29 Thriller Authors You Need to Read This Year
If you love to read thrillers, you’ll want to get to know these 29 amazing thriller authors. This all-encompassing list includes New York Times and USA Today best selling thriller authors, as well as up and coming indie sensations tearing up the Amazon and Barnes and Noble charts. These authors belong on your must-read thriller list. Each will provide you with chills, thrills, and countless late-night reads.
Mystery and thriller author Harlan Coben has sold over 60 million copies of his books worldwide, and his books have been translated into 43 languages. Interesting tidbit: Coben attended Amherst College with fellow Psi Upsilon fraternity member Dan Brown. Perhaps best known for his Mylon Bolitar series, Coben won a 1996 Anthony award for Deal Breaker, the first book in the Mylon Bolitar series. Coben also created the British crime drama TV series The Five.
Legendary thriller author David Baldacci began writing during his childhood and never stopped. Good thing. Readers love his political and crime thrillers, of which he has penned 47. Perhaps his most celebrated work, Absolute Power, became a motion picture directed by none other than Clint Eastwood. Several additional novels have also made it to television and the silver screen. His latest breakneck thriller Mercy is a #1 New York Times bestseller.
Patrick Logan is rising star among thriller authors, with his Chase Adams FBI series dominating the Amazon charts. With better than 50 published novels and a million copies sold, the secret is getting out about Logan. We shouldn’t be surprised by his devilish plots and fiendish killers. Patrick Logan made a living cutting up bodies before he found his true calling as an author. The world is a safer place because of his decision.
If you prefer chills with your thrills, you need to read Riley Sager. The bestselling author of six gripping thrillers, Sager won the ITW (International Thriller Writers) award for best hardcover novel with his book Final Girls. Sager’s latest thriller is The House Across the Lake, a heart-pounding story that calls to mind Rachel Caine’s classic Stillhouse Lake. We dare you to read a Riley Sager thriller after dark.
A multi-time New York Times bestselling author, Dean Koontz made his mark writing horror before shifting into dark thrillers and suspense. Koontz isn’t afraid to bend genres and is adept at incorporating fantasy, science fiction, and comedic themes into his stories. He’s the author of the Odd Thomas, Jane Hawk, and Nameless series. Recent smash hits include standalones The Other Emily, The Big Dark Sky, and Elsewhere. If you dare, check out his classic horror and thriller story, Intensity.
Allison Brennan is the bestselling thriller author of the Lucy Kincaid and Angelhart series. A mother of five children, she still finds the time to punch out three or more novels every year. She’s a multi-time New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Critics call her a master of suspense, and she has been nominated for several awards, including the Daphne du Maurier award.
Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series set the bar for action thrillers. Born in 1954 as James Dover Grant, Child is synonymous with hard-hitting thrillers. His famous protagonist Jack Reacher is a former American military policeman who doles out frontier justice while wandering the country. You might consider his books hardboiled or action thrillers, but readers only care about one thing – devouring every book in his series. Forbes reported the Jack Reacher series alone has sold 100 million books.
Crime thriller author Angela Marsons discovered her love of writing during primary school, when she penned a short story. Since then, she has published almost two dozen thrillers, including the gripping Kim Stone Detective series. After self-publishing two novels, she signed an eight-book deal with thriller powerhouse Bookouture and became the publishing house’s first crime author. Reviewers call her latest thriller Hidden Scars the best entry in the Kim Stone series yet.
LT Vargus and Tim McBain
Authors of the hair-raising Violet Darger and Victor Loshak series, LT Vargus and Tim McBain are a dominant force in the serial killer thriller genre. Their bestselling novel Dead End Girl kicked off the Violet Darger series, which often feels like a demented mishmash of Criminal Minds, Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter series, and classic Stephen King. Their latest thriller is Lonesome Highway, a dark plunge into the mind of a freeway serial killer.
Mystery and suspense author Mary Stone goes where few writers dare . . . into the frightening world of serial killers. One of the most prolific thriller authors writing today, Stone has penned seven series, including the Winter Black, Ellie Kline, Charli Cross, and Amelia Storm series. While Stone favors female protagonists, these are not weak-kneed damsels in distress. If you like badass female investigators and frightening killers, look no further than Mary Stone.
One of the most prolific authors of all time, James Patterson covers the gamut of the thriller genre, from espionage and political suspense to serial killer thrillers such as Along Came a Spider. The Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, and Private series encompass just a small sample of his repertoire. Stephen King once referred to Patterson as a “terrible writer,” but Patterson’s 230 million books sold worldwide tell a different story. James Patterson created a MasterClass for prospective thriller authors.
Louise Penny is a crime thriller author who is best known for her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels, a series that has blossomed to 18 books and counting. Penny has hit the #1 spot on the bestsellers list at The New York Times and Globe and Mail. Among her numerous awards are the CWA Dagger and the Agatha award. She lives in Canada, where the Armand Gamache thriller series is set.
The world lost an amazing thriller author in November 2020 when Rachel Caine passed from sarcoma. Her legacy lives on with 56 books in print, including the jaw-dropping Stillhouse Lake series. The first book in the series, Stillhouse Lake, became an instant classic, combining psychological thriller elements with horror and a gripping mystery. The series is now six books deep, and every thriller will leave you questioning the characters’ intentions and wondering who the killer is.
Crime thriller author Paul Doiron is a USA Today bestselling writer and the winner of multiple awards. Combining hair-raising elements in his crime mysteries, Doiron is one of the more unique authors in the thriller genre. His books Dead by Dawn, One Last Lie, Hatchet Island, and Knife Creek will please fans of murder thrillers. Paul Doiron’s books have been translated into numerous languages worldwide.
What list of thriller authors would be complete with the master of the serial killer thriller, Thomas Harris? After writing Black Sunday in 1975, a terrorism thriller that went on to become a major motion picture two years late, Harris set the world on fire with his 1981 release of Red Dragon, the first novel in the Hannibal Lecter series. The second and more famous book, Silence of the Lambs, released in 1988, and eventually took Hollywood by storm as a critically-acclaimed horror and thriller movie. The Hannibal Lecter series now includes four novels.
Ann Cleeves has seen numerous books developed for television. Her Vera Stanhope and Shetland Island mystery books have garnered several thousand or more reviews on Amazon. Cleeves grew up in the country and worked a variety of jobs, including child care officer, women’s refuge leader, and bird observatory cook. The author’s thrillers and mysteries are set in vibrant country locations that lend visceral images to readers.
Lawyer, author, and a former member of the 7th district of the Mississippi House of Representatives, John Grisham is as unique a thriller author as they come. Not surprisingly, many of his protagonists are lawyers, rather than detectives or FBI agents. As such, Grisham is considered a crime and legal thriller writer. Grisham has sold more than 300 million books, including an incredible 28 consecutive fiction bestsellers.
USA Today bestselling thriller author Blake Pierce combines spooky psychological horror and crime mystery. With a staggering number of published books and gripping series, Pierce is well known for the popular Ava Gold, Amber Young, Cami Lark, Nicky Lyons, and Cora Shields thriller and mystery series. The Riley Page series alone includes 17 pulse-pounding books. Blake Pierce’s books are available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook formats.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has influenced almost as many thriller authors as Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter series. Along with Gone Girl, Flynn’s books Dark Places and Sharp Objects have received critical acclaim and paved the way for a new generation of serial killer thriller authors. She also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Gone Girl, which released in 2014, and produced the Sharp Objects limited series for HBO.
British author Lucy Foley writes in various genres, including contemporary and historical fiction, but is best known for her thrillers and mysteries. Her thriller novel The Guest List achieved bestselling status in the New York Times and Washington Post, and garnered strong reviews from Buzzfeed, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and Harper’s Bazaar. Foley also earned a Goodreads Choice award in 2020 in the mystery and thriller category.
Wait, horror legend Stephen King is also a thriller author? You bet. Besides bringing readers all-time horror classics like Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, and Carrie, King has also penned some amazing thrillers, including Mr. Mercedes. His crime thriller End of Watch earned a Goodreads Choice award. Finders Keepers, Under the Dome, and The Outsider also straddle the line between horror and thriller.
You may know detective and crime thriller novelist Michael Connelly for his Harry Bosch series, but this Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Blood Work, which Clint Eastwood directed in a feature film adaptation. His debut novel Black Echo won the prestigious Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1992. Matthew McConaughey starred as Mickey Haller in the motion picture version of The Lincoln Lawyer.
Self-published English author Mark Dawson is an indie sensation, with better than 40 published novels that readers compare to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. Best known for his John Milton, Beatrix Rose, and Isabella Rose series, Dawson hosts a highly popular podcast (The Self-Publishing Show), in which he teaches writers how to earn a high income from their books. He also runs The Self-Publishing Formula, an online catalog of courses aimed at educating independent writers.
Called “the master of the psychological thriller” by the Associated Press, Lisa Gardner needs no introduction to fans of dark thrillers. Four of Gardner’s movies have become major motion pictures, including The Perfect Husband. A protector of children and lover of animals, Lisa Gardner received the Silver Bullet award from the International Writer’s Association for her support of at-risk children and the Humans Society.
An international author with 27 published novels, Karen Rose writes psychological and dark crime thrillers. Her debut novel Don’t Tell released in 2003, and she’s been wowing readers ever since. Rose’s novels have appeared on bestseller lists for major periodicals in several countries, including The New York Times and London’s Sunday Times. Curious fact: Rose admits to looping Barry Manilow and Josh Groban songs while she writes. We’re still trying to figure out the connection.
With 85 published novels ranging from romance to dark suspense thrillers, Lisa Jackson is an amazingly prolific and successful author. She’s a mainstay on The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and her gripping killer thriller, The Girl Who Survived, hit #1 in The New York Times. Jackson’s career began back in 1981 when she read a newspaper article about young mothers writing romance novels to earn money.
Helen Phifer is a bestselling crime and dark thriller author with 19 published novels. Phifer’s books are often love at first sight; her novels include some of the most alluring covers in the thriller genre. An avid reader of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, James Herbert, and Graham Masterson, Phifer channels her favorite authors by producing tense suspense novels that combine crime thriller plots with psychological horror elements.
Everything thriller author Catherine Coulter touches turns to gold. Almost all of her 89 published novels ranked on The New York Times bestseller lists at one time, and her FBI Suspense Thriller series is a dominant force on the Amazon charts. The first book in the series, The Cove, sold more than 4 million copies. Believe it or not, Coulter worked on Wall Street as a speechwriter before becoming a full-time author.
USA Today bestselling thriller author Rita Herron defines the term prolific. With over 90 published titles, she covers the gamut from young adult stories to comedy. But she’s best known for her creepy, small-town suspense novels. A proud member of the International Thriller Writers association, Herron holds numerous awards and nominations for her writing acumen. The only thing scarier than her book covers are her stories.
Our List of Thriller Authors
A best-of list of thriller authors can hardly hope to include every reader’s favorites, but these 29 authors are sure to keep you reading into the late hours of the night. We worked hard to construct a list of major publishing house favorites and indie authors, many of which offer their books for free to Kindle Unlimited readers. In addition, some of the authors mentioned in the list regularly tour the world, allowing you to meet them.
Who is the best selling thriller author of all time?
The best selling thriller author of all time is Dean Koontz, with over 500 million copies of his books in print in 38 different languages. An incredible 16 of his books have reached #1 on the bestseller lists.
What is a Psychological Thriller?
Psychological thrillers focus on the mental states of characters and often integrate Gothic elements into their suspenseful plots. While Stephen King is known as a psychological thriller author, a better example is Thomas Harris, the devious mind behind the Hannibal Lecter series.
What is the Best Selling Thriller Novel of All Time?
You might guess The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris would take the top spot with 10 million copies sold, but it doesn’t come close. The clear winner is And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, with a staggering 100 million copies sold. Keep in mind Christie’s novel released in 1939, so she had a head start.