If you’re looking for the perfect suspenseful book, these titles will definitely deliver!
1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
CLASSIC. So creepy! Eight guests are invited to an island under various guises, and are greeted by the island butler and cook, who state that their hosts have not yet arrived. After dinner, they listen to a recording which accuses each of the ten of terrible crimes. Who made the recording? Who brought them all here? And when the guests start showing up dead, one by one, can the killer be stopped? This is one of the original “trapped on an island in a storm with a murderer on the loose” story, and it is extremely suspenseful. Each room on the island has the poem “Ten Little Indians” (later renamed “Ten Little Soldiers”) on the wall, and each person dies in a matter relating to the poem. This makes every death even more suspenseful. The ending of this novel still makes me shiver, and if you had any doubts about Christie being queen of suspense, you won’t after reading this.
2.Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
I cannot recommend this book highly enough! It was originally offered when I was able to try out the Book of the Month Club, but I opted for a different title. When I finally picked it up to read, I could not put it down. There is a plane crash with only two survivors- a man and a young boy. The book goes back and follows the lives of everyone on the plane prior to the crash, along with what happens to the survivors after the crash. Was it mechanical error or a terrorist attack? Did anyone else actually survive? This book did an amazing job of keeping me guessing! Just when I thought I knew what was going on, there would be a curve ball, and I was on edge until the very end.
3. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Did you think Gone Girl was overrated? A little creepy but not scary? Try Dark Places. It is super unsettling to read. When Libby is a little girl, her mother and sisters are brutally murdered, and her brother is accused of the crime. Years later Libby is avoiding the past, and her brother is still in jail. Low on funds, she finds a group of people obsessed with the murder of her family, and they convince her to visit her brother in jail. Is her brother innocent after all? Was there really another person there that night? Was it a Satanic ritual as some people think? Sometimes memories are repressed for a reason. This book made me gasp on multiple occasions, and feel uncomfortable more than once. If you thought Gone Girl was just “meh,” try Dark Places. It will make you squirm and possibly give you creepy-ass dreams (or maybe that’s just me).
4. The Lighthouse by P.D. James
P.D. James is a renowned suspense author, and rightfully so. In my efforts to branch out into different mystery authors, I decided to check James out and I started with The Lighthouse. I didn’t realize when I bought it that this is the 13th book in the Adam Dalgliesh series (actually the series that made her famous), yet even without reading any of the other twelve books, I still really enjoyed this one. Like so many great mysteries, this book is set on an island. And when islands and murder combine, you know it’s going to be good. Nathan Oliver is an author who is killed, and since he seems to be generally hated by the island’s inhabitants, no one knows who the killer is. Throw in a quarantine and a fever-dream, and you’ve got a nice puzzle to solve. The characters in this book are very well written, and the island inhabitants are the right amount of inquisitive and surly. It’s a great book, and I will definitely seek out more P.D. James in the future!
5. The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
This is a little bit out of left field, but I really enjoyed this book. I bought it solely because I love Guillermo del Toro as a director, and I wasn’t disappointed. And yes, this is a vampire horror book- not my usual choice! This book starts with a plane “going dark” when it lands- all the lights are off, the curtains are shut, and no one can communicate with it. Fearful of a medical emergency, the CDC is called out and they find all but four people inside dead, with a coffin full of dirt in the cargo hold. If you find an airplane with a bunch of dead people and an empty, soil-filled coffin inside: it’s vampires! Don’t second guess it, because it is definitely vampires. But obviously no one goes “it’s vampires!” so the vampire “strain” infects the city. There’s a large cast of characters, but this book kept a fast pace and was an entertaining, yet suspenseful, read. However, I will point out that this is the first book in the series, and I stopped reading after the second one because it was nowhere near as suspenseful and entertaining as this one. Don’t let that deter you from this book…but maybe don’t feel bad if you stop after reading it.
6. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
Two “wicked girls” are only 11 when they are arrested for murder. Now they both have different names and aren’t allowed to contact one another. But when one is sent to report on a murder, she discovers that the other wicked girl found the body. This book toggles between the past and present, taking turns with each girl to form a complete picture of what happened on that day in their youth. Throw in multiple murders, hidden identities, and an amusement park (complete with a creepy hall of mirrors and wax statues a-la-Madame Tussauds), and you have an intriguing book! The subject matter is rough, (I mean, two young girls convicted of murder probably didn’t have the best lives growing up) and there’s a whole lot of moral gray areas happening, but even though I didn’t like any of the characters, I was definitely kept in suspense while reading, and the ending stayed with me for days after.
7. The Circle by Dave Eggers
This book is creepily realistic. The Circle is a kind of Facebook/Google behemoth, with a lust for information and a disregard for privacy. Mae is a normal woman who starts to work at the Circle, and though you may assume she will immediately realize how wrong the company’s direction is, you may be mistaken. It’s terrifying how easily Mae is sucked into the promises of the Circle, selling out her friends and family in the name of transparency and societal advancement. Some of Mae’s creepier quotes even include: “secrets are lies,” and “privacy is theft.” There’s a harrowing scene involving drones, a pickup truck, and a bridge, and I devoured this book in just a few days. You finish this book and tell yourself “it’s only a story. That could never happen in real life…could it?” If you’re not stressed out enough about current events, read this and get stressed out about the future possibilities. This book will translate really well to the big screen, and I am stoked to see the film! (I mean, Emma Watson? Tom Hanks? Yes please!) And as I wrote in my author overview of Eggers, this is by far his most accessible book, so if you don’t like his writing style normally, you may still really enjoy this book!
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
You can read my full review of this book here. This book is so great! Cormoran Strike is a wonderfully flawed protagonist, and his assistant Robin is a force to be reckoned with. Strike is a private investigator who is hired to investigate the death of a supermodel, Lula Landry, who had supposedly fallen from her balcony. As Strike investigates more closely, he finds that things in Landry’s life are definitely not as they seem. I couldn’t wait to finish this book and finally figure everything out. Plot twists abound, and I’m totally okay with that! The Cuckoo’s Calling doesn’t read anything like Harry Potter, but instead establishes J.K. Rowling as a master of suspense. If you love this book (and you will), the next two novels in the Cormoran Strike series are amazing as well!
9. The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
You are forgiven if you have never heard of this book. I bought it solely for the cover, and ended up enjoying it immensely. This is one of those rare books where you can’t really describe the plot at all without giving away too much of it! Suffice it to say that Eric Sanderson wakes up with no memory of who he is or his life at all. He finds notes written to him by “The First Eric Sanderson.” Is it a fugue state? Amnesia? Or is it something far more sinister? This book will take you into un-space, and into some very intricate concepts of space and thought. I liken it to House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, but with no footnotes and a more straightforward-ish plot. Having a character with no memory is always a way to pull me in, and I hope some of you will discover the thrills of The Raw Shark Texts as well.
10. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
This book is fantastic! It kept me guessing literally until the very end. I read this before reading The Girl on the Train and there is simply no comparison: The Woman in Cabin 10 is 10 times more interesting, more complicated, and better plotted. The characters are really layered, the setting (a cruise) is straight out of an Agatha Christie book, and the crime was supremely well thought out. Did Lo actually witness a murder? Who was the woman she met that no one seems to know about? Are the other guests actually who they claim to be? I was seriously on the last pages wondering if my hypotheses were correct. I immediately forced my husband to read it (to be fair, he put up very little fight) and he loved it too! SO. GOOD.
I also have one honorable mention: Kindred by Octavia Butler! Those of you who read this novel along with us in February knows that it was definitely suspenseful! What was sending Dana back in time? Would Kevin survive? Could Rufus every really change? Awaiting the inevitable violence stressed me out, and I read through this book quickly, NEEDING to know what would happen! It is so good!