10 Thrillers to Wake You Up Faster Than a Shot of Espresso

May 14 2021
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I love thrillers. I love books that keep me on the edge of my seat, guessing until the very end. There’s a certain kind of rush that comes from a gripping thriller, and the books in this list provide that shot of adrenaline and then some. I warn you against reading any of these eye-opening books late at night or before a big presentation at work, because you will not be able to put them down.

The Girls Are All So Nice Here
by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

The past never stays buried, no matter how much you think you’ve changed—and Ambrosia Wellington believes she’s changed a lot since her freshman year of college. But when she gets an invitation to her ten-year reunion, it comes with a note saying, “We need to talk about what we did that night.” Amb begins to obsess over what she might have done. At the reunion, Amb and her former best friend, Sully, receive even more threatening messages. Suddenly Amb realizes the full consequences of a game they played over a boy—a boy who was taken, leaving another girl to pay the price. If you love dark and twisted revenge stories, don’t miss THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE. That eerie title alone should perk you up faster than your morning coffee!

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The Girls Are All So Nice Here
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Two former best friends return to their college reunion to find that they’re being circled by someone who wants revenge for what they did ten years before—and will stop at nothing to get it—in this shocking psychological thriller about ambition, toxic friendship, and deadly desire.

A lot has changed in the years since Ambrosia Wellington graduated from college, and she’s worked hard to create a new life for herself. But then an invitation to her ten-year reunion arrives in the mail, along with an anonymous note that reads “We need to talk about what we did that night.”

It seems that the secrets of Ambrosia’s past—and the people she thought she’d left there—aren’t as buried as she’d believed. Amb can’t stop fixating on what she did or who she did it with: larger-than-life Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, Amb’s former best friend, who could make anyone do anything.

At the reunion, Amb and Sully receive increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that they’re being pursued by someone who wants more than just the truth of what happened that first semester. This person wants revenge for what they did and the damage they caused—the extent of which Amb is only now fully understanding. And it was all because of the game they played to get a boy who belonged to someone else, and the girl who paid the price.

Alternating between the reunion and Amb’s freshman year, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a shocking novel about the brutal lengths girls can go to get what they think they’re owed, and what happens when the games we play in college become matters of life and death.

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The Shadow Box
by Luanne Rice

It’s always so fascinating when you can’t guess who the real good guys and bad guys are in a story, and THE SHADOW BOX does an excellent job of keeping you on your toes. This book is bone-chilling in the best way possible. Claire is an artist, and her latest exhibit features elaborate shadow boxes, one of which accuses her husband of committing a violent crime twenty-five years ago. Now that Claire’s husband, Griffin, is running for governor, she’s convinced that he and his associates will do anything to keep the truth from coming out. So, when Claire is attacked and left for dead, Griffin is her prime suspect. And then one of Claire’s associates is murdered as well. Everyone thinks the crimes are connected, but how far will Claire go to expose the truth?

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The Shadow Box
Luanne Rice

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Six Weeks to Live
by Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie has crafted an interesting countdown-clock thriller with an excellent premise: What would you do if you were told you had terminal brain cancer and had six weeks left to live—and then realized someone tried to poison you? Enter Jennifer Barnes. After receiving her diagnosis, she’s determined to spend the rest of her life with her family, but the shocking revelation of the poisoning leaves her desperate to find the truth. Her money is on her soon-to-be ex-husband. She ropes in each of her adult daughters, but they don’t seem convinced. As Jennifer digs deeper, she starts to wonder if maybe it’s all in her head, or if the culprit is someone else. This is such a good domestic thriller with phenomenal pacing that constantly raises the stakes as you try to figure out what happened. If you like dysfunctional family stories, you’re going to love SIX WEEKS TO LIVE.

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Six Weeks to Live
Catherine McKenzie

INSTANT INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

Named a Most Anticipated Book by Goodreads, Frolic, and more

A gripping psychological suspense novel about a woman diagnosed with cancer who sets out to discover if someone poisoned her before her time is up, from the bestselling author of the “addictive and fast-paced” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author) thriller You Can’t Catch Me.

Jennifer Barnes never expected the shocking news she received at a routine doctor’s appointment: she has a terminal brain tumor—and only six weeks left to live.

While stunned by the diagnosis, the forty-eight-year-old mother decides to spend what little time she has left with her family—her adult triplets and twin grandsons—close by her side. But when she realizes she was possibly poisoned a year earlier, she’s determined to discover who might have tried to get rid of her before she’s gone for good.

Separated from her husband and with a contentious divorce in progress, Jennifer focuses her suspicions on her soon-to-be ex. Meanwhile, her daughters are each processing the news differently. Calm medical student Emily is there for whatever Jennifer needs. Moody scientist Aline, who keeps her mother at arm’s length, nonetheless agrees to help with the investigation. Even imprudent Miranda, who has recently had to move back home, is being unusually solicitous.

But with her daughters doubting her campaign against their father, Jennifer can’t help but wonder if the poisoning is all in her head—or if there’s someone else who wanted her dead.

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I Killed Zoe Spanos
by Kit Frick

I’m a huge true crime fan, especially true crime documentaries and podcasts. So, when Kit Frick wrote a murder mystery/thriller that included a character with a podcast searching for the truth, I had to read it. Anna Cicconi arrives in Heron Mills for a summer nanny job with hope for a fresh start, but instead she finds the entire town on edge, dealing with the disappearance of Zoe Spanos—a local girl who happens to look a lot like Anna. Anna feels like she’s connected to Zoe and dives into the missing girl’s life to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. When Zoe’s body is found two months later, Anna confesses to the crime and is charged with manslaughter. Except her confession doesn’t quite add up. Teen podcaster Martina Green isn’t convinced, and she decides it’s up to her to find out what happened.

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I Killed Zoe Spanos
Kit Frick

A People Best Book of Summer 2020
A Parade Best Book of Summer 2020

The YA thriller of the summer.” —Bustle

For fans of Sadie and Serial, this gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Kit Frick weaves a thrilling story of psychological suspense that twists and turns until the final page.

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The Bounty
by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton

THE BOUNTY has all my favorite ingredients for an international thriller. An FBI agent forced to pair up with a con artist? Check. A secret shadow organization and a hunt for treasure? Double check! This book is so action-packed and full of fun characters, and I couldn’t wait to unravel the mysteries and, of course, find the treasure. A creepy international organization called the Brotherhood searches for a lost train rumored to be filled with $30 billion in Nazi gold. Special agent Kate O’Hare and criminal Nick Fox must find the fortune first so that it doesn’t fall into the corrupt organization’s hands. But the only way they can stop the Brotherhood in time is by bringing Nick’s father, Quinten, in on the case.

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The Bounty
Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton

FBI agent Kate O’Hare and charming con man Nicholas Fox race against time to uncover a buried train filled with Nazi gold in this thrilling adventure in the “romantic and gripping” (Good Housekeeping) Fox and O’Hare series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

Straight as an arrow special agent Kate O’Hare and international con man Nick Fox have brought down some of the biggest criminals out there. But now they face their most dangerous foe yet—a vast, shadowy international organization known only as the Brotherhood.

Directly descended from the Vatican Bank priests who served Hitler during World War II, the Brotherhood is on a frantic search for a lost train loaded with $30 billion in Nazi gold, untouched for over seventy-five years somewhere in the mountains of Eastern Europe.

Kate and Nick know that there is only one man who can find the fortune and bring down the Brotherhood—the same man who taught Nick everything he knows—his father, Quentin. As the stakes get higher, they must also rely on Kate’s own father, Jake, who shares his daughter’s grit and stubbornness. Too bad they can never agree on anything.

From a remote monastery in the Swiss Alps to the lawless desert of the Western Sahara, Kate, Nick, and the two men who made them who they are today must crisscross the world in a desperate scramble to stop their deadliest foe in the biggest adventure of their lives.

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The Girl in the Mirror
by Rose Carlyle

All right—give me a thriller involving deadly lies and twins, and I’m intrigued from the get-go. THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR blew my mind, and I did not see that ending coming! It’s one of those books that you want everyone to read, but you worry that you’ll say too much and spoil the twists. What I can tell you is that Iris has always been jealous of her twin sister Summer’s amazing life and perfect husband, Adam. So, when Summer asks Iris to help her sail the family yacht from Thailand to the Seychelles, she agrees. But Iris harbors secret hopes about what might happen on this trip. When Iris disembarks alone and Adam thinks she’s Summer, she decides to go with it. But where is Summer, and how long can Iris keep up this ruse?

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The Girl in the Mirror
Rose Carlyle

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The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave

This book is a whirlwind of adventure and mystery, but Laura Dave manages to include a lot of heart along with the chilling action. Hannah loves her life and her new husband, Owen. But when Owen goes missing and Hannah receives a note that just says “Protect her,” she immediately knows something is wrong. After his boss gets arrested, it becomes clear that Owen isn’t who he says he is. But his teen daughter Bailey might be the only person able to help Hannah find the truth. Bailey wants nothing to do with Hannah, but together they set out to solve this puzzling mystery. The characters are the best part of this book, and the growing dynamic between them is fantastic.

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The Last Thing He Told Me
Laura Dave

From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.

We all have stories we never tell.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.

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The Only Good Indians
by Stephen Graham Jones

Every time I think about this book, I shiver. THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS tells a horrifying story of four American Indian men who are tracked by an entity seeking retribution for a disturbing event from their youth, and the culture and traditions they thought they’d left behind begin to catch up with them. Compared to a lot of the books I’ve read recently, this horror story is totally unique, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those stories that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

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The Only Good Indians
Stephen Graham Jones

A USA TODAY BESTSELLER
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

In this latest novel from Stephen Graham Jones comes a “heartbreakingly beautiful story” (Library Journal, starred review) of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians is “a masterpiece. Intimate, devastating, brutal, terrifying, warm, and heartbreaking in the best way” (Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts). This novel follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in violent, vengeful ways. Labeled “one of 2020’s buzziest horror novels” (Entertainment Weekly), this is a remarkable horror story “will give you nightmares—the good kind of course” (BuzzFeed).

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The Girl from Widow Hills
by Megan Miranda

I’m a huge fan of Megan Miranda, so of course one of her books had to make it onto this list. I also really liked blocked-memory stories and think they make for fun internal mysteries and great character development, and of course Miranda doesn’t disappoint. Arden Maynor was six years old when she sleepwalked out into a rainstorm and went missing for three days. By some miracle, she was found alive. News stories, media coverage, and, after her mother published a book about the incident, fame soon followed. And with that fame came fans, creeps, and stalkers. Eventually it all became too much for Arden. She moved far away and changed her name to Olivia. But as the twentieth anniversary of her traumatic childhood experience draws near, Olivia wakes up on her front lawn with a corpse at her feet—a corpse she recognizes from her previous life as Arden. And now she finds herself front-page news again.

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The Girl from Widow Hills
Megan Miranda

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest—a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick—comes a riveting new novel of psychological suspense about a young woman plagued by night terrors after a childhood trauma who wakes one evening to find a corpse at her feet.

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

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In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ruth Ware

This is such a fun thriller to read, whether you love Ruth Ware or are new to her work. After a breakup and a few other life changes, Nora desperately wanted to escape, so she walked out of school at the age of sixteen and never looked back. She left everything behind, including her friend Clare. But then, ten years later, an invitation to Clare’s bachelorette party arrives. Nora sees this as an opportunity to finally put her past behind her. But, of course, things go horribly wrong, and secrets rise to the surface. Nora is an incredibly unreliable narrator, but in such an alluring way. The chilly atmosphere of the house in the woods is made even frostier by the cold friendships.

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In a Dark, Dark Wood
Ruth Ware

*AUTHOR OF THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 and THE LYING GAME
*INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, AND LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER
*SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

An NPR Best Book of the Year * An Entertainment Weekly Summer Books Pick * A Buzzfeed “31 Books to Get Excited About this Summer” Pick * A Publishers Weekly “Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers” Pick * A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year * A BookReporter Summer Reading Pick * A New York Post “Best Novels to Read this Summer” Pick * A Shelf Awareness “Book Expo America 2015 Buzz Book” Pick

What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.

Sometimes the only thing to fear…is yourself.

When reclusive writer Leonora is invited to the English countryside for a weekend away, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. But as the first night falls, revelations unfold among friends old and new, an unnerving memory shatters Leonora’s reserve, and a haunting realization creeps in: the party is not alone in the woods.

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Photo credit: iStock / morrowlight

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