The Best Thrillers of 2017 

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It seems like every year turns out to be a Golden Age of Thrillers, and 2017 was no exception. In fact, we saw so many edge-of-your-seat thrillers with so many compelling characters, surprising twists, and heart-pounding action scenes it was tough to narrow it down to just 25. But we’re professionals. The 25 books on this list are all guaranteed to get the blood pumping and the palms sweating—and they’re just the tip of the thriller iceberg.

The Dark Lake, by Sarah Bailey
Rosalind Ryan’s transcendent beauty made her a legend in her small rural town, but many years later, it also made her a target. As an adult Rosalind returned to Smithson High School to teach drama, and when she turns up in a local lake, dead of strangulation, it falls to lead homicide investigator Gemma Woodstock to solve the mystery of her murder. Except Gemma is a former classmate of Rosalind’s, and unraveling the puzzle of Rosalind’s strange and lonely existence stirs up Gemma’s own murky, questionable past.

End Game, by David Baldacci
Baldacci’s fifth Will Robie novel flips the script a bit on his competent, deadly characters. When Will Robie and Jessica Reel’s legendary handler, Blue Man, goes missing after taking a rare vacation to go fly-fishing in a rural area of Colorado, the two deadly assassins are dispatched to investigate. They find themselves in the town of Grand, a festering place of economic decline, crime, drug wars—and a growing population of militia-style groups. They also find an inadequate police force unable to cope. They quickly realize there’s more going on in Grand than meets the eye, and by the time they realize that even they, two of the most dangerous people in the world, are out-gunned and surrounded it might be too late.

Vicious Circle, by C.J. Box
The 17th Joe Pickett novel starts off in high gear and never lets up, opening with Picket in a plane using infrared technology to track Dave Farkus, hunter and disability scam artist. Joe catches up with Farkus just in time to see the man shot to death. It doesn’t take long for Joe to identify the key suspect—Dallas Cates, sometime rodeo star who just got done doing 18 months in prison thanks to Farkus’ testimony. Cates makes little effort to hide the fact that he’s seeking the ultimate revenge against Farkus—and has assembled a team of meth heads, sociopaths, and other scary folks to do so. Joe finds both himself and his family included in Cates’ plans, and Cates proves to be smarter and more evil than Joe could possibly have suspected.

Origin, by Dan Brown
Brown returns to his most successful character with an all-new Robert Langdon adventure, this time centered in Spain and focusing on more modern art. Langdon starts off the book as the guest of former student-turned-billionaire Edmond Kirsch, who is staging a provocative presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and hinting at the answers to two of the fundamental questions of human existence. Naturally, things go very, very wrong, and Langdon soon finds himself fleeing to Barcelona with museum director Ambra Vidal and working desperately to discover a password Kirsch left behind that will unlock all of the billionaire’s secrets. Their opponent, however, seems to be all-knowing, and firmly rooted in the Spanish royal palace—but there’s no one on Earth more equipped to deal with codes and symbols than Robert Langdon.

Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown
In some ways a darker version of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Disappear centers on the sudden absence of a notoriously unreliable woman, Billie Flanagan, during a hiking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. With no body left behind, and very few clues to go on, her whereabouts are a chilling mystery. Billie’s teenage daughter, Olive, begins hallucinating that her mother is alive and needs her help, while Billie’s husband, Jonathan, has a different response to the disappearance, having recently discovered she may have been unfaithful. A perfect book for fans of Liane Moriarty, A.J. Banner, Gillian Flynn, and A.S.A. Harrison, this marital suspense story also stands on its own feet.

The Stolen Marriage, by Diane Chamberlain
Bestseller Chamberlain’s latest concerns an aspiring nurse trapped in a marriage-of-convenience in a small North Carolina town where she is disliked and mistrusted. It’s 1943, and Tess’s life just took a hard left: Impregnated by a man not her fiancée, she casts off her dream of a medical career alongside her true love and moves away with Henry, the baby’s father, who is uninterested in Tess’s potential. It soon becomes clear Henry is hiding things from Tess. With the polio epidemic in full swing, Tess gets a chance to use her nursing skills at last, but the home front remains as unsettling and mysterious as ever in this suspense-filled, World War II-era tale.

The Midnight Line, by Lee Child
Jack Reacher is once again stepping off a bus in a small town in the middle of nowhere, this time in Wisconsin. Stretching his legs, Reacher sees a West Point ring in a pawn shop window and is moved to find out what would make someone sell something so difficult to earn. His quest for the ring owner’s identity leads Reacher to cross several state lines as he assembles a story of service in Afghanistan, opioid addiction, and a huge criminal organization that Reacher, once he’s aware of it, has no choice but to take on. He manages to acquire an ally, however, in the form of the cadet’s brother, a former FBI agent-turned private detective, who’s one of those rare people Reacher feels he can count on, if only for a while. Along the way Reacher traces corporate complicity in the opioid crisis and the desperation that drives people to make bad decisions—all while dishing out violence the way only Jack Reacher can manage.

Don’t Let Go, by Harlan Coben
15 years ago, Napoleon “Nap” Dumas lost his twin brother Leo when he and his girlfriend, Diana, were hit by a train. This is terrible enough—but in a puzzling twist, Nap’s then-girlfriend Maura also disappeared at the same time. When evidence surfaces linking Maura to a murdered police officer, Nap begins to suspect that his brother’s death wasn’t an accident. His investigation leads him to look up the other members of a high school group called the Conspiracy Club—and he soon realizes that someone else is also tracking down the club’s members as well…and killing them.

Two Kinds of Truth, by Michael Connelly
Connelly returns to the world of Harry Bosch with a pair of mysteries. Three decades ago, Bosch was convinced a man named Preston Borders was guilty of raping and murdering three young women, but the district attorney only pursued one case, convicting Borders of the murder of Danielle Skyler. Borders has been on death row ever since, but suddenly new DNA evidence seems to exonerate him, so he files a habeas corpus petition and seems determined to sue everyone involved. Bosch has nine days before the hearing to figure out what went sideways, but his efforts are complicated by the current murder he’s investigating, that of a pharmacist and his son, which has set off a chain reaction of revelations involving faked prescriptions. As Bosch prepares to go undercover as an addict for the first time in his life, even he might not be able to keep all of the clues straight.

The Cuban Affair , by Nelson DeMille
Set in 2015, just as relations between the United States and Cuba were beginning to warm up, DeMille’s latest digs into the side of the story that often gets overlooked: the Cuban expats living in the U.S. who hate the Castro regime and who abandoned their property, wealth, and standing when they fled. Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a veteran of Afghanistan trying to make his way out from under a mountain of debt with his charter boat business in Key West—and failing. When he’s offered a lot of money to assist in the recovery of money and documents from a remote cave in Cuba, he agrees out of desperation, ferrying a beautiful woman to Havana. When things go wrong, Mac finds himself depending on her—without knowing if he can trust her one bit.

The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld
Naomi Cottle was kidnapped as a child—although her memories only begin with a flight through a dark strawberry field. Raised in foster homes, she is still broken by things she can’t remember, and has dedicated her life to being a “child finder,” called in by devastated families to find missing children when the trail has grown cold. Naomi never gives up, sometimes finding the children dead, sometimes alive. When she’s called in to search for Madison Culver, who disappeared three years before and is presumed to have frozen to death, the family is still holding out hope. And rightly so—as Naomi struggles to stay connected to her foster family and her sense of self, Madison begins narrating her terrifying imprisonment with a man she calls “B.”

Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich
As her many fans are aware, to know Stephanie Plum is to love her. Evanovich’s long-running series following the madcap exploits of Jersey’s most illustrious bounty hunter takes a spooky turn when headless bodies begin turning up left and right. Although initially they’re corpses from the morgue, when a homeless man is found murdered and decapitated, someone has clearly upped their creepy game, Stephanie is compelled to take the case. In the meantime, she’s bunking with professional grave robber Simon Diggery and his pet python, and concerned about Grandma Mazur’s online dating escapades. Tall blonde and handsome Diesel is also back in town, which is stirring things up for Stephanie and her perennial paramours, sexy cop Joe Morelli and the enigmatic Ranger. Treat yourself to the latest mystery in the Plum series!

Y is for Yesterday, by Sue Grafton
Grafton’s famous Kinsey Millhone series is reaching the end of the alphabet, to the despair of legions of fans. Y is For Yesterday travels back to 1979, when four private school boys brutally assaulted a classmate—and the attack was filmed. The ensuing investigation resulted in the conviction of two of the perpetrators, although the main instigator behind the attack disappeared. Nearly twenty years later, one of the attackers is released from prison. Fritz McCabe is in pretty terrible shape, and he’s now being held a virtual prisoner by his parents. When he receives a copy of the video of the attack along with a demand for ransom, McCabe’s parents swing into action and consult with Kinsey Millhone, who is soon drawn into their convoluted family drama. In the meantime she’s also got a sociopath with a deep grudge to contend with. Fans know it’s just another day in the life of one of the best investigators in the genre.

The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
Grisham proves he’s still got his finger on the pulse in his newest, telling the story of idealistic but broke law students Mark, Todd, and Zola, who mortgage their future in the form of student loans to attend a third-tier law school. In their third year, the trio realizes they’ve been victims of the Great Law School Scam: the graduates of their school rarely pass the bar and almost never get jobs—and the school’s owner also owns the bank that wrote the paper on their loans. Naturally, smart nearly-lawyers go for the only option they have available: revenge. It’s going to take planning and risks (like dropping out before earning your degree) but it’s the only option if you want a little justice—and the result is an Ocean’s 11 for the LSAT crowd.

Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
The diabolically clever Magpie Murders opens with the text of a classic whodunit set in sleepy English village; the latest novel in fictional author Alan Conway’s popular Atticus Pünd detective series. That mystery itself is absorbing enough, but things take a turn for the weird when editor Susan Ryeland must use the clues woven throughout it to solve a chilling real-life murder. Horowitz’s prose is elegant, his characters multifaceted and deeply human, and the ingenious construction of this brilliant puzzler (which pays homage to the classic whodunnit while taking it apart and reassembling it into something completely new) will leave you reeling. In his bestselling novels Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, Horowitz proved his knack for writing spellbinding stories, but Magpie Murders is a tour de force mystery-within-a-mystery that takes things to an astonishing new level.

Mississippi Blood, by Greg Iles
Iles’ concluding novel in the Natchez Burning trilogy starts off at a tense boil…and then somehow increases the tension. Penn Cage, now mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, finds himself—and his family—targeted by the Double Eagles, a splinter KKK group led by the loathsome and deadly Snake Knox. Penn’s father, Tom, heads to trial for the killing of his nurse and lover, Viola Turner, and Penn turns to author Serenity Turner for assistance chasing down witnesses. As the racial violence escalates, everyone’s commitment to their ideals is tested, and Iles brings all of the plot threads together in well-constructed trail scenes that offer plenty of surprises.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, by David Lagercrantz
Even from solitary confinement in prison, Lisbeth Salander is an unstoppable force in Lagercrantz’s second book continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. The prison she’s held in is poorly run, with the inmates more in charge than the guards, but her hacking skills and sharp intelligence mean she’s as effective inside as she was out. Her old ally Mikael Blomkvist visits once a week, and she passes him a lead related to her still-mysterious childhood: a respected stockbroker named Leo Mannheimer she believes is connected to the psychiatric unit where she was confined against her will as a child. As Blomkvist does what he does best, Salander turns her attentions to the injustices in her new home, as intolerable to her in prison as they would be in the free world.

A Legacy of Spies, by John Le Carré
John le Carré is not only back, he’s bringing George Smiley with him—or at least Smiley’s assistant, Peter Guillam, called upon to fill in the blanks on an old operation called Windfall, now that the British government is being sued over some of the unintended casualties of the Cold War. Guillam begins piecing together the truth behind Windfall, digging through old files, listening to interrogations, and supplementing these discoveries with his own reliable memories. As usual in a le Carré novel, the combination of meticulous detail, skillful spycraft, and moral blankness makes for a slow-boil thriller that slowly increases the tension to unendurable levels. The intelligence and (above all) patience of the men and women working in intelligence becomes as thrilling as any gunplay.

Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane
Lehane’s newest thriller focuses on Rachel Child, a successful television journalist raised by a manipulative mother who doesn’t realize just how damaged she is until an on-air nervous breakdown ends her career. In freefall, Rachel locks herself up in her house and never leaves. With time to think, she wonders about her father, whose identity her mother hid from her, and contacts a private detective to try to identify him. That detective, Brian Delacroix, becomes more than a hire for Rachel—he becomes, she thinks, her lover and salvation. When she begins to suspect he might not be everything he seems, the story really kicks into high gear, an Rachel proves to be a surprisingly dynamic character despite her isolated status.

Earthly Remains, by Donna Leon
When the usually careful and meticulous Commissario Guido Brunetti finds himself coming precariously close to losing his cool during an interrogation of a particularly prickly suspect, he is given a leave of absence from work. His wife Paolo convinces to take a breather at a relative’s villa on the quiet island of Sant’Erasmo, and there Brunetti befriends Davide, the house’s caretaker and a quiet man with a passion for beekeeping. But trouble follows, as it often does, and before long Brunetti finds himself investigating Davide’s disappearance. [Hint: Davide took a permanent leave of absence.] In the satisfying twenty-sixth installment of her beloved Guido Brunetti series, author Leon, known for immersing readers in the lush settings of her novels [typically the bustling city of Venice]—gives Brunetti time and space to ruminate on man’s place in the natural world.

The Breakdown, by B.A. Paris
Paris’ clever thriller pivots on a chillingly familiar premise: a woman named Cass sees a driver on the side of the road, trying to flag down help near a broken-down car. She drives past without stopping, then later learns the motorist was brutally murdered. She begins to receive phone calls during which no one speaks, and her fear she has inherited her mother’s early-onset dementia are brought to the fore as her grip on details—and her own memories—slips. She comes to rely more and more on her husband and her best friend, who never liked each other, but this is one of those books in which no one is above suspicion.

Glass Houses, by Louise Penny
A mysterious figure has appeared in the idyllic village of Three Pines, standing alone and stock still in the freezing November sleet. As the villagers, including Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache, grow increasingly perturbed and even frightened, the figure remains. Soon after it finally disappears, a body turns up, which is very probably not a coincidence, and it falls to Gamache to discover whether the killing is in fact a terrible retribution. Later that summer, the accused stands trial, but Gamache is forced to face the consequences of the actions he took during those fateful days in November. The 13th novel in Penny’s incomparable series ratchets up the tension to an almost unbearable degree.

Deep Freeze, by John Sandford
Sandford’s tenth Virgil Flowers story finds the Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent’s life complicated by another small town murder in Trippton, and the arrival of an agent of chaos. The murder victim is Gina Hemmings, who inherited her parents’ bank—and plenty of the potential suspects’ debts. Making things more complicated is the arrival of Margaret Griffin, a Los Angeles investigator who lands in town with the governor’s request that Virgil assist in finding Jesse McGovern, who is supposedly manufacturing sex dolls in Trippton—though no one seems to have ever met her. Virgil’s path to solving each mystery is as enjoyably bumpy as ever, but it’s Sandford’s grasp of small town culture that makes this entry sing.

Good Daughter, by Karin Slaughter
If you haven’t read Karin Slaughter yet, The Good Daughter is the perfect novel to jump onboard with…and if you’re a fan of fast-paced, gripping, and impossible to forget thrillers (see: the incredible Coptown), you should definitely be reading Karin Slaughter. In her latest standalone novel, Charlotte Quinn fought back against a harrowing childhood trauma by following in her father’s footsteps and becoming an attorney. But when another attack occurs nearly three decades later, Charlie is powerless to stop a flood of terrible memories from that tragic incident, which destroyed her happy family and left her mother dead. You won’t know where this one is going, but one thing is for sure: you’ll follow this author anywhere.

Heather, the Totality, by Matthew Weiner
Weiner, creator and showrunner of Mad Men, has crafted a sharp, character-driven debut novel that examines class and parenting with equal power. Heather, smart and beautiful, has been doted on by her mother since birth, causing a rift between her parents. Heather is also increasingly aware of the gulf between her family, the owners of an upscale apartment building in Manhattan, and the people who work for them—including a construction worker, Bobby, whose appearance isolates him. Heather sees Bobby as a way to bridge the gap, but her father sees a threat in how Bobby looks at his daughter, and tensions rise in complicated ways.

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