Why do we love FBI and detective thriller books? Is it because these stories allow us to live vicariously through the agents we admire? Combining mystery, suspense, action, and even horror, FBI thrillers take us into the murky waters of crime, justice, and murder.
Today we bring you the 11 best FBI and detective thriller books ever written. Some focus on the inner workings of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, while most follow the agents through the field as they solve crimes and catch killers.
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In case you can’t wait for the big reveal, here are the 11 books we chose:
- “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris
- “Along Came a Spider” by James Patterson
- “Kiss the Girls” by James Patterson
- “Mind’s Eye” by Douglas E. Richards
- “The Bone Collector” by Jeffery Deaver
- “Mindhunter” by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker
- “The Kill Artist” by Daniel Silva
- “The Cove” by Catherine Coulter
- “The Target” by David Baldacci
- “I Am Watching You” by Teresa Driscoll
- “Before I Go To Sleep” by S.J. Watson
Want to learn more about these thrillers? We’ve got you covered. Scroll down for a synopsis of each book.
FBI Thrillers: A Brief History
Believe it or not, we can trace FBI thrillers back to the turn of the 20th century. During this time, crime and detective stories gained popularity. As the FBI rose in prominence, the number of stories increased.
The FBI formed in 1908, and the origins of FBI thrillers can be traced back to the mid-20th century, long after crime and detective stories gained popularity. Over time, as the FBI emerged as a prominent federal agency, it naturally became a subject of intrigue and fascination for writers, leading to the birth of this genre.
Early movers in this genre included Thomas Harris, whose focus on serial killer profilers influenced writers and pop culture for generations to come.
And now our list of 11 best FBI and detective thrillers.
The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
“The Silence of the Lambs” introduced an FBI trainee named Clarice Starling to the world. In this novel, the second book in the Hannibal Lecter series, Starling and FBI pursue a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. When Bill abducts a senator’s daughter, the tension rises. Starling must decipher Lecter’s cryptic clues and rescue the victim before time runs out.
Related Reading: The Hannibal Lecter Books in Order
Along Came a Spider – James Patterson
The first novel in the popular Alex Cross series shines the spotlight on detective and psychologist Dr. Alex Cross. A kidnapper snatches two children from an elite private school, including a famous actress’s son and a senator’s daughter. “Along Came a Spider” is a classic among thriller novels and a great introduction to the Alex Cross series.
Kiss the Girls – James Patterson
If you loved “Along Came a Spider”, you’ll want to continue to book two in the Alex Cross series. Two serial killers operate on opposite U.S. coasts. “Casanova,” the first killer, terrorizes the Eastern Seaboard, while “The Gentleman Caller” commits brutal murders in the west. When Cross’s niece becomes Casanova’s latest abduction, the story escalates. “Kiss the Girls” is a standout among psychological thrillers.
Mind’s Eye – Douglas E. Richards
How does an author blend dark thriller elements with science fiction and get away with it? When you’re as talented as Douglas E. Richards, you can.
A brain implant allows Nick Hall to read minds. As the underworld seeks to exploit his ability, Hall must stay one step ahead as he solves a deadly mystery. “Mind’s Eye” is a unique entry among dark FBI thrillers.
The Bone Collector – Jeffery Deaver
The first entry in the Lincoln Rhyme series, “The Bone Collector” follows a brilliant and cynical former NYPD homicide detective who is now a quadriplegic. When a serial killer emerges in New York City, Rhyme exits retirement. Amelia Sachs acts as his eyes and ears at the crime scenes, as Rhyme uses his forensic expertise to stop the killer.
Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit – John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Want a look behind the criminal profile curtain? “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” is the memoir of John E. Douglas, a pioneering expert on criminal profiling. Douglas interviewed some of the most infamous serial killers and rapists to gain insights into their motives and how their minds operated.
Ever wonder how psychological profiling started? “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” is part true crime book, part psychology text, and a primer on detective work.
The Kill Artist – Daniel Silva
Gabriel Allon is a former Israeli intelligence operative and an art restorer. In “The Kill Artist”, a Palestinian draws Allon into action. The story includes a heart-pounding game of cat-and-mouse across continents as the protagonist hunts a Palestinian assassin. Rich character development and excellent storytelling highlight this spy thriller.
The Cove – Catherine Coulter
In “The Cove”, Catherine Coulter blends suspense, mystery, and romance to create an unforgettable story. The protagonist Sally Brainerd is on the run and hiding in Oregon after the murder of her father Amory St. John in Washington, D.C. Both FBI, who believe Sally is guilty, and the killer are pursuing her.
Enter FBI Special Agent James Quinlan. Sworn to discover the truth about the murder, Agent Quinlan goes undercover to locate Sally. As he pieces the puzzle together, he finds himself attracted to the fugitive.
Related Reading: The 101 Best Thriller and Mystery Books of This Century
The Target – David Baldacci
The third installment in the Will Robie series follows government assassins Will Robie and Jessica Reel after the president orders them to eliminate a North Korean leader.
But a more dangerous conspiracy threatens global stability and puts Robie and Reel in the crosshairs. Prepare for fast-paced storytelling and deep characters. “The Target” is a classic in the action-thriller genre.
I am Watching You – Teresa Driscoll
Ella Longfield overhears two men released from prison flirting with two young women on a train. After one girl, Anna Ballard, disappears, Ella tortures herself for not going to the authorities.
This is how a psychological thriller should be written. You won’t believe how well Driscoll weaves the stories together as this mystery unfolds. Gripping!
Before I Go to Sleep – S.J. Watson
An accident causes Christine Lucas to lose her memory from her early twenties onward. As memory fragments return, discrepancies emerge.
Christine questions the motives of her husband and her therapist, leading the reader down a path where truth and deception blur the way forward. Another brilliant psychological thriller, and a fitting entrant on her list of 11 best FBI and detective thriller novels.
Did we miss your favorite? Leave your comments below and let us know!