The Best Thriller Books Of 2022

If you like your mysteries more suspenseful than cozy, thrillers are probably your favorite crime genre. You're not alone, either; mysteries, thrillers, and true crime typically top the bestseller lists because of how easy it is to get hooked on a good mystery (via MasterClass). What sets thrillers apart from their cozier sibling, though, is the pitch of the suspense: in mystery books, MasterClass explains, you're working alongside the main character to solve a crime. With thrillers, the threat of future danger is what keeps readers turning pages.

Good thrillers are more than just suspenseful, though. As author Allison Brennan explains for Crime Reads, pacing and a main character readers connect with are key to creating the perfect thriller. The more complex the character, Brennan says, the better; the lines between hero and villain are blurred in thrillers and, even if their actions aren't "good," readers typically still get an understanding of what motivates a character.

But if thrillers are complex and tense, why do we love them so much? According to Jean Hanff Korelitz, author of "You Should Have Known," it's the push-and-pull between what the reader knows and what the characters don't that keeps people hooked (via Psychology Today). The puzzles in thrillers might be more complex and fast-paced than in mysteries, but they're no less satisfying.

If you're looking to add thrillers to your reading list or holiday shopping list, here are five of the best thrillers of 2022 to get you started.

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough will keep you up all night

What happens when the monster is inside the house, but the house is your body and the monster is your own brain? In Sarah Pinborough's latest psychological thriller, "Insomnia," readers get a look into the life of a woman whose own brain has turned against her.

Turning 40 brings a certain level of existential dread to even the best of us, but for Emma, there's a genetic timebomb she feels ticking inside of her (via Popsugar). When Emma's mother turned 40, Publisher's Weekly explains, insomnia pushed her to the point of a psychotic break. As her own 40th birthday approaches, Emma — now married, a successful divorce lawyer, and a mother herself — can't sleep anymore.

But like so many of us do, Emma pushes forward, doing what she can to protect her family from not just her past, but new dangers that feel like they're cropping up in every dark corner. Or are they?

Caution: this thriller is not for the faint of heart. For Crime by the Book, "Insomnia" kept her "off-kilter and on edge," and was "one of the most genuinely unsettling and utterly gripping psychological thrillers [she's] read in ages. She's not the only reviewer who felt this way, either. Popsugar said "Insomnia" is for readers who love their thrillers dark while The Washington Post warns not to read this book before bed — not if you're planning on sleeping, anyway.

Jackal by Erin E. Adams is a haunting debut in more than one way

Thriller fans know that when a main character goes back to their hometown, there's a good chance secrets and bodies are about to be uncovered. In "Jackal," Erin E. Adams takes this framework and turns the hometown thriller on its head, leaving readers simultaneously riveted and emotionally wrecked (via Publisher's Weekly).

Part criminal investigation, part gothic horror, "Jackal" follows Liz Rocher in what the Associated Press calls a "reluctant" return to her hometown of Johnstown, a mostly white rustbelt town in Pennsylvania, for a wedding. Kirkus Reviews adds that the wedding is for Liz's White best friend and a Black man Melissa's family doesn't approve of but who Melissa already has a 9-year-old daughter with. During the wedding, Melissa's daughter goes missing, turning the reception into a search party.

As the search continues, and Liz begins her own investigation, she uncovers a long history of missing Black girls in Johnstown, delivering what Kirkus Reviews calls a "Harrowing horro with a side of searing social commentary."

It's not just the story that has "Jackal" earning rave reviews, either; Associated Press calls Adams's writing "exquisite" in the way she can portray "characters and settings with a painter's eye and the lyricism of a poet." Lit Reactor adds that Adams is a "true storyteller" whose carefully plotted page-turner whose " both on a surface and primal level" as she shifts between "haunting atmosphere and visceral gore as needed."

Kismet by Amina Akhtar is a thriller book with major cult vibes

If you're as obsessed with the podcast "Sounds Like a Cult" as we are, you're going to want to add "Kismet" by Amina Akhtar to your reading list immediately. Equal parts hilarious and insightful, Akhtar launches what Kirkus Reviews calls a hilarious "takedown of influencer culture" that is not to be missed.

This bildungsroman follows Ronnie Khan, a sheltered Pakistani-American woman who has grown up under the harsh thumb of an abusive aunt (via Kirkus Reviews). Ronnie is persuaded to leave the insular community of New York City for Sendona, Arizona, to join Marley Davenport — a health guru — at Kismet Center, what Publisher's Weekly explains is a "one-stop wellness-o-rama place for New Age groupies." The longer Ronnie stays in Sedona, though, the more vivid and violent her dreams become, coinciding with a rising number of murders and the arrival of a mysterious flock of ravens. Ronnie also doesn't miss the fact that Marley is using the murders as ways to promote gain power and influence in Sedona.

In an interview with crime author Alex Segura for Crime Reads, Akhtar explained that with "Kismet," she wanted to get a better understanding of the type of person who would fall victim to a guru. In this exploration, she crafts what Bookreporter calls "one of the most unique the last couple of years" that offers biting examination of wellness culture and the people who become obsessed with it.

Cherish Ferrah by Bethany C. Morrow was one of the most anticipated books of 2022

Just because teenagers are the main characters of Bethany C. Morrow's latest thriller, is by no means a book meant to fit in the young adult genre, per to the Los Angeles Times. Instead, in "Cherish Ferrah" — named one of the year's most anticipated books — you'll find a psychological thriller that the LA Times calls equal measures restrained and ferocious. "Cherish Ferrah," they warn, "is not for the faint of heart."

The title refers to the book's main characters, Cherish and Farrah, who Black Girl Nerds explains are the only two Black girls living in an all-white country club neighborhood. Farrah, the book's narrator, feels that Cherish's adoptive white parents have done too much to protect Cherish from the harsh reality of being a Black girl in what Ferrah calls "the real world." But when Farrah's family faces economic hardships, Cherish realizes she will go to any lengths to keep Farrah in her life — and that Farrah will do anything to stay there, not truly understanding the world she's entered into (via Electric Lit). 

Written in the vein of Jordan Peele's "Get Out" and Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," Alta Journal explains what sets Morrow's "Cherish Ferrah" explores the dangers of losing yourself in someone else, of mistaking "submersion" for "connection." The racial dynamics of America's elite are a crackling tension between Cherish, Ferrah, and their parents that burns slow before eventually exploding.

The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz is a 'near perfect' thriller

No one can outrun the secrets of their past and that's especially true in domestic thrillers. A secret is also what Popsugar explains seems to be keeping best friends Owen and Luna bonded in Lisa Lutz's latest thriller, "The Accomplice."

In what Bookreporter calls a "near perfect thriller," Owen and Luna met back in college and they've had what Publisher's Weekly explains is a "strictly platonic relationship" ever since. As wholesome as that kind of friendship sounds, the pair become persons of interest in the murder investigation of Owen's wife. As the investigation into the murder deepens, secrets from the past and present begin to emerge, creating a darker, more complicated history than Publisher's Weekly was expecting. A romance isn't what's kept Owen and Luna tied together all of these years and as the investigation continues, long-hidden secrets finally are brought to light (via Where the Reader Grows).

Boookreporter adds that in "The Accomplice," there are so many "literary landmines" that even the most well-read crime readers will have a hard time anticipating what turn the book will take next. This is one of those books, Publisher's Weekly explains, that readers will be torn between wanting to solve the mystery immediately and not wanting the book to end thanks to great plotting, a cast of quirky characters, and even moments of humor when you least expect it.