11 authors pick the best page turners
There’s nothing better than a gripping thriller that keeps you turning the pages while you tell yourself you’ll just read one more chapter, before you find yourself reading one more after that!
That’s why we asked some top crime writers to recommend their favourite page turners – and they certainly delivered.
With recommendations from Shari Lapena, Jane Corry, Howard Linskey and Karen Perry, amongst others, if you’re looking for an addictive read that you won’t be able to put down, then this thrilling list of the best page turners will give you plenty.
Jorn Lier Horst, author of The Inner Darkness:
The Memory Wood has just been published in Norwegian. Normally I would stay away from a book about children disappearing, but Sam Lloyd has a liberatingly light and original storytelling style. In his nerve-wracking way, he does the opposite of other crime writers by only hinting at the atrocities. He also serves up a clever twist, which makes this the most surprising and grotesque thriller I have read in a long time.
Jack Grimwood, author of Island Reich:
I was tempted to go with Joseph Knox’ True Crime Story, in which fiction is presented so entirely as fact, I ended up Googling the victim’s name to check Knox wasn’t pulling some kind of weird triple bluff. But the book that really gripped me recently was Denise Mina’s The Less Dead. A hard hitting, utterly unflinching crime novel that opens with Margo, a middle class Glaswegian GP waiting to discover the truth about her birth mother. The truth is grim, grimmer than Margo expects. Her mother was a murdered sex worker, one of a dozen in a case the police couldn’t be bothered to get round to solving. It’s intensely political, without mentioning politics. A novel about choices, lack of choices, class, and whose deaths get to count.
Andrea Mara, author of All Her Fault:
Earlier this year, I positively inhaled Ashley Audrain’s book The Push – I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what was going on with Blythe and her daughter Violet. The writing is beautiful but never slows the pace of the book. The story is told by Blythe, recounting her own childhood, her experience of becoming a mother, and her unsettling early months and years with her firstborn child – worrying that Violet is somehow ‘wrong’. It raises big questions about nature versus nurture and ‘the sins of our mothers’ but it’s also creepy and tense, and much as I savoured the wonderful writing, I desperately wanted to keep turning pages to find out: what did Violet do, or is it all in Blythe’s head? You’ll have to read it to find out!
Nicola Moriarty, author of You Need to Know:
Of course, as an avid reader, it’s always hard when you’re asked to choose your favourite book – even if you’re whittling it down to a specific genre and a specific year… there are still so many incredible books to choose from. However, when I was asked to name my favourite page-turning crime and thriller book for this year, one did come straight to mind. The Push by Ashley Audrain has got to be one of the most gripping, intense, page-flipping thrillers of the year. It’s thought-provoking and clever and an extreme nail-biter. Read it!
Tom Bradby, author of Triple Cross:
At the moment, I am tearing through True Crime Story by Joseph Knox. It is written with startling originality and is very hard to put down. In the last year I have also loved Boy Swallows Universe – also incredibly original – and, of course, Where the Crawdads Sing. Best page turners of all time? The Silence of the Lambs, Presumed Innocent and Len Deighton’s Berlin Game. Beautifully paced and structured, rich political context and sublime writing.
Howard Linskey, author of Don’t Let Him In:
The Killer Inside is the definition of a page turner. Matthew Frank gives us cops torn by the prospect of protecting a killer who cheated justice. They know he has done it but proving it is another thing. Then another girl dies while their man is still in hospital. What if they had the wrong man all along? DC Stark is a terrific creation. The kind of character you want more from and soon please.
Jane Corry, author of The Lies We Tell:
I once had to chase after a stranger who had got off the train, leaving her handbag on the seat next to me. I managed to give it to her – and jump back on the train – in time, but it did make me wonder afterwards. What had been inside that bag? So I was gripped by Trust Me, T M Logan’s new thriller where a stranger asks Ellie to hold her baby – but doesn’t come back. We often talk about not being able to put a book down, but I just HAD to stay up into the small hours to find out what happened. Trust me. The next time I get on a train, I’m going to watch out for handbags and babies, or anything else that’s left behind…
Karen Perry, author of Stranger:
I love a psychological thriller with a dual narrative that makes you question whose version of the truth you should trust. Erin Kelly’s brilliant He Said / She Said does just that and so much more. After witnessing a sexual assault, Laura and Kit alert the police, and it is this decision upon which the plot hinges. Fifteen years later, the couple are living in a constant state of fear – it’s a cat-and-mouse anxiety as they struggle to outrun the consequences of their intervention on that night. Flicking between past and present, as well as Laura and Kit’s differing perspectives, this is a smart complex drama full of mystery and misdirection where each page bristles with a nervy twitchy fear. I could not put it down.
Shari Lapena, author of The End of Her:
One of the best page turners I’ve read lately is The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean. It’s a brilliant book – absolutely chilling, unbearably tense, and beautifully written. A woman is trafficked from Vietnam and is held captive by a man on his isolated farm in England. She can’t escape because he smashed one of her ankles with bolt cutters years before – she can hardly walk and is in constant pain. But he also controls her through other means – the horse pills that she has come to depend on for the pain, his threats to have her sister, who is living illegally in the country, deported. Cameras watch her every move. If she steps outside the rules, he punishes her by making her choose one of her dwindling possessions to burn. This book is a master class in raising the stakes. You will NOT be able to put it down, I promise you.
Stephanie Wrobel, author of The Recovery of Rose Gold:
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf blew me away. Manderley Resort, a brand new hotel on the California coast, is about to open, but someone is determined not to let that happen. The staff has no idea as they make final preparations that they will each be killed off over the next twelve hours, one by one. This story is funny (doesn’t sound like it, I know!), ingeniously plotted, and beautifully written. I had to stop reading it at night because it left me too scared to fall asleep. If you can’t stomach gore, then skip this one – it’s a slasher. But it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read.
Emma Curtis, author of Invite Me In:
My favorite page turner. That’s a hard question to answer, but I’m going to pick a novel published twenty years ago; Harlan Coben’s Tell No One, because it inspired me. I’d been trying to write crime, among other things, but couldn’t seem to get on with detective fiction. This book gave me permission to write domestic based thrillers. Tell No One felt like the American films I loved: The Hand That Rocked The Cradle, Fatal Attraction or Pacific Heights; stories about families whose ordinary suburban lives turn into nightmares. It’s the story of David Beck whose wife Elizabeth has been kidnapped and murdered eight years previously. Out of the blue David receives an anonymous email telling him to log onto a website at a certain time, and there he sees his wife, live-streamed. He must find her because he loves her and is desperate to have her back, but also because the FBI are convinced he murdered her. Harlan Coben is a master of suspense. I’ve learned so much from reading his novels.
What would you pick as the best page turners? Let us know in the comments below!