20 Of The Best Political Thrillers

Political thrillers belong to a genre of literature that explores political themes and events. It can be used to educate, entertain, and provoke thought about the political world. Political fiction can be realistic or fantastical, and it can take many different forms, including novels, short stories, plays, and poetry.

Political thrillers are a subgenre of fiction that combines the excitement of thrillers with the suspense of politics. They typically feature a protagonist who is caught up in a conspiracy or other political intrigue, and they often deal with real-world political issues.

Political thrillers can be a gripping and thought-provoking read. They can help us to understand the political world in a more nuanced way, and they can make us think about the consequences of our political choices.

Here are twenty of the best political thrillers:

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (1903)

The Scarlet Pimpernel is an adventure novel that follows the life of Sir Percy Blakeney, a British nobleman who leads a secret double life as the Scarlet Pimpernel, rescuing French aristocrats from the guillotine during the French Revolution. The novel explores themes of heroism, patriotism, and disguise.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)

It Can’t Happen Here is a dystopian novel that follows the rise of Buzz Windrip, a charismatic but demagogic politician who is elected President of the United States and gradually transforms the country into a fascist dictatorship. The novel explores themes of fascism, propaganda, and the dangers of complacency.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1947)

All the King’s Men is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that follows the rise and fall of Willie Stark, a charismatic but corrupt politician in the fictional Southern state of Louisiana. The novel explores themes of power, corruption, and the American Dream.

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

1984 is a dystopian political novel that follows the life of Winston Smith, a man who works for the Thought Police in a totalitarian state. The novel explores themes of surveillance, propaganda, and control.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955)

The Quiet American is a spy novel that follows the life of Thomas Fowler, a middle-aged British journalist who is stationed in Vietnam during the French Indochina War. The novel explores themes of imperialism, espionage, and the American way of life.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (1959)

The Manchurian Candidate is a political thriller that follows the life of Ben Marco, a war hero who is brainwashed by the Korean government to assassinate the U.S. President. The novel explores themes of mind control, political corruption, and the Cold War.

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)

The Day of the Jackal is a political thriller that follows the life of a professional assassin who is hired to kill President Charles de Gaulle of France. The novel explores themes of espionage, planning, and suspense.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré (1974)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a spy novel that follows the life of George Smiley, a retired spy who is called back into service to investigate a mole within the British intelligence agency. The novel explores themes of espionage, betrayal, and loyalty.

The Parallax View by Loren Singer (1976)

In the aftermath of a political assassination, journalist David Chaykin is drawn into a web of conspiracy that threatens to expose the dark underbelly of American politics. As he follows a trail of cryptic clues, Chaykin uncovers a sinister plot that could have devastating consequences for the country.

Too Bad to Die by Cynthia Rylant (1987)

Too Bad to Die is a coming-of-age novel that follows the life of Sarah Jane, a young girl who is dealing with the death of her father and the impending divorce of her parents. The novel explores themes of loss, grief, and resilience.

House of Cards by Michael Dobbs (1989)

In the cutthroat world of British politics, Francis Urquhart, the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, is a master manipulator who will stop at nothing to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming Prime Minister. When the party’s aging leader, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, announces her intention to step down, Urquhart sees his opportunity. He sets in motion a ruthless campaign to undermine his rivals and secure the position for himself. Urquhart’s path to power is paved with deceit, betrayal, and even murder. He is a man devoid of conscience, willing to sacrifice anyone who stands in his way. As the stakes rise and the body count grows, Urquhart’s grip on power tightens. But will he ultimately succeed in his ruthless quest? Or will his house of cards crumble around him?

Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee (1995)

Native Speaker is a coming-of-age novel that follows the life of Henry Park, a Korean immigrant who is caught between two cultures. The novel explores themes of identity, belonging, and the immigrant experience.

November Road by Anne Tyler (2006)

In the quiet town of Baltimore, Maryland, November Road is a haven for those seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. Here, a diverse group of neighbours forms an unlikely bond, finding solace and companionship in their shared experiences. As the seasons change and years pass, the lives of these individuals intertwine, creating a rich tapestry of stories that explore the themes of love, loss, and resilience. From the heartbreak of divorce to the joys of parenthood, November Road is a poignant reminder of the power of human connection.

11/22/63 by Stephen King (2011)

11/22/63  is a time travel novel that follows the life of Jake Epping, a high school English teacher who travels back in time to 1963 to try to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The novel explores themes of fate, free will, and the consequences of altering history.

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (2012)

Red Sparrow is a spy thriller that follows the life of Dominika Egorova, a young Russian ballerina who is forced to become a spy for the Russian government. The novel explores themes of betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption.

Dark Horse by Christine Asquith (2012)

Dark Horse is a mystery novel that follows the life of Isabel Dalhousie, a single mother and amateur detective who is drawn into a murder mystery when her daughter’s friend is found dead. The novel explores themes of friendship, family, and the search for justice.

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick (2014)

In the small town of Havenwood, Washington, seventeen-year-old Cassie Keller is struggling to cope with the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the lives of her parents and her younger sister. She uncovers a trail of secrets and lies, and with each passing day, as the line between reality and illusion blurs, Cassie finds herself caught in a web of danger. She must confront her own fears and uncover the truth before it’s too late.

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (2018)

When President Bill Clinton vanishes without a trace, the world is thrown into chaos. With no leads to follow and the clock ticking, Secret Service agent Sean Reilly must use all of his skills and experience to uncover the truth and bring the President home safely.As Reilly delves deeper into the mystery, he uncovers a web of intrigue that reaches the highest levels of government. Along the way, he must contend with ruthless enemies who will stop at nothing to prevent him from discovering the truth.

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams (2021)

A young law clerk, Avery Keene, finds herself embroiled in a shocking mystery when her ailing boss, Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn, falls into a coma. As political wrangling ensues over Wynn’s replacement, Avery uncovers a trail of clues left behind by the Justice, leading her into a dangerous world of corporate secrets and political intrigue.

The Devil May Dance by Jake Tapper (2021)

In the glamorous world of Hollywood during the 1960s, Congressman Charlie Marder and his wife Margaret are tasked by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to investigate a potential threat to the presidency stemming from the President’s friendship with Frank Sinatra. As Charlie and Margaret delve deeper into Sinatra’s connections, they uncover a web of corruption and danger that reaches far beyond the Rat Pack. Facing off against powerful forces in Hollywood’s elite, Charlie and Margaret must use their intelligence and wit to uncover the truth before it’s too late.


And that’s our list of the twenty best political thriller novels. What’s your take on these – any surprises, or any political thrillers not on this list that you feel should make the cut?

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