Thrillers to Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat
I have a love/hate relationship with thrillers and am very picky about which ones I pick up and even pickier about which ones I end up liking. Thriller writers must balance the need to create tension with making the story realistic enough to keep the reader’s attention and creating a resolution that is not obvious and does not involve having a villain coming out of left field. Striking that balance is hard to do.
Sometimes I figure out what is going to happen way too early and sometimes I spend my time frustrated with characters who are behaving in highly implausible ways which pulls me out of the story. I find that the latter issue happens a lot in the domestic suspense subgenre so I stay away from those, and they rarely show up on my recommendations.
When I do find a thriller that surprises me or contains believable characters, I am all in. Here are some of my favorites that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and always recommend to people.
Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker - Molly Clarke disappeared one night with scarcely a trace, and her family doesn’t believe that she chose to walk away from them and the tragedy that defines them all. When a new lead surfaces soon after the investigation stalls, Molly’s daughter Nicole decides to investigate in the poor, decrepit town where her mom was last seen. Alternating between Molly’s and Nicole’s perspectives and shifting back and forth in time from day 1 of the disappearance and day 14 as Nicole launches her own search, the story rapidly unfolds as the reader learns more about Molly, Nicole, and the creepy town of Hastings and its inhabitants. Don’t Look For Me is Walker’s best thriller yet, and the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat until the clever and satisfying resolution.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager: Baneberry Hall, a Victorian mansion in a remote area of Vermont, is the setting of Riley Sager’s latest thriller. Twenty-five years ago, Maggie and her parents Ewan and Jess Holt lived in the house for three weeks before fleeing in the dead of night never to return. Following their dramatic escape, Ewan wrote a non-fiction account, entitled House of Horrors, recounting the terrors and evil hauntings they experienced while living at Baneberry. Following Ewan’s death and with no memory of the events that he relays in House of Horrors, Maggie returns to the house determined to put the past behind her and prove that the property is not haunted. Alternating between the chapters of House of Horrors and Maggie’s present-day inhabitance of Baneberry Hall, the story slowly unfolds as Maggie begins to experience the events that happened in her father’s book and begins wondering if Baneberry is actually inhabited by ghosts. The story starts slow but picks up momentum as the creepiness factor ratchets up, and I thoroughly enjoyed the clever and unexpected ending. Riley’s book The Last Time I Lied is also a fabulous read.
The Last Flight by Julie Clark: The Last Flight is a high-octane thriller that begins with a bang and never slows down. Two women eager to flee their own lives agree to swap tickets for their flights at the last minute: Claire gives Eva her ticket to Puerto Rico and takes Eva’s ticket to Oakland. When the flight to Puerto Rico crashes into the ocean, Claire realizes she must assume Eva’s identity to survive, but quickly learns that Eva was not who she claimed to be. Toggling back and forth between the two women, the story rapidly unfolds revealing jaw-dropping twists and turns that you will not see coming. The Last Flight is indisputably the best thriller that I have read in ages – Clark skillfully blends great characters, beautiful writing, and a superb mystery, and I loved racing through it.
Shiver by Allie Reynolds – Shiver is a closed circle mystery set in the French Alps which brings a group of friends together for a reunion. Upon arrival, the friends realize that nothing is at it seems and that someone will go to extreme lengths to solve a mystery from the past. The plot, the characters, and the mystery itself are all skillfully developed and kept me on the edge of my seat. I do not know very much about snowboarding, and it was fun to learn more about it – Reynolds includes just the right amount of detail. The French Alps setting is very vivid, and the toggling back and forth between the past and present works very well to slowly unveil the relevant details to the reader. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides - As the book opens, Alicia Berenson, a well-known painter, has been in a psychiatric facility for six years following her gruesome murder of her husband. She has not spoken since the crime occurred, refusing to provide an explanation for why she murdered him. Her refusal to speak has caused the public to become fascinated with the crime and her motive, and the price of her art has skyrocketed. Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, seeks to work with Alicia; he is determined to find out her motives and get her speaking again. The story alternates between Theo’s perspective and Alicia’s diary entries from before the crime occurred. There are several fabulous twists and turns, and the ending is simply stunning. The Silent Patient is a page turner, and you will not want to put it down once you start reading.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James - The Sun Down Motel is a creepy, rundown motel serving as a pit stop for travelers on their way through Fell, New York that also provides a place for locals to hide out. But as Viv and Carly, two women 35 years apart, learn there is someone or something else living at the Sun Down, and they both are determined to find out who or what is haunting the motel and why. St. James’ pacing is perfect, and the book is awesomely creepy but not overly scary. The Sun Down Motel is one of the best books I have read in a while - the characters are so well developed, and I rooted for both Viv and Carly as they sought to understand what was happening at The Sun Down Motel.
For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.
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