Looking for some of the best mystery thriller books for adults? Here are 15 of our favourites.
There’s nothing quite like a good mystery thriller book. Mystery books offer the ideal form of escapism for plot-driven readers.
You can lose yourself in the twists and turns of a thriller novel, and a good mystery story will keep you guessing right down to the last page.
The genre is hugely popular for good reason. There’s something satisfying about a tightly-plotted mystery book, and they’re excellent for all sorts of situations.
Whether you want a book to devour by the pool on holiday, or a book to escape into on a lazy Sunday under your duvet, adult thriller books are perfect.
Here are some of the best mystery thriller books of all time. From classics like Rebecca to modern stories like Gone Girl, these are some of the best mystery thriller books for adults. If you’re on the hunt for a juicy new read, look no further!
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15 Best Mystery Thriller Books for Adults
It begins like any other day for Molly Gray, silently dusting her way through the luxury rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel.
But when she enters suite 401 and discovers an infamous guest dead in his bed, a very messy mystery begins to unfold. And Molly’s at the heart of it – because if anyone can uncover the secrets beneath the surface, the fingerprints amongst the filth – it’s the maid . . .
Why you should read The Maid:
Molly is a maid at the prestigious Regency Grand Hotel, but her world is upended when she discovers the body of businessman Charles Black.
Quickly, Molly is involved in a situation that is far too complicated for her to handle alone.
The Maid’s intriguing story comes, in part, from Molly’s inability to read between the lines and pick up on what is happening around her.
She’s an interesting character with her own secrets to tell, and it’s an ideal book to pick up at the weekend (because you won’t want to put it down!).
From the outside, the Delaneys appear to be an enviably contented family.
Even after all these years, former tennis coaches Joy and Stan are still winning tournaments, and now they’ve sold the family business they have all the time in the world to learn how to ‘relax’.
Their four adult children are busy living their own lives, and while it could be argued they never quite achieved their destinies, no-one ever says that out loud.
But now Joy Delaney has disappeared and her children are re-examining their parents’ marriage and their family history with fresh, frightened eyes.
Is her disappearance related to their mysterious house guest from last year? Or were things never as rosy as they seemed in the Delaney household?
Why you should read Apples Never Fall:
Liane Moriarty is excellent at writing family-based mystery stories, with relatable and flawed characters that are interesting to read. Apples Never Fall is the story of the Delaney family.
When the matriarch of the family Joy goes missing, the four adult children gather to discuss what to do next.
It quickly becomes apparent that something is not right in this picture-perfect family, and readers will enjoy slowly piecing it together.
What makes Apples Never Fall so compulsively readable is the mixture of completely relatable family tensions, and sudden twists and turns in the story.
You’ll enjoy this one if you like a slightly different mystery story, with a focus on character development as well as the underlying plot.
It’s the height of summer. As the heat shimmers on the streets and ice cream melts onto sticky fingers, tempers begin to rise and old grudges surface.
From Cornish beaches to the French Riviera, it’s not just a holiday that’s on people’s minds … it’s murder.
Why you should read Murder By The Seaside:
A collection of short stories by writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, Gladys Mitchell, and Cyril Hare, Murder By The Seaside is the perfect summer holiday beach read.
You can enjoy a short story during a sunbathing session by the pool, and the book is incredibly topical: they’re all focused on summer murder mysteries, from Cornwall to the French Riviera.
The stories are quite varied in length and writing style. Some may not suit you, but others could hit the spot, and it’s a great introduction to writers you may not have experienced before.
Highlights include A Mystery of the Sand-Hills by R.Austin-Freeman, Superintendent Wilson’s Holiday by G.D.H & M.Cole, and Razor’s Edge by Anthony Berkely.
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas.
One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety.
The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia.
His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….
Why you should read The Silent Patient:
The Silent Patient was a huge hit among fans of mystery novels for adults when it first hit the scene in 2019. A shocking thriller, it’s one of those completely unputdownable books that you’ll want to stay up late reading.
It follows Theo, a criminal psychologist, as he tries to uncover the reason behind the murder of Gabriel by his wife, Alicia. The twist is, Alicia refuses to speak. So how will Theo find out her motives?
READ MORE: The Silent Patient Book Club Questions
It’s a classic, spine-tingling, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-toes sort of read. It has excellent pacing, and the payoff is satisfyingly well done, even if you manage to guess the twist before the ending.
The Silent Patient was released during a boom of thriller novels, and it spawned many similar novels by different authors.
Who are you?
What have we done to each other?
These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when his wife Amy suddenly disappears.
The police suspect Nick.
Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him.
He swears it isn’t true.
A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.
So what did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?
Why you should read Gone Girl:
It’s the story of a marriage from the perspective of Nick, reeling in the aftermath of the disappearance of his wife Amy.
While Nick deals with the police and their suspicions about his involvement, the reader gets to see Amy’s diaries, which shed a whole new light on the situation.
Gone Girl is very well plotted. It’s sharp, witty, and observational, with some iconic passages (the ‘cool girl’ passage sparked a whole discourse on modern feminism and expectations of women).
It’s an absolute must-read for mystery fans, and another book you should read before watching the movie.
RELATED: Books Like Gone Girl
Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora.
But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.
Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something.
Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.
Why you should read The Couple Next Door:
The Couple Next Door is a wild ride! Perfect couple Anne and Marco want to go to a dinner party with their neighbours, but the babysitter has cancelled.
Marco persuades Anne to go anyway, and so they leave their baby, Cora, home alone. They return later that night to find Cora missing.
What unfolds is a complicated, and sometimes outrageous, unveiling of the truth. Not only the truth behind Cora’s disappearance but the reality of Anne and Marco’s supposedly perfect life.
The characters aren’t perfect (and will sometimes infuriate you with their baffling decisions), but the story is so exciting, you won’t want to put it down.
A true rollercoaster of a story, and an ideal book to throw in your suitcase to read on a flight or by the pool.
They say you can’t choose your family. But you can kill them.
Meet Grace Bernard.
Daughter, sister, serial killer…
Grace has lost everything.
And she will stop at nothing to get revenge.
Why you should read How to Kill Your Family:
With an intriguing title, How To Kill Your Family is a bestseller in 2022. It’s not just a mystery story, but a scathing look at how the media glamorizes murder.
Protagonist Grace is a murderer, and she feels almost let down by the lack of recognition of her hard work.
Furious at her father’s behaviour towards her mother, she calmly and meticulously murders each member of his family.
While that sounds dark (and believe me, it is) it’s also weirdly funny, with a lot of snark, and Grace somehow manages to be a relatable character despite her murderous tendencies.
It’s original, funny, and sometimes outrageous. It’s a breath of fresh air for lovers of the mystery genre.
“I love you. In every world.”
Young real estate agent Madison May is shocked when a client at an open house says these words to her. The man, a stranger, seems to know far too much about her, and professes his love–shortly before he murders her.
Felicity Staples hates reporting on murders. As a journalist for a midsize New York City paper, she knows she must take on the assignment to research Madison May’s shocking murder, but the crime seems random and the suspect is in the wind. That is, until Felicity spots the killer on the subway, right before he vanishes.
Soon, Felicity senses her entire universe has shifted. No one remembers Madison May, or Felicity’s encounter with the mysterious man.
And her cat is missing.
Felicity realizes that in her pursuit of Madison’s killer, she followed him into a different dimension–one where everything about her existence is slightly altered.
At first, she is determined to return to the reality she knows, but when Madison May–in this world, a struggling actress–is murdered again, Felicity decides she must find the killer–and learns that she is not the only one hunting him.
Traveling through different realities, Felicity uncovers the opportunity–and danger–of living more than one life.
Why you should read The 22 Murders of Madison May:
The 22 Muders of Madison May is a psychological thriller with a twist. Protagonist Madison is left in shock when she bumps into a client who seems to know far too much about her.
Later, journalist Felicity is in charge of investigating Madison’s murder, but what she finds doesn’t seem to make sense.
In this story, the murderer (and the journalist chasing him down) travel across different realities, with poor Madison being murdered again and again.
It’s a mind-bending novel, ideal for both sci-fi and thriller fans. It’s fairly easy to follow despite the reality-warping aspect, too, so you shouldn’t have to worry about losing track.
When popular radio personality West McCray receives a desperate phone call from a stranger imploring him to find nineteen-year-old runaway Sadie Hunter, he’s not convinced there’s a story there; girls go missing all the time.
But when it’s revealed that Sadie fled home after the brutal murder of her little sister, Mattie, West travels to the small town of Cold Creek, Colorado, to uncover what happened.
Sadie has no idea that her journey to avenge her sister will soon become the subject of a blockbuster podcast.
Armed with a switchblade, Sadie follows meager clues hoping they’ll lead to the man who took Mattie’s life, because she’s determined to make him pay with his own.
But as West traces her path to the darkest, most dangerous corners of big cities and small towns, a deeply unsettling mystery begins to unfold—one that’s bigger than them both.
Can he find Sadie before it’s too late?
Why you should read Sadie:
Sadie is a very modern mystery. It follows titular character Sadie in the aftermath of her sister’s murder.
She teams up with a radio presenter, West McCray, and he creates a podcast to try to find out what happened to Sadie’s sister. Together, they try to fill in the gaps that the police cannot explain.
It’s a harrowing, sad tale, and the podcast-production aspect adds a different spin to the story. Go into it prepared to have a good cry.
It’s a good mixture of twists and turns combined with heartbreakingly relatable characters.
Their pain is raw and visceral, and incredibly well-written. A must-read for fans of podcasts like Serial.
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?
Why you should read The Thursday Murder Club:
Written by popular writer and presenter Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club is a witty, and adorably British, murder mystery novel.
Set in a retirement village, four friends create a group to discuss unsolved crimes. But when a local turns up dead, they have to deal with a ‘live’ case for the first time.
It’s an interesting story with some good twists, but what makes it worth reading are the characters.
They’re charming and entertaining, adding some levity to what can be a pretty dark and grim genre of literature. If you’ve never read one of Osman’s books, it’s definitely worth picking this one up first.
READ MORE: Books Like The Thursday Murder Club
The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream.
Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained.
While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck.
Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.
Why you should read The Woman in the Library:
The Woman In the Library is a tight, well-plotted story. In the reading room at the Boston Public Library, four strangers are stuck, waiting in terror as the police try to deal with an unknown incident that happened just outside. The twist is, one of them is a murderer.
If you love a story that allows you to guess the outcome, this is the one to go for. It’s a smart, interesting take on the classic murder mystery novel, packed with plenty of book talk.
The ultimate mystery novel for bookworms, it gets a bit ‘meta’ at times, but the plot developments are incredibly satisfying.
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime.
Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started.
What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read.
Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night their family was forever altered.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already-grieving father.
But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words.
After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her . . .
Why you should read Verity:
Another good choice for book lovers (or writers), Verity follows Lowen Ashleigh, a writer struggling to keep her head above the water, as she steps into the shoes of famous author Verity Crawford.
Verity has been injured, and her husband Jeremy commissions Lowen to finish her work. Tasked with finding material in Verity’s office, Lowen accidentally uncovers something much darker.
What follows is the story of Lowen, grappling with the difficult moral choice: to tell the husband what she has found, or to ignore it. It’s clever, haunting, and completely unputdownable.
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach.
This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away.
She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first.
Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse.
Why you should read My Sister, The Serial Killer:
How far will a sister’s loyalty go? That’s the story behind My Sister, the Serial Killer. Korede is a dedicated, loyal sister, willing to go as far as cleaning up after her sister Ayoola when she commits a string of murders.
The conflict comes in when Ayoola begins to date Tade, a doctor Korede has had a crush on for a long time.
It’s a story of twisted loyalties, unusual family dynamics, and murder. It has plenty of interesting plot moments, but it’s also a great book if you love a good family drama.
It’s a novella, so it’s a short read, and it’s so compelling, the chances are you’ll fly through it pretty quickly.
Harvard professor Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call while on business in Paris: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been brutally murdered inside the museum. Alongside the body, police have found a series of baffling codes.
As Langdon and a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, begin to sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to find a trail that leads to the works of Leonardo Da Vinci – and suggests the answer to a mystery that stretches deep into the vault of history.
Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine code and quickly assemble the pieces of the puzzle, a stunning historical truth will be lost forever…
Why you should read The Da Vinci Code:
A classic, The Da Vinci Code is an exciting read, and still worth picking up if you haven’t read it before.
It follows symbologist (yes, that’s a real job) Robert Langdon as he investigates a murder. A curator of the Louvre has been found murdered inside the museum, covered in symbols.
The story takes a dramatic turn when Rober and cryptologist Sophie discover clues hidden inside the works of Leonardo da Vinci.
What unfolds is the story of secret societies, historical secrets, and incredible puzzles. It’s a classic for a reason: it’s a well-told and entertaining story. Pick it up and discover for yourself what the hype was all about!
On a trip to the South of France, the shy heroine of Rebecca falls in love with Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower.
Although his proposal comes as a surprise, she happily agrees to marry him.
But as they arrive at her husband’s home, Manderley, a change comes over Maxim, and the young bride is filled with dread. Friendless in the isolated mansion, she realises that she barely knows him.
In every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca, and the new Mrs de Winter walks in her shadow.
Why you should read Rebecca:
A classic novel published in 1938, Rebecca is du Murier’s most famous novel. It’s so popular, in fact, that it has never gone out of print, and has been adapted for both stage and screen several times (including the film Rebecca by Alfred Hitchcock).
A gothic novel, it’s the story of a mysterious death and a sham marriage in an iconic location.
While it’s a classic novel that has been analyzed by millions of keen readers, Rebecca is worth reading for the pure enjoyment of the story, even without investigating the themes of feminism, society, and class.
It’s tense, mysterious, and ever-so-slightly magical, the kind of book you will want to return to again and again.
So that concludes my list of the best thriller books out right now!
Hopefully, this has added a few books to your TBR pile! There are so many good thriller books for adults to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming, but any of the above are a good place to start.
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Megan is a freelance writer based in Somerset, England. When she’s not writing about books, video games, and pop culture, she’s running around after her two kids and trying to squeeze in the occasional walk in the countryside.