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I love thrillers and always have. Dean Koontz is what got me into reading, after all. It’s the one genre I’ve continuously read over the years and will continue to read.
I will say, though, that some of them are, uhh, not so thrilling and just left me feeling a little let down, so today I’m sharing 4 thrillers that are actually thrilling, 4 that were just not, and 4 that are at the top of my TBR.
Keep in mind, there will be spoilers in the why I liked/didn’t like it sections. I’ll try to limit them and make them vague, but it might not always happen. If I’m going to spoil something major, I’ll put another spoiler tag before it.
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4 Thrillers I loved
Lets start with the thrillers I actually liked and thought were thrilling. These aren’t the only thrillers I’ve read and enjoyed, but four recent ones that I really still remember.
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
About the book: Jules is broke and desperate for a job, so when she sees a job opening for an apartment sitter at the legendary Bartholomew in New York City, she figures why not give it a shot, but there are a few conditions: no visitors, no nights away, and no bothering the rich and famous residents.
As she gets to know the staff and residents, she finds herself drawn to Ingrid, a fellow apartment sitter who confides that the Bartholomew isn’t quite what it seems. Then, she disappears and it’s up to Jules to find the truth about the Bartholomew.
See how I ranked Riley Sager books here!
Why I liked it: Throughout the book, it’s hinted that some kind of spiritual demonic satanic cult-like activities are happening in the Bartholomew, which may have been interesting, sure, but it’s not my favorite, so when we found out what it really was I was very into it. SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH.
I love books about harvesting organs so this turned out to be perfect for me. I love that all the residents just.. don’t care? Especially the doctor neighbor. They’re like “well, this is the way it has to be so buckle up.” And like I said before, I really love that it didn’t turn out to be some satanic cult and that the harvesting really came out of left field.
The Ruins by Scott Smith
About the book: A group of four American friends are on vacation in Mexico when they meet some Greeks, Pablo, Juan, and Don Quixote, and a German, Mathias.
Mathias’s brother is missing after looking for some ruins with an archaeologist he met so the Americans and Pablo set out to look for the ruins and his brother. They get to Coba and what starts as a fun day trip slowly turns into an inescapable nightmare leaving the group hopeless in the jungle fighting the terrifying presence that lurks on the hill.
Why I liked it: I know this one can be hit or miss, but I loved this. I had seen the movie first years ago but finally decided to read it in April and holy cow. This was wild.
It’s just all so hopeless and bad decision after bad decision. They’re all terrible people, at least the main four characters, but I still felt awful about everything that was happening.
You just feel so hopeless with them and you just know the Greeks aren’t coming and you know Jeff is being reasonable thinking about how they’ll survive until help comes, if it ever does, but at the same time you’re like “Jeff.. what.. what are you thinking?” And it was all because of a couple of little actions and decisions. I loved this.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
About the book: Alicia had the perfect life. She was a famous painter, her husband, Gabriel, an in-demand fashion photographer. They lived in a grand house with windows overlooking a park in one of the best areas of London, but one night when Gabriel comes home late, she shoots him five times in the face and never speaks another word.
Her silence casts her into notoriety and her art prices skyrocket while she is hidden away at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist that has been waiting for a chance to work with Alicia and he get that when he gets a job at the Grove to unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband in thee search for a truth that threatens to consume him.
Why I liked it: I know this twist is one some people really love and some really think is terrible, and I’m one of the ones that loved it. I will preface this with this: I am terrible at guessing the bad guy and twists. Like, so bad. So when this one was revealed, I actually gasped out loud at work.
I loved the way it was written with the flashbacks between what was currently happening and the way Alicia and Theo’s stories and interactions are woven together only to reveal how long it’s really been happening. Big fan of this one and would definitely recommend it.
The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry
About the book: Christopher and Hannah work at the same hospital and have the perfect life. All that’s missing is a child, until Janie, a six-year-old that was abandoned in the parking lot across from the hospital shows up. Christopher immediately forms a connection with her and convinces Hannah to take her home.
It turns out to be a little more than they bargained for when Janie is fiercely devoted to Christopher and directs all of her increasingly disturbing rage at Hannah. Hannah can’t bond with Janie and Christopher refuses to see Janie’s true nature.
Hannah know’s what Janie is doing: manipulating Christopher and isolating Hannah from him. But the truth behind Janie’s past may be enough to push them all over the edge.
Why I liked it: It was so good but so frustrating! This was like Baby Teeth, but 10 times more extreme, which is what I expected Baby Teeth to be like, so this was exactly what I was looking for. I loved how intense this actually was and how Hannah and Janie’s relationship developed. Some spoilers in the next paragraph.
Janie mostly liked her in the beginning, if she was wary of her, but as it went on she just hated her even more, especially when the new baby came and it was so frustrating how Christopher just wouldn’t listen to her and kept putting Janie first even though she was literally tearing their family apart.
Like, I get it, you want to help her and give her a good life, but it’s clearly not working out. I mean, even with death happening, he still doesn’t see it and you just want to rip your hair out.
4 Thrillers I didn’t love
Alright, now for the ones that I didn’t love. I won’t say I hated any of these, but they all left me hoping for more and feeling a little, or a lot, let down. You’ll probably notice a couple trends on the what I didn’t like for each of these.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
About the book: Hanna is seven years old and doesn’t talk. She’s an angel in her father, Alex’s, eyes but she’ll do whatever she has to to get rid of her mother, Suzette, who’s just in the way.
Suzette loves Hanna but after years of strain, homeschooling, precarious health, and sanity, she’s weakening by the day and becoming more frightened by Hanna’s little games. All the while, Alex is blind to the failing family dynamics while Suzette worries about her sweet baby girl having a hidden sinister agenda.
Why I didn’t like it: I was expecting this to be really extreme. And while it had it’s moments, I got to the end and was like “that’s it?” You’ll be seeing a trend here. Like The Perfect Child, the husband in this was awful and so annoying that he wouldn’t believe Suzette. But this was just so.. boring. I mean, no one even dies.
All the blurbs made this sound like it was going to be crazy, one even saying “[it] will get under your skin and keep you trapped in it’s chilling grip until the shocking conclusion” and that’s just a lie. I want to know what version of this she read because there’s no way it was the same one.
In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
About the book: Nora is a bit of a recluse but is happy living in London as a writer. She had worked on distancing herself from childhood friendships, at least until an unexpected invitation arrives summoning her to a Hen Do (bachelorette) party in the English countryside for her childhood best friend, Clare.
She reluctantly agrees and finds herself on a train and in a mansion in the middle of the woods sooner than later. Soon, tensions are rising and Nora’s reserves are shattered by an unnerving memory and she’s wondering if she’ll ever make it home to London.
Why I didn’t like it: I was expecting “be scared. . . really scared” by this and well.. I wasn’t. At all. This was the first Ruth Ware book I read and when I got to the end I pretty much felt neutral. Like, it’s done. That’s fine. And I mentioned before that I can’t guess twists, like, ever, but I had this one figured out.
The whole story just doesn’t make sense. I won’t lie, I don’t even remember all that much of it, that’s how bland it was. I don’t even remember enough to thoroughly explain why I didn’t like it. It’s just.. not good.
The Turn of The Key by Ruth Ware
About the book: Rowan needs a job and stumbles on an ad for a live-in nanny post. It’s not what she wanted but it seems too good to pass up so she applies for the staggeringly generous job. And when she arrives at the Heatherbrae House she is smitten with the historic “smart” house and the beautiful Scottish Highlands.
What she doesn’t know is that she just walked into a nightmare that will have one child dead and her in prison. Now she is writing a letter to Mr. Wrexham, her lawyer, to unravel the events leading up to the death. It’s the cameras always watching, the not-so-immaculately behaved children, the way she was left alone for weeks at a time. She know’s she’s made mistakes, lying to get the job, and that she’s not innocent by any means, but she didn’t commit murder.
Why I didn’t like it: Ugh. Where to start. I like the idea of this, but the execution was just not good. First of all, the entire thing is a letter to a lawyer. The. Entire. Thing. But why is that bad you ask? Because it’s not clear the whole time.
You’ll be reading the story then all of a sudden you’ll see “but that wasn’t the case Mr. Lawyer, it just didn’t work that way” or something like that then it just goes back to the story! If you’re going to do it as a letter, do it better. SPOILERS IN THE NET PARAGRAPH.
Rowan has been accused/arrested for murder which is why she wrote this stupid letter in the first place, but the ending, the reveal, the big twist (well, the second one I guess) was such a huge letdown. I almost DNF’d this but kept pushing through and I really didn’t need to. I got to the end was like “that’s it? I just read 500 (large print) pages for that?” Just skip it unless you like being let down.
Lying Next To Me by Gregg Olson
About the book: Adam and Sophie Warner take their three-year-old daughter to Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend to unplug and calm an uneasy marriage. But on the first day, Adam and their daughter are on a boat on the water and he sees Sophie get abducted. And he can’t do anything but watch.
Nearby, Kristen and Connor Moss have heard the news and know nothing about her disappearance. But Adam finds comfort knowing that the Mason County detective, Lee, is an old friend of his that will do anything she can to help.
All the while Adam’s paranoia grows as Lee puts together the pieces of the puzzle that is two couples live converging in unpredictable ways.
Why I didn’t like it: I didn’t not like this one as much as the last two, but this one just fell a little flat for me, too. I didn’t really like or care about any of the characters. I didn’t think the twist was that twisty. It just felt like your average thriller that isn’t as thrilling as you want it to be. Was it bad? Not entirely. Was it good? Not entirely. It was fine.
4 Thrillers at the top of my TBR
Now, four books that are at the top of my TBR! I’m in a big thriller mood right now and have 3 out of 4 of these and will probably read them all ASAP.
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
About the book: Finn and Layla are young and in love and going on vacation. They stop at a service station, Finn goes inside and locks the car doors with Layla inside. When he comes back, she’s gone and never seen again. At least that’s what he told the police. But it’s not everything.
Ten years later, Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen, after the shared grief over what happened to Layla. It drew them together and they intend to remain together, but there’s still something about Ellen that Finn has never understood.
Not too long before they’re to be married, someone says they’ve seen Layla – hiding in plain sight. He starts getting emails, clues, and warnings from strangers who seem to know too much, and long-lost items from her past keep showing up around their house. If she’s alive, what does she want and how much does she know?
Why I want to read this: This was a Books-A-Million bargain impulse buy. I won’t lie, I mostly bought it for the cover because it’s really nice, but it does sound interesting, too. This is probably the next physical book I’ll read.
Update 2022: I read this one not long after I wrote this post but I did not like it that much. I think the dog was my favorite character? I gave this one away, and I don’t get rid of things I like enough.
The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth
About the book: Diana knew Lucy wasn’t the one for her perfect son from the moment they met. Diana always kept Lucy at arms length despite her attempts to win her over. No one had a bad word to say about Diana, a pillar in the community and advocate for female refugees, except for Lucy.
Five years later, Diana is dead with a suicide note near her body claiming she no longer wanted to live with cancer wreaking havoc in her body, but the autopsy only finds traces of poison and evidence of suffocation, no cancer. And Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone.
Why I want to read this: I recently got this on a Kindle deal and really, who doesn’t love a crazy mother (or daughter)-in-law story?
Update 2022: I’ve officially read all of these now and I LOVED this one!
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
About the book: Rose Gold Watts grew up thinking she was seriously ill: allergic to everything, using a wheelchair, and practically living at the hospital. Neighbors helped anyway they could: holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on.
But no matter what they did, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold. Her mom, Patty Watts, was just a great liar. She spends five years in jail and has nowhere to go when she gets out.
The whole community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes, but Patty insists she just wants to make amends but Rose Gold knows Patty Watts always settles a score and she’s waited for so long for her mother to come home.
Why I want to read this: This sounds a little like Gypsy Rose Blanchard (apparently this is fiction based on her) with the Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy thing which is super intriguing to me.
I won’t lie, when I saw the cover for this on Goodreads for the first time months ago I thought it was a girly YA book. Obviously, I was very wrong. And it says if you like The Silent Patient you’ll like this, so fingers crossed!
Update 2022: I read this one, too, and I did like it! It’s not one of my favorite thrillers ever but I did enjoy it, more than The Whisper Man.
The Whisper Man by Alex North
About the book: Tom Kennedy takes his son, Jake, to Featherbank after the sudden death of his wife believing a fresh start will help, but the town has a dark past.
Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Then Frank Carter was caught and nicknamed “The Whisper Man” for luring his victims out by whispering by their windows at night.
Just as they settle down, a young boy vanishes and it resembles Frank Carter’s crimes reigniting rumors that he worked with an accomplice. Now detectives have to find the boy before it’s too late. But soon, Jake starts acting strange and hears a whispering at his own window.
Why I want to read this: I’m hoping that this one is really thrilling. It sounds really interesting to me and I’ve wanted to read it since I first saw it last year. I got it on a Kindle deal, too, and very much hope this one really freaks me out.
Update 2022: I did end up reading this one! I didn’t love it. The vibes were spooky, for sure, but I was a little underwhelmed by the whole thing.
Have you read any of these? Anything you agree or disagree with? What are your favorite thrillers?