The best thriller books of 2021

Here we share our edit of the most exciting thriller books to come in 2021, from historical crime thrillers to gripping psychological page-turners, the best thrillers of 2020, and the very best thriller novels of all time.

12/07/2021
5 minutes to read

From edge-of-your-seat psychological thrillers to gripping crime novels, 2021 is set to be a nail-biting year for thriller books. Ellery Lloyd’s smart social media thriller People Like Her will have you turning the pages through the night, while D. V. Bishop’s explosive debut City of Vengeance is perfect for fans of historical crime thrillers. Here, we’ve curated our edit of the best new thriller books of 2021, we look back at the best thrillers of 2020 and round up the very best thriller novels of all time.


The best new thriller books of 2021

Red Wolves

by Adam Hamdy

Book cover for 9781509899241

Connecting the dots between a daring escape from a Cairo prison, an assassin who kills with a single touch and a vicious drug war enfolding on the streets of America, ex-MI6 officer Scott Pearce uncovers a plot to unleash a devastating toxin on the world. Pearce doesn't abide by the the espionage rulebook and he's in a desperate race against time to stop this deadly threat. 

Red Wolves is the second stunning novel in the Scott Pearce series from bestselling author Adam Hamdy.

Magma

by Thora Hjörleifsdóttir

Book cover for 9781529045543

Twenty-year-old Lilja is in love. He is older and beautiful, a Derrida-quoting intellectual. He is also a serial cheater, gaslighter and narcissist. Lilja will do anything to hold on to him. And so she accepts his deceptions and endures his sexual desires. She rationalizes his toxic behaviour and permits him to cross all her boundaries. In her desperation to be the perfect lover, she finds herself unable to break free from the toxic cycle. And then an unexpected ultimatum: an all-consuming love, or the promise of a life reclaimed.

Rabbits

by Terry Miles

Book cover for 9781529016932

Rabbits is a secret, dangerous and sometimes fatal underground game. The rewards for winning are unclear, but there are rumours of money, CIA recruitment or even immortality. Or it might unlock the universe’s greatest secrets. But everyone knows that the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes – and the body count is rising. Since the game first started, ten iterations have taken place . . . and the eleventh round is about to begin.

Fragile

by Sarah Hilary

Book cover for 9781529029444

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong. So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.

Sixteen Horses

by Greg Buchanan

Book cover for 9781529027167

Near the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, local police detective Alec Nichols discovers sixteen horses’ heads on a farm, each buried with a single eye facing the low winter sun. After forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen travels to the scene, the investigators soon uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in the community – disappearances, arson and mutilations – all culminating in the reveal of something deadly lurking in the ground itself.

In the dark days that follow, the town slips into panic and paranoia. Everything is not as it seems. Anyone could be a suspect. And as Cooper finds herself unable to leave town, Alec is stalked by an unseen threat. The two investigators race to uncover the truth behind these frightening and insidious mysteries – no matter the cost.

Sixteen Horses is the debut literary thriller from an extraordinary talent, Greg Buchanan. A story of enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind . . .

The Imposter

by Anna Wharton

Book cover for 9781529037395

The Imposter – Anna Wharton's debut thriller – is a compelling story of obsession, loneliness and lies. Newspaper archivist Chloe lives a quiet life until one day at work she reads about the long-forgotten cold case of Angie Kyle, a girl who went missing as a child. When an unexpected turn of events finds her living as a lodger in Angie's parents' house, Chloe soon learns that the case of the missing girl is not as simple as it first seemed and becomes obsessed with finding out the truth.   

A Gambling Man

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781529061772

Evoking the golden age of crime writing with its 1940s California-setting, David Baldacci's latest thriller is a must-read for fans of his previous books and lovers of historical crime thrillers. Set amongst the gamblers and gangsters of the seedy-underbelly of America's casinos and the second instalment in his new series starring ex-jailbird Aloysius Archer, A Gambling Man will transport you straight to the smoke-filled burlesque clubs and slot machines of Reno and Bay Town. 

Discover our guide to David Baldacci's series, here.

Saint X

by Alexis Schaitkin

Book cover for 9781529014266

When Claire is just seven years old, her teenage sister Alison vanishes while they are on holiday with their parents on the Carribean island Saint X. When Alison’s body is found days later two men are arrested, but the evidence is slim, and they’re later released without charge. As the story hits the tabloids, the lives of Claire and her parents are changed forever.

Years later, Claire is living in New York when she unwittingly gets into a taxi with one of the men accused of her sister’s murder. Sure this is fate, she engineers another meeting and begins an obsessive search for the truth. This moving, atmospheric novel has all the tension of a crime thriller novel as it hurtles towards a devastating end.

The Hiding Place

by Jenny Quintana

Book cover for 9781529040401

This tense mystery from Jenny Quintana is a must-read for thriller fans. Marina was adopted as a baby after she was found wrapped in a blue shawl in a shared house in London. The press nicknamed her Baby Blue, but the circumstances around her birth are still unknown.  Marina longs to uncover the truth about her birth, so when a flat in the house where she was found is put up for rent, she seizes her chance.  But what if it's not just the house hiding secrets? What if someone knows what happened that day,  and wants to make sure the truth never comes to light?

Available now in hardback, and in paperback from August 19th.

Black 13

by Adam Hamdy

Book cover for 9781509899203

Black 13 is the exhilarating first spy thriller book in Adam Hamdy’s Scott Pearce series. Radical extremists are rising and governments, the military and intelligence agencies are outmanoeuvred, borders are breaking down and the people in power are puppets. In this new world, one man will make a difference. That man is Ex-MI6 agent in exile, Scott Pearce.

People Like Her

by Ellery Lloyd

Book cover for 9781529039382

This smart debut thriller from husband-and-wife writing team Ellery Lloyd takes a compelling look at the dark side of social media and influencer culture. Emmy Jackson is better known to her online fans as Instagram sensation Mamabare, famous for telling it like it is when it comes to modern parenthood. But not everything you see online can be believed, and someone out there knows the truth about Emmy and intends to make her pay . . . 

When I Was Ten

by Fiona Cummins

Book cover for 9781509876969

Dr Richard Carter and his wife were murdered in what was one of the most infamous double murders of the modern age. Their daughter, ten-year-old Sara Carter, spent eight years in a children’s secure unit for the crime, and is now living a quiet life under an assumed name.  with a family of her own. On the anniversary of the crime, journalist Brinley Booth is tasked with tracking down Sara and her older sister Shannon. But Brinley isn’t just a journalist – she’s also the sisters’ childhood friend. And confronting what really happened on the night of the murders will have consequences for them all. This is another gripping read from thriller writer Fiona Cummins.

City of Vengeance

by D. V. Bishop

Book cover for 9781529038774

Florence, 1536. When a prominent Jewish moneylender is found dead, Cesare Aldo, an officer of the criminal court, is tasked with solving his murder. Over the course of his investigation, Aldo uncovers a plot to overthrow the unstable ruler of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici. Aldo is caught in a frantic race against time to solve the murder and stop the conspiracy, while keeping his own secrets safely locked away. This historical crime thriller is an exciting debut from D. V. Bishop.

Daughters of Night

by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Book cover for 9781509880829

This historical crime thriller is the second from Laura Shepherd-Robinson, following her award-winning debut Blood & Sugar. Set in London in 1782, it’s the story of Caroline Corsham, who is determined to seek justice for a string of murders of high-class prostitutes – crimes that the police are all too happy to ignore. As she delves deeper into the darkest, hidden corners of Georgian society, Caroline soon finds that much more than her reputation is at stake. . .

Nightshift

by Kiare Ladner

Book cover for 9781529010381

This dark, sexy and frightening novel explores ambivalent female friendship against the otherworldly backdrop of London’s liminal world of nightshift workers. When twenty-three-year-old Meggie meet the enigmatic Sabine she realizes that Sabine is everything she herself would like to be. She quickly gives up her daytime existence for the chance of working the same nightshifts as Sabine, and her obsession soon gains a momentum all of its own. 

The Darkest Evening

by Ann Cleeves

Book cover for 9781509889556

The Darkest Evening is the ninth novel in Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series, a critically-acclaimed series of detective novels that follow Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, and now a major ITV drama in its tenth series.

A classic country house mystery with a contemporary twist, Vera's latest case begins, when, driving home through a thick blizzard, she sees a car slewed off the road ahead of her and finds a young toddler, alone on the back seat.

Fearing for the child's safety, Vera takes the child and drives on to the nearest house, arriving at Brockburn, a run-down stately home to find a party in full swing, but outside in the snow, a young woman lies dead . . .

In a classic country house mystery with a contemporary twist, this is a crime thriller to savour.

Discover all of the novels in Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series here.

The Innocent Dead

by Lin Anderson

Book cover for 9781529033656

When Mary McIntyre disappeared, it tore the local community apart. When a child’s remains are found in a peat bog decades later, it seems that the mystery may finally be solved. Karen Marshall had been devastated by her friend’s disappearance, but did Karen have a part to play in what happened? Rhona MacLeod must use all her skills to determine what happened all those years ago . . . and who was really responsible.


The best new thriller books of 2020

Daylight

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781509874606

The third book in the Atlee Pine series from bestselling thriller writer David Baldacci sees Atlee teaming up with her old friend, military investigator John Puller. As they work together to investigate Ito Vincenzo, the man responsible for kidnapping Atlee’s sister, they uncover the lies and deceit that strike at the very heart of democracy. And the truth of what happened to Atlee’s sister will shock her to her core.  

Discover all of David Baldacci's books in order.

The Hidden Girls

by Rebecca Whitney

Book cover for 9781447265887

This dark psychological thriller book from debut author Rebecca Whitney is one of the best thriller books of 2020. Ruth is a new mother recovering from postpartum psychosis, and after months of hearing voices she’s no longer sure of her own judgement – and neither, it seems, is anyone else. When she hears a scream from a petrol station one night, she thinks it must be her mind playing tricks again, and the police and her husband agree. But what if there was a scream? Someone could be in trouble. They could need Ruth’s help . . . 

Our Dark Secret

by Jenny Quintana

Book cover for 9781509839483

As a teenager in the 1970s, Elizabeth was clever and overweight, a perfect target for bullies. Then Rachel and her family moved to town, and everything changed. She was drawn to bright, beautiful Rachel like a moth to a flame. Their friendship wasn’t exactly equal, but Elizabeth would do anything for Rachel. Then the first body was found . . . When, twenty years on, another body is found, Elizabeth is desperate to keep the secrets of her teenage years secret. But she can’t keep running from her past. Can she? This intelligent crime thriller book is a must-read for fans of Jenny Quintana’s The Missing Girl.

Find Them Dead

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781529004328

Award-winning crime thriller writer Peter James is back with a gripping new Roy Grace book.  A Brighton gangster is on trial for conspiracy to murder, and on the first day of the trial, there is one person in the gallery observing the jurors with keen interest. The gangster’s henchmen need to influence two of the jurors if he is to be found not guilty – but which two? When Roy Grace is called to investigate a murder with links to the trial, he realises how powerful the accused really is. 

Discover all the Roy Grace books here.

If I Can't Have You

by Charlotte Levin

Book cover for 9781529032390

When Constance Little meets Samuel, a doctor at the GP surgery where she works as a receptionist, she knows that he’s the one. Samuel seems less sure, but if Constance has learnt anything in life, it’s that when you love someone, you never let them go. If I Can’t Have You is an all-consuming novel about loneliness, obsession and how far we go for the ones we love.

Sisters

by Michelle Frances

Book cover for 9781509877171

The sibling rivalry runs deep between Abby and Ellie. They were never close as children, and not much has changed since then. Abby always resented Ellie for being their mother’s favourite, while Ellie is jealous of Abby’s perfect husband and beautiful home on the Italian island of Elba. When Abby invites Ellie to stay, they hope they can finally put aside their differences, but with their mother also there simmering tensions soon explode. And Abby begins to suspect that her mother and sister are keeping a dangerous secret . . . This psychological thriller book offers perfect escapism. 

The Last Trial

by Scott Turow

Book cover for 9781529039085

Kindle County’s most revered courtroom advocate, Sandy Stern, has been persuaded to defend his old friend Kiril Pafko, despite being eighty-five years old and in precarious health. The former Nobel prize-winner has been charged in a federal racketeering indictment with fraud, insider trading and murder. As Stern begins to question everything he thought he knew about his friend, he finds his duty to defend his client and his belief in the judicial system facing a terrible final test. This masterful legal thriller unfolds with page-turning suspense.

One Good Deed

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781529027501

Murder, secrets, revenge, and just a touch of romance combine in this noir-inspired crime thriller with a twist which is sure to keep you gripped until the very last page. Aloysius Archer wants to start a new, peaceful life in Poca City after serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. But he takes on more than he bargained for when he starts work as a debt collector for local business tycoon Hank Pittleman and becomes involved with some of the town's most dangerous residents.

Explore more of David Baldacci’s books here.

Recursion

by Blake Crouch

Book cover for 9781509866670

Barry Sutton is on a quest for the truth. Across the country people are waking up with memories of a life they have not lived. Are they victims of a mysterious, new disease affecting memory? Or is something terrible happening to the very fabric of reality? Recursion is the follow-up to the time twisting science fiction thriller Dark Matter.

Blood in the Water

by Jack Flynn

Book cover for 9781447298298

Homeland Security agent Kit Steel is comitted to combating terrorism. And she's after the blood of her nemesis, Vincente Carpio, one of the world's most ruthless and dangeroud criminals. He was responsible for the death of her husband and young son, and Kit is determined to keep him behind bars forever. But the manipulative Carpio still has influence on the outside, and he's just waiting for the right moment to strike . . . 

A Window Breaks

by C. M. Ewan

Book cover for 9781529009675

If your family was targeted in the middle of the night, what would you do? After a horrible tragedy, a family retreat to rural Scotland for a much-needed escape. But, in the dead of night, a group of strangers break into the house. As the family fight for their lives, long-kept secrets are revealed and everything could be lost. This nerve-shredding thriller book will keep you up at night.

Tell Me Your Secret

by Dorothy Koomson

Book cover for Tell Me Your Secret

Ten years ago, Pieta survived a weekend with a serial killer. She never told anyone what happened, but now he’s back – and staying alive might mean revealing her darkest secret. Fifteen years ago, Jody, a policewoman, made a mistake that resulted in the killer going free. When she discovers Pieta’s story, she realises she now has a way to catch him. 

In this episode of Book Break, Emma explores all the different types of thrillers there are to read: 

The best thriller books of all time

The Trap

by Melanie Raabe

Book cover for 9781509810697

Twelve years ago, Linda’s little sister was murdered. Linda saw the murderer, but he was never caught. And now she’s seen him again – on TV. He’s a well-known reporter, and Linda is sure no one will believe her, so she sets a trap. She writes a book about a woman who is murdered and whose killer is never caught. And when it’s published, she agrees to give an interview to just one reporter . . . 

Raven Black

by Ann Cleeves

Book cover for 9781447274438

Raven Black is the first novel in Ann Cleeves’s Shetland crime fiction series, which is now a hit TV series on BBC One starring Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.

In the first instalment in the series, the strangled body of a teenage girl is discovered by a neighbour on a bitterly cold January morning. The community are quick to suspect loner Magnus Tait, and suspicion and fear soon engulf the small island. Led by Detective Inspector Perez, the police must search out the killer before they strike again.

Discover all of Ann Cleeves' Shetland books in order, here.

A Simple Favour

by Darcey Bell

Book cover for 9781529004052

When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son from school she happily says yes. Their children are classmates and best friends. As a widow and stay-at-home blogger mum, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a glamorous and successful PR executive.

The trouble is that Emily doesn't come back. No matter what the police say, Stephanie knows that she would never leave her son. Terrified, she reaches out to her fellow mummy bloggers. And she also reaches out to Emily's husband to offer her support.

But what Stephanie hasn't shared are the secrets buried in a murky past...


Absolute Power

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781447287520

Adapted into a film directed by, and starring, Clint Eastwood, Absolute Power is a gripping story set at the heart of Washington DC’s political power. When professional burglar Luther Whitney gets trapped on the job, he witnesses something that destroys his faith in justice. Can he uncover a political conspiracy to goes all the way to the President of the United States?

The Axeman's Jazz

by Ray Celestin

Book cover for 9781447258889

Inspired by a true story and set against the heady backdrop of jazz-filled, mob-ruled New Orleans, The Axeman's Jazz is the first instalment in Ray Celestin's gripping City Blues Quartet, a page-turning historical crime fiction series.

New Orleans, 1919. A serial killer stalks the city and issues an ultimatum: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim.
As the fearful city complies with his demands, three individuals are set on unmasking the killer’s identity. The Axeman’s Jazz is a tale of gruesome murders, secrets and lies, set against the backdrop of a vibrant and violent city . . . 

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Book cover for My Sister, the Serial Killer

Korede has always been a good big sister, stepping in to help her little sibling clean up her messes. Unfortunately, Ayoola’s messes tend to be lethal.  In fact, she’s dispatched her last three boyfriends in ‘self-defence’. Family comes first, until Ayoola starts dating the doctor at the surgery where Korede works . . . 

American Psycho

by Bret Easton Ellis

Book cover for 9781447277705

Wall Street in the eighties; the American dream in overdrive. On the surface, Patrick Bateman is living the dream: a job as a stockbroker, dinner dates every night at the latest restaurant in town, a string of admirers – aided by his charm and good looks. But behind the pristine façade lurks a psychopath. A man addicted to his superficial life, Bateman pulls us into a dark underworld where the American Dream turns to nightmare. One of the most controversial novels of all time, American Psycho (which was adapted into a film of the same name in 2000) is a disturbingly brilliant black satire about the darkest side of human nature.

Absolute Proof

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781447240952

When investigative reporter Ross Hunter answers the phone to Dr Harry Cook, his life changes forever. Harry claims that he’s been given absolute proof of God’s existence, and he wants Ross’s help to get the world to take him seriously. The credibility of all the world’s religions is under threat, if Ross can survive enough to present the evidence . . .

Listen to Peter James and Hugh Bonneville discuss Absolute Proof and more.

The Wife Between Us

by Greer Hendricks

Book cover for 9781509842834

This shocking and intelligent domestic thriller is the debut novel from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Unstable Vanessa is obsessed with her ex-husband and his new, younger fiancé, and she’ll stop at nothing to make sure they don’t get married. But what’s really driving her obsession – is it jealousy or something else? 

Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

Book cover for Gone Girl

This twisty psychological thriller became a phenomenon when it was published, selling over twenty million copies worldwide and being adapted into a hit film starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. When Nick Dunne wakes up on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife missing, he quickly becomes the police’s chief suspect. Amy’s friends reveal she was afraid of him, there are strange searches on his computer and persistent calls to his mobile phone, but Ben swears he knows nothing about any of this. So what really happened to Amy Dunne?