The Best Thriller Books of 2014 – The Definitive List

Looking for a list of 2014’s best thriller books? First published back in early summer as “The Best of 2014 So Far,” we’ve updated this post as our reviewers have finalized their year-end lists. Whether you learn toward sci-fi thrillers, conspiracy fiction, medical thrillers, hard-boiled mysteries, vatican thrillers or are somewhere on the political end of the spectrum, there’s something here for you.

Did we miss something great? Have something you want to recommend? Tell us in the comments! 

The Last Town

A jaw-dropping paranormal thriller series that is clearly deserving of the TV deal it landed.  Read it now before all you can imagine is Matt Dillon in the read role.

Welcome to Wayward Pines, the last town.

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrived in Wayward Pines, Idaho, three weeks ago. In this town, people are told who to marry, where to live, where to work. Their children are taught that David Pilcher, the town’s creator, is god.

No one is allowed to leave; even asking questions can get you killed.

But Ethan has discovered the astonishing secret of what lies beyond the electrified fence that surrounds Wayward Pines and protects it from the terrifying world beyond. It is a secret that has the entire population completely under the control of a madman and his army of followers, a secret that is about to come storming through the fence to wipe out this last, fragile remnant of humanity.

Blake Crouch’s electrifying conclusion to the Wayward Pines Series—now a Major Television Event Series debuting Winter 2015 on FOX—will have you glued to the page right down to the very last word.

Mr. Mercedes

In Mr. Mercedes, King has created one of the most unexpected, original and despicable villains in modern literature. And yes, it’s “literature.” The razor-sharp craftsmanship evident n the psychological war between the Mr. Mercedes and the man he dismisses as “the fat ex-cop” is beyond brilliant.

Just when we were sure that King couldn’t top his time-travel thriller 11/22/1963,  he comes out with one of his most robust tales ever.  In terms of sheer stakes, it’s easy to mistake this book as “small” by King’s standards (if you call running down down a handful of innocents waiting in a job line small).  There’s no massive mysterious dome that suddenly appears over an entire town, no opportunity to save John F. Kennedy and change the course of history.

But Mr. Mercedes is anything but small. Both the book’s protagonist and its villain are themselves masterpieces. At every point in the book, we know exactly what they want and the things about their past, present and future that are driving them to get there.  The genre of retired detectives coming back to solve one more case could be a genre unto itself, but we guarantee you’ve never read one like this.

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

The Drop

Like slipping on your favorite pair of shoes, you always know what you’re going to get with a new Lehane novel. Still, The Drop manages to be his most satisfying outing since Mystic River.

Dennis Lehane’s The Drop began as a short story called “Animal Rescue.”

Adapted into a film starring the late James Gandolfini in his final role, Lehane has since expanded into a full-length mystery, which is nearly as satisfying as anything we’ve read by him since Mystic River.

By we all know the classic Lehane characters, and those in The Drop are no different. They live in Boston, live hardscrabble lives, spend spend time in bars, where they smoke and watch too much sports.

Nevertheless, it’s comforting to step back into Lehane’s impeccably detailed world. This one zooms in on a bar used by Chechen gangsters for money drops.

While there are few real surprises in The Drop, it’s impossible not to become immediately invested in the plight of Bob, his dog, and the portion of the city Lehane calls “The Flats.”

Lehane’s storytelling remains gritty and detailed, and it’s his characters are ultimately what sets him apart from the throngs of up-and-coming thriller novelists.

Cop Town

We were blown away by this one from relative newcomer by Karin Slaughter.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last.

She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies.

It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat.

Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point.

With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Missing You

If you still haven’t jumped onto the Harlan Coben bandwagon, it really doesn’t get much better than this one.

It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site.

But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her.

Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart 18 years ago.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her.

But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.

And that is a story that you just cannot resist.

The Fellowship

Another great outing from William Tyree, who is finding a niche with his Blake Carver series.

In Washington D.C., an American senator is the victim of a depraved murder.

In London, a senior member of parliament is brutally slain in the tunnels beneath Whitehall.

Only one thing appears to link the American and British politicians – the archaic ritual used to kill them.

As wayward intelligence operative Blake Carver hunts for the perpetrators, he discovers an ancient order of assassins thought to have been dissolved centuries ago.

During an epic chase that takes him from the corridors of Washington to the wilds of South Africa and the catacombs of Rome, he finds himself caught in a shadow war that threatens to engulf the entire world.

Stone Cold

We loved this country-fried thriller served up by C.J. Box

Everything about the man is a mystery.

The massive ranch in the remote Black Hills of Wyoming that nobody ever visits.

The women who live with him.

The secret philanthropies, the private airstrip, the sudden disappearances.

And especially the persistent rumors that the man’s wealth comes from killing people.

Joe Pickett, still officially a game warden but now mostly a troubleshooter for the governor, is assigned to find out what the truth is, but he discovers a lot more than he’d bargained for.

There are two other men living up at that ranch.

One is a stone-cold killer who takes an instant dislike to Joe.

The other is new—but Joe knows him all too well.

The first man doesn’t frighten Joe.

The second is another story entirely.

The Counterfeit Agent

The latest outing by Alex Berenson is his best since his debut, The Faithful Spy.

In an Istanbul hotel, a deep source warns a CIA agent that Iran intends to kill a CIA station chief.

Quickly, John Wells is called in to investigate, but before he can get far, the tip comes true.

Which means that the next warning the source gives will be taken very seriously indeed.

And it’s a big one. We’ve put a package on a ship from Dubai to the United States.

A radioactive one. A bomb? Not yet. It’s a test run.

As the threat level jumps and the government mobilizes, something still doesn’t smell right to Wells’s old CIA boss Ellis Shafer, and so he sends Wells on a private mission to find out what’s going on.

But the two of them are swimming against the tide. From Guatemala to Thailand to Hong Kong to Istanbul, Wells uses every skill he has, including his ability to go undercover in the Arab world, to chase down leads.

But it might not be enough. Soon there might be nothing anyone can do to pull the United States back from the brink of war.

The Cairo Affair

This one by Olen Steinhauer is not to be missed.

Sophie Kohl is living her worst nightmare.

Minutes after she confesses to her husband, a mid-level diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary, that she had an affair while they were in Cairo, he is shot in the head and killed.

Stan Bertolli, a Cairo-based CIA agent, has fielded his share of midnight calls. But his heart skips a beat when he hears the voice of the only woman he ever truly loved, calling to ask why her husband has been assassinated.

Omar Halawi has worked in Egyptian intelligence for years, and he knows how to play the game.

Foreign agents pass him occasional information, he returns the favor, and everyone’s happy.

But the murder of a diplomat in Hungary has ripples all the way to Cairo, and Omar must follow the fall-out wherever it leads.

American analyst Jibril Aziz knows more about Stumbler, a covert operation rejected by the CIA, than anyone. So when it appears someone else has obtained a copy of the blueprints, Jibril alone knows the danger it represents.

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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