Beware: these best thriller books of 2020 will keep you up all night with edge-of-your-seat action and gripping mysteries. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It’s 1 am, and you know it’s way past your bedtime and you’ll pay for this tomorrow. But you cannot seem to put your book down. You have to know whodunit and if your favorite character will survive until the end of the book.
The best thriller books keep you glued to your seat. What a delicious feeling it is to be full of suspense at the turn of a page.
I used to only rarely read thrillers, but something flipped in me this year. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic or because I’m getting older, but now I read all the thriller books I can get my hands on. Which is quite a lot now that I run a successful book blog.
Since you likely don’t have time to read a zillion books a year as I do, let me narrow it down for you. Here are my picks for the best thriller books of 2020.
Best Psychological Thriller Books 2020
TOP PICK: The creepiest book of the year award goes to Romy Hausmann’s German bestseller which builds to an incredibly thrilling ending. Kept locked in the woods in a windowless shack, Lena and her two children live as virtual prisoners to her “husband.” When Lena escapes, the nightmare should be over. Yet things don’t seem to be adding up, and Lena isn’t who she claims to be. Of all the must read thriller books on my list, this is my top choice.
RUNNER UP: As a child, Olivia disappeared one night while sleepwalking, only to be found safe days later. After years of enduring fame, Olivia moved away and changed her name. With the 20th anniversary of her miracle rescue coming up, she starts sleepwalking again, only to wake up to the dead body of someone she used to know. An edge-of-your-seat thriller, I couldn’t get enough of this mystery. With well-rounded characters and surprises that just keep coming, it’s earned its place among the best thriller novels of 2020.
HONORABLE MENTION: There are two sides to every story, and usually the truth lies somewhere in-between. BBC correspondent Anna Andrews returns to her hometown to report on the murder of one of her high school best friends. Complicating matters, her ex-husband, DCI Jack Harper, is investigating the case. As the investigation continues, past secrets come to light and both Jack and Anna find themselves suspects in the case. A solid psychological thriller, Feeny keeps you guessing until the end – letting you believe you know the truth, then twisting it until you suspect you finally understand, before twisting it again.
HONORABLE MENTION: On a stalled train, Selena confesses to a fellow passenger that she suspects her husband is cheating on her with the nanny. Martha, in turn, confesses to an affair with her boss. When the nanny disappears days later, Selena begins to wonder about the stranger from the train. Lisa Unger’s psychological thriller does a great job twisting and turning to keep you engaged and wanting more. The action-filled climax fits the story, and you’ll feel satisfied with how all the storylines resolve.
Best Domestic Thriller Books
TOP PICK: After three years with her therapist Roan Fours, Saffyre Maddox is finally “cured” of self-harm. Yet Saffyre never revealed her worst trauma to Roan, and now she feels tossed aside. She begins secretly stalking his house, an invisible girl in the shadows. When Saffyre disappears, all attention falls on Roan’s neighbor Owen Pick. For he’s just the type to do such a thing – just a bit creepy. No surprise that bestselling author Lisa Jewell has another addition among the top thriller books of 2020.
RUNNER UP: While touring Vietnam, emergency room doctor Alexis is startled when her boyfriend Austin vanishes on a bike ride. The only clue is one of his empty energy gel packets left behind on the road. Quickly Alexis learns that Austin had been lying about why they were in Vietnam. The deeper Alexis digs the more she realizes that Austin was not what he seemed. As a protagonist, Alexis hits all the right notes, swaying from grieving girlfriend to curious investigator. The ending has the perfect mix of action and danger, and the epilogue was spot-on. While The Red Lotus might have gotten lost among all the incredibly great thriller books this year, it’s a solid story for fans who enjoy a good detective story.
HONORABLE MENTION: Broke and recently fired, Emily has hit rock bottom. Until she lands the perfect job as a housekeeper for a wealthy couple on a remote French estate. But is this offer too good to be true? Luckily, the rather flighty protagonist comes into her own as the novel progresses, or this novel would have been really hard to read. Right away, you know something is off about this family, but Downes does a good job keeping you guessing what the big reveal will be. If you are looking for the best thriller novels books of 2020, this is one that’s fine to read, though not something you’ll necessarily be raving about to all your friends.
HONORABLE MENTION: After her maternity leave, Laura returns to work at a successful advertising agency only to find herself sidelined by the new hire. In her absence, Mia has ingratiated herself into the workplace, with her own reasons for desperately wanting to stay. Meanwhile, Janie, the CEO’s wife, becomes convinced her husband is having an affair. A deadly fire reveals the tangled layer of secrets of these three ambitious women. If you are looking for the best new thriller books with complicated relationships, then you’ll want to keep your eye on the page-turning action of Three Perfect Liars.
Explore the Best New Books of 2020!
Spooky Bestselling Thriller Books 2020
TOP PICK: Maggie Holt has always lived in the shadow of her father’s bestselling horror book – a “true” story of their twenty days living in a haunted house when she was five. Having inherited the infamous house from her father, she is determined to fix it up. Ghosts aren’t real, so there’s nothing to worry about, right? Jumping between her father’s novel and Maggie’s return to the house, Sager keeps you on edge the whole time. With creepy happenings and crazy twists and turns, Home Before Dark is the best thriller books of 2020 to curl up to this year.
Simone St. James
RUNNER UP: In 1982, Viv Delaney takes a job as a clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York, only to mysteriously disappear. Thirty-five years later, Viv’s niece Carly Kirk returns to the Sun Down Motel to investigate her aunt’s disappearance. You’ll love flipping between Carly and Viv as they try to figure out what is going on at the Sun Down Motel. The perfect combination of spooky, without being too scary, The Sun Down Motel is one of the top thriller books to read this fall.
HONORABLE MENTION: A gothic horror story set in 1950s Mexico. Sign me up! Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her cousin accusing her new husband of trying to poison her. To help, Noemí travels to their estate in the Mexican countryside. She doesn’t fear her cousin’s husband or father-in-law, or the creepy house that is giving her nightmares. Although the ending was a bit out-there, the delicious writing and gripping ascent make up for it.
Best Crime Thriller Books 2020
TOP PICK: Rachel Krall, the host of a popular true-crime podcast, gets more than she expected when she reports on a rape trial in a small town. A mysterious woman named Hannah is stalking Rachel, leaving her notes begging her to investigate the death of Hannah’s sister twenty-five years ago. Could that cold case be connected to the current trial? Captivating from start to finish, Goldin has penned one of the best thriller books of 2020. The coverage of the rape trial gives the feel of a good legal thriller, keeping you wondering how the jury will decide. Add in the cold case, and you’ll be guessing how the two cases connect.
RUNNER UP: On a remote island, the perfect wedding turns deadly in this thrilling mystery. The high profile wedding between a television star and a magazine publisher is supposed to be the perfect event. Set off the coast of Ireland, all the stops have been pulled out. Yet once the guests arrive, past conflicts come into play and someone turns up dead. Was it the bride? The best man? The wedding planner? Foley keeps you guessing until the end, giving each suspect a firm motive to want to commit murder. If you are looking for the best selling thriller books of 2020, The Guest List is the perfect page-turner to read.
HONORABLE MENTION: At an exclusive French ski resort, the shareholders for the up-and-coming social media company Snoop must decide on an offer of a billion-dollar sale. One person doesn’t make it back to the lodge after skiing, and things go from bad to worse when an avalanche hits threatening them all. Would someone be willing to resort to murder to get their way? Among the latest thriller books, Ruth Ware’s new book is the perfect thriller to read this winter.
HONORABLE MENTION: Estranged sisters, Mickey, a police officer, and Kacey, a drug addict, live completely different lives in Philadelphia. When Kacey goes missing and drug addicts begin dying, Mickey becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her among the opioid-riddled streets. More a family drama than a gritty detective thriller, Long Bright River‘s slower pace draws you into Mickey’s world of being a single mom and police officer while the flashbacks build a relationship between the sisters. Moore does an excellent job slowly revealing layers of her story, building connections that interlock in surprising ways. While the ending has some action, the story’s strength lies in the characters making this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
HONORABLE MENTION: During a tense murder trial, high school teacher Bobby Nock is accused of murdering a wealthy white student. Initially the lone “not guilty” vote, juror Maya Seale swings her fellow jurors to acquit. During a reunion of the jurors ten years later, a fellow juror turns up dead in Maya’s room. Now, Maya is the main suspect, and it’s her turn to prove her innocence. The Holdout will keep you guessing whodunit, then and now. The action keeps the narrative moving along at a fast clip while the flashbacks help you understand how Maya was able to sway so many jurors.
HONORABLE MENTION: Retired Chicago police officer Cal Hooper decides to settle down in a remote Irish town but a plea from a young boy shatters his peaceful retreat. The boy’s brother is missing and no one in the town seems to care. Now Hooper must use all his instincts to discover what’s amiss in his supposed paradise. The best mystery books are not always edge-of-your-seat thrillers. Instead, the idyllic Irish setting will lull you into this slow-burn mystery that will reward those who love a good character study.
What do you think are the best thriller books of 2020?