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50 best book club books for crime thriller fans, as chosen by our readers

We asked you to tell us what you think are the best book club books for crime thriller reading groups – from brilliant bestsellers to lesser-known novels.

Whether you’re a book club connoisseur or a reading group newbie, there’s nothing like a recommendation to inspire you to pick up a book you might never have considered before – and better still if it’s a book worth talking about.

That’s why we asked those in the know – Dead Good book worms from book clubs up and down the country – to recommend crime fiction that demands to be discussed.

From contemporary classics and modern masterpieces to brilliant bestsellers and lesser-known thrillers, take your pick from this jam-packed list of book club recommendations and you won’t find yourself short of conversation.

50 best book club books:

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

In an upmarket English retirement village four friends meet every Thursday to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their doorstep they quickly find themselves in the centre of their first live case. Can they catch the killer before it’s too late? Funny, charming and with a big slice of personality, it’s not hard to see why this cosy crime caper has proved so popular. With more instalments in the pipeline, it’s one to read now if you haven’t already.

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

This particularly intriguing title features ‘semi-retired’ private investigator Jackson Brodie who is witness to an unusual event in a shopping centre in Leeds. What unfolds is an exploration of a past crime which plays out with devastating effect in the present day. A poignant and gripping state-of-the-nation novel that mixes humour with dark themes. As the fourth instalment in the Jackson Brodie series there are more to enjoy once you’re hooked!

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

A young girl is brutally murdered in a quiet Copenhagen suburb and is discovered with one of her hands missing. Hanging above her is a doll made of chestnuts, with evidence connecting it to a girl who disappeared a year before. Soon afterwards, a second woman is murdered, found with another chestnut man. But who is the gruesome killer? And how many more victims are linked? A heady mix of domestic drama, police procedural and political thriller, this is a Scandi-noir treat from the creator and writer of hit TV phenomenon The Killing.

A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

Despite being used to death, forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is knocked sideways when she learns her friend and ex-colleague Dan Golding has been killed in a house fire. But when Ruth receives a letter from Dan, sent the day before the fire, telling her he made a ground-breaking discovery that may change archaeology forever, Ruth becomes convinced someone was out to get him. Joined by DCI Harry Nelson, Ruth is drawn into the case to seek justice for Dan. A great choice for any book club, this has all the ingredients of a Galloway classic, with a fantastic final showdown.

Disgrace by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Disgrace by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Detective Carl Morck of Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold case division, is given a file documenting the brutal murder of siblings twenty years before. A group of boarding school students were the prime suspects at the time, so when one of them confessed to the murder and was convicted, the case was closed. But why is the file on Carl’s desk now? And who suspects justice has not been done? This engrossing Nordic noir has earned itself an almost cult-like following. Unnerving and engrossing, you’ll find it difficult to put down.

Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge

Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge

Louise wakes up to find a man lying next to her who isn’t her husband… and horrifyingly, he’s dead. Struggling to remember the events of the night before, she quickly becomes the prime suspect in the murder case. But is she the real killer? And if not, who are they and will they strike again? Part of the DCI Jonah Sheen series, this is a pacy psychological thriller that grips from the start. Told from two perspectives, it forces you to question the truth throughout and will keep you guessing whodunit until the very end.

Rosamund Lupton by Three Hours

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard and a school is under siege, as pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms. Outside, the police are doing whatever they can to stop the gunman, whilst nervous families wait. In three heart-wrenching hours everyone involved is tested as they fight for their lives and each other. Shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, this is a story about love in all its guises that will play on your mind for hours after you’ve turned the final page.

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Rookie policeman Ari Thor Arason is new to Siglufjoerdur, a depressed fishing village in Northern Iceland. So, when a young woman is found bleeding and unconscious in the snow and an older writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is forced into the heart of the community to solve the crimes. A startling Nordic Noir debut that explores claustrophobia and small communities in a locked-room mystery style thriller that is morally more ambiguous than most traditional whodunits.

Knife Edge by Simon Mayo

Knife Edge by Simon Mayo

In twenty-seven minutes, seven people are murdered in a series of coordinated attacks across London. The victims are all journalists working at the same agency, so when a colleague starts receiving strange messages she has to work out whether another attack is imminent or if she’s the next victim. A strikingly plausible novel with some particularly tense twists, it explores global issues of the lingering threat of terrorism, the role of the media and free speech. A thought-provoking take on modern day threats.

Never Go Back by Lee Child

Never Go Back by Lee Child

Ex-US army major turned nomad righter of wrongs Jack Reacher has arrived at the headquarters of his old unit in Virginia to meet the new commanding officer, only to find she’s disappeared and things have turned a little strange… Dubbed as the ‘must-read’ in the Jack Reacher series and adapted into a blockbuster film, this eighteenth instalment explores the man behind the hero and is packed with set pieces and twists and turns to satisfy any action thriller fan.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

When Korede’s receives a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in ‘self-defence’… This deliciously clever and witty debut, set in Nigeria, tells a darkly comic family tale of how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water. It’s hugely original and wonderfully entertaining, with fascinating characters that jump off the page and a pace that doesn’t let up.

Deadline by Simon Kernick

Deadline by Simon Kernick

A fourteen-year-old daughter is kidnapped, propelling her family into a nightmare as they are given just forty-eight hours to find half a million pounds as a ransom fee. And if they tell the police, she dies. A captivating premise that plays out as a pacy, heart-pounding read that’s full of suspense. You won’t be able to get through it without questioning what you’d do if you were put in the same terrifying situation.

Sycamore Gap by L J Ross

Sycamore Gap by L J Ross

In the first light of the summer solstice, the skeleton of a young woman is found inside the Roman Wall at Sycamore Gap, Northumberland. Undiscovered for ten years, it’s up to Detective Chief Inspector Ryan to piece together her past. With the spectacular scenery of Hadrian’s Wall country as it’s backdrop, this atmospheric whodunit explores cult and history amongst the conspiracy and murder. With further books in the DCI Ryan series, there’s plenty more to discover.

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

A killing on a train in Newcastle leads DI Vera Stanhope to the quiet Northumberland town of Mardle. She senses the local residents know more than they’re letting on and when a second woman is murdered, she’s certain a killer is amongst them. Clues lead Vera to one specific street – but why are the residents of Harbour Street so determined to keep quiet? If you’re a fan of the hit ITV drama Vera you’ll love this and the other books in the series that inspired it.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Millicent and her husband are happily married parents of two teenage children, but they’ve got a dark secret… they like to keep the spark in their marriage alive by getting away with murder. Literally! A delicious domestic thriller with darkly comic undertones, this entertaining read is a real conversation starter that explores modern relationships and how far we’d go for the one we love. One you’ve read it, you’ll never hear ‘my lovely wife’ in the same way again.

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben

Shunned by his community and living off grid, former soldier and security expert Wilde is drawn back to his local town when a child goes missing. But when a human finger shows up in the post Wilde realises it’s a race against time to save the child’s life and expose some unthinkable secrets from within the community who pushed him out. From the creator of hit Netflix dramas The Stranger and The Woods, Coben is as adept at character as he is at plot and twists and packs this page turner with plenty of suspense and intrigue to keep even the most seasoned thriller fan guessing.

You Don't Know Me by Imran Mahmood

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

A young man stands accused of murder. The evidence is overwhelming. But at his trial, this man tells an extraordinary story. It is about the woman he loves, who got into terrible trouble. It’s about how he risked everything to save her. He swears he’s innocent. But in the end, all that matters is this: do you believe him? You Don’t Know Me, the first book by a criminal defence barrister with over twenty years’ experience, tells a powerful, gripping story in a stunning, unforgettable voice.

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell

Inspector Kurt Wallander has made up his mind to quit the force until a former friend winds up dead, convincing Wallander to step in to investigate. Focusing his efforts on a corrupt business tycoon, the novel transcends the genre to explore questions of morality, justice, democracy and responsibility, giving readers plenty to think and to talk about. Brilliantly clever Nordic storytelling that demands to be read.

Only the Innocent by Rachel Abbott

Only the Innocent by Rachel Abbott

Laura Fletcher’s husband has been brutally murdered and Chief Inspector Tom Douglas is convinced his murderer is a woman. In a marriage which has forced her to guard her secrets well, Laura soon realises all the women in her husband’s life have something to hide. But when the investigation reaches its dramatic and horrifying climax, Laura must reveal the last crucial secret that holds the key to his death. A fascinating thriller that calls into question justice and responsibility.

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler

Bryant and May: The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler

Detective duo Arthur Bryant and John May work for the Met police’s Peculiar Crimes Unit and no case is too impossible for them. In this instalment, a dead man is seen rising from a London grave and Bryant is sent on the hunt for the thief who stole seven ravens from the Tower of London. But when a man is found dead they realise the two seemingly separate cases are more intertwined than they first thought. A dastardly mix of whimsical humour and macabre thrills makes for a uniquely entertaining read.

Eeny Meeny by M J Arlidge

Eeny Meeny by M J Arlidge

Over a period of days, a pattern emerges – pairs of victims are abducted, imprisoned and left with a gun. In their pairs, they have a choice to make – to kill, or be killed – as only one will walk away alive. DI Helen Grace is the detective powerhouse who is tasked with unravelling the sadistic riddle to find the killer before more pairs face the same fate. This is a fresh take on a serial killer thriller that will leave you questioning what you would do. Would you rather lose your life or lose your mind?

Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Haunted by the brutal killings of his wife and daughter, ex-NYPD detective Charlie Parker is consumed by the desire for revenge. But when his ex-partner asks him to track down a missing girl, he goes on a journey to find not just the person responsible for the kidnapping, but the serial killer responsible for his family’s murder. A remarkable debut novel that merges crime with the supernatural to create a new kind of villain. For readers who delight in the macabre, you’ll certainly enjoy this.

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

It’s 1919 and Captain Sam Wyndham arrives for a fresh start in Calcutta’s police force. Partnered with Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee, he quickly finds himself investigating the murder of a senior official who died warning the British to leave India, or else. A cracking historical crime novel that exposes the dark underbelly of the British Raj and is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Would you go to a dinner party next door and leave your baby alone in your house? What if you brought your baby monitor and checked on your bundle of joy every half an hour? But then what happens when you go back to check on your baby and they’re gone? This dark psychological thriller delves into what people are capable of when pushed to their limits. A provocative, shocking and utterly compelling read that is bound to spark some interesting conversations.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Two estranged women are haunted by the disappearance of their teenage sister more than twenty years ago. But when one of the women’s husband dies, the they have to put their differences aside in search of the truth, unearthing past secrets through a series of gruesome revelations. A fascinating story that takes a twisted look at marriage and family, this standalone read showcases why Slaughter is a juggernaut of crime writing.

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

When a teenager goes missing the hunt for the abductor shatters a neighbourhood, especially when the chief suspect is a local loner who has just been suspended as a teacher due to accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. A compelling, twisting thriller that simultaneously explores mob mentality and what happens when we look in the wrong places for bad people, as well as trauma and its effect on the human psyche. A gripping read.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Five-year-old Jacob is killed in a hit and run when he lets go of his Mum’s hand and runs across the road on his way home from school, but the driver of the car that hit him keeps on driving. Haunted by her son’s death, Jacob’s mum moves away as the police investigate the crime. But how do you move on after a child has died? And how do you live knowing you’re a killer? The novel explores multiple perspectives of this nightmarish scenario and is as absorbing as it is deeply unsettling.

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter

An accident in rural Wyoming leads the local Sheriff’s Department to arrest a suspect for a possible double murder. But further investigations reveal something more sinister at play – a serial killer who has been kidnapping and mutilating victims across the country for twenty-five years. And now the suspect will only speak to LAPD Detective Robert Hunter… Showcasing the Robert Hunter series with its energetic, fast-paced action and penchant for the gruesome, you’ll race through this and be eager for more.

No One Home by Tim Weaver

No One Home by Tim Weaver

On Halloween, nine friends get together for a dinner party. The next morning they’ve all disappeared, leaving no bodies, no clues and no evidence. The distraught families turned to missing persons investigator David Raker. But is he looking for nine missing people or nine bodies? This highly original premise unfolds with enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. With a parallel story running through the narrative and some particularly dark characters, there’s plenty to talk about and an ending that’ll leave you wanting more. No spoilers here! You’ll have to read it to find out.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

On the day of the first snowfall of the year a young boy realises his mother is missing. Outside, he finds a snowman has appeared, dressed in a scarf belonging to her. The police investigation by detective Harry Hole reveals eleven wives and mothers have gone missing through the years at the first sight of snow and their bodies are yet to be found. A standout novel in a hugely popular crime series, Harry Hole is for many readers the ultimate detective and makes for an engrossing talking point.

All The Rage by Cara Hunter

All the Rage by Cara Hunter

A teenage girl is abducted, attacked, bagged and taken to an isolated location where somehow, she escapes and is found wandering the streets of Oxford, extremely distressed. But when she’s interviewed by the police she refuses to press charges. Why? And what happens if her attacker strikes again? Exploring contemporary issues with sensitivity and a lightness of touch, this is part of the DI Adam Fawley series, but can also be read as a top-notch standalone thriller in its own right.

Entry Island by Peter May

Entry Island by Peter May

A murder is committed on a remote Canadian island and bizarrely it appears to be linked to events in Scotland over a century earlier. But when Detective Sime Mackenzie is sent to investigate, he’s haunted by the feeling he knows the murder suspect, despite having never met them before. A vivid and extraordinary read from the multi-award winning writer of the Lewis trilogy, which blends the historic and the modern to tell a wonderfully dark and complex story.

All My Lies Are True by Dorothy Koomson

All My Lies Are True by Dorothy Koomson

Dorothy Koomson’s gripping, emotional thriller tells an unforgettable story of love and obsession and the nature of coercive control. Following Verity, Serena and Poppy – three women whose lies are finally catching up with them – this is a tense, page-turning psychological suspense novel, full of characters you’ll really root for, that’s difficult to put down.

The Curator by M W Craven

The Curator by M W Craven

It’s Christmas in Cumbria and a serial killer is on the rampage littering body parts about the place with a strange message: #BSC6. The National Crime Agency’s Poe and Bradshaw are called to investigate but the case makes no sense, especially when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch to tell them he doesn’t think it’s the work of a serial killer, but someone far worse: the Curator. A brilliantly twisted crime thriller that will leave you guessing.

Keep Him Close by Emily Koch

Keep Him Close by Emily Koch

Two mothers have lost a son. One has been murdered, the other stands accused of murder. Neither women know the whole truth about their sons and what really happened on the fateful night, but together they go on a journey to find out, no matter what the consequences. A heart-breaking story of love, grief and family that is as much layered with suspense as it is emotion. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, this is a read that you’ll need to talk about!

20th Victim by James Patterson

20th Victim by James Patterson

Three murders take place with three bullets in three cities. Tasked with finding out what links the three killings is San Francisco Police Department Sergeant Lindsay Boxer, who quickly realises that the victims share in lucrative, criminal activity. But as the number of victims increase, the public response is torn. Are the killer’s villains or heroes? This Women’s Murder Club thriller is packed with action, suspense and a raft of brilliant female characters. It’s an excellent introduction to James Patterson and a must-read for die-hard fans.

The Killing Place by Tess Gerritsen

The Killing Place by Tess Gerristen

A freak snowstorm traps medical examiner Maura Isles in the sinister village of Kingdom Come, Wyoming, where twelve identical houses stand abandoned and their occupants have vanished. So, when Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli receives the news that Isles is missing, she hotfoots it to Wyoming to search for her missing friend and find out exactly what Kingdom Come is hiding. One of the most chilling and claustrophobic of the Rizzoli and Isles series, this is a story about friendship as much as it is about survival.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovers that he has inherited an elephant: an unlikely gift that could not be more inconvenient. For Chopra has one last case to solve – but as his murder investigation leads him across Mumbai, from its richest mansions to its murky underworld, he quickly discovers that a baby elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs. Hugely entertaining and perfectly plotted, this is a book that doesn’t fail to delight.

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

Jaakko Kaunismaa is thirty-seven years old when the doctor tells him he’s dying. The cause: prolonged exposure to toxins. In other words, someone’s been slowly poisoning him. What follows is Jaakko’s darkly funny journey to find out who wants him dead, as Tuomainen poses the question of what to do when loved ones suddenly become the enemy. An offbeat Scandi thriller with a wicked sense of humour, this may well be unlike any other crime fiction you’ve read in a while.

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Two children have been kidnapped from an elite private school by a teacher and Detective Alex Cross must find them before it turns into a murder enquiry. Exploring every parent’s worst nightmare of their child going missing, it’s a thriller brimming with emotion as well as action. The first book in the globally bestselling Alex Cross series, this sets the bar high for the novels that follow.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Now retired on a Greek island, Susan Ryeland is visited by an English couple whose daughter has gone missing a few hours after reading a crime novel Ryeland edited some years before. Susan quickly realises that the clues lie within the pages of the novel and she must be the one to solve it. A deftly-plotted mystery about a present-day disappearance, an historic death and a fictional murder that results in a highly original and addictive read.

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

An old man is found murdered in a Reykjavik flat with a cryptic note and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Following the trail of the odd forensic evidence, Inspector Erlendur discovers many more secrets than just the murder of one man. Exploring Iceland’s unique genetics programme, the novel poses questions about innocence, guilt, justice and punishment. The basis for the excellent film of the same name, the first in the Inspector Erlendur series easily shows us why the rest are well worth a read too.

Blood Eagle by Craig Russell

Blood Eagle by Craig Russell

Two women are killed in Hamburg in the same horrific way. The murderer taunts the police with emails, but as the team investigate they are exposed to a dark half-world of Viking myths and legends, religious cults and a violent struggle to seize control of the city. A gruesomely gripping introduction to new detective Jan Fabel, a man both of conscience and imagination, this story explores old versus new Germany and the fight for power within it. Gritty, disturbing and not for the faint-hearted.

A Place of Execution by Val McDermid

A Place of Execution by Val McDermid

When Alison Carter vanished from the small community of Scadale in the Peak District in 1963, everyone knew it was a murder, even though her body was never found. Years later, when journalist Catherine Heathcote persuades the detective on the case to talk about the hunt for Alison, a fresh lead emerges. But when the detective tries to stop the story, Catherine realises it’s up to her to unearth the truth about what really happened all those years ago. A compelling read about truth and manipulation from one of the greats of crime writing.

The Benefit of Hindsight by Susan Hill

The Benefit of Hindsight by Susan Hill

One night a couple invite two strangers in need of help into their home. Across town, a woman is brutally murdered and her husband left unconscious. Are the two events connected? It’s Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler’s job to find out. A continuation in the Serrailler series by an iconic writer who draws characters as superbly as she weaves plot and subplot. Fans of Ruth Rendell and P D James will find plenty to enjoy.

Your Neighbour's Wife by Tony Parsons

Your Neighbour’s Wife by Tony Parsons

How far would you go if your life seemed like it was spinning out of control? Tara Carver seems to have the perfect life, until in a moment of madness she has a one night stand with a married man who quickly becomes obsessed with her and her family. Tara sees only one way out, and that involves murder… A fast-moving psychological thriller that explores marriage and infidelity with devastating consequences.

Blacktop Wasteland by S A Cosby

Blacktop Wasteland by S A Cosby

‘Bug’ Montage is an honest mechanic and a loving family man. He’s no longer the criminal he was – but when his respectable life crumbles, a shady associate comes calling with a one-time job with a big pay-out and Bug finds himself yanked back into a savage world of bullets and betrayal. S A Cosby’s incredible thrill-ride of a novel tells the story of one man pushed to his limits by poverty, race and a self-destructive masculinity.

Secrets in Death by J D Robb

Secrets in Death by J D Robb

Plenty of people want ruthless gossip queen Larinda Mars dead, so there’s no lack of suspects when she’s found murdered in a New York bar. But with ample motives and plenty of people to point the finger at, it’s going to be a tough case for Lieutenant Eve Dallas to crack – especially when she realises Mars may have had some secrets on her. A long-running mystery series which is well-loved by its fans, you’ll find this both salacious and reflective in equal measure. The ultimate in comfort reads.

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

What would you do if you were witness to a murder? What about if no one believed you? Thomas is a map-obsessed schizophrenic who is surfing a street-view computer programme when he stumbles upon a woman being murdered. Thomas confides in his sceptical brother Ray, who knows his paranoia all too well, but Ray quickly realises this time things may be a little different… Surprising, tender, explosive and shocking, this is a story of brothers that will leave you questioning who you’d trust.

I Follow You by Peter James

I Follow You by Peter James

Driving to work one morning, a chance encounter with a female jogger sparks memories for Marcus Valentine about a woman he was infatuated with in his teens. Unable to get her out of his mind, he pursues the woman until his obsession threatens to destroy both of their worlds. Exploring the mind of a stalker, this is a story about single-minded compulsion and narcissism from one of the best crime writers in the world.

What would you pick as the best book club books perfect for reading groups? Let us know in the comments below!

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