From missing girls and small-town murders to deadly wooded terrain and pristine apartments with (nefarious) minds of their own, the best thriller novels of 2017 left readers with clammy palms and pounding hearts — and let’s be honest, we loved them all the more for it. And in this year’s list of must-read thrillers, where debut writers stack up against bestselling scary story giants, there are definitely plenty of twists and turns you never saw coming (and maybe a few that you totally did, because you’re just that good.) Get ready to leave your bedroom lights on. All. Night. Long.
As one of my ultimate, guilty literary pleasures, it’s rare that I don’t read through a new thriller in a single day — and if you haven’t had a chance to check out some of 2017’s best thrillers, like the ones on this list, it might be time to add a few to the top of your year-end TBR pile. After all, nobody said you couldn’t enjoy a little scare with your holiday season. (And nothing says scary story like the dark of a winter’s night and logs crackling away in the fireplace.)
Here are 10 of the best literary thrillers of 2017.
'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins
If you thought bestselling author Paula Hawkins couldn’t beat her 2015 debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, think again. Into the Water is even more haunting — transporting readers to a small town, where a teenage girl and a single mother are found drowned in the nearby river; a river that has claimed the lives of other townswomen, all considered “troublemakers”, before.
'The Dry’ by Jane Harper
A thriller that is slotted for film adaptation by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Jane Harper’s The Dry is set in the small In-Cold-Blood-style farming community of Kiewarra, which is faced with a murder/suicide committed by one of their least likely residents. When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk is brought in to clean up the mess, what he discovers leads him to believe that the deaths might not have been a murder-suicide after all.
'The Girl Before’ by J.P. Delaney
This one is super eerie — especially if you’ve got a thing for haunted houses… or, in the case of J.P. Delaney’s The Girl Before, haunted apartments. After Emma’s apartment is broken into she’s desperate for a new place to call home, and One Folgate Street seems perfect. But there’s also Jane, a woman 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 similarities she shares with that dead former-resident.
'The Child’ by Fiona Barton
If this thriller didn’t make it into your beach bag this summer, be sure to check it out now. The Child by Fiona Barton returns readers to the perspective of reporter Kate Waters — from Barton’s bestselling The Widow — who is digging into the history of a working class London neighborhood, where the skeleton of a child was recently discovered during the demolition of an old house.
'A Stranger in the House’ by Shari Lapena
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House will have you sleeping with the lights on for weeks. Set in a suburban, upstate New York community with more secrets than they’d like their neighbors to know, A Stranger in the House zeroes in on a suspicious car accident and a local wife who can’t account for herself: why she was driving, where she was going, or how she crashed.
'Dead Letters’ by Caite Dolan-Leach
Forced to return from her beloved home in Paris to her family’s wine country landscape after the death of her twin sister Zelda, Ava Antipova is feeling anything but at home. But as Caite Dolan-Leach’s Dead Letters unfolds, the circumstances of Zelda’s death don't quite add up. Then Ava begins receiving letters from her dead twin — filled with clues about how Zelda really disappeared.
'The River at Night’ by Erica Ferencik
Terrifying rivers were all the rage in this year’s thrillers, and The River at Night by Erica Ferencik will transport you to another one. Four friends in desperate need of a vacation from their complicated lives find themselves stranded in the Maine wilderness following a white water rafting accident — but when they’re rescued, they quickly realize their rescuers might be the biggest threat facing them yet.
'The Blackbird Season’ by Kate Moretti
Thrillers love their missing girls, and a missing girl from a small, Pennsylvania town is at the center of The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti. A local teen is embroiled in an alleged, scandalous affair with the high school baseball coach — until she disappears. Only one person might hold the key to the truth: the high school creative writing teacher, who has the journal of the girl, filled with entries that don’t quite add up.
‘If We Were Villains’ by M.L. Rio
Debut author M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains takes place in the world of collegiate Shakespearean actors, featuring a group of seven thespians who find that their lives are starting to mirror their art. Following an evening in which one of their own is discovered dead, they begin putting on fictional performances off stage as well — trying to convince the police, their community, and each other of their innocence in a real-life crime.
'Behind Her Eyes' by Sarah Pinborough
A New York Times best-selling psychological thriller, Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes introduces readers to Louise, a stuck-in-a-rut single mom who shares a fireworks-inspiring kiss with a mysterious man at a bar one night — a man who, the next day, turns out to be her new (and very married) boss, David. That single kiss pulls Louise into David's complicated relationship with his wife, a relationship filled with secrets, shocking revelations, and a taste of the supernatural.