Since the middle of last year when I took up reading again (I’d gone through a dry spell), I have been hoovering up all the crime and thriller I can get my hands on. I’ve come across some truly terrible books, but also some wonderful ones that I couldn’t put down. Goodreads has become a friend to me; I literally wont buy a book unless I’ve read the reviews on there first! And I’m always looking out for inspiration. I thought I’d compile my top ten of thriller/crime books as a little guide to get you started (or help you find your next read!) These are in no particular order as it was hard enough identifying (just) ten favourites to begin with!
The Ladykiller – Martina Cole
The Ladykiller is the first (and so far only) book I’ve ever read by Martina Cole, and it was recommended to me by a friend when I asked her for some crime/thriller suggestions. I have only just finished reading it and can tell you with certainty that is one of my top ten favourites. This book is centred around a sadistic killer, a Detective Inspector and the father of one of the victims (who also happens to be a bit of a hard-man.) The story is told from the perspective of all three of these main characters and I think this is what keeps the book so readable. It is quite a chunky book with an impressive 629 pages but because there’s a lot of switching between viewpoints and perspectives it is not a struggle to read and flows very nicely. I found some of the descriptions quite hard to digest as this book goes in to quite graphic detail about the murders…but this just made me want the killer to come to justice even more. The book is quite straight-forward and there aren’t really any major plot-twists but I liked this. It felt very refreshing and much less “try hard” than other books I have read in the genre. Cole writes fantastically and leaves you wanting more with each page. I will definitely be checking out some of her other works.
How I Lost You – Jenny Blackhurst
How I Lost you tells the story of Emma, a woman who has been convicted of murdering her son. It begins with her release and is told in a first-person perspective that elicits sympathy from the reader which is quite unexpected considering the circumstances. Emma struggles to come to terms with life outside her cell, always not quite believing that she killed her child and concluding that there is more to the events that took place than meets the eye. This is a unique story, I haven’t really read anything like it before. There are plenty of twists and turns in this novel, and Blackhurst is a very skillful writer making you intensely hate some of the characters and sympathise with those you least expect.
Try Not To Breathe – Holly Seddon
Journalist and alcoholic Alex is looking for her next story. What she stumbles upon is Amy, a girl frozen in time. Amy was attacked at 15 and has remained in a coma ever since; the perpetrator having never been caught. The story is told from first person perspective and unsurprisingly given the topic, is extremely emotional. I often felt frustrated at Alex for damaging herself with alcohol and ruining some of her chances in life, but she was a character I felt an empathy for and I felt myself willing her to do well. Amy’s story is tragic, but the union of the two women is a positive if unconventional one. I can’t really say too much without giving it away but there is definitely a subtle whodunnit? element to this story and enough twists to make this an interesting read.
The Widow – Fiona Barton
The Widow was such a fantastic read; I honestly can’t rave enough about it. This is one I would strongly recommend if you’re looking for something totally different to the usual crime/thriller fodder. Told from the perspective of newly widowed Jean Taylor, this book slowly unfurls the story of a woman married to a man suspected of committing a heinous crime. The story comes out slowly, piece-by-piece as Jean is coerced in to talking to the press about her life, her former husband and the accusations her family has faced. Jean isn’t all she appears to be though, and I really can’t tell you anymore than that for fear of spoiling it! I read this book in a matter of days, it was that good!
When She Was Bad – Tammy Cohen
I picked up When She Was Bad because it was set in an office and I wondered if I might see some of my own colleagues reflected back in the characters. I definitely didn’t, but it was such an interesting setting for a book that I’m so glad I gave it a go. When She Was Bad is simplistically a Whodunnit? story told from the perspectives of colleagues Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie. Everyone hates the new, cruel boss who is creating waves in the office. The atmosphere is absolutely toxic (and so very believable) so when the boss is killed it’s not exactly surprising. The story is interwoven with excerpts from Child Psychologist Dr Anne Cater, who reflects on her own life which is strangely interwoven with this case. This is a thriller in every sense of the word and I found it hard to put down. After reading it I recommended it to everyone who would listen.
The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins
An obvious one on the list but I couldn’t miss out The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins because it’s such a great read. The Girl On The Train tells the story of alcoholic Rachel who takes the train each day and passes by the same houses and same people. Each day the train stops just outside a couples’ house and as an escape from her own drudgery, she imagines up the perfect lives for them. As the synopsis suggests, this isn’t to last. On one journey she sees something that will show her definitively that everything she thought about this couple is incorrect. Rachel is a character that frustrates. It’s clear to see her alcoholism is destroying her life, her sanity and her reputation but she finds it impossible to break out of her downward spiral. As I read this book I found myself mentally shouting at her; like the equivalent of screaming at the protagonist in a horror film to not go in to the room where the serial killer is hiding. But much like the pointlessness of trying to protect characters in horror films, the energy you spend in to willing Rachel to just stop. Please God just stop and get it together- doesn’t amount to anything. The story itself is really interesting, and well written. I couldn’t guess at the ending at all. Watch this before you see the movie, it’s popular for a reason!
The Breakdown- B.A. Paris
B.A Paris has released two fantastic books in recent years and it was really hard for me to pick which one I liked best but The Breakdown is relatively fresh in my mind so I’m going to go with that. B.A Paris is without doubt a talented author, skilled at writing page-turners that are impossible to put down. I think I read this one in around 1-2 days. The Breakdown tells the story of Cass who finds herself driving past a broken down car in the middle of a storm. Not stopping for fear of entrapment, Cass is horrified to hear on the news the next day that car she drove past contained a woman who was shortly after murdered. Then the calls begin to come in. As time wears on guilt and paranoia have Cass gripped, and she spends her days in prescription-pill induced hazes, her behaviour becoming increasingly erratic. This book has so many twists and turns it is incredible. I thought I’d got the conclusion pinned down, but it turns out I really hadn’t. The ending was, in typical B.A. Paris fashion, very clever and very satisfying. If you read one book from this list, this is it.
Find Her – Lisa Gardner
Find Her is the first book of Lisa Gardner’s I have read and I found it really interesting. This book was definitely on the creepier end of the thriller scale, leaving me feeling claustrophobic and anxious at times (there was a part in the book that literally had me on edge, my heart physically racing.) The story follows Flora Dane; kidnap survivor. The premise of the book is a little hard to digest at first and you find yourself wondering; how can one person be so unlucky as to be kidnapped not once but twice? But if you suspend belief a little it really is very gripping. The story is told from first person perspective; both Flora’s and Detective D.D Warren’s who is working on the case. It moves back and fourth between current day and the past. Sometimes when books do this it can be quite hard to get in to a flow or you find yourself wanting to skip back to the present (or past, whichever is most interesting.) But it works so well with this book and both past and present are equally as creepy.
I Let You Go – Clare Macintosh
I Let You Go tells the story of Jenna Gray, a woman whom, consumed by grief, flees to a remote cottage on the Welsh Coast. This book has so many twists and turns that as soon as you start to form an idea on what may actually be going on, the rug is pulled right out from under your feet. It’s told in a first-person perspective that elicits sympathy from the reader. Even when things began to look a little rocky for Jenna I still found myself rooting for her; hoping that it would all be okay. The descriptions in the book are really lovely, and I found myself often getting lost in the imagery of it all which I found to be very atmospheric. The ending was completely not what I guessed at all and I loved that because so often books in this genre can become quite predictable. If you enjoy twists and turns aplenty you’ll love this one.
The Book of You- Clare Kendal
Clarrisa is being stalked by her colleague, Rafe. He is becoming increasingly unhinged and frightening in his attempts to gain her affection. When she is selected for Jury service she jumps at the chance to get away from work and Rafe and have a change of scene. But Rafe isn’t going to let Clarrisa slip out of his life so easily. The book is told in first-person perspective which works really well. I found myself frustrated with Clarrisa at times for not doing more (even if I didn’t know what more she could do) about Rafe and his incessant stalking. I found myself absolutely hating Rafe, wishing he would befall some horrible fate or that I could reach in to the book and punch him in his stupid face. The story was really interesting though and the setting unique. The excerpts of Clarrisa sitting through jury service and her love interest also added another dimension to the book meaning it wasn’t a slow read. The ending was pretty satisfying which was a bonus as I found myself investing a lot in to this one.
So that’s what I’ve been reading and loving. What thrillers/crime books have you been reading lately?