Updated July 2023
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 top 30 best thriller 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.
Recommended Reading: Tell No One (2001)
2. David Baldacci
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.
Recommended Reading: The 6:20 Man (2023)
Step into the dark and read your FREE thriller from bestselling author Dan Padavona
Over 100,000 downloads!
3. Patrick Logan
Patrick Logan is a rising star among even the best thriller authors, with his Chase Adams FBI series dominating the Amazon charts. With over 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.
Recommended Reading: Butterfly Kisses (2018)
4. Dan Padavona
Dan Padavona, born in 1968, has become a leading figure in the world of thrillers since publishing his first book in 2014. His success began to build with the release of Mind of a Killer, the first book in the popular Scarlett Bell FBI series. His Darkwater Cove and Wolf Lake series have become staples on the Amazon Top-100 charts. His dedication led him to retire from his previous career to write full-time in 2021, cementing his position as a bestselling thriller author.
Recommended Reading: Grave Girl (2022)
5. Riley Sager
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.
Recommended Reading: Final Girls (2017)
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.
Recommended Reading: Watchers (1987)
7. Allison Brennan
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.
Recommended Reading: The Prey (2005)
8. Lee Child
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 as hardboiled or action thrillers or view Reacher as a feminist icon, 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.
Recommended Reading: Killing Floor (1997)
9. Angela Marsons
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.
Recommended Reading: Silent Scream (2015)
10. 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.
Recommended Reading: Dead End Girl (2018)
11. Mary Stone
Mystery and suspense author Mary Stone goes where few writers dare — into the frightening world of serial killer fiction. 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.
Recommended Reading: Shadow’s Captive (2022)
12. James Patterson
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 also created a MasterClass for prospective thriller authors.
Recommended Reading: Along Came a Spider (1993)
13. Louise Penny
Louise Penny is a crime thriller author 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, the setting for the Armand Gamache thriller series.
Recommended Reading: Still Life (2011)
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.
Recommended Reading: Stillhouse Lake (2017)
15. Paul Doiron
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.
Recommended Reading: The Precipice (2015)
Love crime thrillers?
He’s hunting a psychopath. And now the killer wants him dead.
16. Thomas Harris
What list of best 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 became a major motion picture two years later, 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, was released in 1988 and eventually took Hollywood by storm as a critically-acclaimed horror and thriller movie with plenty of terrifying Hannibal Lecter quotes that will keep you up at night. The Hannibal Lecter series now includes four novels.
Recommended Reading: Silence Of The Lambs (1988)
17. Ann Cleeves
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.
Recommended Reading: The Crow Trap (2011)
18. John Grisham
Lawyer, author, and 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 over 300 million books, including an incredible 28 consecutive fiction bestsellers.
Recommended Reading: A Time to Kill (1989)
19. Blake Pierce
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 Paige series alone includes 17 pulse-pounding books. Blake Pierce’s books are available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook formats. And if you’ve read every one of his books, why not try authors similar to Blake Pierce?
Recommended Reading: Cause to Kill (2016)
20. Gillian Flynn
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 was released in 2014, and produced the Sharp Objects limited series for HBO.
Recommended Reading: Sharp Objects (2009)
21. Lucy Foley
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.
Recommended Reading: The Guest List (2020)
22. Stephen King
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. There are lots of writers like Stephen King that you need to read, but it’s hard to beat the master.
Recommended Reading: The Stand (1978)
23. Michael Connelly
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, The 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.
Recommended Reading: The Black Echo (1992)
24. Lisa Gardner
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 Writers Association for her support of at-risk children and the Humane Society.
Recommended Reading: Alone (2004)
25. Karen Rose
An international author with 27 published novels, Karen Rose writes psychological and dark crime thrillers. Her debut novel, Don’t Tell, was 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.
Recommended Reading: Don’t Tell (2003)
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.
Recommended Reading: Shiver (2006)
27. Helen Phifer
Helen Phifer is a bestselling crime and dark thriller author with 19 published novels. Phifer’s books are often love at first sight; her books 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.
Recommended Reading: The Ghost House (2013)
28. Catherine Coulter
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.
Recommended Reading: The Cove (1996)
29. Rita Herron
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 things scarier than her book covers are her stories.
Recommended Reading: Pretty Little Killers (2018)
About This List of the Best Thriller Authors
A best-of list of thriller authors can hardly hope to include every reader’s favorites, but these 29 authors will 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.
Thriller Authors FAQs
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. You might be interested in checking out my critical analysis of the best psychological thriller books.
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 was released in 1939, so she had a head start.
Who are some of the top female thriller authors?
Several prominent female thriller authors have captured readers’ attention with their gripping stories and complex characters. Some of the best include Gillian Flynn, Patricia Cornwell, a pioneer in the forensic crime genre, and Allison Brennan, whose chilling novels explore some extremely dark themes.
What defines a thriller author’s writing style?
Thriller authors are known for their ability to create suspenseful, fast-paced plots filled with twists and turns. They often delve into the psychology of their characters, building tension through uncertainty. The best thriller authors skillfully balance character development with plot progression to keep readers engaged and on the edge of their seats.
How have thriller authors evolved over time?
In the early days, thrillers often centered around espionage and international intrigue. However, as society’s fears and interests have changed, so have the themes explored by the best thriller authors. Today, thrillers encompass a broad range of sub-genres, including psychological thrillers, crime thrillers, and techno-thrillers, and tackle contemporary issues such as cybercrime, domestic suspense, and forensic science.
Why are thrillers by Scandinavian authors so popular?
Scandinavian or Nordic Noir, a sub-genre of thriller novels, has become hugely popular worldwide. Known for their bleak settings, complex characters, and intricate plots that often involve social and political commentary, the popularity is in part due to their unique blend of suspense, realism, and introspection.
Who are some emerging thriller authors to watch?
While established authors like Stephen King and John Grisham continue to dominate, new voices in the thriller genre emerge regularly. The newer authors on this list have gained considerable acclaim in recent years for their captivating narratives and unexpected plot twists. Those new authors represent the future of thrillers, taking the genre in exciting new directions.
Since you have a dark love of psychological thrillers, you might read something by this awesome writer named Dan Padavona! If you’re looking for a best-selling Amazon author in the dark thriller genre, give Dead and Buried a try. I’ve made Dead and Buried free to download, so prepare yourself for chilling, page-turning suspense.