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Rediscovered Reviews: 6 Thrillers That Changed the Game

August 29 2022
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When a really strong thriller enters the arena, it can change the game for the whole field. Suddenly everyone wants to try out the new moves—perspective shifts, narrator techniques, unexpected twists. We combed through past reviews on our site to rediscover the thrillers that stepped up and took the genre to new levels.

Luckiest Girl Alive
by Jessica Knoll

Knoll drew comparisons to GONE GIRL, and I read it with that in mind. I have to say, TifAni is no Amazing Amy. What I loved the most about LUCKIEST GIRL is that Ani goes through an anti–Amazing Amy arc: She starts out cutting, and only by experiencing her nightmare with her, do you get to see the real Ani. Her heroic act, and later, the misunderstood repercussions. The Ani from chapter one and the end, chapter seventeen, are two drastically different people. The metamorphosis isn’t a sleight of hand, it’s the result of reliving something so raw and devastating.

Masterful storytelling, lush, descriptive prose, and unrelenting suspense make LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE one of my favorite books. Even now, more than a year later, I still think about Ani.

Read more of Kate’s review

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Luckiest Girl Alive
Jessica Knoll

Ani FaNelli is the epitome of young, modern women. And that’s not a good thing. Image-obsessed, cruel, and deceptive, Ani isn’t crazy so much as extraordinarily damaged from two traumatic high school events that are expertly revealed, piece by piece, in this masterful debut. I loved the anger in this political, well-observed novel, made more powerful by the reveal that Knoll’s own sexual assault contributed to its creation. Contemporary and timely: believe the hype.

Crazy like: Carrie Bradshaw with a cleaver.

Best crazy moment: Ani’s choice of porn. (Ouch.)

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I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes

Our hero, Scott Murdoch (aka “Pilgrim,” aka “Rider of the Blue,” aka “Jude Garret”—you get the idea) is a burnt-out, retired American super-spy who is drawn out of his self-imposed hiding by a NYPD homicide detective investigating the gruesome murder of a woman in a fleabag hotel. We slowly find out more about Pilgrim, why he is of use in this investigation, and how it eventually leads him on an international manhunt for a brilliant lone-wolf terrorist nicknamed “the Saracen.”

For me, I AM PILGRIM was a game changer. It raised the bar for international spy thrillers and became the benchmark for all future reads. It’s rich in detail and character, full of heart-racing action, and terrifying in its plausibility. It has heart and has you questioning your own beliefs.

Read more of David’s review

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I Am Pilgrim
Terry Hayes

“For me, I AM PILGRIM was a game changer. It raised the bar for international spy thrillers and became the benchmark for all future reads. It’s rich in detail and character, full of heart-racing action, and terrifying in its plausibility. It has heart and has you questioning your own beliefs.”

Read David Brown’s review here.

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Good as Gone
by Amy Gentry

The novel opens with a knife-wielding man kidnapping a 13-year-old girl from her bedroom in the middle of the night. As a mother, this is more terrifying than all the psycho clowns and alternate zombie universes ever conjured, hence my foot-dragging. When I finally pushed through my fear and picked up this book, though, I simply couldn’t put it down.

Julie, the kidnapped girl, had been missing for eight years when she shows up on her parents’ doorstep with a story of being abducted and trafficked into Mexico. Her parents, Tom and Anna, are so overcome with joy that the worst has “unhappened” that they never stop to ask the question that drives the entire narrative at pulse-pounding speed: Is this damaged woman really Julie?

One of the marks of the author Gentry’s talent is that, despite Julie’s many deceptions, I never felt deceived or tricked as a reader. The narrators always felt reliable—it was time itself that became the unreliable element, the concealer of identities.

Read more of Mindy’s review

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Good as Gone
Amy Gentry

Years after 13-year-old Julie was kidnapped from her bedroom, she turns up on the doorstep of her family’s home. But is this young woman the real Julie? Propulsive and suspenseful, GOOD AS GONE will keep readers guessing until the final pages.

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Then She Was Gone
by Lisa Jewell

THEN SHE WAS GONE begins as many other books do, with a parent distraught over a missing child. Ten years after the disappearance of her daughter Ellie, Laurel is still broken. She’s lost her husband, her other kids barely speak to her, and every time she sees someone who looks like Ellie, she flashes back to the day her 13-year-old girl went to the library to study and never came home.

But, as all great stories do, the appearance of a new man in Laurel’s life puts the wheels in motion for her to find some closure. He makes her feel like there can be life after Ellie’s disappearance, and she begins to think she might be able to move on. But what she doesn’t know is that his appearance isn’t a coincidence, and the closure she’ll get isn’t the kind she expected.

This is storytelling at its best, because it doesn’t ever feel forced. It’s also highly disturbing—there is no blood, no violence, yet the reveal exposes how cheap human life is to some people—but that doesn’t put you off or stop you from reading until the very last page.

Read more of Leora’s review

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Then She Was Gone
Lisa Jewell

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“A riveting thriller.” —PopSugar

“Sharply written with twists and turns.” —Library Journal

“An acutely observed family drama with bone-chilling suspense.” —People

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. Beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers, and half of a teenaged golden couple. Ellie was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?

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The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware

If you’re looking for a suspense-book definition of gaslighting, you’ll find it in pages of this novel. After Lo borrows mascara from the woman in the cabin next to her (the eponymous “Woman in Cabin 10”), she witnesses her demise as she’s tossed overboard by an unknown assailant. Lo goes to great lengths to get to the bottom of this murder mystery except . . . everyone on board is accounted for and, well, there is no woman in cabin 10. The room has been unoccupied this entire time. Lo begins to doubt her sanity. No one knows or has seen this woman and, after questioning everyone on board, she comes up with no answers. As a reader, I began to doubt Lo’s sanity too. Could the break-in she fell victim to at her home before the trip have rattled her to this degree? To such an extent that she’s imagining invisible women and murder?

To put it bluntly—the conclusion of THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 is wild. From the who to the why to the how, you won’t see this end coming. A satisfying read from start to finish, I would recommend this book to anyone—if you’re in a reading rut or in need of a vacation read. Though I might advise readers on board a cruise ship to proceed with caution . . .

Read more of Tolani’s review

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The Woman in Cabin 10
Ruth Ware

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Speak Softly, She Can Hear
by Pam Lewis

The story opens in the pitch black of a winter night in Vermont in 1960s, when a shy, privileged teenager and her much more reckless and worldly best friend are making their way to an isolated cabin to carry out a plan to lose their virginities to the handsome but enigmatic Eddie before they graduate. When the plan goes horrifyingly wrong, Carole leaves behind a devastating secret deep in the Vermont woods, but soon learns that no secret this dangerous can stay buried forever.

Pam Lewis does a masterful job of weaving a coming-of-age tale into this thriller which follows Carole from Vermont to New York to California and spans a decade in her life. During that time Carole, undergoes a transformation as compelling as the plot itself, as the burden of her secrets begins to destroy the sheltered naivety that makes her such a profoundly relatable character in the opening chapters.

Read more of Alexandra’s review

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Speak Softly, She Can Hear
Pam Lewis

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