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Mysteries and thrillers are some of the best choices when you want a page-turner book. These unputdownable mystery and thriller novels are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat and are good books for adults trying to start a reading habit. When you’re looking for the best page-turner thriller books or a mystery novel you can’t put down, look no further than the books on this list.
It’s 11:30 at night. You’ve settled in bed with your book, read several chapters already, and it’s past time for you to turn out the light and go to sleep.
You know what you should do. But you’re not going to, because you have to read just one. more. chapter. It might just be the one that puts all the pieces together.
And if it’s not? Well, maybe just one more chapter will do it. Who needs sleep, anyway?
The next time you check the clock, it’s 2 a.m. Either you’ve finished the book or you’re almost there… so you might as well just read until you’re done.
Just about any great page-turner book can prompt a reader to stay up way too late, but for me, it’s almost always an addictive thriller or mystery novel.
I am not an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers–I tend to be a bit sensitive to scary or gory content, so I choose carefully (you’ll probably never see a horror book list from me).
BUT, I do love a good premise and an intriguing puzzle, so I just can’t resist some mystery books that keep you on the edge of your seat (and I can even handle a bit of difficult content if the story is good enough).
I love reading just a blurb and being so drawn in that I just have to pick it up and get the whole story.
If you are looking for some of the best page-turner mystery and thriller novels, the books on this list provide plenty of options.
Some are fast-paced thrillers you can’t put down (none were faster for me than this book–I read it in one sitting), while others unfold more slowly.
Some are psychological thrillers, others are more straightforward page-turning mysteries, and others are slow-burn character studies–and you’ll find everything from dark and twisted to delightfully funny.
Whatever your taste or mood, all of these must-read mystery and thriller books are unputdownable for different reasons.
This list expands on my original list of 27 page-turner books to start your reading habit, which offers three unputdownable books in nine different genres.
Check out that list for more, as well as the other expanded lists of page-turner books at the end of this post!
Or, take the quiz and find just the right book to suit your reading mood now!
The Best Page-Turning Mystery and Thriller Novels You Won’t Want to Put Down
Psychological thriller fans, this one is for you! After a successful, seemingly happy woman shoots her husband in the face and never speaks again, criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to reach her.
Unreliable characters, a little creepiness, and a twist that truly had me reeling (even though I was on the lookout for it) made this one worth the hype.
Two college friends set off on a canoe trip, looking forward to quiet time on the river. Soon they find themselves outrunning unexpected threats–both natural and human.
Despite some of her dark themes, Joshilyn Jackson always brings fun to her books through her signature sly wit. Her first foray into domestic suspense is no exception. When a new neighbor unexpectedly shows up to book club, she turns Amy’s perfect life on its head.
You’ll only think you’ve figured out this twisty cat-and-mouse game, until new layers emerge to keep you guessing.
When Libby receives a letter with the identity of her birth parents and the unexpected inheritance of an abandoned London mansion, she has to find out what happened 25 years ago.
Three bodies, a baby safe in her crib, and the other children gone without a trace. Now she’s digging into the dark secrets of her own past–and others are revisiting it as well. Creepy, cultish noir from Jewell, one of my favorite suspense authors.
Two men find their brother dead at the border of their properties. In the isolated outback, there are few suspects and many secrets. A murder mystery told from multiple viewpoints and filled with complex family dynamics, this book manages to evoke feelings of claustrophobia even in an expansive, punishing setting.
A split-second when a mother releases her child’s hand changes her life forever. After the accident, Jenna retreats to a Welsh cottage outside of a small town to heal and escape her memories, while London investigators try to piece together the hit-and-run. Surprising and layered, even the twists you see coming are satisfying.
Real-life stories of women held captive for years are horrifying: the lives stolen, the psychological manipulation, and often the daring escapes. The Marsh King’s Daughter takes us decades after the escape, when Helena, the child born in captivity–now an adult–is the only one who can find her captor–and father–after his prison escape.
Hunting him brings back complicated memories and questions: what will she do if she catches him? This slow-burn of a novel is unsettling in all the ways a psychological thriller should be.
A boy’s coming-of-age story in which a horrible crime is committed against a girl he loves from afar. The mystery ties the story together, but it’s so much more: an exploration of memory, community, and the enduring consequences of childhood guilt and trauma.
Every night, Christine goes to sleep knowing that she will wake up with no memory–of almost anything. Her day will consist of attempts to reconstruct her identity, and relying on her husband to remind her: an accident stole her memory. She is an adult. She is married.
When she begins keeping a journal to remind herself, cracks begin to form in the stories she is told. The “what would you do” factor here is high, as each day she races time and devises ways to learn before her memory is again erased.
A woman’s body is found outside of Dublin and her likeness to detective Cassie Maddox is uncanny–so much so that Cassie seamlessly infiltrates the student house where the woman lived, in search of answers about her murder. She soon becomes enmeshed in the highbrow dynamics of the friend group.
Somewhat implausible but fully engrossing with just a bit of suspension of disbelief, this is a great read-alike for fans of The Secret History.
Eddie and his friends are typical 80s kids in England who start communicating with one another through chalk drawings for fun. But one day, drawings appear that none of them made, leading them to a dismembered body.
Thirty years later, Eddie and his friends reunite and learn that they each received a chalk drawing in the mail. Secrets start unraveling, and the friends realize they may not know each other as well as they thought. This is gripping, but sensitive readers should be warned–it’s pretty gruesome.
Three Pines is a small, artsy town in Quebec that has almost no crime–until one of its beloved elderly residents is found dead in the woods, shot through the heart with an arrow. Is it a hunting accident, or murder? Chief Inspector Gamache brings his team in from Montreal to investigate.
This is the first of many books in Penny’s Gamache series, which has many fans devoted to the stories of the perceptive investigator and quirky people of the small town of Three Pines.
Daniel is a 20-something man living with an illness that has largely stolen his mobility and speaking ability. Nonetheless, he leads a rich life with a supportive (and hilariously spacy) best friend and a wonderful caregiver. When he witnesses a young woman get into a car–and then she disappears–he knows he has to do something.
Daniel is sharply observant, insightful, and hopeful–you’ll love being in his head, as well as the small, light moments of comedy in this lovely and funny mystery novel.
In an empty NYU dorm over a holiday, a young man is drawn in by an intriguing young socialite named Claudia Castro. He is thrilled to be spending time with her, but she is puzzled and disturbed by events from several nights earlier that she can’t remember. Soon, he is helping her piece them together–and get back at the people who stole those hours.
With themes of power, privilege, vengeance, truth, and justice, there is no winner here or happy ending, but it’s an oddly satisfying read after so many real assaults for which perpetrators faced no consequences.
Bree lives a privileged life she could never have dreamed of while growing up poor. The dream of her new life ends when her baby son disappears. Bree is at the mercy of another desperate mother until she completes a task–one that opens the door to an ugly past that Bree and her family may have to pay for.
With a newborn baby in peril, the premise of this book is absolutely terrifying, and the backstory is also filled with horror. It’s no wonder that it seemed to lack Jackson’s signature sly wit, though her writing is as excellent as always.
Felix Pink is a retired widower who volunteers to stay with terminally ill people as they die by suicide. It is a mission of mercy and compassion, and the volunteers operate on just the edge of UK law. When one of his visits goes horribly wrong, Felix dodges the police and tries to find out what actually happened.
Don’t let the ominous cover and dark description fool you–it is surprisingly delightful. Dark themes and shady characters are a part of it, but if you’re in the mood for a mystery with the charm of A Man Called Ove, this is your book.
After five years in prison, Patty Watts has been released. Her crime? Causing her daughter’s lifelong illnesses (and duping the community in the process). But Rose Gold has agreed to take Patty in–even after she testified to put Patty in prison. Now they are each playing a game with their own ends in mind.
Darling Rose Gold is one of those dark, complicated books that be hard to like–because the characters are almost impossible to like. For me, it was an uncomfortable read that left me feeling a little icky–but plenty of readers love this type of book, and it definitely kept me reading.
Jess is looking forward to only one thing in her first year at a British university: classes with Lorna Clay. The charismatic professor teaches a course on Agatha Christie, and Jess is in her thrall. Outside the classroom, she falls in with impulsive Georgie, Georgie’s worldly boyfriend Alec, and Jess’s devoted new boyfriend Nick. When a betrayal breaks up the group of friends, Jess turns to Lorna.
Fans of Agatha Christie will appreciate the parallels to Christie’s mysteries and own life, and it’s also a good read-alike for Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (though a little less highbrow).
Ike and Buddy Lee are two ex-cons with a mission: find who killed their sons–who were married to one another–and get revenge. They are an unlikely pair; Ike is a Black man on the straight-and-narrow for 15 years, while Buddy is a white redneck who is rarely sober for a full day. Both fathers struggled to accept their sons, but both are filled with regret and grief following their deaths.
Their search for the killer leads them back into the violent world they left behind–and they slip back in comfortably. The story is gripping and the violence is gruesome, but Ike and Buddy Lee’s relationship and journey will stay with you. Highly recommended.
Blythe and her young daughter never really connected, and she sees things in Violet that worry her. She finally finds that longed-for connection when her son is born. But when a tragedy changes everything, Blythe’s sanity is in question–by herself and everyone around her.
Blythe’s difficulties adapting to motherhood are relatable, and turn dark in unexpected ways. This is a difficult read, but I couldn’t put it down.
Author Finlay Donovan is struggling. Her book isn’t finished, she needs to make some money, and her ex-husband is threatening to sue for full custody of her kids. When she’s mistaken for a contract killer while discussing her book with her agent, she finds herself in the path of the local mob, dodging the police, and stealing the too-weird-to-be-true events for her novel.
I don’t typically rate a book like this five stars, but it was just so absurd, so fun and funny that I couldn’t put it down and loved every minute. It’s the first in a series, and the latest novel is also great fun.
At Seattle’s elite Elliott Bay Academy, college admissions is a full-time preoccupation–for the parents. When Stanford says only one EBA non-athlete will get in, three mothers obsess about how to land the spot for their daughters. A potentially fatal “accident” raises the stakes, forcing them all to reckon with the question of whether it’s all worth it.
I don’t often enjoy this kind of suburban, parental schoolyard drama, but the authors struck just the right over-the-top note to highlight the absurdity of the college admissions race, while building an interesting backstory for the main character. A good book for fans of Big Little Lies.
A meek, plain girl meets a charismatic socialite who takes her under her wing. Plain girl becomes sidekick and hanger-on, and both exploit one another in their own ways. Social Creature draws on archetypes that are apparently common in this weird socialite world, but it takes a truly dark turn and follows a twisted path toward its conclusion.
The execution was pretty brilliant, if a bit implausible; if you enjoyed the Netflix series Inventing Anna (and are okay with truly twisted stories), you may like this.
When Tully and Rachel’s father announces that he is engaged to Heather–a woman younger than both of them–they are perplexed. He is still married to their mother, who suffers from dementia but is very much alive. As the wedding draws near, cracks begin to show–and the only person who can provide clarity often doesn’t remember who she is.
This was a riveting and sometimes disturbing read, with the tension in manipulation and uncertainty that underly every interaction. Well done and all-too-realistic.
When Bea and her husband decide to visit Bea’s brother Alex in France in the old hotel his rich parents have bought him, the hotel is empty, save for Alex, the nest of snakes in the attic, and fake entries in the guestbook. When their parents pay a surprise visit, resentments and secrets from the past simmer below the surface. Then tragedy strikes and brings everything crashing to the fore.
This book is filled with snakes–but most of them are not in the attic. It’s a slow-burn toward an explosive ending, but if you like suspense and a dark, slightly creepy book filled with family dynamics and the dark side of wealth, this one might be for you.
When Liv and Nora and their husbands decide to take their families on a cruise, it feels like just what everyone needs after some stressful times. But then the worst happens: in a moment of lapsed vigilance on a day trip ashore, all of the children disappear.
The parents desperately try to find the kids while facing their sudden mistrust of themselves and each other. Meanwhile, the children have to take responsibility for each other, make life and death choices, and make moment-to-moment decisions about who to trust. A fast-paced, page-turner of a thriller.
An old English estate and a decades-old mystery give this slow-burner of a book its atmosphere, but Morton’s sharp storytelling keeps you trying to work out the puzzle from start to finish. Sixteen-year-old Alice’s family is torn apart when her baby brother disappears during a midsummer’s eve garden party.
He is never found, and the house is abandoned. When a wandering detective discovers it years later, she unearths the old mystery and secrets that had been long forgotten.
What are your favorite page-turners in the mystery and thriller genre?
More page-turner books:
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- 11 Nonfiction Books that Read Like Novels
- 11 Creepy Dystopian Books that Will Make You Fear the Future
- 11 Unputdownable Books About Alternate Realities