The investigation becomes a personal quest for truth that takes him far beyond the park's snowy borders, testing his resolve and putting his life at risk in the shadowy intersections of international espionage and political intrigue.

  • Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

    The book revolves around a young couple, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, who move into an old New York City apartment building with a sinister reputation. Eager to start a family, Rosemary becomes pregnant under mysterious circumstances. As she becomes increasingly isolated and ill, she discovers that her husband and their eccentric neighbors have malevolent plans for her unborn child, which are tied to a diabolical pact with supernatural forces. Her paranoia and fear escalate as she uncovers the truth about a conspiracy that involves the birth of the Antichrist, leading to a chilling realization about the fate of her baby.

  • Subterranean by James Rollins

    In this thrilling adventure novel, a group of expert cave explorers and scientists embark on a perilous underground expedition to explore a vast and mysterious cavern system beneath the Antarctic ice. The team faces unexpected challenges and dangers as they delve deeper into the subterranean world, encountering strange creatures and remnants of a long-lost civilization. As they navigate through the dark and treacherous environment, they must also confront a deadly secret that threatens not only their lives but the entire human race. The novel combines elements of science fiction, action, and ancient mysteries to create a gripping tale of exploration and survival.

  • Clear And Present Danger by Tom Clancy

    In this high-stakes political thriller, the President of the United States unofficially orders the CIA to lead a covert war against a Colombian drug cartel responsible for the murder of an American businessman. As the operation unfolds, Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst, finds himself entangled in a web of deception and moral ambiguity. He must navigate the dangerous waters of international politics and espionage to uncover the truth, expose the illegal operation, and avert a potentially disastrous conflict between the United States and Colombia, all while maintaining his integrity in the face of clear and present danger.

  • Salem's Lot by Stephen King

    In a small town called Salem's Lot, a writer returns to his childhood home to find that the town is being plagued by a mysterious evil force. As the residents slowly succumb to the darkness, a group of unlikely heroes must band together to fight against the ancient and powerful vampire who is responsible for the town's descent into chaos. With a chilling atmosphere and intense suspense, this novel explores the themes of fear, loss, and the battle between good and evil.

  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

    Set in 1954, the story follows two U.S. Marshals sent to a remote island asylum for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. As they delve deeper into the investigation, they encounter a web of deceit, radical psychiatric treatments, and a hurricane that cuts off communication with the mainland. The lead marshal's own troubling memories and hallucinations intensify, blurring the lines between reality and delusion. The narrative culminates in a twist that forces him to question everything he believes about the case, the island, and himself.

  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré

    This novel is a fascinating tale of espionage during the Cold War, centered around a British intelligence officer who is seemingly ready to end his spy career. However, he is given one last mission before his retirement: to bring down the head of East German Intelligence. As he navigates the dangerous world of spies and double agents, he is forced to confront his own past and the sacrifices he has made for his country. The story is a complex exploration of morality, loyalty, and the personal cost of political conflict.

  • The Poet by Michael Connelly

    In this gripping thriller, a crime reporter with a personal stake in the investigation into his own brother's death—a detective ruled to have committed suicide—uncovers a disturbing series of police suicides that may actually be the work of a twisted serial killer. As he delves deeper into the case, he finds himself entangled in a dangerous web of deceit and corruption within the law enforcement community, where the moniker "the poet" emerges from the chilling signature left at crime scenes. The reporter's relentless pursuit of the truth leads him on a dark and perilous journey, challenging his instincts and his resolve to bring the cunning murderer to justice.

  • The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin

    The novel is a thrilling tale of Nazi hunters discovering a sinister plot by Josef Mengele, the infamous Auschwitz doctor, who is orchestrating a series of assassinations across the globe. The hunters uncover a chilling plan to clone Adolf Hitler and raise the resulting boys in environments similar to Hitler's own upbringing, in an attempt to recreate the Third Reich. As the protagonists race against time to thwart Mengele's plans, they face moral dilemmas and the terrifying prospect of history repeating itself through these young clones.

  • Cape Fear by John D. MacDonald

    In this gripping thriller, a convicted rapist, released from prison, seeks vengeance against the lawyer whose testimony led to his conviction. The ex-con meticulously plans his revenge, targeting the lawyer's family and instilling a relentless fear in them. As the family's peaceful life is shattered by the threat of this cunning adversary, they are forced to take drastic measures to protect themselves from his escalating campaign of terror. The story unfolds in a tense game of cat-and-mouse, culminating in a desperate struggle for survival.

  • The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

    In this psychological thriller, an FBI agent with a troubled past is on the hunt for a serial killer who believes he is on a divine mission to collect brides for God, leaving his victims posed as if in a serene marital bliss after their deaths. The killer's twisted theology and the agent's own personal demons intertwine as the investigation leads to a group of mentally ill patients who may hold the key to stopping the murderer. As the body count rises, the race against time intensifies, pushing the boundaries of sanity and redemption in a chilling game of cat and mouse.

  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King

    The book revolves around a family that moves to a rural town in Maine, where they discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. After their cat is killed by a car, it is buried in this "pet sematary," only to return to life with a malevolent change in its behavior. Tragedy strikes the family again, and despite warnings about the dangerous powers of the ancient burial ground, the grieving father makes a decision that unleashes a chain of horrific events, ultimately confronting the devastating consequences of tampering with the boundary between life and death.

  • Dead Zone by Stephen King

    The novel revolves around a schoolteacher who awakens from a coma with the extraordinary ability to see into the past and future of individuals he touches, a power that comes with heavy burdens and moral dilemmas. As he grapples with his newfound gift, he becomes increasingly disturbed by a vision involving an ambitious and dangerous politician. The teacher must decide whether to take drastic action to prevent the apocalyptic future he foresees, questioning the ethics of fate and free will, and whether it is ever justifiable to take one life to save many.

  • The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

    The novel is a political thriller that delves into the dark world of espionage and brainwashing during the Cold War. It follows the story of a former prisoner of war who, upon returning to the United States, is hailed as a war hero. Unbeknownst to him and the public, he has been programmed by a foreign power to be an unwitting assassin. His conditioning is triggered by a complex set of stimuli, and he is directed to carry out a high-profile political assassination that could alter the course of history. As the plot unfolds, a fellow soldier begins to unravel the conspiracy, racing against time to prevent the programmed soldier from executing his deadly mission, which is orchestrated by a Communist conspiracy aiming to seize control of the American government.

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

    In this espionage thriller, a semi-retired British intelligence officer is tasked with uncovering a Soviet mole within the highest ranks of the British Secret Service. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he uncovers a web of betrayal and deceit that reaches far beyond the mole, threatening the very fabric of the British intelligence community. The novel is a masterful blend of suspense, intrigue, and complex characterization that explores themes of loyalty, identity, and the murky world of international espionage.

  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

    The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller that follows the story of Tom Ripley, a young man struggling to make ends meet in New York City. When a wealthy shipbuilder mistakes Tom for a close friend of his son, Dickie Greenleaf, he offers him an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy to persuade his wayward son to return home. Instead, Tom becomes obsessed with the luxurious lifestyle of Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge, and goes to extreme lengths to make it his own, including identity theft and murder.

  • Tell No One by Harlan Coben

    The book revolves around a man whose life is turned upside down when new evidence emerges suggesting that his wife, who he believed was murdered eight years prior, might still be alive. As he delves into a dangerous web of deceit and secrets to uncover the truth, he becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders and must stay one step ahead of the law. With the help of some unexpected allies, he races against time to unravel a chilling conspiracy and find his wife before it's too late, all while maintaining his innocence and keeping the promise to tell no one.

  • Consent To Kill by Vince Flynn

    In this high-octane political thriller, a counterterrorism operative finds himself in the crosshairs of an international conspiracy when a wealthy Saudi kingpin, seeking vengeance for the death of his son, puts a bounty on the operative's head. As the protagonist navigates a treacherous path filled with espionage, betrayal, and moral ambiguities, he must also confront personal demons and the complexities of his own past. The narrative unfolds with relentless pacing, delivering a tale of retribution and survival that tests the limits of the operative's skills, loyalty, and the very essence of his character.

  • The 39 Steps by John Buchan

    The book is a classic adventure and espionage story that follows the protagonist, a man with a knack for survival and a sharp mind, as he becomes entangled in a plot of political intrigue and danger. After a chance encounter with a mysterious spy who winds up dead, he finds himself on the run from both the police, who suspect him of murder, and a shadowy organization with a far-reaching conspiracy. With only his wits and the help of various allies he meets along the way, he must decipher the meaning of "the 39 steps" to prevent a threat to the nation's security and clear his name, leading to a dramatic and action-packed conclusion.

  • Blowback by Brad Thor

    In "Blowback," readers are plunged into a thrilling narrative where the protagonist, a skilled counterterrorism operative, is tasked with preventing a catastrophic attack on the United States. The plot thickens when he discovers that an ancient weapon of mass destruction, thought to be a myth, has been rediscovered and is in the hands of a dangerous enemy. As the clock ticks down, the operative must navigate a treacherous path of deceit and betrayal, racing across the globe to unravel historical secrets and stop the impending doom that threatens to unleash chaos on a massive scale.

  • The Children of Men by P. D. James

    Set in a dystopian future where mankind has become infertile, the novel centers on a history professor who becomes involved with a group of revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the oppressive government. As the world descends into chaos due to the impending extinction of the human race, a miraculous pregnancy offers a glimmer of hope. The professor must protect the pregnant woman and navigate the dangerous political landscape, while grappling with the implications of a world without children.

  • 61 Hours by Lee Child

    In this gripping thriller, a retired military policeman turned drifter finds himself stranded in a small South Dakota town after a bus accident during a brutal winter storm. As the hours tick down, he becomes embroiled in a desperate defense of a key witness in a forthcoming drug trial, facing off against an enigmatic assassin and local corruption. With the clock ticking, he must use his skills and resourcefulness to protect the witness, navigate the icy conditions, and uncover the truth, all while a countdown to an unknown catastrophe looms, promising an explosive confrontation.

  • Marathon Man by William Goldman

    The novel revolves around a history Ph.D. student and avid runner in New York City who becomes entangled in a deadly plot involving his estranged brother, a government agent, and a notorious Nazi war criminal living in exile. When a series of events leads to the murder of his brother and the revelation of a precious gem smuggling operation, the protagonist must use his wits and endurance to survive torture and chase, uncovering a harrowing conspiracy that forces him to confront his own family's secrets and a past that is inextricably linked to the horrors of the Holocaust.

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

    A captivating tale of mystery and suspense, "The Woman in White" follows the story of a young art teacher, Walter Hartright, who encounters a mysterious woman dressed in white on a moonlit road. The woman is revealed to be a mental asylum escapee, and as Hartright delves into her story, he uncovers a web of deceit, madness, and dangerous secrets involving a wealthy, titled family. The narrative explores themes of identity, insanity, and the abuse of power, with a complex plot filled with twists and turns.

  • 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs

    In "206 Bones," a forensic anthropologist finds herself the target of a sinister plot when she wakes up bound and trapped in a dark, cold space. As she navigates through her memories to piece together how she ended up in this dire situation, the narrative intertwines with her recent cases involving the mysterious deaths of several elderly women. The protagonist must use her expertise to solve the puzzle of her own predicament and the crimes she's been investigating, all while the clock is ticking on her survival. The novel is a blend of suspense, science, and intrigue, as it delves into the complexities of forensic investigation and the depths of human malevolence.

  • Psycho by Robert Bloch

    In this chilling psychological thriller, a young woman named Marion Crane makes a fateful decision to steal a large sum of money and embark on a desperate escape. Seeking refuge at the Bates Motel, she encounters the enigmatic Norman Bates, a seemingly harmless proprietor with a deeply disturbing secret. As the suspense builds, the boundaries between reality and madness blur, leading to a shocking climax that will leave readers questioning their own sanity.

  • The Killing Floor by Lee Child

    In this gripping thriller, a former military policeman traveling through a small town in Georgia is arrested for a murder he didn't commit. He quickly finds himself embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy involving counterfeit money, a vast criminal enterprise, and corrupt law enforcement. With nothing but his wits and combat skills, he must uncover the truth, clear his name, and bring the perpetrators to justice, all while staying one step ahead of those who would rather see him dead than expose their secrets.

  • Rules Of Prey by John Sandford

    In this gripping thriller, a cunning and ruthless killer, known as "The Maddog," is on the loose, meticulously planning and executing a series of murders across the city, each accompanied by a chilling verse that outlines his twisted rules for the deadly game he's playing. The case falls into the hands of a seasoned detective, who is as unorthodox as he is determined. With a sharp mind and a penchant for bending the rules, the detective engages in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse chase to stop the killer before he strikes again, all while navigating the political pressures and personal demons that come with the territory of his perilous profession.

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel revolves around a teenager named Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic nation where the government, in order to maintain control, forces each of its twelve districts to send a boy and girl to participate in a televised annual event. This event, known as the Hunger Games, is a fight to the death. When Katniss's younger sister is selected to participate, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The book follows her struggle for survival in the cruel game, against the backdrop of a brewing rebellion against the oppressive regime.

  • In The Woods by Tana French

    In this psychological mystery, a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad is pulled into a case that unsettlingly intersects with his own past. As a child, he was the sole survivor of a mysterious incident that left two of his friends missing in the woods. Now, with the murder of a young girl in the same woods, he must confront his traumatic memories while trying to solve the case. The investigation becomes increasingly complex, blurring the lines between the detective's professional duties and his deeply personal quest for answers, leading to a chilling exploration of memory, identity, and the darkness that can lurk beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic settings.

  • Shogun by James Clavell

    Set in the 17th century, this novel follows an English sailor who becomes a samurai in feudal Japan. The protagonist, shipwrecked and stranded in a foreign land, must navigate the complex political and cultural landscape of the time, filled with war, intrigue, honor, and love. The story is rich in historical detail, providing a vivid depiction of Japanese society during the Tokugawa Shogunate era.

  • The Relic by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

    In this thrilling novel, a gruesome series of murders coincides with the arrival of a mysterious shipment in the bowels of a renowned museum in New York City. As a lavish exhibition opening approaches, a detective and an anthropologist team up to investigate the macabre killings. They discover that the murders may be linked to an ancient superstition and a creature thought to be long extinct. The pair must navigate the dark corridors and hidden chambers of the museum to uncover the truth and stop the creature before it strikes again, all while a massive storm traps them and other characters inside the museum with the deadly entity.

  • Intensity by Dean R. Koontz

    In "Intensity," a young woman named Chyna Shepherd visits her friend's family home, only to witness a horrifying night of terror when a psychopathic killer invades the house. After the murderer, Edgler Vess, slaughters the family, Chyna narrowly escapes and embarks on a relentless pursuit to stop him from killing again. Her journey is one of courage and survival as she confronts her own traumatic past while trying to save another potential victim from Vess's sadistic clutches. The novel is a gripping psychological thriller that explores the depths of human resilience and the capacity for evil.

  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

    A British secret agent is tasked with bankrupting a French communist and paymaster of a Russian secret agency at a high-stakes card game in a casino. As he navigates the dangerous world of espionage, he encounters a beautiful woman who is being blackmailed by the enemy. The agent must outwit his opponents and survive numerous attempts on his life, all while grappling with his growing feelings for the woman.

  • Metzger's Dog by Thomas Perry

    The novel revolves around a cunning criminal named Chinese Gordon, who, along with his eclectic team, inadvertently stumbles upon a classified CIA document while planning a heist. The document contains information that could compromise national security, and as a result, they find themselves pursued by the government. The group, along with an intelligent stray dog they've adopted, uses their wits and unconventional tactics to outmaneuver the agents on their tail. The story combines elements of crime, espionage, and humor, as the band of thieves navigates the dangerous game of cat and mouse with the CIA, raising questions about the competence and moral integrity of government agencies.

  • Timeline by Michael Crichton

    In "Timeline" by Michael Crichton, a group of archaeologists and historians are given the opportunity to travel back in time to the 14th century. As they venture into the past to rescue their colleague, they find themselves caught in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Faced with medieval warfare, treachery, and the challenges of adapting to a different time period, they must race against time to survive and make it back to the present.

  • Contact by Carl Sagan

    The book is a science fiction novel that explores the concept of human contact with extraterrestrial life. The protagonist, a scientist, deciphers a radio signal from a distant star system that contains plans for a complex machine. After building and entering the machine, she and her team are transported to a distant star system where they meet an alien species. The novel delves into philosophical discussions about religion, science, and the nature of human existence.

  • What The Dead Know by Laura Lippman

    In "What The Dead Know" by Laura Lippman, a woman claiming to be one of the two missing Bethany sisters suddenly appears after thirty years, setting off a chain of events that forces the police, the media, and the families involved to revisit the unsolved case. As the truth slowly unravels, secrets from the past are exposed, revealing the devastating impact the disappearance had on the family and the lingering effects it has had on those left behind.

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    The novel follows the story of a young boy in post-war Barcelona, who discovers a mysterious book in a hidden library that his father takes him to, which houses forgotten books. The boy becomes captivated by the book and its author, but as he grows older, he realizes that someone is destroying all books written by this author. As he delves deeper into the mystery, the boy's life becomes intertwined with the author's, revealing a dark and tragic past that someone wants to be kept hidden. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, and a historical narrative set against the turbulent backdrop of a city recovering from war.

  • The Cabinet Of Curiosities by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

    In this thrilling novel, a gruesome discovery of 36 murdered bodies from the late 1800s buried in a charnel basement in New York City propels FBI Special Agent Pendergast, journalist Bill Smithback, and archaeologist Nora Kelly into a dangerous investigation. The trio uncovers a serial killer's lair, filled with bizarre antiques and relics, leading them on a harrowing chase through history and science. As they unravel the mystery of the murders, which seem to be resurfacing in the present, they must confront the possibility that the killer might not be confined to the past but could be striking again, following a pattern laid out over a century ago. The narrative weaves together elements of horror, history, and crime, creating a suspenseful tale that delves deep into the macabre and the arcane.

  • Charm School by Nelson DeMille

    In this gripping espionage thriller, an American naval officer stumbles upon a covert Soviet training facility known as "Charm School," where KGB agents are being schooled in American culture and language to infiltrate the United States as sleeper agents. As he delves deeper into the mystery, he teams up with a beautiful and determined Soviet dissident, and together they face the treacherous task of exposing the operation. Their mission becomes increasingly dangerous as they are pursued by the relentless and brutal KGB, leading to a high-stakes game of cat and mouse that could have far-reaching implications for the Cold War power balance.

  • Feed by Seanan McGuire

    In a world where humanity has been ravaged by a zombie apocalypse, a team of bloggers sets out to cover the presidential elections, offering a unique perspective on the state of a society where the undead are a constant threat. The protagonist, a young woman with a passion for the truth, navigates a landscape of danger, political intrigue, and conspiracy, all while dealing with the challenges of living in a post-apocalyptic environment. As they delve deeper into the heart of America's reanimated politics, they uncover a plot that could have dire consequences for both the living and the undead, forcing them to confront the question of what it truly means to be human in a world overrun by zombies.

  • Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

    In this gripping thriller, a former military policeman turned drifter finds himself embroiled in a dangerous investigation after witnessing suspicious behavior on a New York City subway. His instincts prove correct when the encounter leads to a violent altercation and plunges him into a conspiracy involving a senator, a secretive government agency, and a cold-blooded killer. As he delves deeper, he must use his unique skills and resourcefulness to unravel a complex web of deceit, while staying one step ahead of those who would rather see the truth buried forever.

  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

    The book centers on a Miami-based blood spatter analyst for the police department, who leads a double life as a serial killer with a unique code of ethics. By day, he is a charming, socially awkward forensics expert, but by night, he channels his compulsion to kill into a vigilant quest to hunt down murderers who have escaped justice. His life becomes complicated when a new serial killer, whose methods are eerily similar to his own, arrives in Miami and he must outwit the police, his coworkers, and the new adversary to maintain his carefully constructed facade and satisfy his darker urges.

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt

    A group of six classics students at a small, elite Vermont college, led by a charismatic professor, become entranced by the study of Greek culture and decide to recreate a Dionysian ritual, which ends in a tragic accident. The group, bound by their shared secret, begins to unravel as paranoia and guilt take hold. The novel explores themes of beauty and terror, the allure of the esoteric, and the destructive consequences of obsession.

  • The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders

    In this gripping crime novel, a seasoned New York City detective is on the brink of retirement when he's drawn into a challenging and high-stakes investigation. The city is terrorized by a series of brutal murders, each victim found with a small, mysterious token left by the killer. As the detective delves deeper into the case, he must navigate a complex web of clues and confront his own personal demons, all while racing against time to stop the methodical murderer before they strike again. The novel combines a gritty police procedural with psychological depth, exploring the nature of obsession and the cost of justice.

  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

    The book is a sprawling narrative that intertwines two timelines: the first during World War II, focusing on the efforts of cryptographers and mathematicians working to break Axis codes, and the second in the late 20th century, following a group of entrepreneurs and hackers establishing a data haven in Southeast Asia. The novel explores themes of cryptography, mathematics, and the history of computing, weaving together real historical figures with fictional characters. As the plot unfolds across different continents and eras, it delves into the impact of information technology on society and the perpetual conflict between governments and individuals over the control of information and privacy.

  • The Brotherhood Of The Rose by David Morrell

    The novel revolves around two orphans, Saul and Chris, who were raised by a CIA operative to become elite assassins. Their deep-seated loyalty is put to the ultimate test when they discover that their mentor has turned against them, leading them into a harrowing game of cat-and-mouse across the globe. As they delve deeper into a conspiracy that involves a secret society known as The Brotherhood of the Rose, they must use all their skills and wits to survive while unraveling the truth about their past and the shadowy figures who dictate their fate.

  • Primal Fear by William Diehl

    In this gripping legal thriller, a high-profile murder case rocks Chicago when an archbishop is brutally killed, and a young altar boy stands accused. A defense attorney with a talent for taking on lost causes is drawn into the case, uncovering a web of corruption and deceit that reaches the highest levels of the city's power structure. As the lawyer delves deeper, he faces a cunning adversary and must confront his own demons, all while questioning the very nature of innocence and guilt. The novel twists and turns towards a shocking revelation that challenges the boundaries between justice and manipulation, ultimately revealing the dark and primal nature of fear itself.

  • The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

    In this thrilling adventure, an ex-Justice Department operative stumbles upon a dangerous historical puzzle involving the Knights Templar. As he delves deeper into the mystery, he finds himself at the center of a deadly conflict between those who wish to protect the Templar's ancient secrets and those who seek to expose them. The quest leads him across Europe, racing against time and pursued by a shadowy cabal, as he tries to unravel centuries-old clues that could shake the foundations of Christianity and alter the world's power structure if revealed.

  • The Hard Way by Lee Child

    In this gripping thriller, a former military policeman turned drifter finds himself embroiled in a dangerous mission to rescue a kidnapped woman. The protagonist's journey leads him into the dark world of private military contractors and human trafficking. With his unique blend of raw physicality and sharp intellect, he navigates a complex web of deceit and betrayal, where every move could be his last. His relentless pursuit of justice takes him across the United States and into the heart of London, where he must use all his skills to outwit and outfight a formidable enemy who always seems to be one step ahead.

  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

    Set during the French and Indian War, this historical novel follows the journey of Hawkeye, a skilled frontiersman, and his two Mohican companions as they guide two daughters of a British colonel through the dangerous wilderness of the American frontier. The group faces numerous perils and conflicts, not only from the war-torn landscape and hostile tribes, but also from a treacherous Huron scout. The novel explores themes of racial conflict, survival, and the fading of indigenous cultures.

  • Six Days Of The Condor by James Grady

    In this espionage thriller, a CIA researcher who reads books to look for hidden messages returns from lunch to find all his coworkers murdered. Realizing he's now a target, he goes on the run, unsure of whom he can trust. Over the course of six tense days, he navigates a dangerous game of cat and mouse with his pursuers, using his intelligence and resourcefulness to stay one step ahead. As he seeks to uncover the reason behind the attack and who is responsible, he finds himself entangled in a deep conspiracy that reaches higher levels of power than he could have imagined.

  • Fail Safe by Eugene Burdick, Harvey Wheeler

    The book is a Cold War thriller that explores the terrifying possibility of a technical malfunction in the United States' nuclear deterrent system, leading to an accidental path toward a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. As a group of American bombers mistakenly receives an erroneous go-code, they head towards Moscow, fully armed and ready to attack. The President and his advisors must navigate a tense and complex situation, trying to recall the planes and avoid an international catastrophe, while dealing with the political and moral implications of their decisions. The narrative delves into the intricate workings of military protocols and the precarious nature of nuclear command and control systems, highlighting the razor-thin line between safety and global annihilation during the height of nuclear tensions.

  • Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith

    In this psychological thriller, two men meet by chance on a long train journey and strike up a conversation that leads to a chilling pact: each will commit a murder for the other, executing what they believe to be the perfect crimes due to their lack of obvious connection to the victims. However, as one of the men becomes entangled in the sinister plan and the other's sociopathic tendencies emerge, the agreement spirals into a tense and dangerous game of cat and mouse, blurring the lines between victim and perpetrator, and pulling both men into a world of guilt, paranoia, and psychological torment.

  • The Eight by Katherine Neville

    The novel is a thrilling blend of historical fiction and contemporary adventure, revolving around a mystical chess set that has been sought after for centuries. The story unfolds across two timelines, one set during the French Revolution and the other in the 1970s, as two women, separated by time, become embroiled in a dangerous quest to find the chess pieces. The chess set, once owned by Charlemagne, is said to hold immense power and knowledge, and as the protagonists delve deeper into its mystery, they must navigate a web of historical figures, cryptic puzzles, and global conspiracies. The narrative weaves together an intricate tapestry of fact and fiction, challenging the characters to unravel the secrets of the past in order to control the game's outcome in their own times.

  • The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

    In this thriller, the protagonist, a Harvard symbologist, is summoned to Washington D.C. to decipher a complex code linked to the Freemasons. His mentor's kidnapping propels him on a frantic chase through the hidden chambers, temples, and tunnels of the U.S. Capitol. Alongside a cryptologist, he unravels clues that must be solved to prevent a national catastrophe. The narrative weaves together secret societies, ancient wisdom, and a controversial scientific theory, culminating in a revelation that challenges the protagonist's understanding of the world.

  • Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

    In this espionage thriller, the suave British secret agent is tasked with investigating a wealthy gold magnate suspected of illegal gold smuggling on a grand scale. The agent uncovers a daring plot to raid the gold reserves at Fort Knox, which threatens to destabilize the world's economy. With the help of a resourceful female pilot, the protagonist navigates a world of danger, betrayal, and high-stakes gambling, using his wits and gadgets to thwart the villain's elaborate scheme. The story is a classic blend of action, intrigue, and international adventure, set against the backdrop of the Cold War.

  • Bangkok 8 by John Burdett

    In this gripping crime novel set in Thailand's bustling capital, a dedicated Thai detective embarks on a quest for justice after his partner is killed in the line of duty. The investigation leads him into the underbelly of Bangkok's seedy nightlife, where he encounters a complex web of corruption, drug trafficking, and illicit dealings. As he delves deeper, the detective must navigate a cultural landscape rife with spiritual beliefs and practices, facing moral dilemmas that challenge his own ethical code. With the help of an alluring FBI agent, he races against time to unravel a conspiracy that reaches far beyond the city's streets, all while contending with the mystical and often dangerous elements of Thai superstition and the supernatural.

  • The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva

    In this gripping espionage thriller, a retired Israeli intelligence operative is called back into action to thwart a Palestinian assassin bent on executing a campaign of terror. The protagonist, a skilled assassin himself, must navigate a complex web of international intrigue, rekindle alliances, and confront his own violent past as he races against time to stop his elusive adversary. Set against a backdrop of Middle Eastern conflict and global politics, the narrative delivers a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, where personal vendettas intertwine with the fate of nations.

  • Hardball by Sara Paretsky

    In this gripping detective novel, a tenacious female private investigator delves into the murky depths of Chicago's political landscape to solve the murder of a reporter. As she navigates the treacherous waters of corruption, organized crime, and the city's power elite, she uncovers a complex web of deceit that threatens to engulf her. With her sharp wit and unwavering determination, she confronts the dangerous forces at play, risking her own life to bring justice to the forefront in a world where playing hardball can have deadly consequences.

  • The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

    The book follows Lucas Corso, a book detective who is hired to authenticate a rare manuscript by Alexandre Dumas. As he delves into the investigation, he finds himself entangled in a mystery involving two other books: a rare edition of "The Three Musketeers" and a satanic text, "The Book of Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows". The narrative becomes a complex puzzle as Corso uncovers connections between the books, while also dealing with a seductive woman who seems to have stepped out of a Dumas novel, a mysterious killer, and a group of bibliophiles obsessed with Dumas. The lines between fiction and reality blur as he gets closer to the truth.

  • The Deep Blue Good By by John D. MacDonald

    In this classic detective novel, we follow a rugged, self-proclaimed "salvage consultant" who lives aboard a houseboat in Florida. He is drawn into a case involving a treasure hidden by a soldier during World War II, which has become the target of a manipulative and sadistic man. As the protagonist uses his charm and wits to track down the treasure and protect the soldier's innocent daughter, he navigates a dangerous path filled with deceit, violence, and betrayal, showcasing his unique moral code and his willingness to confront the darker aspects of human nature.

  • The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais

    In this gritty detective novel, a wisecracking private investigator takes on the case of a missing woman and her son, leading him into the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he encounters a slew of dangerous characters, from drug dealers to professional hitmen, all while grappling with his own personal demons. The case becomes increasingly complex, revealing a web of deceit and corruption that challenges the protagonist's wit, resourcefulness, and moral compass. With sharp dialogue and a fast-paced narrative, the story keeps readers on the edge of their seats until its thrilling conclusion.

  • Berlin Game by Len Deighton

    The novel revolves around a British intelligence officer stationed in Cold War-era Berlin, who is tasked with managing a critical network of spies and informants behind the Iron Curtain. When he receives alarming intelligence suggesting that there is a mole within his own department, he must navigate a treacherous landscape of deception and betrayal to uncover the traitor. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he finds himself entangled in a dangerous game of espionage, where trust is scarce and the stakes are life or death. The officer's personal and professional lives collide, forcing him to confront the harsh realities of his secretive world and the toll it takes on his relationships and his conscience.

  • A Simple Plan by Scott Smith

    "A Simple Plan" by Scott Smith is a gripping psychological thriller that follows the lives of three ordinary men who stumble upon a crashed plane containing a large sum of money. As they decide to keep the money for themselves, their lives quickly spiral out of control, leading to a series of devastating consequences. Filled with suspense and moral dilemmas, the book explores the dark depths of human nature and the lengths people are willing to go to protect their secrets.

  • Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

    In a 1950s Soviet Union gripped by fear and paranoia, Leo Demidov, a dedicated officer of the state security agency, is faced with a chilling reality: a series of brutal child murders that the government refuses to acknowledge. As Leo defies his superiors and embarks on a dangerous investigation, he becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue and personal danger, risking everything to uncover the truth and protect those he loves. "Child 44" is a gripping thriller that explores the dark underbelly of a repressive regime and the resilience of one man determined to bring justice to a society plagued by secrets.

  • Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

    In "Heartsick," a gripping psychological thriller, Portland detective Archie Sheridan is on the trail of a notorious serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, who once captured and tortured him for ten days before inexplicably turning herself in. Now, as he investigates a new spate of murders, Archie must confront his own trauma and his complex relationship with Gretchen, who continues to manipulate him from behind bars. The novel weaves a tale of obsession, pain, and the blurred lines between captor and captive, as Archie's hunt for the killer becomes a deeply personal quest for redemption and survival.

About this list

NPR, 100 Books

NPR's "Killer Thrillers" poll has culminated in a definitive list of the top 100 thriller novels, selected through a process that involved the enthusiastic participation of NPR's audience. Initiating with a nomination of approximately 600 novels, the poll attracted over 17,000 ballots, reflecting a wide engagement and a deep interest in the thriller genre. The resulting list is noted for its diversity, spanning various styles and periods, and for the intense debate it spurred regarding the inclusion of certain titles that push the boundaries of the traditional thriller category. Expert panelists, including critics and novelists, contributed to the selection process, offering insights into the dark and suspenseful nature of the chosen works. The endeavor not only highlighted the varied tastes and preferences of the NPR audience but also underscored the expansive definition of what constitutes a thriller, embracing a breathless sense of excitement as the unifying criterion. This poll has effectively mapped the landscape of thriller literature as seen through the eyes of a wide and engaged readership, offering a rich resource for discovering compelling tales of suspense and adventure.

Added 2 months ago.

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