Prolific author and master of horror Stephen King not only writes bestsellers at a head-spinning rate, he reads nonstop, too. According to King’s Twitter account, he reads 80 books per year, and he’s never shy about sharing his favorites. Here are 11 mystery and thriller books recommended by Stephen King that we think you’ll enjoy as well.
11 Thrilling Books Recommended by Stephen King
These pulse-pounding reads all earned King’s dark seal of approval.
By Brandon Miller
By Jean Hanff Korelitz
The Plot is the latest from Jean Hanff Korelitz, author of You Should Have Known, which was adapted into the award-winning HBO miniseries The Undoing. King had high praise for The Plot, calling it “one of the best novels I’ve ever read about writers and writing” and deeming it “insanely readable” and “remarkable.” The novel follows Jacob, a professor in a middling M.F.A. program, who chooses to steal the premise of his student’s novel-in-progress after that student dies. Cut to years later: Jacob is riding a wave of literary superstardom when a mysterious e-mail arrives: You are a thief. With his livelihood on the line, Jacob must figure out the real story behind the stolen plot and where it came from. As King himself said, “The suspense quotient is through the roof.”
Life or Death
By Michael Robotham
Stephen King loves Michael Robotham. Need proof? How about this tweet: “When Mr. Robotham writes, I read.” King hailed Robotham’s The Other Wife as a “terrific book.” And if that still isn’t enough, King had effusive praise for Life or Death, calling it “a nerve-shredding thriller with the heart and soul so often missing from lesser crime and suspense novels.” Life or Death focuses on Audie Palmer, who escapes from prison one day before his scheduled release. But why? We suggest you pick up the book and find out.
By Carole Johnstone
Carole Johnstone’s recently released Mirrorland invites you to 36 Westeryk Road, an eerie gothic house in Edinburgh, Scotland. Cat and her sister El grew up in the spooky abode. As children, they invented Mirrorland, an imaginary place that existed under the stairs. Years later, the sisters have grown apart; Cat has left her childhood home behind, while El lives there with her husband. But when El goes missing, Cat must return home to find her estranged sister. A trail of clues leads Cat back under the stairs and into Mirrorland, where she must face down dark secrets and the ghosts of the past. King called Johnstone’s book “dark and devious” and said it was “beautifully written and plotted with a watchmaker’s precision.” Powerful praise, considering this is Johnstone’s debut!
By William Landay
King named William Landay’s The Strangler as one of his top books of 2020. The author picked up The Strangler after reading Landay’s Defending Jacob, which he hailed as “a superb combination of suspense and realistic family drama.” The Strangler, set in 1963 Boston, is a crime story that King says “transcends the genre.” It focuses on the three Daley brothers: lawyer Michael, cop Joe, and criminal Ricky. When a strangler strikes close to the Daley home, the brothers unite to stop the killer. In doing so, they uncover an even bigger mystery.
By Nick Cutter
Nick Cutter’s The Troop — which King called “old-school horror at its best” — “scared the hell” out of King, who says he “couldn’t put it down.” The book is about a scoutmaster and his troop who find themselves on a wicked quest for survival in the Canadian wilderness after a mysterious intruder stumbles upon their campsite. King warned that Cutter’s book is “not for the fainthearted,” so we suggest that only “sick puppies” should pick it up.
By Anthony Horowitz
Stephen King was so taken by Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders that he compared the author’s work to that of Agatha Christie. Tweeted King, “Want to read a great whodunnit? Anthony Horowitz has one for you: MAGPIE MURDERS. It’s as good as an Agatha Christie. Better, in some ways. Cleverer.” The King-recommended book — from the bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis — is a mysterious tale about Susan, an editor who’s working on a crime novel and begins to notice that something evil is hidden within the manuscript. The reader becomes the detective in this inventive twist on the classic British crime novel.
By Ruth Rendell
The late Ruth Rendell was a beloved writer, known for her Chief Inspector Wexford mysteries and books such as A Demon in My View and King Solomon’s Carpet (which Rendell published under her pseudonym, Barbara Vine). Rendell’s final book was the stand-alone novel Dark Corners, for which Stephen King had nothing but praise. “Every aspect of Ruth Rendell’s dark art is splendidly showcased in Dark Corners,” his blurb reads, before he goes on to praise the author more generally: “One can’t say she saved the best for last, because a great many books by Ms. Rendell and her alter ego Barbara Vine are so splendid, but [Dark Corners] is among the best. You won’t put it down. I loved it.” The novel focuses on Carl Martin, who inherits a house after his father passes away. But when Carl rents a room to the wrong person and sells dangerous pills to a friend, he soon finds himself ensnared in a web of obsession, blackmail, and murder.
By Alma Katsu
Every review of Alma Katsu’s The Hunger mentions how scary it is — even Stephen King’s! The maestro of horror and suspense is quoted as saying that The Hunger is “deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark.” The novel draws on the real-life account of the doomed Donner Party of 1846 to craft a tale rich with supernatural mystique. As the wagon train makes its way westward, the travelers are plagued by a series of calamities, including the death of a young boy. When members of the group begin to disappear, they must confront the ravenous darkness that surrounds them — and perhaps lurks within the party itself.
Lock Every Door
By Riley Sager
Everyone from Ruth Ware to R.L. Stine has praised Riley Sager’s bestselling Lock Every Door, but it’s Stephen King’s endorsement that sits at the top of the book’s Amazon page. Just recently, King tweeted: “Looking for a suspense novel that will keep you up until way past midnight? Look no further than Lock Every Door, by Riley Sager.” Lock Every Door is about Jules Larsen, a woman who takes a job apartment-sitting a unit at the Bartholomew, a glamorous old building in New York City. As Jules gets to know the residents and staff, including fellow apartment-sitter Ingrid, she begins to detect a darkness coursing through the halls of the beautiful structure. And when Ingrid goes missing, Jules must plunge into that darkness to find out what happened to her.
The End of October
By Lawrence Wright
This eerily timely medical thriller by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Lawrence Wright was one of King’s favorite books of 2020. In it, Dr. Henry Parsons must confront a deadly new virus that’s sweeping the globe. “And watch out for that last line, friends,” writes King, “it’s a killer.” He also claims that “Wright rises way above Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg to tell a tale of guts and courage in the face of disaster.”
By Caroline Kepnes
Stephen King had nothing but praise for Caroline Kepnes’ 2014 novel, which has since been adapted into a Netflix series. He called it “hypnotic and scary” and said he had “never read anything like it.” In a direct Twitter exchange with Kepnes, King also said he hoped she was working on a new book (she has gone on to publish three more novels, two of them in the You series). For the uninitiated, You is a twisted psychological thriller about Beck, an aspiring writer, and her friend Joe, a bookseller who is not quite what he seems. As the story progresses, readers get to see just how far Joe is willing to go for his obsession with Beck, and how he transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man by manipulating, stalking, and exploiting her and those around her.