We puzzled: What are the best mystery and thriller books ever written? You can discover our picks here and here. But earlier than we answered these questions ourselves, we turned to the specialists: 32 of the best-selling and most acclaimed novelists of our time.

What’s their opinion on one of the best crime novel ever? Which thriller impressed them to start writing within the first place? James Patterson, Tana French, Jeff Lindsay, Donna Leon, Kristin Hannah, Nora Roberts—we’ve included their suggestions and feedback in our personal lists, however their solutions are so revealing, considerate and passionate, we couldn’t hold them to ourselves.

If you’re like us, their true confessions will ship you to the closest bookstore. Find out what 32 authors record as their favourite thriller, thriller and crime novels.

Bestselling Authors Pick Their Favorites


Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

“At the age of 12, I had read everything in the children’s library and I was admitted to the grown-up section. Among the first books I borrowed was Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die (1954), still my favorite James Bond thriller. It has one of the all-time great opening lines: “There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent.” Nothing had captivated me so utterly since Noddy. I entered a brand new and alluring world of sports activities vehicles and cigarettes and weapons. In my creativeness, at the very least, I used to be 6 ft 1 inch tall with (I quote once more) ‘ice-blue eyes and a rather cruel mouth.’ I keep in mind asking my father what a martini was. ‘Some kind of drink,’ he mentioned grumpily, clearly having no concept. I may hardly wait to search out out.” – Ken Follett, writer of The Pillars of the Earth and most lately, Never

Related: 32 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2022


In A Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes

In A Lonely Place (1946) is the story of a charismatic and troubled young man in post-WWII Los Angeles who becomes a suspect in a murder. It’s one of the great unsung gems of crime fiction. It anticipates Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley and a deluge of serial killer novels that followed, but for my money, Hughes outsmarts them all. It’s a riveting, seductive page-turner as well as, more deeply, a fascinating, pointed and darkly funny exploration of toxic masculinity.” – Megan Abbott, writer of Dare Me and The Turnout 

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Room (2010) is quite simply one of the most powerful, most beautiful novels I’ve ever read. It’s one of those stories that lingers, that stays with you, that makes you see the world in a slightly different way. In Room, Donoghue performs a high wire act: She combines the heart-stopping terror and suspense of a traditional locked-room thriller with a meditation on the power of motherhood and the aftermath of trauma. For thriller fans, it may not be what you expect, and not what you’ve read before, but it’s impossible to put down.” – Kristin Hannah, writer of The Four Winds

Winter's Bone: A Novel
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Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

“It’s rare, maybe a 100,000 to 1 shot, that a novel will succeed on every level—the story, characters, dialogue and description that rises to the level of poetry. That’s what Daniel Woodrell achieved with Winter’s Bone (2006). And playing the part of Ree Dolly got Jennifer Lawrence her start. She should thank Daniel Woodrell every day.” – James Patterson, writer of Fear No Evil 


Judgement In Stone by Ruth Rendell

“The first sentence of Ruth Rendel’s A Judgment in Stone gives the name of the victims, the killer, and the motive. The reader spends the next three hundred pages hoping to find a way to stop it happening, to somehow prevent these poor lambs from leading themselves to the slaughter.” – Donna Leon, writer of Transient Desires

The Day of the Jackal
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The Day Of The Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

“This is my go-to model for an unstoppable roller coaster of a read. We follow a brilliant, amoral assassin as he moves closer and closer to his target, while our hero, a modest French police officer, doggedly pursues. And, what’s more, Forsyth keeps the tension boiling despite the Jackal’s target being…wait for it: Charles de Gaulle, who—spoiler alert—was not in fact assassinated.” – Jeffery Deaver, writer of the Lincoln Rhyme collection, together with The Midnight Lock (November 30)


When The Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block

A quantity of the basic ‘Matt Scudder’ collection and among the many nice noir novels of all time, this was one of many books that first impressed me to attempt to write. Set in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen within the Seventies, the story begins in a bar with alcoholic ex-cop Scudder consuming with some shady mates. When the joint will get robbed, the mobsters ship now private-eye Scudder to search out the perpetrators earlier than the police can.

The plot is terrific, the ending…nicely, it’s among the finest ever…however what makes the guide for me is the writing. Block is a grasp, not solely an outstanding technician however a real poet. What Chandler was to LA, Block is to New York. – Don Winslow, writer of City on Fire (out April 26)

The Talented Mr. Ripley
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The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith

“This should definitely rank in the top 50 thrillers of all time, if not take the top spot. Every Highsmith story is a masterclass in suspense, but the Ripley series, in general, endures as an artful twisting of the screw. Tom Ripley is not just a classic antihero, he is a precursor to so many flawed men we’re meant to root for—from Don Draper to Tony Soprano. Highsmith crafts him as a perpetual underdog, a striver that in many ways the reader finds more relatable than the monied snobs he so desperately wants to be a part of. Throughout the Ripley books, Tom is endlessly reaching for that brass ring just as, perpetually, his own cleverness and need for deceit pulls the ring from his grasp.” – Karin Slaughter, writer of False Witness


The Daughter Of Time by Josephine Tey

“Detective Inspector Grant is stuck in the hospital with a broken leg, so to fight off boredom, he starts investigating the case of the two young Princes in the Tower, who disappeared mysteriously in the 1480s. Everyone knows they were murdered by their wicked uncle Richard III…but is that what the evidence actually says? This is a detective novel that keeps you hooked all the way, even though it throws away most of the genre conventions—the detective barely moves from his bed, the crime happened centuries ago, there’s no definite resolution and never will be—but it’s a lot more than that. This is the book that made me realize that the history we’re given isn’t a neat collection of objective facts; it’s selective, it’s skewed, it’s shaped and re-shaped over time to fit various shifting narratives and agendas. I’m a lot more careful about checking sources—not just for history, but for news—since I read this book.” – Tana French, writer of The Searcher


The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald

“The day my mother thought I was old enough to read stories with S-E-X in them, I took her copy of The Deep Blue Good-By (1964), the first of John D. MacDonald’s great Travis McGee series. I was hooked. Great suspense, surprising plot twists, and a nightmarish but very believable villain. The smell of saltwater and diesel is tangible, and the final image of bad guy Junior Allen is like something from an awful dream. MacDonald has stayed fresh for me and influenced my writing.” – Jeff Lindsay, writer of the Dexter collection


The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy

“Tom Clancy, a name now synonymous with the modern techno-thriller, introduced the world to Jack Ryan in his debut novel The Hunt For Red October (1984). I first read it shortly after its initial publication by the Naval Institute Press and distinctly remember thinking that it was something special. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was reading a work that would launch a series of books, films, adaptations, spin-offs, video games and multiple works of non-fiction in an enterprise that shows no signs of slowing down. At the heart of what became a multimedia empire is a young CIA analyst who believes Captain Marko Ramius is defecting with the Soviet Union’s most highly classified technology, a silent propulsion system powering the ballistic missile submarine Red October. Crack it open today to be transported back to 1984, a time when Reagan was in the White House and the Cold War was in full swing.” – Jack Carr, writer of The Devil’s Hand

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Flood by Andrew Vachss

“I’d have to offer the nod to Andrew Vachss’s Flood (1985). I first learn it in 1989, then instantly blew via the remainder of the Vachss oeuvre, which was comparatively small then, however huge now. The solely fictional points of Vachss’s ultra-hardboiled novels are the darkish, broken characters populating them, and even these, it’s clear, are based mostly on folks Vachss has recognized. But the settings (sometimes the rancid underbelly of New York City) and the plots (sometimes involving sociopaths who prey on youngsters, and their familiars within the civilian world) are all from the laborious path walked by Vachss himself, a former juvenile jail director and lawyer specializing in advocacy for and the safety of abused youngsters. – Barry Eisler, writer of A Clean Kill In Tokyo


Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

“This remains for me the high-water mark of the thriller, a combination of classic tropes (honest cop working within a corrupt system) and original setting (Soviet-era Moscow). Many writers attempted to pull off similar tricks after Gorky Park (1981) proved such a hit, but few succeeded. This was mostly due to their lacking a central character as sympathetic and complex as Arkady Renko, who remains Russian to the core, even while his investigations bring him into head-on conflict with the State apparatus. Forty years on, after five or six readings, Gorky Park still thrills. I expect it always will.” – Mick Herron, writer of Slough Horse


The Hunter by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark

“My recommendation for best thriller is really a series: the Parker novels, written by Donald Westlake under his pseudonym, Richard Stark. And they’re indeed stark—grim, violent, crisply written stories about a hard-edged professional criminal who’ll do whatever it takes. Each book is a dose of pure stuff, and I can’t choose a favorite. This one is the first.” – Daryl Gregory, writer of Revelator


The End of the Night by John D. MacDonald

“At least 50 of his novels are works of genius. Published in 1960, this one foresees a morally broken America where murder has become a pointless, gratuitous, casual act. Eerily predictive.” – Robin Cook, writer of Coma and most lately Viral


Rules Of Prey by John Sandford

“John Sandford’s Prey series. Because the characters resonate as human beings who grow throughout the series, the plots are so strong and compelling. And the writing is absolutely solid.” – Nora Roberts, writer of The Becoming and the In Death collection, as J.D. Robb

Expensive People
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Expensive People by Joyce Carol Oates

“This was one of the most exciting novels I picked up when I was a young writer, and has the best opening of all time. It’s a fictional memoir-cum-confession of a murderer who happens to be an 18-year-old boy with an uncanny intelligence and the complex misery that results from affluence and neglect.” – Ottessa Moshfegh, writer of Death In Her Hands and LapvOna (June 21)

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

“A darkish, brooding psychological thriller, hauntingly lovely, however with a killer plot. Here du Maurier twists the screw till we do not know who to belief. I like the truth that Rebecca—the title character!—exists solely as an absence on the coronary heart of the guide, and likewise the truth that the narrator herself is unnamed all through. This thriller can also be an exploration of energy, of the boys who’ve it and the ladies who don’t, and the secrets and techniques advised to protect it. This guide endlessly altered my notion of what crime novels might be.” – S.J. Watson, writer of Final Cut

Swamp Sister
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Swamp Sister by Robert Edmund Alter

“Ignored by the literati, relegated to “pulp” standing by his (maybe pressured) selection of publishers, Robert Edmond Alter’s mastery of plot, character, and interstitial tissue was unparalleled for its period. And half a century on, it nonetheless holds its floor. Powerfully. Doubt me? Try Swamp Sister. It gained’t take you lengthy to learn…however you’ll keep in mind it endlessly.” – Andrew Vachss, writer of Carbon

The fourth wall
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The Fourth Wall by Barbara Paul

“This novel had a huge impact on the way I wrote women. Paul’s protagonist is a playwright, a reader, a scholar . . . and an adult woman. The murders taking place in the cast of her play offend her to the core. Every time I read The Fourth Wall I’m deeply impressed.” – Charlaine Harris, writer of The Russian Cage

The Third Man
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The Third Man by Graham Greene

“Strictly speaking, a film treatment, rather than a fully developed novel, but the Carol Reed film that emerged is the best noir film of all time, one of those films where every element works, and it’s fascinating to read the original source. Bonus film: another Greene/Reed collaboration, The Fallen Idol, a masterwork of moral ambiguity.” – Joseph Kanon, writer of The Accomplice


The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“Dumas père wrote the quintessential and thrilling action-adventure tale of a man who, despite all odds, prevails in seeking not only revenge—but Divine Retribution—against the forces of darkness that had sentenced him to be literally buried alive in the prison of an island fortress. Edmond Dantès’ heroic escape and subsequent triumph against his enemies is carried out in a series of brilliant coups, by exploiting each of his enemies’ vulnerabilities (greed, power, lasciviousness) in such a way that each villain brings about his own downfall. A real tour de force that will never lose its literary power. (Read the unabridged 2-volume version if you can get it!)” – Katherine Neville, writer of The Fire


Jack’s Return Home aka Get Carter by Ted Lewis

“The 1971 film Get Carter, starring Michael Caine and directed by Mike Hodges, is rightly hailed as one of the greatest British films ever made. But Jack’s Return Home, the book on which it is based, and its author Ted Lewis are both still not cherished and celebrated enough. Because make no mistake: Jack’s Return Home is the finest British crime novel ever written. The genius of Lewis was to take the Jacobean revenge tradition, the Northern English landscape of “kitchen sink social realism” and the hardboiled prose of Hammett, Cain and Chandler (“the rain rained”) and then mix them together with a fury and passion all of his own. Lewis would go on to write many other good novels and one final masterpiece—GBH; the blackest, bleakest, darkest crime novel you will ever read—but Jack’s Return Home is where British Noir begins and the one book every crime fan should read. And read again. And again.” – David Peace, writer of Tokyo Redux

True Grit: A Novel
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True Grit by Charles Portis

“Usually viewed as a Western, True Grit is certainly that but much more besides. 14-year-old Mattie Ross is hunting fugitive Tom Chaney for not just killing her father, but stealing from him and betraying his trust. But Mattie does not seek blood redress, she seeks justice—to see Chaney ‘hanged at Judge Parker’s convenience’ back home at Little Rock. A revenge story, a manhunt, a thriller, a story of trust, love, bravery, duty, and tenacity—True Grit has it all.” – Jasper Fforde, writer of The Eyre Affair and The Constant Rabbit


The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

“The best private eye novel I’ve ever read. Best first sentence, most satisfying ending, most beautifully written from beginning to end. A novel in which all the characters, male and female are perfectly drawn and unforgettable, but maybe none more so than Fireball Roberts, an English bulldog with a drinking problem and the main character’s doppelgänger. One of the great pleasures of my life was getting to meet Jim Crumley and tell him that his masterpiece forever changed my perception of what a crime novel could be.” – Dennis Lehane, writer of Since We Fell


Not To Disturb by Muriel Spark

“In Muriel Spark’s Not To Disturb, the Baron and the Baroness lock themselves in the study with their young male secretary. We know where this is going, and so do a troupe of loyal servants, who begin preparing for the inevitable murder with the same ice-cold care and deadpan scheming with which they do everything. Meanwhile, strange noises are coming from the attic, and this mystery, or thriller, or satire, whatever it is, locks itself in your head and screams to get out.”  – Daniel Handler, writer of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Poison For Breakfast 


Hoke Moseley Series by Charles Willeford

“Charles Willeford drove a tank in WWII, and then had every job there is conceivably tougher than that, and then began in the 50s writing it down, publishing what was openly called “psychopulp.” These books featured heroes that Willeford seemed to want to position just this side of the indecency fence—the likeable unlikeable fellow. It was a delicate titration reminiscent somewhat of Bukowski and his you-want-to-love-them drunks. But Willeford has a larger range. The whole nasty Western world is in view, not just the bottle. In his last four books, Willeford delivered the perfectly likeable unlikeable Hoke Moseley. He’s 42, a homicide detective, and in Miami Blues, the first of these books, arguably the most balanced and whole narrative proposition—so that Hollywood got Fred Ward and Alec Balwin and did a fine movie of it—Moseley is assaulted by a killer who leaves him unconscious and takes his badge, his gun, and his teeth. Moseley will break some rules, and Willeford is not so unsubtle as to be after the bad-good-cop paradigm, the make-my-day cartoon.” – Padgett Powell, writer of Indigo


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

“A sprawling masterpiece of suspense that also happens to be a book about nearly everything: family and loss and grief and despair and growing up and art and betrayal and many types of love. The characters are interesting and sympathetic and flawed and wonderful; the beautiful prose is deeply felt and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny; the point of view is intimate, yet the plot is expansive and exciting. It’s a rich, cinematic world that Ms. Tartt has created, in a novel that’s very long, but for me not nearly long enough. It’s a book I could read forever.” – Chris Pavone, writer of The Paris Diversion


Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron

“This mystery introduced Maron’s Deborah Knott as a rural North Carolina criminal defense attorney who decides to run for a judgeship after witnessing an unjust verdict by a racist judge. In this deeply atmospheric series debut, Deborah, the daughter of a well-known local moonshiner, must not only overcome her father’s notorious legacy, but also solve a decades-old cold case involving a young mother who disappeared with her three-year-old daughter for a three-day period. Eventually, the daughter is found alive, but her mother has been murdered. Exploring themes of racism, homophobia and class divide in the deep South, Bootlegger’s Daughter has a meticulously plotted puzzle with a richly-drawn cast of characters. In 1993, Bootlegger’s Daughter became the first novel to win all four major mystery prizes in the same year: the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards for best novel. Bootlegger’s Daughter is a modern classic not only because of the lyrical writing, but because it knocked down barriers in the mystery genre, which until then was dominated by male writers of hard-boiled novels, and because it opened the doors for dozens of other women novelists whose careers were mostly inspired—and assisted—by Maron, who died this year at the age of 82.” – Mary Kay Andrews, writer of The Santa Suit

So Much Pretty: A Novel
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So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

“When I first read this novel, I lay awake at night thinking about it. Sometimes, almost a decade on, I still do, because So Much Pretty is a deeply disturbing book. Both a cleverly-constructed thriller and a furious polemic, it never shies away from complex moral questions. Within the framework of the traditional crime novel (the disappearance of a young woman, the discovery of a body), Hoffman tackles misogyny, vengeance, rural poverty and familial love to devastating (and unforgettable) effect.” – Paula Hawkins, writer of A Slow Fire Burning


Mother Love by Domini Taylor aka Roger Longrigg

“Every family has one: the distant aunt or cousin who shows up at the occasional family function, and before she comes in someone hisses, “Remember, nobody mention her ex-husband!” Young English lawyer Kit Vesey in Mother Love has to go a step further, keeping his friendship with his father and stepmother a secret from his fragile mother Helena. But what Kit doesn’t know, and the reader does, is that Helena is insane and has already committed one murder when she felt betrayed—so what will she do when she learns her son has been sneaking behind her back his whole life to see his beloved father? Both funny and chilling, this is a terrifyingly plausible story of the deadly danger that can grow in a family’s shadows in the name of ‘just tell a white lie to get along.’”  – Kate Quinn, writer of The Rose Code and The Diamond Eye (March 29)


The Human Factor by Graham Greene

“Not one of Greene’s best-known works, but by far my favourite of his thrillers. It is free of his Catholic-convert angst and, like the best of le Carré, brings the big picture of international espionage home to the bland ‘little’ people pushing paper in the office. Decisions intended to affect international realignment have painful consequences at the personal level that can come home to roost in surprising ways. Greene’s ability to structure a scene for maximum impact makes his work extremely vivid and cinematic; the tension builds relentlessly as the officers of MI5 close in on their suspect.” – Giles Blunt, writer of Vanishing Act

A Perfect Spy: A Novel
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A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

“No one writes about espionage like this author. His subtle portrayals of the dark art and science of the profession are the real deal; there’s none of the explosive glitz we see in most thrillerdom on the subject. A Perfect Spy is the best of his piercing, and literary stylistic, tales of spies at work, and what that work does to them. But I’ve picked it because it is also one of the most engrossing, and harrowing, portraits of a father-son relationship I’ve ever read. Not for the faint of heart—and that warning is not because of car chases and shootouts.” – Jeffery Deaver, writer of The Midnight Lock

Rosemary's Baby
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Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

“I distinctly recall the expertise of studying my most memorable thriller/suspense novel. It occurred one night time after I had lastly retreated into the on-call room as a second-year surgical resident in a busy trauma-1, city hospital whereas awaiting the inevitable name for the subsequent emergency. There I occurred upon an deserted copy of Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. In a misguided concept that it’d calm me down sufficient to get some sleep, I began it. Due to having needed to keep gainful employment via faculty and medical college, I had by no means availed myself of the pleasure of studying up to date thrillers and had no concept of how partaking they might be. Adhering to the cliché, I couldn’t put it down, I ended up studying the complete novel that night time as I wasn’t known as. Not solely did the expertise make me right into a thriller/suspense fan, however I imagine it additionally performed a task in my turning into a thriller/suspense author myself.” – Robin Cook, writer of Viral

The Blank Wall
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The Blank Wall by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding

“One of the great lost classics of noir, a tale of a suburban woman trying to hold her family together while her husband is overseas in WWII. When her teenage daughter falls for a potentially dangerous man, we see what lengths she’ll go to in order to protect her family. But we also see, more discreetly, her sneaking pleasure in navigating the dark underbelly of her safe world. It’s riveting and complex and forever relevant as this 1947 novel tackles intricate issues of family, parenthood, stability vs. chaos. Also: there are two worthy movie adaptations: The Reckless Moment (1949) and The Deep End (2001).” – Megan Abbott, writer of The Turnout

The Summer of Katya: A Novel
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The Summer Of Katya by Trevanian

“Like Andrew Vachss, Rodney William Whitaker, writing under the pen name Trevanian, had a big influence on the stories I went on to write. What resonated for me with Vachss was grit and realism; with Trevanian it was spy novels featuring characters with special skills—infiltration, assassination, evasion, etc—governments wanted to restrict to a select few because anyone possessing them would be dangerous if not subject to government control. I loved The Eiger Sanction, Shibumi and the other of Trevanian’s big spy novels. But I think his best thriller, and my favorite, was painted on a much smaller canvas: The Summer of Katya, a perfect, gorgeous character-driven mystery set in the Basque countryside of France on the eve of the first world war, with a heart-rending romance at its center and a disturbingly dark climax of revenge.” – Barry Eisler, writer of The Chaos Kind

Next, These are the 40 Best Books of 2021

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