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10 Provocative Thrillers I Can’t Stop Thinking About

Sara Roncero-Menendez
April 20 2022
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A good thriller should get inside your head, making it impossible to put the book down until the last page. But often that feeling goes away as soon as you shut the back cover, and you never think about that one again once it’s back on your shelf. But great thrillers are so intense, so nuanced in their storytelling that you think about them for weeks and months afterward. So, if you’re on the hunt for a thriller to chill you to the bone and brain, check out these ten great reads.

Anatomy of a Scandal
by Sarah Vaughan

The basic formula of a family thriller is simple: a character’s little world is perfect until a horrible thing happens, and then everything they know about their family changes. And while ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL does follow that trope, it takes it even deeper. Sophie is shocked when her husband, politician James Whitehouse, is accused of raping his staffer Olivia. But there are more secrets lurking in the shadows of this case, along with some terrible truths about what people are and aren’t ready to accept about sexual assault. Smart, feminist, and compelling, this novel is bound to spark some interesting conversations.

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Anatomy of a Scandal
Sarah Vaughan

SOON TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES

Instant International Bestseller

“A nuanced story line perfectly in tune with our #metoo times.” —People, Book of the Week

“One of the season’s most buzzed-about thrillers.” —Bookish

Some people’s secrets are darker than others.

Sophie Whitehouse has a lovely home, two adorable children, and a handsome, successful husband. In other words, she has the “perfect” life. But everything changes the night her husband James comes home and confesses an indiscretion. Suddenly, her neat, ordered world is turned upside down. Did she ever really know the man she married?

And, as it turns out, James’s revelation is just the tip of the iceberg. He stands accused of a terrible crime. But, the truth is even more shocking than anyone ever could have thought. Is James the guilty perpetrator or an innocent victim of a toxic agenda?

In this riveting story of love, revenge, and deception, no one’s motives are pure, but some people’s secrets are much darker than others.

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The Lie
by Hesh Kestin

Could you stick to your morals, even when someone you love is in mortal danger? This is the soul-crushing, brain-breaking dilemma faced by Dahlia Barr in THE LIE. Dahlia is a successful Israeli lawyer whose work sees her defending Palestinians against charges of terrorism. However, her career takes a shift when the Israeli government offers her a job that would basically mean she decides when the harshest “interrogation methods” should be used. She thinks she’ll have no problem sticking to her guns, that is until her son, a soldier in the army, is captured: one man in custody can tell her how to save him . . . except, he’s not talking. A nailbiter from start to finish, this is the kind of book that will haunt you in the best way.

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The Lie
Hesh Kestin

A provocative thriller about a dynamic Israeli lawyer—famous for defending accused Palestinians—whose views are tested when her own son is taken captive by Hezbollah: “The Lie is what great fiction is all about” (Stephen King).

Dahlia Barr is a devoted mother, soon-to-be divorced wife, lover of an American television correspondent. She is also a brash and successful Israeli attorney who is passionate about defending Palestinians accused of terrorism. One day, to her astonishment, the Israeli national police approach Dahlia with a tantalizing proposition: Join us, and become the government’s arbiter on when to use the harshest of interrogation methods—what some would call torture. Dahlia is intrigued. She has no intention of permitting torture, but can she change the system from within? She takes the job.

As Dahlia settles into her new role, her son Ari, a twenty-year-old lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces, is kidnapped by Hezbollah and whisked over the border to Lebanon. The one man who may hold the key to Ari’s rescue is locked in a cell in police headquarters. He is an Arab who has a long and complicated history with Dahlia. And he’s not talking. Yet.

A nail-biting thriller that “will stay with you” (The New York Times Book Review), The Lie is an unforgettable story of human beings on both sides of the terror equation whose lives turn out to share more in common than they ever could have imagined. “An utterly riveting thriller that is likely to rank as one of the year’s best…The Lie has everything: memorable characters, a compelling plot, white-knuckle military action, and an economy and clarity of prose that is direct, powerful, and at times beautiful” (Booklist, starred review).

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Forty Acres
by Dwayne Alexander Smith

An easy way to get readers thinking is to take the expected and reverse it. Case in point, FORTY ACRES finds a young Black lawyer named Martin Grey confronted with a secret society wherein successful Black men enslave white people. Although Grey is disgusted by this, he finds himself trapped under threat of not just his career ending, but potentially his life. Exploring themes of retribution and compassion, and the difference between power and empowerment, Dwayne Alexander Smith weaves a tight, spell-binding narrative you can’t look away from.

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Forty Acres
Dwayne Alexander Smith

“A thriller in a class by itselfbrilliant and scary!” Terry McMillan

Read the page-turning, provocative thriller that will forever change the way you think about slavery and its legacy in today’s America.

Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men in America. He’s dazzled by what they’ve accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be as successful as they are. They invite him for a weekend away from it all—no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But far from home and cut off from everyone he loves, he discovers a disturbing secret that challenges some of his deepest convictions…

Martin finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the black men are called “Master.” Joining them seems to guarantee a future without limits; rebuking them almost certainly guarantees his death. Trapped inside a picture-perfect, make-believe world that is home to a frightening reality, Martin must find a way out that will allow him to stay alive without becoming the very thing he hates.

A novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the thought-provoking story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.

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They Never Learn
by Layne Fargo

If you could remove the worst of the worst of humanity, would you do it? For English professor Scarlett Clark, the answer is undeniably yes. Every year, she hunts down the worst man at Gorman University, and it is a literal hunt. She’s gotten away with it too, until her latest target causes her to lose control. Scarlett’s story is intertwined with that of Carly, a freshman who wants to avenge her roommate after a brutal sexual assault. Dark, vindictive, and downright captivating, THEY NEVER LEARN is the sweetest and scariest of revenge fantasies.

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They Never Learn
Layne Fargo

From the author of the “raw, ingenious, and utterly fearless” (Wendy Walker, USA TODAY bestselling author) Temper comes a dynamic psychological thriller about two women who give bad men exactly what they deserve—perfect for fans of Killing Eve and Chelsea Cain.

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, Dr. Clark searches for the worst man at Gorman University—professor, student, or otherwise—and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself…but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Dr. Clark insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay...and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.

“A gorgeously-written ragestorm of a thriller” (Wendy Heard, author of The Kill Club), They Never Learn is a feminist serial killer story that you won’t be able to put down.

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Watch Out for Her
by Samantha M. Bailey

Sometimes people can surprise you, although given this genre it’s rarely ever a good surprise. Holly seems like the perfect babysitter, but when the mother, Sarah, sees Holly involved in something terrible, she then packs up her entire life and moves her family to a completely different city. Finally feeling like she’s escaped, she discovers hidden cameras all around the house. Is this all in Sarah’s head, or is there something more sinister at play? As the paranoia builds, WATCH OUT FOR HER will make you feel jittery and jumpy, even in the privacy of your own home.

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Watch Out for Her
Samantha M. Bailey

A tense psychological thriller about a mother who must keep watch at all times if she wants to keep her family safe—from USA TODAY and #1 national bestselling author Samantha M. Bailey.

Wherever you go…
she’ll be watching.

Sarah Goldman, mother to six-year-old Jacob, is relieved to move across the country. She has a lot she wants to leave behind, especially Holly Monroe, the pretty twenty-two-year-old babysitter she and her husband, Daniel, hired to take care of their young son last summer. It started out as a perfect arrangement—Sarah had a childminder her son adored, and Holly found the mother figure she’d always wanted. But Sarah’s never been one to trust very easily, so she kept a close eye on Holly, maybe too close at times. What she saw raised some questions, not only about who Holly really was but what she was hiding. The more Sarah watched, the more she learned—until one day, she saw something she couldn’t unsee, something so shocking that all she could do was flee.

Sarah has put it all behind her and is starting over in a different city with her husband and son. They’ve settled into a friendly suburb where the neighbors, a tight clique of good citizens, are always on the lookout for danger. But when Sarah finds hidden cameras in her new home, she has to wonder: Has her past caught up to her, and worse yet, who’s watching her now?

A spine-tingling, page-turning novel from USA TODAY and #1 national bestselling author Samantha M. Bailey, Watch Out for Her is psychological suspense at its very best—a chilling look at trust, voyeurism, and obsession in the modern age, and how far we will go to watch out for those we love.

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State of Terror
by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Geopolitics is downright terrifying. Sure, the meetings and the speeches are boring, and diplomacy seems like the slowest chess match ever, but when nation relations fall apart, the consequences are dire for everyone. That’s where STATE OF TERROR draws a lot of its terror from. The new Secretary of State Ellen Adams has a lot to deal with, on top of her tumultuous relationship with the president. And when a series of terrorist attacks brings the world into a complex dance of alliances and armaments, it’s up to Adams and her team to try and keep the bombs from flying. A nail-biting race against time with a protagonist fighting against all odds, this is a story that’s bound to make you watch the news a little more closely.

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State of Terror
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

From the #1 bestselling authors Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny comes a novel of unsurpassed thrills and incomparable insider expertise—State of Terror.

After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in, and to everyone’s surprise the president chooses a political enemy for the vital position of secretary of state.

There is no love lost between the president of the United States and Ellen Adams, his new secretary of state. But it’s a canny move on the part of the president. With this appointment, he silences one of his harshest critics, since taking the job means Adams must step down as head of her multinational media conglomerate.

As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with Secretary Adams in attendance, Anahita Dahir, a young foreign service officer (FSO) on the Pakistan desk at the State Department, receives a baffling text from an anonymous source.

Too late, she realizes the message was a hastily coded warning.

What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena.

As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realize it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

To defeat such an intricate, carefully constructed conspiracy, it will take the skills of a unique team: a passionate young FSO; a dedicated journalist; and a smart, determined, but as yet untested new secretary of state.

State of Terror is a unique and utterly compelling international thriller cowritten by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 67th secretary of state, and Louise Penny, a multiple award-winning #1 New York Times bestselling novelist.

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The Collective
by Alison Gaylin

There’s nothing as heartbreaking as the death of a child. After Camille’s daughter Emily is raped and left for dead in the woods, the bereft mother finds her entire life upended and herself in a cloud of grief and rage. That’s when she encounters, online, a group of mothers who feel they’ve been wronged posting the dark revenge fantasies they can’t share with anyone else. Camille puts up one of her own about the boy who hurt her daughter and got off scot-free, thinking the group is just providing a safe space to vent. But the situation gets scary when one of the admins in the group asks if she’s serious. Is this about justice or just the further proliferation of violence? THE COLLECTIVE will shake you to your foundation.

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The Collective
Alison Gaylin

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The Beloveds
by Maureen Lindley

Sometimes good fortune seems to avoid you at every turn. Betty has the feeling this is happening to her, made even more tortuous by the fact that her sister Gloria is a Beloved, an inherently lucky person who gets whatever they want. And Gloria manages to get Betty’s best friend, love interest, and the estate that should, by all rights, go to Betty. It’s this last injustice that pushes Betty over the edge, and she vows to bring her birthright back by whatever means necessary. THE BELOVEDS is a tale of unhinged revenge, reminding readers that even though blood is thicker than water, it’s just as easy to spill.

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The Beloveds
Maureen Lindley

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Falling
by T. J. Newman

There’s little else scarier than being trapped on an airplane with something going terribly wrong, but FALLING takes this scenario to a whole new level. Flight Captain Bill is faced with an impossible dilemma: kill every passenger on board the plane and crash into a major landmark, or have his wife and kids murdered. The terrorists clearly have an inside man on the plane, and no matter how Bill tries to outfox them, he only manages to make things worse. But when the motivations behind the terrorists’ actions are revealed, a new layer of moral uncertainty is added. Fast-paced, sharp, and nearly impossible to put down, this book will have you questioning just what we’re willing to accept and who we are willing to let die.

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Falling
T. J. Newman

“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing...Intense suspense, shocks and scares...Chilling.” —Lee Child
“The perfect summer thriller. Relentlessly paced and unforgettable.” —Janet Evanovich

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

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The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton

Imagine you wake up one morning with no memory of who you are, in a home filled with people you’re supposed to know, and you’re cryptically instructed that you have to prevent the death of a woman you’ve never met before the end of the night. Oh, and this is a competition where you aren’t the only player on the board. Our protagonist finds himself in this strange situation, tasked with saving Evelyn Hardcastle from a terrible fate as a means of saving himself. But as more about his situation, and the situation of his fellow players are revealed, it’s not just whodunnit that will keep you hooked to the page. THE 7½ DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE is the kind of thriller that seems easy to predict, only to cut you off at every turn with new, darker revelations.

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The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Stuart Turton

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