The 20 Best Suspense Novels

Suspense novels create a sense of anticipation and excitement in the reader. They are characterized by high stakes, danger, and uncertainty. The novels often feature a protagonist who is faced with a difficult or dangerous situation, and the reader is left wondering what will happen next.

The twenty novels on this list all qualify as top level suspense fiction novels because they all feature these elements of suspense to a high degree. They all feature the common elements of suspense fiction, such as twists and turns, red herrings, and dark and atmospheric settings and are all able to keep the reader engaged and on the edge of their seat.

The listed books are all modern novels. We have not presented the works of some of the very greatest, household, names like Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie, H.G Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle etc. but a selection of the thousands of possible novels in this category.

Here are twenty of the best suspense novels:

Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier

A young woman marries a wealthy widower and moves into his grand estate, Manderley. But the ghost of his first wife, Rebecca, still haunts the house and the widower’s heart. The young woman must struggle to find her own place in Manderley and to win the widower’s love.

The Island (1962) by Peter Benchley

Lincoln Island is a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean that is home to a top-secret government experiment. The island is inhabited by a group of intelligent chimpanzees that have been genetically engineered to be human. But when a storm shipwrecks a group of tourists on the island, the chimpanzees are forced to confront their own humanity.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1957) by Patricia Highsmith

Tom Ripley, a young and charming man, is hired by a wealthy family to travel to Italy to bring their son, Dickie Greenleaf, home. But when Ripley arrives in Italy, he is immediately captivated by Dickie’s carefree lifestyle. Ripley becomes obsessed with Dickie, and he will stop at nothing to possess him.

The Shining (1977) by Stephen King

Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic and former writer, takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a remote hotel in the Colorado Rockies. But when the hotel’s isolation and dark history begin to take their toll on Jack’s sanity, his family is put in grave danger.

Misery (1987) by Stephen King

Famous author Paul Sheldon is rescued from a car crash by a reclusive nurse named Annie Wilkes. Annie is a huge fan of Paul’s work, but she soon becomes obsessed with him. When Paul tries to escape, Annie forces him to write a new novel for her, or else she will kill him.

The Silence of the Lambs (1988) by Thomas Harris

FBI agent Clarice Starling is tasked with interviewing Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant but cannibalistic psychiatrist. Lecter offers to help Starling catch a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill, but only in exchange for information about her own past.

Intensity (1992) by Dean Koontz

Chyna Shephard, a brilliant young woman, is kidnapped by a sadistic serial killer named Edgar Ray Killgannon. Chyna uses her intelligence and wit to stay one step ahead of Killgannon, but she must also confront her own inner demons as she fights for her survival.

The Da Vinci Code (2003) by Dan Brown

When renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Louvre Museum in Paris to investigate the murder of its curator, he finds himself caught up in a conspiracy that has existential implications for the Catholic Church.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005) by Stieg Larsson

When disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger to investigate the decades-old disappearance of his niece Harriet, he teams up with Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but troubled young hacker. As Blomkvist and Salander delve deeper into the case, they uncover a trail of corruption and violence that leads to the heart of Sweden’s elite. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dark and suspenseful thriller that explores the depths of human evil and the power of redemption.

Sharp Objects (2011) by Gillian Flynn

Reporter Camille Preaker returns to her hometown to investigate the murders of two young girls. As she delves into the case, she confronts her own troubled past and the dark secrets that lie beneath the town’s veneer of respectability.

Gone Girl (2012) by Gillian Flynn

On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne goes missing, leaving behind a bloodstained kitchen and a trail of cryptic clues. As the media frenzy surrounding her disappearance intensifies, her husband Nick becomes the prime suspect. But is Nick really the killer, or is there something more sinister at play? Gone Girl is a gripping psychological thriller that explores the dark side of marriage and the human psyche.

(2014) by Josh Malerman

Malorie Hayes and her two young children must travel blindfolded through a post-apocalyptic world where mysterious creatures drive people to suicide when they are seen.

Big Little Lies (2014) by Liane Moriarty Bird Box

In the wealthy seaside town of Monterey, California, a seemingly perfect community is rocked by a tragedy. As the police investigate, the secrets and lies of the town’s residents come to light.

The Woman in Cabin 10 (2016) by Ruth Ware

Lo Blacklock, a lonely young woman, boards a luxury cruise ship for a solo vacation. But when she wakes up one morning to find that her roommate, who she had spent the previous evening with, has vanished without a trace, Lo suspects that something sinister is at play.

Behind Closed Doors (2016) by B.A. Paris

Grace and Jack Angel seem to have the perfect marriage, but behind their closed doors lies a dark and twisted secret. Grace is trapped in an abusive relationship with Jack, and she is desperate to escape.

The Wife Between Us (2018) by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Newlyweds Vanessa and Richard appear to have the perfect life, but when Vanessa drowns on their honeymoon, Richard quickly falls in love with her best friend, Nellie. However, as the police investigate Vanessa’s death, secrets begin to unravel and the truth about her marriage comes to light.

My Sister, the Serial Killer (2018) by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede has always known that her younger sister, Ayoola, is a serial killer. But when Ayoola kills her third boyfriend, Korede must decide whether to protect her sister or to turn her in to the police.

The Woman in the Window (2018) by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox, an agoraphobic recluse, spends her days watching her neighbours through her window. One day, she witnesses a disturbing crime, but when she reports it to the police, they don’t believe her. Anna must then decide whether to risk her own safety to uncover the truth.

 The Turn of the Key (2019) by Ruth Ware

A young woman is hired to be a governess for three orphaned children at a remote estate. But as she settles into her new job, she begins to experience strange and disturbing events. Is the house haunted, or is something more sinister at play?

The Guest List (2020) by Lucy Foley

On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, a wedding is about to take place. But as the guests arrive, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide. When the bodies start piling up, it’s a race against time to figure out who the killer is before it’s too late.


And that’s our list of the twenty best suspense novels. What’s your take on these – any surprises, or any suspense fiction books not on this list that you feel should make the top twenty?

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