I’ll be honest: I haven’t always been the biggest fan of literary thrillers. The fact is, I’m kind of a chicken — one (even mildly) terrifying thriller and I’m up all night, turning every light on and frantically flipping book pages, skipping to the end of a story to make sure justice is served and all the characters I care about turn out alright. But lately, when it comes to thrillers I haven’t been able to get enough.
There’s just something about page-turning thrillers that allow you to escape into another world — and unlike, say, the evening news, the terror of a thriller ultimately comes to an (often refreshingly predictable) end. Even the most unique, well-written, creative literary thrillers are written with some sort of formula in mind: there’s mystery, terror, a series of unconscionable wrongs committed… and then a few hundred pages later justice is served — often in a more satisfying way than it's served in the real world, at least of late. Like when the bad guy falls off a cliff. Or under a bus.
So yeah, the book lover in me is all about thrillers right now. There’s just some relief to letting my heart pound over fictional horrors, instead of the real ones we're surrounded by. And everyone needs a guilty pleasure break every once in awhile, amirite?
Here are 11 page-turning thrillers that will let you escape into another world right now.
1‘If We Were Villains’ by M.L. Rio
Coming out in April, debut author M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains introduces readers to the world of collegiate Shakespearean actors, and a group of seven soon-to-graduate thespians who find that life and art reflect one another in more ways than they could have ever expected. With tension, betrayal, and violence that comes directly from the pages of a Shakespearean drama and into their real lives, these students find themselves putting on fictional performances off stage as well — trying to convince the police, their community, and each other of their innocence in a very real crime.
2‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins
If you loved The Girl on the Train then gear up for the next title from bestselling author Paula Hawkins, set to hit bookstore shelves in May. Into the Water takes readers to a small town, where a teenage girl and later a single mother are found drowned in the nearby river — two deaths that bring long-buried local mysteries back to the surface of daily living, disturbing the town and its residents in ways that will haunt you long after this book is over.
3‘The Cutaway’ by Christina Kovac
Another title to add to your TBR pile (this one comes out in March) Christina Kovac’s The Cutaway tells the story of the young TV news producer, Virginia Knightly, who receives an anonymous tip related to the recent disappearance of a young Georgetown attorney. Diving deep into the kinds of secrets Washington D.C. never wants to come to light, Knightly risks her job, safety, and life in order to discover what really happened. Described as “the Newsroom meets Gone Girl” by Cosmopolitan magazine, how could you resist?
4‘What You Don't Know’ by JoAnn Chaney
What You Don’t Know is a mystery thriller that takes readers to Denver, Colorado, where an infamous serial killer ended the lives of 33 people, hiding the bodies in the crawlspace of his home. But the killer, a beloved and prominent member of his local community, may have more victims — those who are still living: the reporter who covered the case, the detective who perused the crimes, and the killer’s wife herself, whose lives are mere shells of what they used to be. And when new, seemingly-related murders surface, nobody is safe.
5‘Dead Letters’ by Caite Dolan-Leach
When Dead Letters begins, Ava Antipova has left home, moving to Paris and trading in the life she didn’t love for one she did. But now she must return to her family’s wine country landscape in order to attend to the death of her twin sister, Zelda. But the circumstances of Zelda’s death don't ring quite true to Ava, and when she begins receiving letters from her sister — clues about how Zelda really disappeared — Ava will find herself immersed in a cryptic, suspenseful mystery.
6‘The Roanoke Girls’ by Amy Engel
Available in March, this mystery thriller is filled with family secrets and a legacy of death and disappearance for the infamous “Roanoke Girls” — a privileged Kansas matriarchy with more than its fair share of tragic drama. Lane Roanoke fled her family estate after learning the truth about her mother’s suicide, and 11 years later she’s called back to address the mysterious disappearance of her cousin, Allegra. Will this homecoming mean Lane can finally make peace with her family’s secrets and her own past with them? You’ll just have to read to find out.
7‘Say Nothing’ by Brad Parks
Another March title to be on the lookout for is Brad Parks’ Say Nothing, a thriller that dives into the heart of every parent’s nightmare: kidnapping. When Scott and Alison Sampson’s 6-year-old twins Sam and Emma disappear after swimming lessons, Scott — who is a judge — discovers that the kidnapping is motivated by his prospective ruling on an upcoming drug case; and in order to get his kids back, he must do exactly what the kidnapper tells him. Fast-paced and terrifying, Say Nothing is a roller coaster of fear, deception, jealousy, and terror.
8‘The Secrets You Keep’ by Kate White
Landing on bookstore shelves just in time to make your spring break beach bag, Kate White’s The Secrets You Keep is a psychological thriller about a successful self-help author who suddenly realizes she might need more than a little help herself. Recovering from a car crash and the dreams of it that still haunt her, Bryn Harper suddenly discovers that her husband might be keeping secrets from her as well — and they’re secrets that could turn deadly. When two women in their community suddenly turn up murdered, Bryn realizes she has to get to the bottom of her husband’s deception.
9‘The Girl Before’ by J.P. Delaney
If you’re in the market for a new residency, do not read J.P. Delaney’s The Girl Before before you move, because I guarantee you, you’ll end up staying exactly where you are. When Emma’s apartment is broken into she’s desperate for a new place to call home, and One Folgate Street seems perfect, albeit a tad odd — see, the architect still retains all aesthetic control over the home, refusing new residents things like books, throw pillows, and personal photographs. Then there’s Jane; in need of a fresh start and certain One Folgate Street is the perfect place to find it. Until she learns about the strange death of the woman who lived there before her, and the increasing similarities the two women seem to share. Shiver.
10‘The Widow’ by Fiona Barton
Jean Taylor stood by her husband Glenn when he was accused of murder and purchasing child pornography, and she’ll continue to stand by him now — even though he’s dead. Cast in her new role as “the widow,” Jean will finally give her local reporters the story they never got when her husband was alive: how exactly the little neighborhood girl disappeared, and what, if anything, her husband Glenn had to do with it. The media is determined to paint Jean as a victim of her husband’s alleged obsessions as well — but after talking to Jean, they begin to wonder if she has more to do with her husband’s crimes than anyone expected. The Widow is haunting and tragic, a slowly-unfolding thriller that will keep you guessing until the end.
11‘The Twilight Wife’ by A.J. Banner
A.J. Banner’s The Twilight Wife introduces readers to 34-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop, a woman living on a remote Pacific Coast island with her husband, and who has lost her memory after a tragic diving accident. Jacob, Kyra's spouse, says Kyra’s memory won’t ever come back — but as it slowly begins to, Kyra realizes there might be more to her past than Jacob is letting on. She begins to remember another diver in the water that day, a man for whom she feels inexplicable passion, and who may have died in the current Kyra was injured in. Jacob says there was no one else diving that day… but Kyra soon begins to realize much of what Jacob says can’t be trusted.