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  • Writer's pictureBrett Hayden

The Thriller Novels I Haven't Been Able to Put Down This Year (and the Ones I Have)

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

Like many others, one of my New Year's resolutions this year was to read more (original, I know). I pushed myself to accomplish this one though, and have been thrilled with the outcome.

After *finally* signing up for a library card at my local branch, I've found it to be so much easier read book after book after book. I can't go to the library without checking out at least 1 book I had on hold and 2 new finds. I'll never go back to paying $14+ per book when I can spend a leisure afternoon walking through the shelves at my local public library. Grabbing a library card has been the best decision I made this year, and has lead me to reading more books than I ever would have otherwise.

I am a sucker for true crime, horror, and all things thriller and have been pleased to find out that there are some incredibly talented thriller and horror authors out there. While you're looking for your next page turner, allow me to offer a personal rating and review of 11 thriller novels I've read this year.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix - 9/10

In my opinion, no one writes horror quite like Grady Hendrix. He's not afraid to take gore and terror to the next level. This man's attention to detail and use of imagery is like nothing I've experienced before. There are scenes in the novel that truly feel like they were taken from your favorite horror movie. The creativity of this novel got me hooked from the first glance of the blurb on the inside of the front cover.

So, what's a "Final Girl?" Think of basically any slasher horror movie (The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th, etc.). The psycho killer terrorizes campers or roadtrippers until there's no one left except one girl. This is the one girl that prevails and (usually) ends up taking out the killer in the end. This is our final girl. The Final Girl Support Group is the story of several girls who have gone through horrific events and came out on the other side, having slayed the villain of their worst nightmares. They must learn ways to cope with the trauma of their pasts, and have created this "support group" where they can lean on each other to heal. Horror strikes all of them a second time when a new killer attempts to find the final Final Girl of the group. This book is dark, twisted, and entirely entertaining.

False Witness by Karin Slaughter - 8.2/10

Slaughter strikes again with this 2021 thriller novel. I've been wanting to read more of her work ever since flying through Pretty Girls, and my second encounter with her was just as thrilling as the first. Slaughter's use of imagery and attention to detail when describing horrific events is second to none (you've been warned). I'm always impressed with Slaughter's ability to make her stories relevant to current events. Having False Witness take place during the COVID 19 pandemic, Slaughter perfectly captures the hysteria and "new normal" of life with a deadly virus.

Leigh and Callie are two sister with a severely troubled past and have each found their own way of coping with their trauma; one a successful lawyer, and the other possessed by a life of drugs and bad decisions. When a diabolical person from their past resurfaces with much more information than he was ever supposed to know, the sisters find themselves in a terrible situation. False Witness is an incredibly relevant account of social injustices, drug addiction, sexual abuse, and so much more.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham - 10/10

When I found out that A Flicker in the Dark was told from the point of view of a serial killer's daughter, I knew it was a book I had to get my hands on. This novel did not disappoint. I found myself using every tiny window I could to get in a few extra pages.

20 years ago, Chloe's father was tried and confessed to six murders in their small Louisiana town. Now, it's all happening again, even with her father securely locked behind bars. Chloe takes it upon herself to help solve the murders that are replicating those that took place all those years ago. And just when you think you know who's responsible, Willingham hits you with the biggest plot twist since George killing Lennie (apologies if you're currently reading Of Mice and Men...).

The Paris Apartment by Lucey Foley - 6/10

Technically I didn't read this one, I listened to it as an audiobook. To me, there's something very special about physically holding, reading, and finishing a book. That's why I must say, take this particular opinion with a grain of salt. It took me much longer to finish the book than the others because I simply did not have the time to listen to an audiobook. That being said, the audio version of this book was fantastic because there were several readers, each playing a specific character of the story. They all have accents and there's a sprinkle of French in almost every chapter that I very much appreciated.

Jess is down on her luck once again and is needing to crash with her brother in Paris. She arrives to find him missing and the rest of the apartment's tenants greeting her with severe hostility. The story takes place over a week while Jess is searching for her brother. She quickly finds out more than she ever wanted to know about the tenants her brother had been bunking with. I gave this one a 6/10 because it was a tad slow in the beginning for me, but what is uncovered in the end is well worth the read.

The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher - 4/10

I alway know I love a book when I "can't put it down." Unfortunately with The Wrong Family, it was tough for me to pick it back up once I set it down. I think my main struggle with this book is that there was *very* little dialogue. This makes sense because it follows the story of a homeless woman with a dark past named Juno secretly living in the crawl space of Winnie, Nigel, and their son Sam's home. I found myself wanting more interactions - but perhaps that's the genius of the story.

Though The Wrong Family was not a particular favorite of mine, I do think Tarryn Fisher is incredibly talented. Because of this, I decided to pick up another novel of hers, An Honest Lie, and let me tell you, I had an entirely different experience.

An Honest Lie by Tarryn Fisher - 8/10

As I said, An Honest Lie was a very different reading experience for me. Instead of taking almost two weeks to finish, I breezed through this one in 2 days - that's how captivating it was. From the very beginning it was different. I noticed more dialogue, more action in each scene, and chapters that went back and forth between 15-20 years ago and the present. Plus there's a cult - an immediate yes for me.

Our main character, Rainy, was engulfed into a cult in the outskirts of Las Vegas at a very young age and the experience followed her long after she managed to escape. I personally find anything to do with a cult incredibly fascinating, and was captivated by Fisher's attention to detail during Rainy's time within the compound. Years later when she eventually returns to Las Vegas on a girls trip, she is met with much more than her memories, bottomless buffets, and slot machines. This is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat for all 300+ pages.

Verity by Colleen Hoover - 7.8/10

Here's another opinion to take with a grain of salt because again, I listened to this as an audiobook. At this point, Colleen Hoover has become probably the most iconic author of 2022 - you can't open Instagram without someone proclaiming their love for the latest novel they read of hers. The very first scene in this novel is horrific and captivating. I have a feeling if I had physically read this book I would have had a different appreciation for it. Because of this, I plan to give Hoover another try (as soon as all of the copies are no longer in use at my library!). One of the main characters, Verity, is paralyzed and bed ridden in her family home. Verity is a best selling author, but due to her condition, she is unable to complete the remaining books in her series. That's where Lowen, an unknown writer, comes in. Given the job of her lifetime, finishing Verity's series, Lowen stays in the author's home along with Verity's husband and child. This get complicated quickly as she uncovers horrific secrets from Verity's past. The novel will have you feeling a certain way until the very end when Hoover hits us with a home run of a plot twist.

The Fields by Erin Young - 9/10

The Fields was one of the first procedurals I've read in awhile and it did not disappoint. This had several graphic and gory scenes comparable to those Grady Hendrix captured in TFGSG and I couldn't get enough of it (call me crazy, it's okay).

When a suspected serial killer is making his mark on a sleepy Iowa town, the badass Sergeant Riley Fisher and her team go on a mission to take him down and protect their home. As they do, they uncover so much more than they could have ever imagined and Riley is forced to relive horrific events from her troubled past. You will fall in love with her and be rooting for her to the (literal) bitter end.

Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski - 10/10

Like I said, I can always tell when I really love a book based on the speed at which I read it. I'm not a slow reader, but I'm also not the fastest you've ever met. I typically can finish a book within a week or a week, but I finished Real Easy in less than 48 hours. That's how much I loved it - I quite literally couldn't put it down. It's fascinating to me that Marie Rutkoski is known for children's novels because in her first adult fiction book she mastered the thrill, darkness, and horror of a successful thriller novel to a tee.

Following the case of a serial killer who targets sex workers, you will be waiting until the bitter end to figure out the answer to, "who done it?" The chapters go back and forth from the point of view of different characters, and Rutkoski is able to capture each personality beautifully. You'll finish the book having fallen in love with several of the main ladies of the story. It's a truly wild ride, and one I hope you take.

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix - 7.8/10

I've quickly become a Grady Hendrix Stan after reading several other books written by him. I was so excited to read My Best Friend's Exorcism and can happily report that it lived up to my standards. Set in the 80's, this book was incredibly nostalgic (not that I was alive in the 80's, but it was still exciting to get a peek into the past), creative, and in true Hendrix fashion, horrific.

My Best Friend's Exorcism is about, well, the exorcism of Abby's best friend, Gretchen, who gets possessed after a sketchy night involving a high school slumber party, acid, and an unfortunate trip through the woods. Soon enough, Abby finds herself helplessly trying to rescue her friend and when no adult believes her, she must take matters into her own hands. Reading this book was extra enjoyable because I saw several parallels from other books I've read by Hendrix (The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Final Girl Support Group), not the least of which being that each story revolves an epic group of badass women. I recommend reading all three for yourself and seeing the comparisons firsthand.

Local Woman Missing by Marie Kubica - 6.8/10

From the very first chapters of this book, I was hooked. It dives right into a horrific scenario where a little girl has been kidnapped and kept in a pitch black basement for 11 years. The reason behind my scoring is that though I genuinely enjoyed reading this book, and the twists and turns are intelligent and plentiful, after the initial intense setup, it got a bit slow for me. I also felt like there was maybe one too many plots taking place at once. However, I have to say the way Kubica ties (most) of the plots together at the end is shocking and fascinating.

As I said, there were several plots going on, so it's hard to summarize without giving too much away. But, this book has everything you could want out of a thriller novel: abduction, affairs, scandal, murder, and more. Towards the end of the book, there are several plot twists that I never saw coming (which is always a welcomed, if not essential, addition to a book of this nature). Though it's not ranked the highest on my list, you certainly won't be wasting time if you pick up Local Woman Missing.

Well, there you have it! I could go on and on and on, as my lists of to-be-reads and holds at the library are never ending, but all good things must come to an end at some point. But don't worry, I can't stop reading, which means another list of reviews will be available in no time. Until then, happy (or unhappy) reading!


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