2019 is almost over, and what a year it has been for mystery and thriller fiction! With another year in the books, it’s time for us to take a look at the year in books—mysteries and thrillers, to be precise. Read on to explore our list of the very best novels that 2019 delivered to fans of rip-roaring action and intrigue. Relive your favorite moments, or steal a few last-minute Christmas gift ideas for the amateur sleuth in your life!
The Lost Night
This year saw the return of some of the best mystery and thriller writers around, but it also saw its fair share of impressive debuts. Among them was Andrea Bartz’s first effort, The Lost Night. Bartz weaves an unforgettable tale of a woman living the high life in young, hip New York City—until she’s found dead of an apparent suicide. It’s not until 10 years later that one of the deceased’s friends, now working as a fact-checking whiz at a magazine, begins to reexamine the incident and wonder what might really have happened.
The Night Fire
Michael Connelly isn’t new to this: He’s been putting out superb novels starring his famous detective character Harry Bosch for years now. But the success of his series and its Amazon Prime adaptation hasn’t made Connelly complacent—he’s still churning out elite mysteries year after year, and 2019 was no exception. The Night Fire is the most recent must-read story for Bosch buffs. Connelly’s latest reunites Bosch with LAPD detective Renée Ballard, and sets the two to work on a case that baffled and frustrated Bosch’s own mentor.
Agent Running in the Field
You won’t find a more revered thriller writer on the planet than John Le Carré, the former British intelligence agent who has been plying his trade since the golden age of espionage fiction and, it seems, has not slowed down one bit. Agent Running in the Field is the latest from the master of spy thrillers, and it’s a novel that feels like a classic without losing its modern-day relevance. Filled with modern political concerns like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, this story of espionage is a great reminder that we still need le Carré.
Patricia Cornwell is a best-selling thriller writer with an established and loyal fanbase. But Quantum is not the latest in a long series. Instead, it’s the start of a brand new one. Meet Captain Calli Chase, a NASA pilot with expertise in quantum physics and a flair for cybercrime detection. Her rather unique set of skills are perfectly suited for the twists and turns of Cornwell’s plot, which kicks off in thrilling fashion when a government shutdown opens the door for sabotage at NASA. Pretty soon, there’s a corpse and a potential security breach to worry about.
The Killer Collective
With ripped-from-the-headlines relevance and guns-blazing action, Barry Eisler’s latest mystery-thriller ranks among his best. The Killer Collective is a novel about dark secrets and vast conspiracies. When an investigation into child pornography threatens to expose the rich and powerful, protagonist Livia Lone is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse.
This dark debut from Anthony Good takes readers inside the mind of a killer. Michael is a widower who lost his wife in a terrorist attack. In Michael’s mind, the horrible events are the clear result of failed policies. The politician responsible for those policies, Michael decides, deserves to die. In the pages of his diary, Michael works out his reasoning; readers come along for the grim and unforgettable ride.
An Anonymous Girl
From a brilliant editor and a bestselling author, readers got this 2019 smash hit. An Anonymous Girl is a gripping psychological thriller about a girl who volunteers for a psychology study. The study is supposed to examine ethics and morality, but the stakes soon become deadly.
The Silent Patient
Alex Michaelides’ hit novel The Silent Patient is a brilliant whydunnit. This is the story of an Englishwoman living a glamorous London life and charting a successful career as an artist. Seemingly out of nowhere, she decides to shoot her fashion-photographer husband in the face—a move that turns out to be great for the prices of her art, but less than ideal for her reputation and personal liberty. But why did she do it? That’s what nobody knows, and the suspect isn’t helping: She’s the titular “silent patient,” and she’s refusing to breathe a word about why she threw a homicidal wrench into her picture-perfect life.
A Better Man
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is back! Louise Penny’s popular character returns in A Better Man and once again takes charge of the homicide department within Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force in Canada’s Francophone province. Things aren’t going so well in Québec, though: Floodwaters are rising all over the province, and a young girl has gone missing. Gamache realizes that the search for the girl might need to be called off amidst the flooding, but his connection with his own daughter makes it tough for him to ignore the pleading of the missing girl’s father.
Lock Every Door
Riley Sager has penned an unforgettable mystery about a glamorous building with a dark past. This instant bestseller follows a new apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, an imposing and mysterious Manhattan landmark. Pretty soon, our protagonist realizes that something is very wrong with the apartments and halls of the Bartholomew, and her low-key stay quickly turns into her worst nightmare.
Before She Knew Him
Peter Swanson’s Before She Knew Him is a chilling suburban thriller about paranoia and the threat of violence. A young married woman with a history of mental illness now has a new fear consuming her: A neighbor who has her in the grip of a suspicion she can’t shake. Before She Knew Him makes the seemingly boring suburban world feel unsettling and claustrophobic, and it’s one of the very best thrillers of the bygone year.
If you’ve been reading Don Winslow’s Cartel trilogy, then you know that the epic series is one of the best in modern crime fiction. Winslow’s sweeping story of drug-running crime wrapped up this year with The Border, which may be his best book yet. The bad news is that the trilogy is over, but the good news is that The Border was one of 2019’s best thrillers.
The art of the espionage thriller has not been lost. Lauren Wilkinson’s 2019 thriller was a great reminder that the classic spy novel is still in vogue—and that a Cold War thriller can be made even better by a contemporary author’s insights. American Spy is the story of Marie Mitchell, a young black intelligence officer working in a lily-white FBI. Wilkinson’s thriller is a joy to read, and it was one of 2019’s best.