The best summer readingExplore now

Our recommended summer 2024 crime fiction Explore now

Lisa Jewell picks her favourite thrillers of all time

Lisa Jewell is a writer who needs no introduction. Her thrillers are constantly in the Sunday Times bestseller list, and we can see why they are so popular: each is brimming with page-turning suspense, unique characters and shocking plot twists.

Everyone knows that to be a good writer you need to be a good reader – and Jewell is a prolific reader. When we asked her to choose her favourite crime novels of all time, she sent over a list of 16 books! The list is below, including a line from Jewell on why she loves each book, and the novel that first inspired her to write thrillers.

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

“Taut, neat and chilling as a newly sharpened knife, this is so clever and utterly addictive.”

Oliver is a handsome and charismatic man who seems to lead an idyllic life until one evening, after dinner, he unexpectedly attacks his wife, leaving her in intensive care. Friends suddenly realise they don’t know Oliver at all – or the lengths he’s willing to go to.

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

“A high-concept novel that more than lives up to its brilliant premise, and is also incredibly good on mother/son bonds and family dynamics.”

Jen watches from the window, horrified, as her happy-go-lucky son kills a man. But when she wakes up, it’s the morning before the murder, and each time she wakes up, she’s further in the past. Now, Jen must find out why her son committed the crime – and prevent it from happening again.

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

“A steady tick-tick of dread and wrongness, almost hypnotic in its pacing, and absolutely addictive.”

Christine has a unique form of amnesia that means that, every time she goes to sleep, she forgets everything overnight: who she is, her past, even her loved ones. She relies on her husband to tell her what’s happening. But what if she can’t trust him?

Disturbance by Marianne Kavanagh

Disturbance by Marianne Kavanagh

“My favourite trope in the genre is ‘letting the wrong person in’ and this is as good as it gets; creepy and unnerving in spades.”

Sara is a lonely, isolated woman who lives in a quaint English village with her bad-tempered workaholic husband and two children. But a blossoming friendship with local girl Katie opens up her world – until a terrible accident gets the neighbours talking.

Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena

Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena

“Two favourite tropes in one – missing children, and dark children. And Avery might be one of the darkest children ever. I read this in a frenzy all the way to the very satisfying ending.”

Stanhope is a safe neighbourhood – until 9-year-old Avery goes missing. Her father William has been having an affair, but he’s not the only person keeping secrets. As the police investigate, neighbours turn against each other and dark secrets come to light.

The Broken by Tamar Cohen

The Broken by Tamar Cohen

“A spine-tingling exploration of what happens when one half of a close-knit pair of couples splits up and brings their slightly weird new partner into the mix. A masterclass in domestic noir.”

Josh and Hannah; Dan and Sasha. This pair of couples have been best friends forever. Then Dan announces he is leaving his wife for a younger woman, and their relationships unravel. But there are darker secrets being kept – secrets that could put everyone in danger.

The Hidden Girl by Louise Millar

The Hidden Girl by Louise Millar

“A big house in the countryside, a snowstorm, weird neighbours and strange noises overhead. It’s part domestic noir and part folk horror and I loved it.”

Hannah and Will moved to a small village, hoping it would help their chances at adoption. But when a snowstorm keeps Will in London, and there are strange noises in her home, Hannah gets the feeling she is unwelcome in the neighbourhood…

The Stopped Heart by Julie Myerson

The Stopped Heart by Julie Myerson

“Another house full of echoes and noises, this time the echoes of grief from a family trauma a hundred years earlier in the same isolated cottage. It’s an utterly extraordinary book.”

Grieving couple Mary and Graham move to a remote cottage, where Mary hears children’s voices and sees odd figures in the garden. Is she losing her sanity, or is the house haunted by the memory of the man who destroyed the residing family 150 years ago?

Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant

Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant

“A brilliant twist on the ‘letting the wrong person in’ trope. The protagonist here is the wrong person, but he gets more than he bargained for when he interlopes on a Greek family holiday.”

Paul wants the finer things in life, but he’s broke, homeless and reliant on the generosity of friends and family. When he bumps into an old friend, he tells a few white lies and ends up on a family holiday with him and his wife. But by the time Paul’s lies catch up with him, he realises it’s too late…

Sleep With Me by Joanna Briscoe

Sleep With Me by Joanna Briscoe

“Another interloper, this time a wispy girl at a dinner party who inserts herself between a perfect couple, seemingly hell-bent on destroying them. Spare and creepy, with a clever backstory.”

Happily married couple Richard and Leila attend a dinner party, where they meet a mousy woman called Sylvie. There’s more to the quiet girl than meets the eye – and she gradually seduces Richard and causes Leila to question everything.

After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

“Not strictly a crime novel, but it has the essence and structure of a thriller, matched with O’Farrell’s peerless literary grace and elegance. This was the book that made me want to write thrillers.”

Alice takes a train from London to Scotland to visit her family. But when she arrives, she sees something so shocking it causes her to leave immediately. Hours later, Alice is in a coma, following a potential suicide attempt. As she drifts in and out of consciousness, Alice’s story gradually unfurls.

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

“Small but deadly. I barely breathed for the duration. One of the tensest, most exciting books I’ve ever read.”

A woman who has been kept captive on a farm for seven years plans her escape. But a new arrival complicates matters. Can she save herself, her unborn child, and the latest victim, or will she stay trapped on the farm forever?

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

“A chilling study of a passionate extra-marital affair that destroys everything in its path, with a brilliant, tour de force twist at the very end.”

Yvonne was a successful scientist and married mother-of-two. Now, she stands in the witness box, accused of murder. As she faces hostile questioning, she reflects on the tumultuous affair that landed her there.

Saving Noah by Lucinda Berry

Saving Noah by Lucinda Berry

“Not quite a thriller but it has a devastating and brilliant twist at the end. It also made me cry so hard it hurt.”

A teenage boy is found guilty of sexually abusing young girls, and is sentenced to 18 months in a juvenile sexual rehabilitation centre. His father wants to cut him off, but his mother Adrienne refuses to turn her back on her son. How far will she go to protect him?

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

“A steamy, in both senses, Mallorca-set thriller which is so exquisitely written you feel like you’re there on the terraces of the villa watching the dark drama unfold. Intoxicating and thrilling.”

Jenn and her husband Greg visit Mallorca every summer. But this year, Greg’s daughter and her boyfriend, Nathan, disturb the equilibrium. Jenn finds herself drawn to Nathan, and soon her desire becomes obsession – with fatal consequences.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“The OG, and not just a brilliant thriller, but also an exquisite dissection of modern relations. The explorations of the “Cool Girl” stereotype were seminal at the time, and the novel is still a timeless classic in the genre.”

When Amy disappears, the evidence points to her husband Nick: neighbours claim she feared him, his behaviour is strange, and he’s keeping secrets from the police. But the truth is even more shocking, in this explosive psychological thriller.

Have you read any of Lisa Jewell’s favourite books? Let us know in the comments below…

Don’t miss Lisa Jewell’s new book, Breaking the Dark

Breaking the Dark

Lisa Jewell

In Breaking the Dark, Lisa Jewell tells the story of private investigator and former Marvel superhero Jessica Jones. A parent approaches Jones, concerned that her twin teenage sons have returned from a trip abroad looking and sounding completely different. Her investigation uncovers a corrupt billionaire and technology that could change the face of humanity.

Join the discussion

Please note: Moderation is enabled and may delay your comment being posted. There is no need to resubmit your comment. By posting a comment you are agreeing to the website Terms of Use.