15 Gripping Thriller and Mystery Books for Book Clubs

gripping thriller and mysteries for book clubs

Book tastes may differ wildly, but good mysteries appeal widely. And you can count on them to add momentum to your book club discussions any day. Mysteries and puzzle-driven thrillers give your group a chance to talk about both the twists and turns of the reading experience and any issues and concepts addressed by the book, providing the opportunity for layered, captivating conversation. So in this blog post, we bring you a list of some of the very best mystery books for book clubs that have been published in recent years.

These books encompass a variety of settings, from the Australian outback to an Ojibwe reservation to suburban New Jersey. They also cast a light on many different areas of society and social issues, from modern-day racism to cult psychology to the history of women in medicine. And of course, they all come highly recommended. Not only have all of these books been rated 5-stars on BookBrowse, but you'll find multiple BookBrowse award winners among them.

This Might Hurt

This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel

336 pages. Published by Berkley Books

The chain of events is linear but alternates rhythmically between the past and present. Chilling scenes of former childhood trauma and parental manipulation intermix with suspense in the present as Natalie first steps onto the frozen grounds of Wisewood in the dead of winter. During her search for her sister, she encounters an eclectic range of personalities among the island's shaved-headed staff, whose artificial smiles thinly mask their mistrust of outsiders. She hears conversations of the great "Teacher" who founded and leads the Wisewood program, yet the Teacher herself is nowhere to be found. Only after stumbling upon a truth she was never meant to find does Natalie learn that she is not the only person there with a secret she would rather keep buried. (David Bahia)

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Suburban Dicks

Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza

400 pages. Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons

Kenny and Andrea's tense personal chemistry sets up their odd-couple professional relationship; both are supremely talented, both investigate the mystery using their own skills and methods, and they consistently question one another's motives and means. Most readers—especially if they have small children at home—will probably find themselves on Team Andrea once she starts coming up with more and more creative and outlandish solutions for childcare, including enlisting her children as junior investigators. Suburban Dicks (and the title refers to old-timey slang for detectives, by the way) isn't just slapstick, however—the novel's plot and its characters' commentaries make serious points about the insularity of many so-called exclusive suburbs, and about the ugliness that can surface when a town's demographics begin to change. (Norah Piehl)

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Firekeeper's Daughter

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

496 pages. Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Despite being almost 500 pages, the novel never drags, but keeps a slow and sustained pace. This adds an extra layer to what would otherwise just be your average thriller, as it allows the reader to truly digest every new piece of information that comes to light and become fully immersed in the world of the book. However, the faster-paced, more adrenaline-filled chapters will have you on the edge of your seat. (Althea Draper)

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The Plot

The Plot by Jean Korelitz

336 pages. Published by Celadon

Jean Hanff Korelitz's inimitable and imaginative story-within-a-story sinks its claws in early and doesn't let go until its unforgettable finish. She explores the insular world of her own craft — writers and their ideas — via a chilling twist perhaps as clever as the one Evan Parker shares with Jacob Finch Bonner at an MFA program one fateful day. A truly unique plot in its own right, the novel is a joy in part for its insider look at the writer's solitary craft juxtaposed against the hype and marketing of the publishing world. (Peggy Kurkowski)

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The Long Call

The Long Call: The Two Rivers Series Book #1 by Ann Cleeves

384 pages. Published by Minotaur Books

The novel combines a memorable protagonist with a baffling crime that is complex yet believable. Highly recommended to anyone who loves a good whodunnit; its examination of many social issues also makes it a great novel for book group discussion. (Kim Kovacs)

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The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

336 pages. Published by Sourcebooks Landmark

Blending events from Agatha's life with a writing style familiar to fans of Christie's novels, Marie Benedict pays homage to Christie's detective fiction (Shawna). The mystery of Agatha Christie's 11-day disappearance in December, 1926 has persisted to this day. Marie Benedict presents a wonderfully engaging and thrilling answer to that mystery with twists and turns worthy of any Christie whodunit. (Barbara E)

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The Distant Dead

The Distant Dead by Heather Young

352 pages. Published by Custom House

In chapters narrated primarily from the points of view of Sal (starting from the first day of school and leading up to Adam's death in March) and Nora (starting with the discovery of the murder and leading up to the solving of the crime), Young effectively draws out the complexities of each character's life. The stories of love and loss—mostly centered on issues of addiction and substance abuse—that Young recounts in her novel are, perhaps, indicative of countless other stories that go untold or overlooked every day. (Norah Piehl)

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Fake Like Me

Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

368 pages. Published by Grand Central Publishing

Barbara Bourland's voice is sharp and satirical. She nudges readers to think about weighty topics: the formation of identity, the commodification of people, the desire to succeed, the pressure to be authentic and the potentially devastating consequences of greed. Fake Like Me is an unconventional thriller with an unreliable narrator that demands the reader's full attention, but provides plenty of rewards in exchange. (Jamie Chornoby)

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Heaven, My Home

Heaven, My Home: A Highway 59 Mystery by Attica Locke

304 pages. Published by Mulholland

The intricate, shifting plot elements in Heaven, My Home aren't just deftly handled, but deeply intertwined, making for profound world-building that echoes broader American social and cultural realities. At the same time, Locke's writing is approachable; it has literary value, but could appeal to some who aren't normally inclined towards more literary work. (Elisabeth Cook)

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Where the Light Enters

Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati

672 pages. Published by Berkley Books

With its focus on smart, courageous women physicians, who were a rarity but certainly not unheard of in the late 19th century, Where the Light Enters easily sets itself apart in the genre of historical fiction. It is an excellent followup to The Gilded Hour, but also can be read as a standalone novel. The controversial themes, headstrong heroines and gripping accounts of high-stakes medical trials all come together to create a winning combination. (Tara Mcnabb)

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The Stranger Diaries

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

352 pages. Published by Mariner Books

Elly Griffiths has skillfully created a story within a story, and blended the two together in a natural and interesting fashion. The Stranger Diaries is a modern murder mystery featuring a ghost story and an ominous setting that builds upon the framework of the countless Gothic romance novels that came before. (Jordan Lynch)

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The Lost Man

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

368 pages. Published by Flatiron Books

The Lost Man, is a fantastic family drama/mystery that explores the consequences of both taking action and failing to do so. In the aftermath of the seeming suicide of Cameron Bright in a desolate part of the Australian Outback, his family must come to terms with his death and with what may have prompted it. Told from the point of view of Nathan, Cameron's older brother, the story slowly unfolds as Harper interweaves past and present and reveals dark family secrets (Terri O). Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian outback make it easy to give this book a 5-star endorsement (Norman G).

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November Road

November Road by Lou Berney

336 pages. Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

Gripping novels are founded on brilliant characterization and/or a nail-biting plot. November Road's portrait of Guidry falls into the usual "criminal with a heart of gold" cliche-ridden trap but Charlotte's slow evolution into a woman realizing her own power is a thing of beauty. Author Lou Berney is an Edgar-award winner and it shows. The story moves along at a compulsive clip and is powered by crisp and sharp writing. (Poornima Apte)

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If We Were Villains

If We Were Villains by M L. Rio

368 pages. Published by Flatiron Books

If We Were Villains raises questions of loyalty, sacrifice and selfishness. And the question remains, do we adopt the role of hero or villain, or is the role assigned to us? (Carol S). I loved every minute of it, thought it was brilliantly done, and was thoroughly captivated by the players and curious how it would end. A very special, well-thought-out, and well-executed debut novel (Diane S).

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Long Black Veil

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

320 pages. Published by Broadway Books

The deftly told story doesn't fit into one specific box. It's a murder mystery, as well as an exploration of transgender identity. Told from multiple timelines and characters' point of view, as well as shifting between various geographic locations in the United States Northeast, it is also a thoughtful character study, contrasting who the characters were in their twenties against who they become thirty-five years later. (Sarah Tomp)

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