Who doesn’t love a good mystery thriller? Well, what even is a “mystery thriller”? I have “mystery” and “thriller” down as two separate categories on my blog as sometimes there are other genres which are “thrillers” and others that are also “mystery”. When you combine “mystery” and “thriller,” I think we all have an idea of a book we can think of.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links, this means if you choose to purchase any books via any of the links below, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These affiliate links do not affect my final opinion of the products.
Generally “mystery thrillers” are books where something intriguing or interesting happens to a person whether it be a murder, a missing person, memory loss or something else and then we spend the book working it all out. We often also have a great twist in the middle in some of the better mystery thrillers out there.
I’ve reviewed a fair amount of these, though I plan to pick up a lot more over the coming years as I’ve really found some fantastic ones out there. Unfortunately, sometimes they can feel quite formulaic, however, every now and then you’ll find a real gem.
Below I’ve picked ten mystery thrillers that I’ve read that I thought really stood out from the rest of the crowd. Hopefully, you’ll think so too!
So here are the ten top books that I think stand out in the mystery thriller genre:
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
This book is one of the earliest I read on this list. It’s a book that has stuck with me since I read it. It has a plot that keeps you on your toes with a topic about alcohol and drugs and a plot that constantly throws little twists at you that make you want to keep reading.
The plot focuses on Anna and rarely veers away from her views other than a few flashbacks that feature her family. It gives you a very one-sided view into the events happening around her which makes it feel claustrophobic and you find things out as she does.
If you want a tense thriller where you’re constantly wondering what’s coming, I’d definitely recommend The Woman in the Window.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell is arguably currently the queen of mystery thrillers so it would be amiss to include one of her books on here. I could have chosen from a couple of others of hers but the most popular and probably most interesting is The Family Upstairs.
The Family Upstairs tells the tale of a woman who inherits an expensive house in Chelsea but soon learns of its dark history and, as a result, she finds out more about her family. It’s a thriller that is cleverly written and had me fascinated throughout with the dark cult-like themes it has going on.
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
If you’re looking for something a bit different from what you usually find in mystery thrillers then I can’t recommend The Appeal by Janice Hallett anymore.
Using emails and text messages only, the book tells the story of a local theatre group whose main runner’s daughter gets cancer and so the group set up some fundraising events to raise money. However, things aren’t all as they seem and when one of the group is murdered, a lot of secrets start to spill out. This is all trying to be figured out by two young law apprentices.
Smart, uniquely written and one of my favourite mystery books I’ve read this year, I highly recommend The Appeal.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in one of the best-selling book series of all time. It’s a book translated from Swedish that became an instant best-seller upon its release.
The book focuses on Lisbeth, a young woman with autism who has a brilliant mind for problem-solving and computer hacking and Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who gets asked to help an incredibly wealthy family solve the murder of one of their relatives.
It’s a psychological thriller with twists and turns that takes you deep into the financial, political and history of Sweden and how this affects the story. The characters are fantastic, the plot is brilliant and it’s a must if you’re a mystery thriller fan.
The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean
The Last Thing to Burn is the most recent book I read on this list. It’s a psychological, tense mystery thriller that I would dare anybody to read in more than a few sittings. It’s a book that will grab you early on and have you vouching for the main character for the remaining 200 or so pages.
The book focuses on a woman held captive in a house by a man who forces her to do chores around the house. Every time she steps out of line, he burns one of the last remaining memories of her home. She must escape. But what will give her the up and go to actually finally try?
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
We Begin at the End is one of my favourite books that I read last year. It tells the tale of Duchess and her brother Robin scraping through life and trying to survive with their less-than-ideal mother and the story of Walk’s attempts to solve a murder where everyone seems to be pointing their finger toward one person.
It’s a book that introduces you to one of the best leading young characters in Duchess you’ll ever read about. It’ll also take you on an emotional journey having you rooting for every character on their own unique journeys. If I could recommend any book on this list to pick up first, it may well be this.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
When you talk about clever twists in books, The Silent Patient always springs to mind. I remember sitting in my garden reading this book and audibly letting out a sound of shock when the twist happened. It’s one that you’ll spend your whole time trying to work out but won’t be able to.
The Silent Patient focuses on a man who wants to study a patient at a psychiatric hospital who apparently killed her husband and has since never spoken a single word. He’s fascinated by both why she killed him and why she has decided to take a vow of silence since.
If you’re into shocks and absolute page-turners, you can’t get much better than The Silent Patient.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
If you’re a fan of reading and have not heard of The Da Vinci Code, then what rock have you been living under? In fact, you likely don’t even need to know anything about reading and you’ll still likely have heard about this phenomenon.
One of the best-selling books of all time, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a book that ventures and crosses the line with a lot of religions and famous artefacts from throughout history. As well as these, Dan Brown has you thinking throughout the whole book that a lot of the conspiracies could be real – everything is based on a slight truth and enough research will suggest it could be true. It’s also got those chapters that are just short and interesting enough to keep you turning pages.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
The Thursday Murder Club was one of the biggest hits of 2020. It was released to a lot of rave reviews and, possibly due to having a famous author, broke some records for fasting selling crime novel in some category. Either way, it was a bit of a social media sensation that caused me to pick it up.
What people love about The Thursday Murder Club isn’t necessarily the sprawling plot or any clever twists but more the incredibly British and blunt humour and the thoroughly loveable and enjoyable characters. Richard Osman’s personality shines through in these books and makes them an enjoyable breeze to read. It feels like you’re reading a drama in a small retirement village and they’re playing a game of detective.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
I couldn’t really have a list of mystery thrillers without the new girl on the block: Lucy Foley. Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party and The Guest List both follow a similar theme: a group of people go to a remote place and one of them ends up dying and we follow the events that build up the killing.
The Guest List is probably the better of the two, keeping me on my toes until the very end. Lucy Foley’s books feel similar to Lisa Jewell’s books in that we know an event happens and we either read the events that lead up to this final event or we read two separate timelines that eventually meet.
The Guest List sees a group of friends attend a wedding. One of them ends up dead and we slowly begin to realise that there are quite a few people that wouldn’t have minded the victim being dead. It’s a fun and easy read that you’ll finish feeling quite satisfied having read.
So there they are…
…the top ten mystery thrillers I’ve read that I think you should really consider picking up. I imagine this list will receive an update next year as I take in some more books over the coming months.
Were there any books on this list that you too would recommend? Or even more, interestingly, are there any books that you think NEED to be on this list (so I NEED to read)? Let me know via the comments below or via my social channels below.