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.

05/01/2021
6 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

Black 13

by Adam Hamdy

Book cover for 9781509899203
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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.

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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 . . . 

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. 

Can You See Me Now?

by Trisha Sakhlecha

Book cover for 9781509886357

One woman’s past secrets reverberate into the presents in this tense psychological thriller set in the turbulent world of Indian politics. When sixteen-year-old Alia arrives at her prestigious new private school in India from England, she’s quickly drawn into an intoxicating world of privilege when she befriends two of the most popular girls in her year. But the events of one night shatter her world, and just as she finds success as a cabinet minister in the Indian government, the secret of that night will come back to haunt her.

EVEN

by Andrew Grant

Book cover for 9781529054514

This pulse-racing spy thriller by Andrew Grant, now co-author of the Jack Reacher novels as Andrew Child, sees David Trevellyan, ex-Royal Navy Intelligence operative, fight for his life after he’s framed for murder. As he investigates who may have set him up, he discovers a huge international conspiracy which goes straight to the heart of power in the US. 

The best new thriller books of 2020

I Follow You

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781509816279

This nerve-shredding standalone thriller book is a must-read for fans of Peter James. Marcus Valentine seems like he has it all. He’s a suave, charming and confident doctor with a happy family. But something, or someone, has always been missing. Then one day, he narrowly misses hitting a jogger with his car. As she runs off, he’s sure that she’s a girl from his past. A girl he’s never been able to forget. As he is consumed by his obsession with her, events take a tragic turn. 

Discover all of Peter James's books.

Defend or Die

by Tom Marcus

Book cover for 9781509863624

Defend or Die is the second explosive thriller featuring former M15 agent Matt Logan.  Now part of a totally deniable government organisation known as ‘Blindeye’, they have the licence to do whatever it takes to protect the UK’s national security. When they start digging into the life of a Russian oligarch who may be connected to the threat of a terror attack in London, they soon discover a network of incredibly dangerous individuals who could tear the nation apart. 

Daylight

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781509874576

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 9781447265863

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 . . . 

Walk the Wire

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781509874545
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Amos Decker and Alex Jamison are called to the remote North Dakota Badlands when the remains of a woman are discovered on the Great Plains. The woman was a teacher at a school managed by a mysterious male-run sect, and no one seems to know who she is or where she came from. As they seek information from London, the local town at the centre of the fracking industry, they find that jealousy and deep rivalries exist between its richest investors. But it is the highly classified Air Force facility nearby that may really hold the answers . . . Fans of David's Memory Man series will love this new Amos Decker thriller.  

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Our Dark Secret

by Jenny Quintana

Book cover for 9781509839483
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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.

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The Darkest Evening

by Ann Cleeves

Book cover for 9781509889518

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.

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.

The Half Sister

by Sandie Jones

Book cover for 9781529033014
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Sisters Kate and Lauren have always been there for each other, but a knock at the door during their weekly Sunday lunch turns their world upside down. Because the woman at the door is claiming to be their half sister – which would mean she’s the daughter or their beloved late father. Kate and Lauren refuse to believe Jess’s lies, but it soon becomes clear that the sisters are hiding secrets of their own . . . This is a page-turning thriller book from the author of The Other Woman.

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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
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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.

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One Good Deed

by David Baldacci

Book cover for 9781529027501
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Murder, secrets, revenge, and just a touch of romance combine in this noir-inspired 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.

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The Secret of Cold Hill

by Peter James

Book cover for 9781509816255

When Cold Hill House went up in flames, so did the memories of its violent history. Now it's been replaced by a new development of ultra-modern houses, and although construction is still underway, the first two families can't wait to move into their new homes. But it's not long before they start to feel uncomfortable in their new homes. And one thing the estate agents never mentioned; no one ever lived beyond forty in Cold Hill House . . . This is a spine-chilling thriller book from the author of the Roy Grace series

Girl in the Rearview Mirror

by Kelsey Rae Dimberg

Book cover for 9781509895847
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This page-turning thriller about power and privilege will have you on the edge of your seat. Finn Hunt leaves her life in the Midwest behind for a fresh start in Arizona. When she finds a job as a nanny for the young daughter of a US senator, she also finds herself being pulled into the family's privileged life. But when a strange woman begins to follow Finn and her young charge, she realises that the senator and is family are hiding some dark secrets. 

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Recursion

by Blake Crouch

Book cover for 9781509866670
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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.

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Witness

by Mandasue Heller

Book cover for 9781529024265

Holly Evans is constantly on the move with her over-protective mum. When they move into an illegal sub-let in Manchester, Holly feels settled for the first time in her life, but why is she forbidden to go out, or even open the door when her mum's not there?

This gritty thriller paints a dark picture of Manchester's underworld, and will have you gripped until the last page.

Blood in the Water

by Jack Flynn

Book cover for 9781447298298
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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 . . . 

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A Window Breaks

by C. M. Ewan

Book cover for 9781529009675
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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.

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The Knock

by Jessie Keane

Book cover for 9781509854998
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Dora O’Brien’s life started to go bad when she began to mix with the wrong company. Pregnant, homeless and under the power of corrupt policeman Donny Maguire, Dora struggles with drink and drugs. Her daughter Angel grows up in the shadow of her mother’s abusive relationship, but when things turn murderous, she’s forced to grow up fast. Survival is the only thing that matters, and sometimes being on the wrong side of the law is the safest place to be . . . This is crime fiction at its most gritty. 

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You Are Not Alone

by Greer Hendricks

Book cover for 9781529010770
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Shay Miller has no job, no apartment and no boyfriend. When she witnesses a young woman throw herself in front of a train, she realises she could end up in the same spiral. But soon she meets a group of women who seem to have their lives together, and who invite her to join them, telling her, ‘You are not alone.’ As she is pulled deeper under the spell of the glamorous Moore sisters her life gets better and better, but what price does she have to pay? You are not alone. Is that a promise, or a threat? You Are Not Alone is set to be one of the most unforgettable psychological thrillers of 2020.

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The Fifth Column

by Andrew Gross

Book cover for 9781509878444
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It’s 1939 and Europe is on the brink of war. As Charles Mossman encounters a hate-filled Nazi sympathiser rally in New York, he confronts one of them, with deadly consequences. Two years later he is released from prison and all he wants is to make amends to his family. But support for the Allies is driving the Nazi sympathisers underground, and Charles is certain that dark forces are exploiting them.

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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.

Genesis

by Robin Cook

Book cover for 9781529019148
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At first, it is thought that social worker Kera Jacobsen died of a tragic drug overdose. But when Chief Medical Examiner Laurie Montgomery and her pathology resident Dr Aria Nichols start to investigate they find that Kera was ten weeks pregnant when she died. Could the father be the key to cracking the case? Aria investigates using a controversial new DNA tracking technique, but when Kera’s best friend is found murdered she realises there is someone out there who really doesn’t want Kera’s secrets to come to light. This is another tense read from the master of the medical thriller Robin Cook. 

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Saint X

by Alexis Schaitkin

Book cover for 9781529014303
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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.

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Tell Me Your Secret

by Dorothy Koomson

Book cover for [object Object]

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 . . . 

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?

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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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
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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.

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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

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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? 

Eye of the Needle

by Ken Follett

Book cover for 9781509860036

This wartime suspense thriller is bestselling author Ken Follett at his most gripping. It’s 1944 and the Allies are planning the D-Day invasion. If they succeed they’ll gain the upper hand in the war, but now Hitler’s prize undercover agent has discovered the plans. When his cover is blown, it’s a race against time to safely return to Germany, but MI5 are hot on his tail. And a remarkable young woman may be the key to stopping him . . . 

The Other Woman

by Sandie Jones

Book cover for 9781509885176

Sandie Jones’s debut novel is a gripping psychological thriller and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick.

When Emily meets Adam she knows he is the One, that together they can deal with anything that is thrown at them. But lurking in the shadows is another woman, Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants . . .

For even more edge of your seat recommendations, watch the Book Break episode below, where Emma shares the psychological thriller books everyone is going to be talking about this year: