Updated June 2023
One question consistently raised by my readers is: What’s the best thriller book series currently available?
This question isn’t usually a request for some kind of suave James Bond sophistication. Instead, it’s about the darker, more unnerving recesses of the thriller genre. We’re venturing into the sinister territories populated by characters akin to Hannibal Lecter and the relentless officials hunting the most lethal criminal minds.
Choosing a new series to immerse yourself in can be intimidating, especially when it spans four or more books. Committing to a lengthy book series is a significant investment of both time and resources, and nobody wants to expend weeks or even months engrossed in a series that falls short of expectations. The financial aspect is another consideration. Is it worth purchasing an entire series of thriller books if they don’t deliver the heart-pounding suspense and compelling storytelling you’re looking for?
Identifying the top thriller books and series that will grip you from the first page to the last is our mission here. I’ve sifted through the abundant offerings in the genre to single out those narratives that masterfully balance the elements of suspense, character development, and plot twists. These are the stories that will keep you up at night, your anticipation fueled by the need to know what happens next.
So, if you’re contemplating which series to dive into next and your preference leans toward dark, gripping stories in the vein of the best thriller book series, stick with me. I’m here to guide you to your next unforgettable reading experience, one which won’t merely justify the investment but will leave you craving more.
As a best-selling thriller and mystery author, I’ve whittled the list down to my eight, can’t-miss, binge-worthy killer thriller series that will have you turning pages into the night and squirming every time you hear an unexplained noise in the house. By the way, I’m sure it was just your house settling. At least, I hope so . . .
Note: this list isn’t in any particular order. If you like a thriller series that raises goosebumps on your skin, you’ll want to read all of the following. Thank me later.
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Top-8 Best Dark Thriller Book Series
When Stephen King himself declares your novel “a big, scary, suspenseful read,” you know you’re onto something. With its inaugural novel Rules of Prey, released in 1990, John Sandford’s Prey series ignited the thriller literature scene. Since then, the series has matured into an awe-inspiring collection of 34 books, each installment adding new layers of suspense and character development.
The series sets an intense pace right from the outset. The chilling presence of the “Mad Dog” killer in the first book is sure to send shivers down your spine, a testament to Sandford’s talent for crafting menacing figures. And this is just the beginning of a suspense-filled journey.
While each book in this top thriller series can be appreciated as a standalone, I recommend embarking on the journey right from the start, progressing sequentially to fully appreciate the intricate character arcs woven throughout.
In addition to writing genuinely hair-raising thrillers, one of Sandford’s most commendable achievements is his ability to portray his characters as relatable, everyday individuals. The protagonist, Detective Lucas Davenport, is far from flawless, and his authenticity and human fallibility have us rooting for him as he faces one terrifying adversary after another.
The Prey series, with its exquisite blend of dark themes and engrossing narratives, firmly establishes itself as one of the best thriller book series available. For fans of extensive series with a dark bent, the Prey books are an essential addition to your collection. Just ensure your bookshelf has enough space to accommodate this expansive and captivating series!
The Prey Series in Order:
Rules of Prey (1989)
Shadow Prey (1990)
Eyes of Prey (1991)
Silent Prey (1992)
Winter Prey (1993)
Night Prey (1994)
Mind Prey (1995)
Sudden Prey (1996)
Secret Prey (1998)
Certain Prey (1999)
Easy Prey (2000)
Chosen Prey (2001)
Mortal Prey (2002)
Naked Prey (2003)
Hidden Prey (2004)
Broken Prey (2005)
Invisible Prey (2007)
|Phantom Prey (2008)
Wicked Prey (2009)
Storm Prey (2010)
Buried Prey (2011)
Stolen Prey (2012)
Silken Prey (2013)
Field of Prey (2014)
Rhymes with Prey (2014)(short story)
Gathering Prey (2015)
Extreme Prey (2016)
Golden Prey (2017)
Twisted Prey (2017)
Neon Prey (2019)
Masked Prey (2020)
Ocean Prey (2019)
Righteous Prey (2022)
Judgment Prey (2023)
The Darkwater Cove series is a chilling collection of thrillers that sets an exhilarating pace from the get-go, keeping readers on their toes as they navigate its suspenseful narrative twists. FBI profiler Darcy Gellar is at the heart of the series, grappling with the shadow of the Full Moon Killer, a terrifying figure whose body count haunts her and the town she protects.
Gellar’s life takes a jarring turn following a near-death encounter with the psychopath, leading her to resign from the FBI to reclaim some semblance of normalcy. But when a fresh corpse appears on the coastal paradise she now calls home, the evidence suggests the chilling work of the same killer Gellar helped incarcerate three years prior. The unsettling possibilities that ensue — did she condemn the wrong person, or is a copycat murderer prowling her haven? — weave a spine-tingling tale that leaves readers breathless.
The Darkwater Cove series masterfully ratchets up the suspense, weaving an intricate tapestry of paranoia and dread that’s unparalleled in its intensity. It challenges the reader’s perception of trust and deceit, keeping them second-guessing every development. The Full Moon Killer, the series’ central antagonist, is crafted with the same chilling efficiency that characterizes horror icons like Michael Myers and Hannibal Lecter, inducing fear and fascination in equal measure.
Without a doubt, the Darkwater Cove series deserves a prominent spot among the best thriller book series, especially within the subgenre of serial killer thrillers. A word of caution for potential readers — unless a good scare is your idea of bedtime reading, it might be best to reserve these books for daylight hours.
The whole series is a riveting, heart-pounding thrill ride that firmly situates its books among the top thriller books of its kind. Its expertly crafted suspense, combined with a haunting antagonist and a protagonist grappling with her past, makes it an engrossing series that readers of thrillers won’t want to miss.
The Darkwater Cove Series in Order
Darkwater Cove (2020)
Bury Her Bones (2020)
Whispers in the Dark (2020)
The Vanishing Girl (2020)
Find Her Before Dark (2020)
Don’t Breathe (2020)
Killwater Cove (2023)
Thomas Harris’s iconic Hannibal Lecter series deserves an undisputed place in any discussion of the best thriller book series, particularly when focusing on darker stories. Despite some critics claiming a decline in quality after the initial two books, the series consistently delivers gripping narratives across all its installments. Hannibal and Hannibal Rising stand firm, albeit against a high bar set by their precursors.
The first two books are considered among the best thrillers ever written and also rank as some of the most outstanding novels across all genres in contemporary literature. The Silence of the Lambs is often mistakenly thought of as the series’ initiation, but the true birth of the Hannibal Lecter saga begins with the novel Red Dragon. This chilling tale of a serial killer known as The Tooth Fairy and the tormented ex-FBI agent on his trail sets the stage for what’s to follow.
Hannibal Lecter himself is perhaps one of the most compelling villains ever conceived. He is a figure of terrifying sophistication, equal parts sadistic and intelligent, and utterly captivating. Lecter dominates each scene, whether he is portrayed by the esteemed Anthony Hopkins in cinematic adaptations or solely in the reader’s imagination through Harris’s masterful prose.
A killer is watching . . .
She’s running from a psychopath. And he knows what frightens her.
After she’s stabbed in the line of duty, FBI Agent Darcy Gellar moves her family to a sleepy seaside community. Living beside the ocean, she finds tranquility…until the police discover the body of a murdered woman on the beach. The village blames her son, a misunderstood boy with anger issues.
Is a serial killer stalking Darkwater Cove?
Darcy knows the boy is innocent. But how does she convince an aggressive police detective? If she fails, her son will go to prison, and the murderer will strike again.
Can Darcy save her child from the police and a bloodthirsty killer?
The Hannibal Lecter series, while spawning highly successful films, is even more enthralling in its original literary form. Harris’s skill as a writer shines through, delivering narratives of such depth and intricacy that they surpass even the most highly-regarded cinematic versions.
This incredible series by Thomas Harris is an exemplary contribution to the thriller genre. Its blend of psychological suspense, deep and dark themes, and unforgettable characters make it a must-read, solidifying its place among the best thriller books. For those who admire the films, the books promise an even richer, more nuanced exploration of Hannibal Lecter’s chilling world.
Hannibal Lecter Series in Order
Red Dragon (1981)
The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
Hannibal Rising (2006)
The Lizzy Gardner series by T.R. Ragan may not be as universally recognized as works by luminaries such as Dean Koontz or Stephen King. But for aficionados of dark thrillers, it is a familiar and cherished name.
As a young girl, Lizzy Gardner managed to escape the clutches of a madman and return home. However, skepticism about her ordeal, with many doubting the truth of her kidnapping, created a tumultuous path into adulthood for Lizzy. In the present day, she serves as a private investigator, her relationship with local law enforcement marked by tension and mutual wariness.
Suddenly, a series of eerie disappearances and disturbing murders draw Lizzy’s attention, compelling her to question whether her past tormentor has returned. As the plot unfolds, the story continually challenges and expands upon Lizzy’s character, rendering a portrait as absorbing as the horrifying killers she pursues.
Ragan’s six-book thriller series is an undeniably gripping contribution to the thriller genre. Each installment builds seamlessly upon the one before, weaving an increasingly intricate and engrossing web. The series chronicles not just a succession of investigations but also a personal journey as Lizzy grapples with her past and navigates her present — all while in the pursuit of justice.
Weaving together elements of suspense, mystery, and character development, the Lizzy Gardner series stands out as one of the best thriller book series available. Lizzy’s journey, as well as the chilling antagonists she confronts, keeps readers relentlessly turning pages.
It’s safe to say the Lizzy Gardner series is an exceptional entry in the realm of thriller literature. Its engaging plot, complex protagonist, and suspenseful narrative trajectory make it an essential read, undoubtedly deserving its place on our top-eight list of the best thriller series. For those seeking a riveting exploration of the human spirit amidst the confrontation of evil, this series is not to be missed.
The Lizzy Gardner Series in Order
Dead Weight (2012)
A Dark Mind (2013)
Almost Dead (2015)
Evil Never Dies (2015)
The Tess Winnett series opens its inaugural novel, Dawn Girl, with a haunting scene: unsuspecting teenagers discover a gruesome spectacle — a woman’s lifeless body arranged on the beach like a grotesque marionette. This chilling beginning sets the stage for what is undeniably one of the best thriller book series in recent years.
The series introduces us to Agent Tess Winnett, a character marked by a troubled past and a complex relationship with local law enforcement. Her character arc is as enthralling as the cases she encounters, revealing a woman grappling with personal demons while striving to serve justice. Tess is haunted by a traumatic event, a past abduction that constantly tugs at her present. Now, she’s on the hunt for a psychopathic murderer whose cruel actions echo the horrors of her own past.
The Tess Winnett series, currently comprising eight books, unquestionably belongs among the top thriller books available today. Wolfe masterfully crafts a tale rife with spine-chilling suspense, wicked antagonists, and intricate murder mysteries — all enveloped within an engaging police procedural format. The series expertly balances raw human emotions with the gritty reality of crime-solving, creating a story as profoundly personal as it is publicly significant.
Yet, despite its dark themes, the Tess Winnett series doesn’t shy away from demonstrating the resilience of the human spirit, as encapsulated in Tess’ journey of overcoming her fears. It’s a series that keeps you on the edge of your seat, breathlessly anticipating the next twist or turn.
This fantastic series is a standout contribution to the thriller genre, intertwining haunting imagery, deep character development, and nail-biting suspense. This series is a must-read but also a potent reminder of the heights thriller literature can reach. If you have a penchant for nerve-racking thrillers imbued with compelling characters and riveting mysteries, then the Tess Winnett series deserves a place on your reading list.
The Tess Winnett Series in Order
Dawn Girl (2016)
The Watson Girl (2017)
Glimpse of Death (2017)
Taker of Lives (2018)
Girl With A Rose (2020)
Not Really Dead (2020)
Mile High Death (2020)
The Girl They Took (2021)
Slightly different from others on this list, the Sam Capra series is a riveting exploration of the life of an ex-CIA agent who embarks on high-stakes adventures, putting his skills to the test in a thrilling dance between danger and survival. In a narrative that’s consistently captivating, Abbott weaves intricate plots that push the boundaries of believability yet somehow manage to leave the reader utterly invested in the world of Sam Capra.
Sam’s life, while a tad exaggerated, is skillfully constructed. Even with its elements of larger-than-life international intrigue, the portrayal of his character remains grounded and human. Despite his extraordinary circumstances, Sam’s story resonates on a personal level, allowing readers to connect with him. This careful balance of the extraordinary and the relatable gives the series an irresistible pull.
Abbott’s storytelling is akin to a rollercoaster ride: rapid-fire action sequences, adrenaline-fueled narrative turns, and unexpected plot twists that keep readers glued to the pages. The series thrums with nail-biting tension, punctuated by moments of breathless excitement. It’s like the literary equivalent of a grand slam home run, delivering both suspense and satisfaction in equal measure.
From the breakneck pace of the action to the ever-evolving mystery surrounding Sam’s life, the series is a true tour de force in the thriller genre. Its heart-pounding moments of danger are interwoven with quieter, character-driven scenes offering a chance for readers to catch their breath before being thrown back into the fray.
However, readers should be prepared to suspend disbelief to fully enjoy the ride. The series does stretch the limits of reality at times, but this is a feature, not a bug, of the Sam Capra series. It’s all part of the fun and a testament to Abbott’s imaginative storytelling prowess.
Sam Capra Series in Order
Sam Capra’s Last Chance (2012)(short story)
Last Minute (2011)
The Inside Man (2014)
The First Order (2016)
Traitor’s Dance (2022)
James Lee Burke’s unique Dave Robicheaux series is a compelling collection of thrillers that spotlights a protagonist as complex and intriguing as the plots he navigates. Dave Robicheaux is a man of many facets — a twice-widowed father, a Vietnam veteran grappling with PTSD, an alcoholic who battles his own inner demons, and an individual who remains steadfast in his ironclad sense of morality.
Burke’s writing style, which effortlessly combines taut dialogue, profound contemplation on morality and ethics, and hard-hitting yet lyrical prose, is one of the notable aspects of this series. Although some readers may find the intense, often humorless prose or the recurrent themes and character archetypes repetitive, there’s no denying the unique flavor Burke brings to his thrillers.
Robicheaux stands out as an engaging blend of a fearless detective, an impassioned political activist, and a contemplative Catholic theologian. Drawing parallels with Raymond Chandler’s theory of the modern crime investigator as a contemporary alternative to the medieval knight, Robicheaux’s character embodies a flawed yet intricate hero. His battles against a slew of adversaries, ranging from the mafia to child predators, become grand narratives verging on the cosmic in their implications.
As the series evolves, it becomes increasingly theological and sociological, matching the escalating stakes of its storylines with a corresponding intensification of Burke’s prose. Much like a crescendo in a Hendrix guitar solo, the Robicheaux series peaks in a blend of ecstasy and agony as its passion for justice reaches rhapsodic heights while grappling with the intricate mysteries of the human struggle.
Burke is a formidable force in the thriller genre, wielding his strong, evocative language with aplomb. His vivid, three-dimensional descriptions of characters and locales, combined with his propensity to take risks, ensure his books are among the top thriller books on the shelves. With fully fleshed-out characters set in a believable world, the Dave Robicheaux series, with its engaging mix of high-stakes drama and introspective morality, is a standout and truly unique addition to the best thriller book series available.
The Dave Robicheaux Series in Order
The Neon Rain (1987)
Heaven’s Prisoners (1988)
Black Cherry Blues (1989)
A Morning for Flamingos (1990)
A Stained White Radiance (1992)
In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (1993)
Dixie City Jam (1994)
Burning Angel (1995)
Cadillac Jukebox (1996)
Sunset Limited (1998)
Purple Cane Road (2000)
Jolie Blon’s Bounce (2002)
Last Car to Elysian Fields (2003)
Crusader’s Cross (2005)
Pegasus Descending (2006)
The Tin Roof Blowdown (2007)
Swan Peak (2007)
The Glass Rainbow (2010)
Creole Belle (2012)
Light of the World (2013)
The New Iberia Blues (2019)
A Private Cathedral (2020)
Authored by the late Christie Owens, also known under the pen names of S.T. Abby and Kristy Cunning, the Lana Myers series (generally referred to as the Mindf*ck Series) is very different from previous entries on this list as it’s a unique blend of a serial killer thriller and a love story.
The series delves into the gripping narrative of Lana Myers, a survivor of unspeakable horrors inflicted upon her and her family, charting her quest for vengeance against those who wronged her. The atrocities she endured are stomach-churning, underscoring the series as one packed with potential triggers and suited for readers with a strong constitution.
Under the mantra, “To defeat a monster, you have to be twice as monstrous,” Lana spends a decade meticulously preparing for her revenge. Assisting her is Jake, a family friend and former boyfriend of her deceased brother. Their carefully crafted plans unfold, creating a compelling tale of retribution. Amidst her mission, Lana crosses paths with Logan Bennett, an FBI profiler investigating the killings attributed to the media-dubbed “Scarlet Slayer,” a moniker unknowingly ascribed to Lana herself.
The complex interplay of Lana’s emotional narrative and her actions is encapsulated in her realization: “I’m just a girl in love with a man who’s destined to hate me when he learns the truth.” Lana, undeniably one of the most formidable female protagonists in the thriller genre, perfectly embodies the tension between her romantic inclinations and her deadly mission.
The Lana Myers series, spanning five thrill-packed books, is a riveting read that consistently maintains a fast-paced narrative. It was designed to keep readers on the edge of their seats, fostering intense connections between characters and portraying powerful bonds such as Lana and Jake’s relationship. Logan, as a compassionate yet morally conflicted character, adds another layer of complexity to the series.
This book run is indisputably a top thriller series that will keep readers turning pages well into the night. Despite its dark themes and intense scenarios, the Lana Myers series delivers an engrossing blend of revenge, resilience, and romance, firmly establishing itself among the best thriller book series, albeit with a twist. However, potential readers should heed the trigger warnings associated with the series — it gets pretty rough for more sensitive readers. However, the engaging narrative, coupled with its unique blend of themes, sets this series apart in the world of thriller books.
The Lana Myers Series in Order
The Risk (2016)
Scarlet Angel (2016)
All the Lies (2016)
Paint It All Red (2016)
With these eight compelling selections spanning diverse themes and narratives, you’ve journeyed through some of the most thrilling territories the thriller genre has to offer. From the intrigue-riddled investigations of Sam Capra to the relentless pursuit of justice by the tenacious Lana Myers, each series presents a unique contribution to the thriller genre. Yet, as vast and varied as the realm of thriller literature is, these top thriller books are only the tip of the iceberg.
The world of thriller books is as diverse as its readers, and every reader has a favorite that resonates with them on a personal level. Maybe you’ve discovered a gem that didn’t make our list of best thriller book series, or perhaps there’s a classic series you believe deserves another moment in the spotlight. I encourage you to share your top picks and hidden gems.
So, what’s the thriller series that kept you up at night, flipping through the pages until dawn? Which books ignited your imagination and left you craving for more? Who is your favorite thriller author? This is your platform to shine a light on those extraordinary series. Sound off in the comments below with your favorite thriller series, and let’s continue the discussion.
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