Books that got me into thriller
You may have noticed that most of the books I review and discuss on my blog as with my other platforms mainly consist of contemporary novels, everyday narratives with a hard-hitting plot, domestic fiction and a sprinkling of fantasy and magical realism. I generally tend towards these genres, especially when those books are written by BAME* authors. But with the exception of My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, I haven’t read much thriller.
I’m not talking fantasy thrillers here, such as Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo which I loved by the way, I’m talking true crime, legal or spy thrillers; the types of narratives that depict explosive action, suspenseful mystery and mastermind criminal stunts. These narratives have always lent themselves more suitably to TV and cinema in my opinion but the books featured in today’s post have shown me that they can be just as nail-biting and suspenseful in books too.
If you love reading thriller, let me know in the comments what your favourite thriller book is. It doesn’t matter the sub-genre; fantasy, horror, heist, I would greatly welcome all of your recommendations.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
When Aiden Bishop wakes up, he has lost all his memories. He no longer remembers his name nor does he have any recollection of what he is pursuing out on the fields of the dilapidated Blackheath estate. He soon learns that he is trapped on this estate until he can solve the mystery behind Evelyn Hardcastle’s death. Everyday he wakes up in the body of a new host, where each new perspective provides more clues, unraveling the many dark secrets hidden behind the walls of Blackheath.
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle felt like a BBC period drama reminiscent of Groundhog Day and the works of Agatha Christie. It was a deeply entertaining read that constantly kept me guessing.
Sunburn – Laura Lippman
Summary from the back cover: “They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him… Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away..”
I thought Sunburn was a razor-sharp thriller with a film noir, Wild West edge.
The Disaster Tourist – Yun Ko-Eun
The Disaster Tourist is about 33-year-old Yona Ko, from Seoul, a programming coordinator who works for the disaster tourism company, Jungle. Yona’s job involves surveying places that have been ravished by natural disasters and then repackaging them as tourism hotspots. Until one day, when she is asked to go on one of the company’s holiday packages in Mui, Vietnam. The Disaster Tourist is a strikingly realist story. I thought it was indicative of real life economic corruption.
The Zara Kaleel Series: Take It Back & Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah
These books are both crime/legal thriller books that address weighty societal topics. In Take It Back, we follow 16-year-old Jodie Wolfe, a low-class white girl from East London whose disability means that she has a limp when she walks, a speech impediment and most noticeably, a malformed face. Jodie is gang raped by a group of Bengali and Pakistani Muslim teenage boys whom she goes to school with.
And Truth Be Told, is about a 17-year-old Asian senior called Kamram, who attends the very affluent Hampton’s college for boys. After his weekend plans get cancelled, he ends up staying on campus and attending an alcohol-fuelled party with his friends. In his inebriated state, Kamran is raped by one of his peers and battles over whether to report the incident to police, which he eventually does. In both cases, each protagonist seeks the help of former barrista turned sexual victims support worker, Zara Kaleel. Zara is passionate about helping her charges but also struggles with addiction and an estranged family.
I thought both books in this series were simply outstanding and so much more than just thriller entertainment.
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Lullaby – Leïla Slimani
Lullaby is a tragic psychological thriller about a typical French family who decide to hire a nanny to look after their young daughter and son so that the mother, Mariam can pursue her dream career in law. When Mariam and Paul first meet Louise, she seems like a perfect fit, something akin to a singing English governess who travels by air with an umbrella, she’s that prim and meticulous. But underneath that veneer, there lies a timebomb-like mental instability that threatens to implode in the most heart-breaking of ways. I loved the feeling of unease and dread this book created.
Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow – Peter Høeg
Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow by Peter Høeg is about an extremely reclusive middle aged woman whose drunken neighbour’s son is found dead one day on the streets of Copenhagen. Not satisfied with the official report of his death, Miss Smilla uses her deeply calculating mind and her ability to ‘read snow’ to investigate matters herself. It combines thriller and sci-fi elements with very heavily technical prose. I loved the novelty of the concept and all the plot-based drama.
These Women – Ivy Pochoda
These Women is a crime thriller that focuses on a serial killer case in South L.A., where victims are mostly female sex workers. The case began in 1999, at which point 11 murders were committed and 15 years later the killer is still at large, until the killings begin again..
Pochoda excels at creating intuitively thoughtful POV perspectives that make you empathise fully with the characters. These Women is a far-reaching book with a powerful feminist voice.
Currently Reading: The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell
I haven’t finished reading The Family Upstairs yet but I’m already loving the suspenseful mystery and feeling of unease emanating from this book. It’s a psychological murder mystery whereby the main character, Libby Jones has just inherited a mansion in the affluent London area, Chelsea. She soon comes to learn that her biological parents once lived in the mansion and it has a disturbing past linked to their murder and the ominous family who moved in with them.
After reading these books, I’m excited to wade even deeper into the realms of the thriller genre. So expect more thriller-related content. I have already curated a reading list of thrillers by particularly person-of-colour authors, in keeping with the aims of this website which is to recommend and discuss books with diversity. I can’t wait to share it with you. But for now, if you haven’t done so already, I would definitely check out the books featured in today’s post. They are all perfect suspense-builders to constantly keep you guessing.
*BAME – Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic