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The 15 Best Mystery And Thriller Books To Read This Year

By Keelia Clarkson·· 9 min read
best mysteries 2020

Romance, historical fiction, and coming of age novels are always fun reads, but mysteries that leave us guessing until the very last page are probably the most entertaining.

There’s nothing quite like escaping into a good story, the kind of story that grips our attention from the very first page and refuses to let go, that takes twists and turns we never saw coming, that makes us jealous we didn’t think of such a story ourselves.

Mystery novels have a special way of not only capturing our attention, but creating an immediate bond with anyone else who’s read the same book, sharing our shock at the ending and exchanging a “Can you believe that happened?”.

Only the best mysteries can do any such thing. So here are the 15 best mystery novels that any reader must devour as soon as possible.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Known as the queen of mystery, any mystery/thriller book list without Christie simply wouldn’t be complete, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is undoubtedly one of her best. After a shocking murder takes place at a sprawling English manor, everyone who was in the house at the time seems guilty, all having their own possible motive — but who did it? The jaw-dropping answer to that question will have you rereading the book as soon as you finish it. Find it here on Amazon.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Although not your normal mystery, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is easily the most suspenseful, finish-it-in-one-sitting book I’ve ever come across, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This philosophical/psychological thriller takes us along for the ride when our narrator, a young college girl, meets her new boyfriend's parents for the first time on their remote farm. Such a story seems simple enough, but soon, it becomes evident that everything is not what it seems. In a few disorienting twists, we find ourselves unsure what’s happening, where we are, and even questioning our own sanity. Find it here on Amazon.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

If you’re on book TikTok, I’m willing to bet this one has shown up on more than a couple of ‘must-read’ lists. But it’s easy to see why, as this particular novel appeals to a wide age range. When the picture-perfect Sinclair family comes together for their yearly reunion on their private island (so they’re rich rich), the complicated inner workings of the family are exposed as our protagonist struggles with amnesia, fighting to remember the happenings of one fateful summer in the past. Find it here on Amazon.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Considered one of the best mystery classics, Rebecca has had multiple film and stage adaptations — it seems like audiences just can’t get enough of this riveting tale. When a young, working woman impulsively decides to marry a rich, dapper, widowed man she barely knows, she thanks her lucky stars — only to find that the grand country estate she now shares with her new husband, as well as their marriage, seems to be haunted by his late wife, whose shadow is constantly felt. Find it here on Amazon.

The Searcher by Tana French

French, described as an “immensely talented author” by The New York Times, has been popping up on every list lately, and with good reason. The Searcher centers around Cal, a retired police detective who, ready to fully leave his old professional life behind, moves to a tiny town in rural Ireland, intent on living a simpler life. But when a local boy mysteriously goes missing, Cal feels compelled to put on his detective’s hat once again and solve the case. Find it here on Amazon.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

You’ve probably seen The Silent Patient everywhere — on front and center display at the bookstore, on book lists, on recommended purchase lists — and it’s not hard to see why this book has made such a mark. Alicia is a famous artist living a life we’d all be jealous of in London with her husband. One night, without any warning, she shoots her husband to death. After that, Alicia refuses to speak another word. But Theo, a psychotherapist, makes it his mission to understand what exactly happened that fateful night. Find it here on Amazon.

A Time To Kill by John Grisham

Calling all legal drama lovers! Despite initially being rejected by numerous publishers, A Time To Kill went on to become a NYT #1 bestseller — and now, John Grisham is one of mystery’s best-known authors. Set in a small town in Mississippi, A Time To Kill tells the heartbreaking story of the aftermath of a young girl’s brutal assault, what her father does to avenge her attack, and what his lawyer must do to protect him. Find it here on Amazon.

The Invited: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon

The chilling feeling that you might not be alone, the loss of safety in your own home, the worry of what will happen next — there’s nothing quite like a good ghost story to get your adrenaline going. The Invited: A Novel does just that. When Helen and Nate move out to a rural area with dreams of moving into a fixer upper and creating their own oasis, they discover a local legend of a woman who lived and died in their house. As Helen digs deeper into the woman’s death, she finds the web of mystery is bigger than she had imagined. Find it here on Amazon.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I couldn’t pick just one Christie, she’s that brilliant. Easily her most famous mystery, And Then There Were None seems like just another whodunnit, but becomes so much more than that. We follow a group of 10 unsuspecting people, all with secrets they’d rather keep hidden, who end up on a remote island together. When they start dying one by one, they’re forced to suspect each other, or accept the idea that they might not be alone on the island. Christie will leave you guessing until the very end. Find it here on Amazon.

What You Don’t Know by Joann Chaney

If you’re anything like me, there’s just something so captivating about a dark, twisty, suspenseful true crime tale, and What You Don’t Know certainly delivers on that front. Years after serial killer Jacky Seever was put on death row following the murder of 33 people, a string of copycat murders sweep through Denver. But with such horrific events comes an opportunity for the people involved in Jacky’s case, as well as the wife who says she had no idea of her husband’s crimes, to reclaim what was once theirs. Find it here on Amazon.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Widely considered one of the first mystery novels, The Woman in White is a must-read for any literature lover. When Walter, a young art teacher, comes across a mysterious woman dressed in white, he's perplexed. Later on, after being hired as a tutor for a rich family, he falls in love with Laura, the woman he’s teaching — who happens to have a strange resemblance to the woman in white. It seems now that the encounter wasn’t as random as it initially appeared, altering the course of Walter’s life. Find it here on Amazon.

Those Bones Are Not My Child by Toni Cade Bambara

Considered to be Toni Cade Bambara’s magnum opus, Those Bones Are Not My Child masterfully deals with the nuances of class struggle, racism, and political unrest. After Atlanta elected its first black mayor in 1980, we might presume racism to be dead. But when the teenage son of Zala, a poor working mother, goes missing and the police don’t seem to care, a deeper issue arises: the city turned a blind eye to countless other black minors who were kidnapped and murdered just in the past year. Zala and her estranged husband have no choice but to find their son themselves. Find it here on Amazon.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

As one of the most respected authors of her time, Sayers is a must-read. Gaudy Night offers readers the perfect mix of riddle, romance, and intrigue. On the night that Harriet Vane, our protagonist, attends her Oxford University reunion, a string of pranks, strange notes threatening murder, and harassment occurs. But after the mischief continues, the dean asks Harriet to help solve the case and figure out who’s behind these troubling happenings. Part of the fabulous Lord Peter Wimsey series. Find it here on Amazon.

The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley

Although The Guest List came out less than a year ago, it has garnered quite a bit of attention since. Not only was it one of Reese’s Book Club picks, it was also a NYT bestseller. Readers come along for the ride to a lavish wedding on an island near Ireland. A seemingly picturesque, jealousy-inducing event soon goes awry when the alcohol starts flowing, and it becomes clear that not everyone is happy about the new union being celebrated — and that’s before someone winds up dead. Find it here on Amazon.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

If you’re a fan of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, you’ll appreciate this book. Taking inspiration from old Hollywood noirs, The Woman in the Window delivers with the perfect amount of intrigue, pulp, and suspense. We follow the story of Anna Fox, an alcoholic, agoraphobic woman living in New York, whose recent divorce and separation from her young daughter has taken a toll on her mental health. With nothing better to do, Anna keeps tabs on her neighbors by watching them through open windows. One day, she witnesses something she really shouldn’t have — but will anyone believe her? Find it here on Amazon.

Closing Thoughts

Whether you love ghost stories, can’t get enough of legal dramas, or always enjoy some good family drama, there’s a mystery novel out there for everyone. Now get to reading (it's good for you)!

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