The mystery and thriller genre has always been a rich one, full of complex stories, fascinating characters, and killer endings, and in 2018, it only got better. This year gave readers groundbreaking novels in which female characters took over traditionally male roles. There were poignant domestic thrillers that probed the darkest corners of family and domestic life. There were fast-paced mysteries that kept readers guessing until the very last page, and in some cases, the last sentence.
Like the literary scene in general, mysteries and thrillers experienced serious growth this year. They became more inclusive, more daring, more entertaining. That is why I've asked 11 authors who have published books this year — from Jessica Knoll, whose highly anticipated sophomore novel The Favorite Sister became an instant bestseller, to debut writers like Oyinkan Braithwaite, whose highly acclaimed book My Sister, the Serial Killer has been met with critical acclaim and rave reviews — to share the best book they read in 2018. Who better to recommend mysteries and thrillers than the very authors who write it?
Whether you're interested in heart-pounding thrillers, fascinating whodunits, emotional domestic noir, or something else entirely, there is something on this list for every kind of crime fiction reader.
'It All Falls Down' Author Sheena Kamal Recommends 'November Road' by Lou Berney
"Hands down, the best thriller I've read this year is November Road by Lou Berney. In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, a mob lieutenant and suburban housewife are both running for their lives, for completely different reasons. November Road is part chase, part love story. It's expertly plotted, beautifully paced and the characters are truly affecting. I loved this book, and keep coming back to it over and over."
'Bluebird, Bluebird' Author Attica Locke Recommends 'Give Me Your Hand' by Megan Abbott
"Megan Abbott's Give Me Your Hand is not only my favorite Mystery/ Thriller of 2018, it is also one of my favorite books of all time. Megan Abbott is a master of exploring female friendship and competition, but in this book she's also found a tender note about the need for women to look out for each other--the need for the guiding hand of female mentorship, mothering, and sisterhood to navigate our lives. All that and there are so many thrilling surprises (and blood) that I audibly gasped out loud several times. It is both a suspenseful page-turner and an in-depth look at the female psyche. Bonus points for a plot that features female scientists in a lab environment and the serious study of pre-menstrual dysmorphic disorder. Everything about this book is original."
'An Anonymous Girl' Authors Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen Recommend 'My Sister, the Serial Killer' by Oyinkan Braithwaite
"It’s impossible to choose one favorite, but a book we both loved is My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. We picked it up because of the provocative title, but couldn’t put it down because we were swept up by the wry voice and fresh premise."
'Baby Teeth' Author Zoje Stage Recommends 'The Death of Mrs. Westaway' by Ruth Ware
"The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware does exactly what a good Gothic mystery should: it set such a mood that I felt the chill of that house, and the uncertainty of the people who moved through it. I was right there with the characters, and just when I was sure I knew what was really going on, I was proven wrong—and I love when a book catches me by surprise!"
'My Sister, the Serial Killer' Author Oyinkan Braithwaite Recommends 'Jar of Hearts' by Jennifer Hillier
"I think what I found the most intriguing about this story is that the protagonist tells the truth, but not the whole truth. And as the whole truth was revealed, my feelings towards the main character morphed. On the whole, Jar of Hearts was a thoroughly engaging read, even though I had to do the book equivalent of covering my eyes and peeping through my fingers, several times."
'Our House' Author Louise Candlish Recommends 'The Perfect Nanny' by Leila Slimani
"I was powerfully affected by The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (published in the UK as Lullaby - somehow a more sinister title). At the outset, we discover the nanny has murdered her charges, which imbues every detail of domestic life in the preceding months with an almost unbearable suspense. Slimani's tone is deceptively cool for this is a novel with fierce things to say about race, gender, status, and the way we choose to overlook the hardships of others."
'Close to Home' Author Cara Hunter Recommends 'An Unwanted Guest' by Shari Lapena
"Something to send a shiver up your spine on a cold winter's night. Shari channels Christie perfectly in this beautifully written page-turner. Clever, compulsive and suitably chilling for this time of year, it's definitely vintage Lapena."
'The Widows of Malabar Hill' by Sujata Massey Recommends 'In the Woods' by Tana French
"I don’t know why I only starting reading Tana French this year; I am very late on the bandwagon, but I adored her first book, In the Woods, a police procedural about a girl found dead on an archaeological site in the Irish countryside. French's writing is sumptuous, and I was captured by the suspenseful plot and multiple suspicious characters.The mystery also contains a poignant love story. I’m glad I have French’s Dublin Murder Squad series to dig into during 2019."
'Blood Sisters' Author Jane Corry Recommends 'Nine Perfect Strangers' by Liane Moriarty
"For me, this has to be Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers. I love Liane’s gift for drawing warm believable characters who keep us guessing. Her stories always have a voice which seems to address each one of us personally. I was drawn into her new book from the very first sentence."
'Providence' Author Caroline Kepnes Recommends '#FashionVictim' by Amina Akhtar
"Amina Ahktar’s #FashionVictim is a menacing, challenging weird-cool piece of candy filled with tiny, sharp blades. And as you read, you feel like you’re trapped in the middle of it too."