7 authors pick the best suspense books
There’s nothing more captivating than a gripping crime novel that gets your blood racing, your heart pounding and the pages turning as you’re swept along with the mystery and intrigue.
Here at Dead Good, we love a recommendation – and who better to recommend the best suspense books than some of our favourite authors?
With plenty of surprises along the way, there’s something to keep every crime fan on the edge of their seat. We won’t keep you in suspense any longer…
Anna Bailey, author of Tall Bones:
Kate Riordan’s The Heatwave was definitely one of my favourite thrillers of 2020. Set in the lonely French countryside, the story unravels the chilling relationship between a mother and her troubled daughter. I live in France myself and it was eerily fitting to read about these characters cut off from the world by secrets and forest fires while in real life we were all feeling the sting of isolation. The mystery is so compelling and the characters are so hauntingly drawn, paired with Riordan’s typically atmospheric writing, this really was one of those books that I struggled to put down.
S J Watson, author of Final Cut:
Out by Natsuo Kirino. This Japanese crime novel clocks in at 500 pages and is an astonishing tour-de-force of suspense. It follows the story of a group of four factory co-workers who find themselves thrown together when one finally snaps and kills her abusive husband. With no other option, they cut up and dispose of the body, and what follows is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Japan’s yakuza as well as a gripping cat-and-mouse story as the women, reluctant criminals as they’ve now become, try to survive. Not only is it intensely suspenseful, but it’s a fascinating exploration of the power dynamics at play for these women trapped in a patriarchal society.
Gytha Lodge, author of Lie Beside Me:
The most suspenseful crime novel I can remember reading was Gillian McAllister’s wonderful How to Disappear, which I read only last year. It follows the story of teenager Zara, who witnesses a crime, and the fallout after she testifies about it. The result is a witness protection program that tears huge rents in the fabric of her family, and a constant danger of discovery that only increases as the book progresses. I was just incapable of stopping once I’d started. There are many books where the stakes are apparently high, and where a series of breathtaking events keep the tension up. But McAllister’s most recent book is set apart by its emotional punch as well as its tight, perfect plotting.
Liz Nugent, author of Our Little Cruelties:
The recently published The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard centres on the survivor of a family massacre who has written a book that tries to piece together what happened when a man broke into her home twenty years previously and slaughtered her entire family. Who was he and how did he get away with it, and several other mass murders too? As we read her story, we see the murderer reading and reacting to it. Has she got close to the truth and what is he going to do about it? It is an extremely clever hook within a book within a book, and I HIGHLY recommend it.
Andrea Mara, author of All Her Fault:
One of the most suspenseful crime novels I’ve read recently is Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. The story takes place before, during, and immediately after what appears to be a shooting in a school. The tension is almost unbearable at times as the story unfolds minute-by-minute, seen through the eyes of teachers, pupils, parents, and police officers. The suspense is created in the opening paragraph – who shot the head teacher and why? – and is maintained and built throughout the novel in the most exquisite way. The final chapters made me gasp out loud, and the ending – the answer to the question laid out in the first paragraph – is perfect.
Helen Callaghan, author of Night Falls, Still Missing:
I have a soft spot for the works of Donna Tartt, The Secret History especially. I remember receiving the proof while I was still a bookseller, years ago, and I spent a whole day on the couch reading it from start to finish, unable to look away. The book is narrated by a young outsider looking in on the glamourous lives of a gilded coterie of brilliant students studying Classics at an exclusive college. Before long they become seduced into an experiment into the ancient Greek Bacchanalia that ends in abandon and murderous violence. Tension mounts unbearably as they try to avoid the consequences for their crime. I think the thing I love most is how justice eventually finds them, but not in the way you expect. A wonderful novel.
Robert Goddard, author of The Fine Art of Invisible Detection:
It’s a rare work of suspense that tells you who’s going to be murdered and who’s going to do the murdering in a two-page prologue, but that’s what Donna Tartt does in her justly famous debut novel, The Secret History. This only makes what follows more fascinating, as the reader waits and wonders about the why and the how of the terrible deed, not to mention the slow working out of the consequences. Every page offers a teasing hint of what’s to come and what comes always seems, even when at its most extraordinary, entirely convincing. Add to that Tartt’s beautiful writing and you have an unforgettably compelling story that ekes out the revelations in deliciously measured portions. She’s never bettered this.
What are the best suspense books you’ve read? Let us know in the comments below!