Thrillers are a popular choice for book clubs, and while some readers might make the mistake of believing that they are all the same, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most thriller aficionados are looking for different experiences. Some love the immediate feeling of a fear or a lasting fear that makes them nervous to turn off the lights. Some may enjoy the that chill down their spine when the killer is finally revealed. Some love the breathless moment when the novel hits a bit too real or want a book that’s impossible to put down, even if it horrifies them. There’s a novel for each of these readers, so we’ve compiled some of our favorite bone-chilling reads sure to get the discussion going at your next book club meeting.
Book Club Favorites: 10 Intriguing Thrillers for Your Next Discussion
If your book club was a big fan of Jessica Knoll’s first novel, LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE, which is now a Netflix film starring Mila Kunis, then you should check out her sophomore thriller, THE FAVORITE SISTER. Sisters Brett and Kelly have always blurred the lines between supportive sisters and bitter rivals. As teenagers, Kelly was the star while Brett was the understudy. But that all changes in adulthood when Brett becomes a highly successful attorney and a reality TV star on a show called Gold Diggers while Kelly struggles as a single mother. As jealousy builds, threats are made to reveal secrets of the past, ultimately ending in murder. Packed with classic sibling rivalry, frenemies and family drama with a whodunit thrown in the mix, this darkly comic and engrossing thriller will get the book club discussion going about reality TV and the complicated relationship between siblings.
* * * NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * * *
“Engrossing…Deliciously savage and wildly entertaining.”—People Magazine (Book of the Week)
NO ONE EVER SUSPECTS THE GOOD ONE.
Brett and Kelly have always toed the line between supportive sisters and bitter rivals. Growing up, Brett was the problem child, in the shadow of the brilliant and beautiful Kelly. In adulthood, all that has changed. Kelly is a struggling single mother and Brett has skyrocketed to such meteoric success, which has been chronicled on a reality TV show called Goal Diggers.
When Kelly manipulates herself onto the show and into Brett’s world, Brett is right to be threatened. Kelly, and only Kelly, knows her younger sister's appalling secret, and it could ruin her.
Still, when the truth comes out in the explosive final weekend of filming, neither of them ever expected that the season would end in murder.
BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME is a great pick for book clubs that love crime fiction. This gripping, beautifully written novel is about two women who move to NYC to reinvent themselves. Alice is eighteen and looking to escape the troubles of her childhood. Ruby is a thirty-six-year-old Australian expat in need of a fresh start. Their worlds collide when Ruby finds Alice’s dead body near the Hudson River. Shaken, Ruby seeks closure for them both. It’s an intense read that prompts discussion about loneliness, misogyny, trauma, and the power of human connection.
Winner of Crime Debut and Readers’ Choice Awards—Sisters in Crime
“A brave and timely novel.” —Clare Mackintosh, internationally bestselling author of Hostage
This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.
When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.
Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.
Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?
A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?
Is your club is looking to get caught up and captivated by a literary thriller full of mystery and suspense? Then THE BLACKHOUSE is the book for you! Step into Maggie MacKay’s shoes as she travels to a remote village in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, a place she’s never been and knows nothing about, to investigate a two-decade-old murder. As her investigation deepens and she gets closer to the truth, Maggie realizes that some secrets should stay buried, and some mysteries are better left alone when the truth can cost you everything, including your life. A thrilling page-turner with a sensationally sinister setting that’s a character in itself, this novel is perfect for book clubs looking for a gothic Agatha Christie–inspired whodunnit where nothing is as it seems, and shocking twists lie around every corner.
Watch the Book Club Favorites live discussion about the book, below!
From the author of the “dark and devious...beautifully written” (Stephen King) Mirrorland comes a richly atmospheric thriller set on an isolated Scottish island where nothing is as it seems and shocking twists lie around every corner.
A remote village. A deadly secret. An outsider who knows the truth.
Robert Reid moved his family to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides in the 1990s, driven by hope, craving safety and community, and hiding a terrible secret. But despite his best efforts to fit in, Robert is always seen as an outsider. And as the legendary and violent Hebridean storms rage around him, he begins to unravel, believing his fate on the remote island of Kilmeray cannot be escaped.
For her entire life, Maggie MacKay has sensed something was wrong with her. When Maggie was five years old, she announced that a man on Kilmeray—a place she’d never visited—had been murdered. Her unfounded claim drew media attention and turned the locals against each other, creating rifts that never mended.
Nearly twenty years later, Maggie is determined to find out what really happened, and what the islanders are hiding. But when she begins to receive ominous threats, Maggie is forced to consider how much she is willing to risk to discover the horrifying truth.
Unnerving, enthralling, and filled with gothic suspense, The Blackhouse is a spectacularly sinister tale readers won’t soon forget.
Looking to get your cardio in? Welcome to THE LYING GAME by Ruth Ware. This heart-pounding thriller doesn’t let up and will leave you feeling like you just sprinted through a marathon. Set at an English boarding school, THE LYING GAME poses the question, What if the lies you told as a teenager came back to haunt you? That’s exactly what happens to the main characters at the helm of this exciting read. Four friends believed they had buried their old secrets along with the crime they committed for good. Seventeen years later, when one of their own reaches out for help, they’re faced with the fact that “a lie can outlive any truth.” This is a book you won’t be able to put down until the very last twist unfolds.
Praise for Ruth Ware’s instant New York Times, USA TODAY, and Los Angeles Times bestseller:
“So many questions....Until the very last page! Needless to say, I could not put this book down!” —Reese Witherspoon
“Once again the author of The Woman in Cabin 10 delivers mega-chills.” —People
“Missing Big Little Lies? Dig into this psychological thriller about whether you can really trust your nearest and dearest.” —Cosmopolitan
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes a chilling new novel of friendship, secrets, and the dangerous games teenaged girls play.
On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten, along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…
The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isa—receive the text they had always hoped would never come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”
The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second-rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty. But their little game had consequences, and as the four converge in present-day Salten, they realize their shared past was not as safely buried as they had once hoped…
Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill to keep you wrong-footed, The Lying Game is told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, lending itself to becoming another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
If your book club is looking for smart, atmospheric writing paired with complicated characters, check out Megan Miranda’s THE LAST HOUSE GUEST. Set in a vacation town on the Maine coast, this twisty thriller delves into class tensions with the unlikely friendship between Avery Greer, a year-round resident, and Sadie Loman, who summers there. After Sadie is found dead, Avery is devastated. Sadie’s death is declared a suicide by the police, but Avery isn’t so sure. She’s on a quest to get to the truth, uncovering secrets that could destroy her world along the way.
**A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller**
“Once again, Megan Miranda has crafted the perfect summer thriller.” —Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Time I Lied
The summer after a wealthy young summer guest dies under suspicious circumstances, her best friend lives under a cloud of grief and suspicion in this “clever, stylish mystery that will seize readers like a riptide” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) featuring “dizzying plot twists and multiple surprise endings” (The New York Times Book Review).
Littleport, Maine, has always felt like two separate towns: an ideal vacation enclave for the wealthy, whose summer homes line the coastline; and a simple harbor community for the year-round residents whose livelihoods rely on service to the visitors.
Typically, fierce friendships never develop between a local and a summer girl—but that’s just what happens with visitor Sadie Loman and Littleport resident Avery Greer. Each summer for almost a decade, the girls are inseparable—until Sadie is found dead. While the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother, Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name, before the facts get twisted against her.
Another thrilling novel from the bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger, Megan Miranda’s The Last House Guest is a smart, twisty read with a strong female protagonist determined to make her own way in the world.
“A riveting read…from master of suspense, Megan Miranda,” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl) The Last House Guest is a smart, twisty read that brilliantly explores the elusive nature of memory and the complexities of female friendships.
If we’re being honest, we’ve all had the thought presented in the title of this dangerously hilarious and deceptive novel. Rupert Holmes’s MURDER YOUR EMPLOYER is set at the McMasters Conservatory and turns the mystery genre upside down by making readers cheer on three goodhearted killers. Unlike other institutions of higher learning, to present a successful graduation thesis, students must commit an untraceable murder of their employer. Students who fail don’t just receive an F grade—they pay with their lives. If your club is looking for a fun read filled with dark humor and thrilling twists, this is a contender. Full of endless puns, dry humor, and nostalgia, this read will have you on the edge of your seat.
From the diabolical imagination of Edgar Award–winning novelist, playwright, and story-songwriter Rupert Holmes comes a devilish thriller with a killer concept: The McMasters Conservatory for the Applied Arts, a luxurious, clandestine college dedicated to the fine art of murder where earnest students study how best to “delete” their most deserving victim.
Who hasn’t wondered for a split second what the world would be like if a person who is the object of your affliction ceased to exist? But then you’ve probably never heard of The McMasters Conservatory, dedicated to the consummate execution of the homicidal arts. To gain admission, a student must have an ethical reason for erasing someone who deeply deserves a fate no worse (nor better) than death. The campus of this “Poison Ivy League” college—its location unknown to even those who study there—is where you might find yourself the practice target of a classmate…and where one’s mandatory graduation thesis is getting away with the perfect murder of someone whose death will make the world a much better place to live.
Prepare for an education you’ll never forget. A delightful mix of witty wordplay, breathtaking twists and genuine intrigue, Murder Your Employer will gain you admission into a wholly original world, cocooned within the most entertaining book about well-intentioned would-be murderers you’ll ever read.
Rupert Holmes’s much celebrated career ranges from chart-topping story songs with surprising twists—“Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”—to Tony Award–winning whodunit musicals—The Mystery of Edwin Drood—Edgar Award–winning comedy-thrillers—Accomplice—and the Nero Wolfe Best American Mystery Novel nominated Where the Truth Lies, made into an Atom Egoyan motion picture starring Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon. Called “an American treasure” (Los Angeles Times), “a true Renaissance man” by Newsweek, “a comic genius” (Kirkus Reviews) and simply “a genius” (The Times, London), Rupert Holmes brings his wickedly clever storytelling talents to this outrageous and darkly comic mystery set in a secret, idyllic campus where students learn how to “do in others as you would have others do you in.”
Family secrets and big surprises are at the heart of THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS. Libby Jones was adopted as a baby. She just turned twenty-five and inherited an abandoned mansion in Chelsea that belonged to parents she never knew. As she probes into the past, she is shocked to learn that twenty-five years ago a baby was abandoned in that home along with three dead bodies. Told from three perspectives, the story uncovers disturbing and creepy details of three families that lived in the house. It’s a dark, fast-paced thriller that you’ll want to discuss with your book club immediately after reading.
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A GOOD MORNING AMERICA COVER TO COVER BOOK CLUB PICK
“Rich, dark, and intricately twisted, this enthralling whodunit mixes family saga with domestic noir to brilliantly chilling effect.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author
“A haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read.” —Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author
From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.
Be careful who you let in.
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.
What is the true meaning of success? Susie Yang explores this question in her bestselling novel WHITE IVY. It’s both a propulsive psychological thriller and a coming-of-age story packed with themes sure to fuel book club discussion, including a love triangle, class, race, privilege, and identity. The novel follows Ivy Lin, a Chinese immigrant growing up in Massachusetts who wants nothing more than to be like her wealthy classmates. Inspired by her grandmother, Ivy finds that shoplifting helps her get what she wants. Years later, still fueled by greed and desire, she finds herself straddling two very different worlds and must decide once and for all what truly matters.
“A truly addictive read” (Glamour) about how a young woman’s crush on a privileged former classmate becomes a story of love, lies, and dark obsession, offering stark insights into the immigrant experience, as it hurtles to its electrifying ending in this “twisty, unputdownable, psychological thriller” (People).
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her.
Raised outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother relies on Ivy’s mild appearance for cover as she teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, and her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when Ivy bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners, and weekend getaways to the cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and a nuanced exploration of class and race, White Ivy is a “highly entertaining,” (The Washington Post) “propulsive debut” (San Francisco Chronicle) that offers a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
Some of the most engaging and entertaining discussions start with books that everyone can relate to in some way, shape, or form, especially stories about the workplace. THE OTHER BLACK GIRL is one of those books. The story follows Nella Rogers, the only Black employee (an editorial assistant) of a publishing company for the last two years. Tired of being the only Black person at the company, Nella is beyond excited when Hazel-May McCall, another Black woman, is also hired as an editorial assistant. Soon after, threats begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. But of course, the notes couldn’t have been left by Hazel-May, could they? Thrilling, funny, vivid, with themes that touch on diversity in the workplace, this is a perfect read for book clubs looking to start a watercooler-type discussion.
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original” (Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author), this instant New York Times bestseller explores the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career. Having joined Wagner Books to honor the legacy of Burning Heart, a novel written and edited by two Black women, she had thought that this animosity was a relic of the past. Is Nella ready to take on the fight of a new generation?
“Poignant, daring, and darkly funny, The Other Black Girl will have you stressed and exhilarated in equal measure through the very last twist” (Vulture). The perfect read for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace.
Looking for a thriller guaranteed to stir up discussion? TENDER IS THE FLESH is a sensational dystopian horror story that readers on social media can’t stop posting about. It’s set in a world where a virus is sweeping across the globe and all animals have become toxic to humans and must be eliminated. All of them. Even the treasured animals we keep as pets. To ensure survival, humans must look to alternative sources of food. The main character of this shocking novel, Marco, is a manager at a “special meat” processing plant where humans are being raised like cattle. Due to personal tragedy, he and his wife are separated, and Marco finds himself struggling with the weight of grief and loss as well as the violence associated with his job. While parts of this novel may be a jolt to the system, it is the perfect cocktail of disbelief, intrigue, logic, and humanity.
Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans—though no one calls them that anymore.
His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.
Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.
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