2019 was an insane year for two of my favorite things – thrilling books and music. In honor of the birthday of one of my favorite pop stars, Taylor Swift, her birthday and her favorite number, I’ve rounded up 13 of my favorite thrillers of the year. I’ll be ending the year singing Lover and waiting on these books to become killer movies.
The Woman Inside by E.G. Scott
Writing duos seriously slayed me this year and Greg and Liz of E.G. Scott are by far the pair that seriously messed me up in the best way possible. The Woman Inside is a feverish psychological thriller featuring two prominent points of view and an amazing cast of characters. If you’re looking for a harrowing and taut thriller that will dance with your imagination and captivate you with razor-sharp writing, look no further. In a The War of the Roses-style storyline, Rebecca and Paul meet in a love-at-first-sight way only to have their relationship falling apart at the seams 20 years later. Paul is cheating on Rebecca and his mistress is stalking them both. Rebecca is addicted to opiates and plotting her revenge. What happens next is a tale that terrified me and kept me thinking that maybe being single isn’t all that bad. This story is addictive, intoxicating and sensational – don’t miss out on this one.
The Winter Sister by Megan Collins
Megan Collins is the kind of storyteller that blends a thriller with an emotional story that is gripping, poignant and wrapped in lyrical prose. One late night, Sylvie’s sister Persephone snuck out of the house to meet her rebellious boyfriend and went missing for three days before being found brutally murdered. Sixteen years later, Sylvie returns to her childhood home to care for her mother who has cancer. As Sylvie faces the secrets that have kept this house standing and deals with her treacherous relationship with her mother, she comes even closer to finding out what happened the night her sister died. Before I began this one, my hopes were high and I was over-the-moon excited to read it. Megan Collins killed it with this one. Her writing is poetic and literarily stunning, the plot is thrilling and fast-paced, and the characters are dazzling. Cancel your plans and read this one with some steaming coffee because you will not be able to put it down until the bittersweet finale.
Stalker by Lars Kepler
When the house creaks do you think it’s a serial killer? When you’re walking to your car at night do you think you’re about to be kidnapped? Well, the husband and wife writing duo known as Lars Kepler will feed off all the fears you’ve ever had and seduce you at the same time with this atmospheric and terrifying story. A videotape is delivered to the Swedish Crime Unit featuring a young woman being stalked, unaware she is being filmed and followed. Shortly after, she is found brutally murdered. The cycle repeats and before you know it, Joona Linna is working with another detective and a trauma expert to get to the bottom of who is doing this as well as connecting the dots of a crime that happened 20 years ago. This book is easy to read as a standalone but will make you want to read the entire series from the beginning. With a serial killer plot that makes Seven look like a Disney film, you’ll definitely be double-checking your locks before you go to bed with this one.
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
In this gripping and diabolical read, My Lovely Wife is another grand cat-and-mouse game between husband and wife. This story starts off innocent enough. Man meets woman, falls in love, moves to the suburbs, starts a family. Happily ever after? NOPE. Then the murderous plot sinks in. I was riveted and lost in this unique and darkly humorous story. And now I am going to gobble up every single thing that Samantha Downing writes from here on out. It’s equal parts domestic suspense, psychological thriller and a serial killer story. Samantha Downing is one of my favorite new voices in this genre and I definitely foresee her being a household name in the near future.
Some Choose Darkness by Charlie Donlea
Some Choose Darkness is a serial killer thriller with one timeline in the brutal heat of the summer in 1970s Chicago. I’m going to really spill the tea on this one because Charlie Donlea took every eerie element from the true-crime documentaries I love and wove them into such a stunning and creepy story. In present time, Rory Moore investigates a cold-case by studying the crime scene details on a case where five women went missing in Chicago in 1979. Meanwhile, the story alternates between Rory investigating and piecing together the details and a woman named Angela who is living in Chicago during the time of the crime. Both women are exceptionally bright and intuitive and equally strong. This story was just so brilliant and taut, filled with multiple layers. Charlie Donlea is a masterful storyteller that will keep you guessing and petrified with each turn of the page.
The Arrangement by Robyn Harding
My blog is part book blog, part Robyn Harding fan account – let’s be honest. I just love her writing and how each story of hers has a different feel when it comes to thrillers that are not only different from her other titles but different from any author out there. The Arrangement is like the show The Girlfriend Experience kicked up a notch. It is a sleek and sexy story about an art student who is struggling with money until one of her friends gets her hooked up online to find a sugar daddy. Sound juicy? The sugar daddy Natalie meets has no plans of ever making her a top priority and when he breaks things off, Natalie spirals out of control. Before you know it, this story ends in good old-fashioned murder. Natalie is a spitfire character that rocked this story and Robyn Harding’s writing is at an all-time high when it comes to her ability to psychologically pace a story. This read was so dangerously compulsive and harrowing that only someone as talented as Robyn Harding could hit you with a plot this slick, characters this three-dimensional and prose that will gut you and chill you to the core all at the same time.
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
How could I possibly write an article without mentioning Riley Sager? A fellow Swiftie, this man is ridiculously gifted and Lock Every Door might just be his most intricate story yet. Compared to Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied, Lock Every Door is definitely the novel that I felt took a turn in another direction and is still such a blockbuster. I think with this one, Sager really found a niche that a lot of authors would be afraid to dip their toes in; but not Riley, he cozied right up and brought one hell of a gothic tale that is possibly his most atmospheric book yet. This is the man that made me want to blog in the first place and consistently churns out books that you want to talk about… or in my case, ones that you can’t shut up about. Jules gets this crazy job as an apartment sitter in this prestigious building full of rules. Once she’s inside, it’s a terrifying tale of survival when another apartment sitter disappears and Jules starts to learn the secrets this building harbors while she searches for her friend. With palpitating pacing, a story that keeps on giving, and characters that entertain the hell out of you, this one has plenty of fun twists and turns that lead up to the grand finale that is petrifying and superbly cinematic.
Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman
Tell Me Everything is my No. 1 book of 2019. Period. Cambria Brockman is alarmingly talented in a way that is as petrifying as her story. It’s the kind of book you read and then just patiently wait for it to completely blow up. This is a slow-burning coming-of-age story combined with a murder mystery and doused in psychological suspense. This story centers around a girl named Malin who befriends a group of people in her first few weeks of college. Fast-forward four years later and some major secrets are revealed and Malin is clawing to keep her image while also protecting herself as she watches alliances crumble in a whirlwind that ends up in murder. Told in three different parts, Brockman gives her reader everything they need to know and more by providing you with bits of Malin’s past growing up, her college experience and the day that all hell breaks loose. Major shoutout to Cambria Brockman for not blocking me on Instagram when I wouldn’t shut up about how much I loved her novel. Book two, please find your way to me very soon. K. Thanks!
Gretchen by Shannon Kirk
Shannon Kirk is the female Stephen King. Her novels are so complex and vivid, her prose is eerie and beautiful, and her characters are prominent and deceptively delicious. In Gretchen, Lucy is on the run with her mother and has been her whole life. In their latest stop, Lucy and her mother come into contact with the creepy Gretchen who is obsessed with puzzles – if you thought Lucy and her mother had secrets, you don’t know anything until you meet Gretchen and her father. When these characters collide and their pasts catch up with them in a bonfire of events, no one is safe and no reader will ever be prepared. A novel that is sinister and revels in an ominous shroud of mystery, Gretchen will keep goosebumps on your body for months after the bloodbath of a finale.
The Woman in the Park by Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist
The ultimate cinematic psychological thriller is here and it has a pulse. Right from the beginning, you will be dragged through the mud with this refreshing tale that is atmospheric and almost too wild for its pages… almost. Once you reach the 200-page mark, get ready because each page after packs a brutal punch in this tale about a missing woman and the person who is in the center of it all. Sarah Rock has it kind of rough. Her husband is cheating on her, her kids practically hate her and her cold therapist is trying to put her back together again. When she meets an alluring man in the park, her life takes a totally different spin and soon enough another woman from the park is missing leaving Sarah as the prime suspect. When everyone turns on her, Sarah is left with no one but herself and a long road to finding out the truth. This is one of the most riveting and captivating books I’ve read all year and one that I am eager to dive into again when the chills from my initial read finally start to fade.
The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup
The Chestnut Man is what I would consider the most nerve-racking read that I have read this year, if not ever. It is eerie and atmospheric featuring some very interesting characters and some really violent and brutally creepy scenes. There were so many points in this one that I had to take a small break because it was either giving me anxiety or downright scaring me. There are some definite trigger warnings with this one and if you’ve watched the television show The Killing, you might be familiar as the creator of that show wrote this novel. A serial killer is stalking residents of Copenhagen and leaving a little “chestnut man” at every crime scene. Sound creepy enough? Well one of them is found with a fingerprint of someone who went missing a year ago. This is such a fantastic read that is going to be a Netflix show – it is impossible to not imagine it as a movie or series when you’re reading.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell is just brilliant. Every single one of her stories has been so captivating and I love her way of revealing things without being cliché or seeming too unrealistic. I think this was definitely her darkest and most psychological book given the subject matter. With three different perspectives and two timelines, this one was sensationally written. The backstory is ominous and eerie without being too over-the-top. In this story, we have a woman who inherits an abandoned mansion on her birthday and finally gets some hope that she will learn about her birth parents. But what she doesn’t know is that other people have been waiting for her birthday as well. Combined with a storyline from 25 years ago where police found three dead bodies in this mansion and a baby crying, this story completely blew me away. If you want dark and suspenseful with rich prose and a stunning atmosphere, this is the one for you.
Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
And for our grand finale, we have Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison. Ellison is one of my favorite authors and this is definitely my favorite read by her so far! If you’re looking for a cozy and dark ominous read with an atmospheric setting, this is definitely one you’ll want to scoop up. I love collegiate and prep school settings, but the Goode School definitely plays a character of its own with this one. The Goode School is a prestigious prep school full of very important young women, but when a new student arrives, a violent and shocking murder occurs. The pacing is one of my favorite aspects and Ellison gives you all of the details you could ever imagine while keeping some things private, ready to rear their ugly heads later. If you want something that is shocking, juicy and immersive, this is the perfect read to gobble up in one day. By the time you’re done flying through the nearly 500 pages, you’ll be stunned at how J.T. Ellison can wrap you up in a story that feels like a novella.
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