Ten of the Best Modern Suspense Novels
The Silence of The Lambs, which follows the tentative relationship between FBI trainee Clarice Starling and incarcerated serial murderer Hannibal Lecter, is the quintessential thriller. Lecter’s psychological manipulation of the young Starling is as chilling on the page as it is in the memorable movie adaptation. An unnerving read to be consumed with the lights on and the doors locked.
Journalist Camille Preaker is a cutter, desperate to escape the ghost of her dead sister and her traumatic childhood. Not long after she is released from a rehabilitation facility in Chicago, Camille’s boss sends her to her Missouri hometown on an assignment: to cover the abduction and murders of two young girls, one year apart. The connection Camille discovers to her own troubled past is downright disturbing and unsettling.
In Koontz’s twisty thriller, Billy Wiles is a reclusive bartender who is thrown into a deadly game when he finds a note on his windshield: if Wiles goes to the police, the author of the note will kill an elderly woman. If he doesn’t go to the police, the note-leaver will kill a pretty young schoolteacher. When the note-leaver follows through on the threat and a string of murders begins, Wiles worries that going to the police may mean suspicion will fall on him—so he sets off on a dangerous mission to find the psychopathic killer himself.
Broken Harbor by Tana French
The fourth novel in French’s Dublin Murder squad series follows detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy as he investigates a brutal attack on a family that left three dead and one in intensive care. When suspicion falls on Patrick Spain, the family’s deceased patriarch, Scorcher sets out to prove the crime wasn’t a murder-suicide—possibly at the cost of his own sanity. French excels at delving into the psyches of even her peripheral characters, but the troubled Scorcher is especially memorable.
Reminiscent of real events that occurred in Le Roy, New York, The Fever follows a community rocked by a mysterious illness affecting only teenaged girls. Abbott expertly taps into the psychology of her young characters—their brutal crushes, vulnerabilities, and dangerous loyalties. Readers won’t know whom to trust right up until the shocking conclusion.
Kubica’s impressive sophomore effort (The Good Girl) is centered on a well-meaning Chicago wife and mother who invites a homeless teenager and her baby into her home. The point-of-view shifts between Willow, the troubled young runaway, and Heidi, the bleeding heart who takes her in. Kubica ratchets up the dread and suspense, with the story culminating in a way that even the most deft mystery readers will never see coming.
Sarah’s ten-year-old twins, Kirstie and Lydia, are inseparable, until Lydia dies in a tragic accident. One year later, the surviving twin claims that she is really Lydia, and that Kirstie is the one who fell from the balcony. Which twin really survived? Tremayne drops her characters on a secluded island in Scotland’s Hebrides to sort out the truth, resulting in thrilling and creepy revelations that push the characters to the limits of their fragile psyches.
When U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels arrives on Shutter Island to search for a dangerous escaped inmate, he slowly unravels a conspiracy about the island’s hospital for the criminally insane. Only things are not as they seem on Shutter Island—and Daniels finds his own sanity in question when he learns that one of the inmates brutally murdered Daniels’ wife years before.
After the devastating loss of her second child, Molly Barlow is shaken again when the body of a newborn is found in the woods miles from her home. As Molly, a journalist, covers the case, she discovers unsettling truths about her small New Jersey town. The closer Molly gets to the baby’s—and her mother’s—identity, the more fragile her own mental state becomes.
Divorced and alcoholic Rachel Watson passes by the home of a seemingly perfect married couple every day on her commute to work—but when the pretty young wife goes missing, Rachel becomes entangled in the mystery in shocking ways. Compounding her involvement are the gaps in Rachel’s memory due to her drinking and blacking out—what did she really do the night of the woman’s disappearance?