While we love a great mystery, sometimes you need an extra twist to get your heart and mind racing. The following books are deeply inventive, tinkering with their temporal structures to heighten the fun as well as the suspense. Some flash back from the present to the past, while others interweave different chronologies and voices to thrilling effect. Each gripping read is sure to leave you riveted. Here are 11 unputdownable mysteries and thrillers with multiple timelines.
11 Mind-bending Mysteries & Thrillers with Multiple Timelines
The clock is ticking; can you crack the case in time?
The Angel Maker
By Alex North
From internationally bestselling author Alex North, The Angel Maker is a fantastic supernatural thriller that wields past and present timelines with killer precision. Years ago, young Katie Shaw’s life was shattered when a stranger attacked her little brother, Chris. Flash forward to the present: Katie still wrestles with her guilt and fury over her sibling’s assault, struggling to separate real-world threats from the shadows in her mind. Then she receives word that Chris has gone missing. As she races to find her brother, the nearby murder of a college professor only deepens the mystery. Could Chris’s disappearance be connected to the professor’s brutal slaying? And why do both cases point back to the crime spree of a serial killer who, if the rumors are true, could see into the future? North shines at fusing multiple timelines with creepy suspense, crafting a “delightfully bone-chilling tale” that’s “rich with layers and plot twists and perfectly suspenseful pacing” (Kirkus).
By Gillian Flynn
In Dark Places, Edgar Award–winning author Gillian Flynn delivers a powerful crime thriller that examines the trauma of the past and its impact on the present. The shifting, multivoiced narrative centers on Libby Day, who in 1985, at the age of seven, survives the massacre of her mother and sisters. The heinous triple murder is quickly dubbed satanic, and young Libby testifies in court that her brother Ben was the culprit. Twenty-five years later, a true crime club finds Libby and convinces her to reinvestigate that terrible night, helping her uncover the truth, but also throwing her back into danger.
Local Woman Missing
By Mary Kubica
Mary Kubica’s Local Woman Missing is a bestselling psychological thriller that will mess with your head and send shivers down your spine. The twisting, turning narrative intertwines multiple perspectives to deliver a tale of disappearance and resurrection in a tight-knit community. First, Shelby Tebow goes missing, followed by Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah. The unsolved vanishings shock friends and family and shatter the tranquil facade of their small town. Cut to 11 years later, and Delilah returns —upending everything her neighbors thought they knew about the disappearances and their community.
The Chalk Man
By C.J. Tudor
Stephen King recommends this award-winning creepy thriller, so you know it’s going to be good. In her acclaimed debut The Chalk Man, C.J. Tudor deftly hops between two timelines, 30 years apart, to tell the story of a set of friends hunted by the ghosts of the past. In 1986, young Eddie and his friends share a secret code, communicating with one another via figures drawn in chalk. But the fun comes to an abrupt halt when a chalk man seemingly appears on its own, leading the youngsters to a dead body in the woods. In 2016, an adult Eddie has done his best to bury his traumatic past, but out of the blue he receives a note with the same chalk figure. Then one of his childhood friends is killed, and Eddie realizes that he must unravel this twisted mystery and find out what really happened in the woods if he hopes to survive.
The Night Shift
By Alex Finlay
Time is imperative in Alex Finlay’s The Night Shift, which centers on two murder sprees that take place in the same New Jersey town, 15 years apart. The first happens on New Year’s Eve 1999, when a group of teenage employees are attacked at the local Blockbuster Video. Just one of the employees makes it out alive, while the prime suspect in the attack, the boyfriend of one of the victims, vanishes without a trace. Fifteen years later, the young employees of a local ice cream shop are attacked — and once again, just one victim survives. Finlay’s thriller winds its way between the two harrowing episodes as FBI Agent Sarah Keller strives to uncover the truth about the attacks and the dark secrets of those fateful nights.
Home Before Dark
By Riley Sager
In Home Before Dark, bestselling author Riley Sager draws on haunted house horror to craft a nerve-jangling psychological thriller with dual timelines. Twenty-five years ago, little Maggie Holt and her parents moved into a sprawling Victorian estate in the woods of Vermont — only to flee in the night three weeks later after experiencing otherworldly evil. Maggie’s father documented their ordeal in an Amity Horror–style book. Maggie, for her part, never believed a word of it. But things are about to change now that she’s inherited the estate in the wake of her father’s death and must confront the malevolence lurking within her family’s home.
The Broken Girls
By Simone St. James
In the mood for another chilling narrative set against an eerie northeastern backdrop? Check out The Broken Girls by award-winning author Simone St. James. The first thread to this timeline book takes place in Vermont circa 1950, at Idlewild Hall, a boarding school for wayward girls. Locals and residents alike whisper of an otherworldly curse hanging over the institution — and their suspicions are confirmed when a young girl disappears. The second thread picks up in 2014, where local journalist Fiona Sheridan grapples with her older sister’s murder. The body of Fiona’s sister was found in the fields surrounding the ruins of Idlewild. When the journalist learns that an anonymous benefactor is paying to restore the dilapidated school, she begins writing a story about the site and its dark history. It isn’t long, however, before she uncovers terrible truths that some would have preferred to stay buried.
The Winter People
By Jennifer McMahon
Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People is a deeply affecting and superbly chilling dual-timeline book, which makes it a perfect fit for our list. Bonus: It also takes place in Vermont! At the heart of this acclaimed paranormal mystery is the death of a Vermont woman named Sara Harrison Shea, who was found dead in 1908 in the field behind her home after the death of her daughter. Flash forward to the present: Nineteen-year-old Ruthie now lives with her mother, Alice, and little sister Fawn in Sara’s old farmhouse. When Alice goes missing, Ruthie scours their home for clues — and soon uncovers Sara’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s room. As Ruthie pores over the document, she begins to suspect that a dark and tragic history may have traveled across time to plague the present.
Then She Was Gone
By Lisa Jewell
In Then She Was Gone, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell plays with time to deliver a deeply engaging mystery about a heartbreaking disappearance. Ten years ago, Laurel Mack’s teenage daughter Ellie vanished without a trace. Despite a desperate search for answers, the case remains unsolved. In the wake of Ellie’s disappearance, Laurel has done her best to move forward and mend her fractured life. But when she begins seeing a man she meets at a café, Laurel is shocked by his youngest daughter’s uncanny resemblance to Ellie — opening up old wounds and igniting a burning search for answers.
The Shining Girls
By Lauren Beukes
Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls was recently made into an Apple TV+ series starring Elisabeth Moss, but we sincerely urge you to read the book on which the series is based. The electrifying multiple-timeline thriller focuses on Kirby Mazrachi, who survived an attack by a killer and is now searching for answers with the help of Dan Velasquez, a seasoned reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times who originally covered the attack. The case, however, is anything but ordinary: The killer, Harper Curtis, possesses the ability to jump through time, propelling Mazrachi and Velasquez on a mind-bending race across the years to stop him before he strikes again.
7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
By Stuart Turton
Stuart Turton wowed readers the world over with his dazzling murder mystery The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The bestselling narrative, which blends an Agatha Christie–style whodunit with the time-warp premise of Groundhog Day, finds Aiden Bishop reliving the same deadly day at Blackheath Manor. Each morning, he wakes up in the body of a different houseguest; each night, someone at Blackheath will murder Evelyn Hardcastle. The time loop repeats until Aiden figures out just who murdered Evelyn — but unraveling this tangled case and breaking free from the curse is far harder than it appears. Bursting with thrilling fun, 7½ Deaths is a time-twisting delight.