The Best Thriller Books of 2021

It’s with great pleasure that we announce the winners and finalists of the 2021 Book Awards.

This award series is devoted to recognizing the year’s top English-language books across 15 major categories ranging from Action Thriller to Spy Thriller.

While many more great books are deserving of recognition, these fantastic books represent the best of the best in each category.

As you’ll see in our official list of winners and finalists, these stories and their authors are remarkably diverse.

Winning writers hail from many countries and regions across the globe, including Australia (Yearn to Fear), Belgium (Alejandro’s Lie), Japan (Tokyo Zangyo), the U.K. (The Achilles Gene), the U.S. and elsewhere.

In addition, the awardees include both established writers and first-time novelists, such as Book of the Year winner David Shawn Klein.

Here are the winners and finalists of the 2021 Best Thrillers Book Awards (bonus: want to talk about these great books with other readers? Join our Book Award Group on GoodReads!).

[Looking for the 2022 Awards? Go here! Or go here for a list of all book awards!]


Book of the Year

The Money by David Shawn Klein

2021 Book of the Year - Best Thrillers

Henry Krakow, loving husband, devoted dad, and lawyer to the down-and-out fights for his family through an underworld of vicious mobsters and corrupt power brokers conspiring to steal millions of dollars meant for rebuilding Coney Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy—a conspiracy that ultimately forces Henry to confront the legacy of his legendary father.

Henry’s friend, Abdul (Shatterproof) Rahman is a struggling boxer and single father. Henry loves Abdul’s kids, Rafe and Kendra, almost as much as Abdul does. When Abdul’s license to box is threatened by a brain bleed, he puts Henry in an impossible situation: get him a CAT Scan of a healthy brain, so he can keep supporting his kids. Henry is in agony—does he buy a black-market Cat Scan and risk his friend’s life, or does he refuse, and rob Abdul of his only way of supporting Rafe and Kendra?

Henry’s attempt to find a solution goes sideways fast—a dark and violent, but hilarious, descent to the underbelly of law and politics. This is the world of his legendary father, one he had thought he’d escaped forever. But now, to save Abdul’s family, and his own, Henry has to face the reckoning he’s long avoided.




Action Thriller of the Year

Cover Your Tracks By Daco Auffenorde

Best action thriller of 2021Margo Fletcher, eight months pregnant, is traveling by train from Chicago to Spokane, her childhood home.

While passing through an isolated portion of the Rockies in blizzard conditions, the train unexpectedly brakes. Up ahead, deadly snow from a massive avalanche plummets down the mountain. Despite the conductor’s order for the passengers to stay seated, former Army Ranger Nick Eliot insists that survival depends on moving to the back of the train.

Only Margo believes him. They take refuge in the last train car, which Nick heroically uncouples in time to avoid the avalanche. The rest of the train is hurled down the mountainside and is soon lost forever in a blanket of snow. Margo and Nick, the sole survivors, are stranded in the snowstorm without food, water, or heat. Rescuers might not arrive for days.

When the weather turns violent again, the pair must flee the shelter of the passenger car and run for their lives into the wilderness. They must fend off the deadly cold as well as predatory wild animals foraging for food. Eventually, Nick leads Margo to shelter in a watchtower atop a mountain. There, we learn that both Margo and Nick have secrets that have brought them together and threaten to destroy them.



Conspiracy Thriller of the Year

JK’s Code by Ronald S. Barak

Best Conspiracy Thriller of 2021

Twenty-year-old computer genius Jake Klein, known to his friends as JK, drops out of college to pursue fortune and fame in the field of cybersecurity.

Discovering and upending a conspiracy between the presidents of Russia and America to manipulate the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, JK finds himself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the heads of state of two of the world’s most powerful countries—with the emphasis on deadly.

Revealing the truth to the world definitely comes with a price.

The fourth in the bestselling Brooks/Lotello novels, JK’s Code is a political thriller teeming with real-time events, satire, suspense, and just a hint of romance that couldn’t come any closer to the realities of 2020 if JK were covertly dividing his time between the White House and the Kremlin—which he may just be.



Crime Thriller of the Year

The Three Lives of Richie O’Malley by William Lobb

Best Crime Thriller of 2021

At the end of his life, a man is forced to face his past in the cold light of truth.

That’s the official hype, anyway…Richie – a lifelong mob hitman – must come to terms with the death of his best friend, a mounting government investigation into his past, and betrayal, as one of his old buddies decided to testify all he knows.

Living among them for decades of what appears to be a quiet life, is the most inconspicuous guy on the block – the respected and sometimes feared old gangster nobody questions.

He sells them flowers from his girlfriend’s shop. He gets his coffee and newspaper at the corner bodega every morning.

Now, the facade is about to collapse and Richie will tell an explosive story that will bring many of the rich and powerful down with him.



Historical Thriller of the Year

The Silver Waterfall by Kevin Miller

Best thrillers of 2021

In the desolate middle of the largest ocean on earth, two great navies met, one bent on conclusive battle, the other lying in ambush.

Six months after Pearl Harbor, Yamamoto again crossed the Pacific with the most powerful naval armada the world had ever seen, this time to finish the job.

Nimitz waited for him with what he had, placed exactly where he needed it.

Both admirals depended on their fliers, some veterans of battle, others raw and unproven.

Striking first meant decisive victory.

The Silver Waterfall is a factual historic fiction novel of Midway told by today’s master of carrier aviation fiction about the men who fought in one of the most pivotal and epic naval battles in world history.



Horror Novel of the Year

Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis

Best horror novel of 2021

Some secrets change your life…forever.

Lindsey Gillett is missing.

And she’s not the first girl at Waverly Prep to vanish without a trace.

To help cope with the tragedy, new history teacher Aubrey LeRoux organizes a small student investigation team.

But when the members start turning up dead across campus, Aubrey suspects there’s more going on than anyone is willing to admit.

The murdered students all had something in common with Lindsey. They shared a secret.

And what they uncovered could threaten the future of the historic school.

At Waverly Prep, someone wants to keep the past buried—along with anyone who gets in their way.



Legal Thriller of the Year

Standby Counsel by Alexi Venice

Best legal thriller of 2021Monica Spade insists she isn’t a trial lawyer, much less one who represents dangerous criminals. Despite her protests, Judge O’Brien orders Monica to serve as standby counsel for a young woman accused of repeatedly stabbing her boyfriend.

Setting aside her abject fear, Monica drags herself to the jail to meet her new client, Stela Reiter. A demure Romanian, Stela looks more like a meek librarian than a person capable of overpowering and stabbing a young man to death. Unlike Monica’s other clients, Stela is coy and secretive during their interview.

Meanwhile, Monica’s girlfriend, Shelby St. Claire, is keeping secrets of her own, forcing Monica to question the foundation of their relationship.

Cursed with intrepid curiosity, Monica digs into the backgrounds of both women, uncovering layers of sexual innuendo and clandestine deals. Stuck between an unrelenting judge and a killer in a pink cardigan, Monica pursues the truth in court while fighting to keep Shelby and herself out of harm’s way.




Medical Thriller of the Year

The Achilles Gene by N.E. Miller

Best medical thriller of 2021

The discovery of the Achilles gene by Ahmad Sharif at the Middle East Centre for Cancer and AIDS Research (MECCAR), recently opened in Jordan’s remote Wadi Rum desert, had stunned Western scientists.

Each gene having the potential to destroy its own cell should it ever become cancerous, the discovery had promised a universal cure for the disease.

But there was a hitch. Although every one of our cells has the gene, only those of a unique Bedouin tribe have the extra piece of DNA needed to turn it on. Dr Stephen Salomon of the US National Cancer Institute claims to have invented such a switch, for which he will soon receive the Nobel Prize. But maverick Oxford don Giles Butterfield suspects his American friend’s invention might be fraudulent.

After a sleepless night in his office in Magdalen College, he sets off for Heathrow in search of the truth. When his young assistant Fiona Cameron unexpectedly joins him in Washington, it is the start of a globetrotting adventure the outcome of which exceeds their wildest expectations, presenting Giles with a dilemma of epic proportions.



Military Thriller of the Year

Treason Flight by T.R. Matson

Best military thriller of 2021

Jack “Rattler” Owen is a Navy pilot on a combat deployment struggling with life at sea.

If dealing with separation from his family, the constant grind of shipboard life and malfunctions in the E-2C Hawkeye weren’t enough, it now seems that someone is out to get him.

As he tries to navigate his time on the aircraft carrier he realizes that things are not adding up in his squadron.

Rattler is faced with having to choose the safe path…

Or the path that could end his career.

Or even his life to expose the leadership that is willing to stop at nothing to benefit their own agenda.




Mystery Novel of the Year

Tokyo Zangyo by Michael Pronko

Best Mystery of 2021

In Tokyo, your job can kill.

After a top-tier manager in Japan’s premier media company ends up dead in front of company headquarters, Detective Hiroshi enters the high-pressure, hard-driving world of Tokyo’s large corporations.

Hiroshi quickly finds out the manager fell from the roof at the exact same spot as an employee suicide three years before.

With little more to go on, Hiroshi can’t tell if the manager’s death was a guilt-ridden suicide, a careless accident, or a grisly personnel decision. The only certainty is that Japanese workplaces rely on “zangyo,” unpaid overtime that drives employees to quit—or to kill.

Teaming up with his mentor Takamatasu, Hiroshi scours the off-record spending, lavish entertaining and unspoken agreements that keep Japan, Inc. running with brutal efficiency.

Working overtime himself, Hiroshi probes the dark heart of Japanese business, a place he’s tried to avoid all his life.



Paranormal Thriller of the Year

Soul Seeker by Kaylin McFarren

Best paranormal thriller of 2021

Crighton Daemonium arrives in the peaceful town of Lochton, Illinois, searching for wicked souls to add to his count.

Benjamin Poe, a devoted husband, father and firefighter, finds himself in a battle of wills against this evil, manipulating demon, while protecting his only son. Ultimately, Poe is tricked into committing murder, and Crighton is rewarded with the soul he was sent to retrieve.

Following Poe’s execution, Crighton continues his dark malevolent duties, until he’s kidnapped by members of The Sovereign Sector. This group of scientists, notorious for experimenting on supernatural creatures, forces Crighton into a soulmate relationship with the very angel he was sent to capture for the King of Hell, Lucifer.

With secrets revealed, darkness rules and loyalties shift.

The demonic soul-seeker soon becomes the target of Lucifer’s revenge, and his journey to redemption and freedom—or eternal enslavement—begins.




Political Thriller of the Year

Alejandro’s Lie by Bob Van Laerhoven

Best thrillers of 2021

Terreno, 1983, Latin America.

After a dictatorship of ten years, the brutal junta, lead by general Pelarón, seems to waver.

Alejandro Juron, guitarist of the famous poet and folk singer Victor Pérez who’s been executed by the junta, is released from the infamous prison “The Last Supper.”

The underground resistance wants Alejandro to participate in its fight again.

But Alejandro has changed.

Consumed with guilt by the death of his friend Victor, whom he betrayed to his tormentors, Alejandro becomes the unintended center of a web of intrigue that culminates in a catastrophic insurrection, and has to choose between love and escape.




Psychological Thriller of the Year

The Hiding Girl by Dorian Box

Twelve-year-old Emily Calby was a good girl from a religious family in rural Georgia.

She loved softball, her little sister and looking up words to get her allowance.

Then two men came and murdered her family. Only the killers know she survived.

On the run, surviving by wits and animal instinct, she makes an unlikely ally in an ex-gang member who lost his own family to violence.

He takes her in and trains her in “self-defense” before more tragedy launches her on a terrifying journey for justice.

Nothing will stop her—not cops or creeps, not even her own splintering mind.

Through it all, Emily fights to hold onto the girl she once knew, kept buried deep inside.

terror in my arms




Romantic Suspense Novel of the Year

Newark Minutemen by Leslie K. Barry

Best romantic suspense novel of 2021

Newark, NJ, 1938. Millions are out of work and robbed of dignity.

A shadow Hitler-Nazi party called the German-American Bund that is led by an American Fuhrer threatens to swallow democracy.

In this dangerous time of star-spangled fascism, a romance forms between the Jewish boxer, Yael and the daughter of the enemy, Krista.

But 1930s America pulls them apart as Krista’s people want Yael’s dead.

Then Yael is recruited by the mob to go undercover for the FBI against her people and bring down the German-American Bund.




Spy Thriller of the Year

Yearn to Fear by Chas Murrell

Sydney scientist, Marcus Hall, is developing a radical 5G Wi-Fi receiver for CSIRO. With access to secretive Lamarr computer chips – this technology promises billions to repair Australia’s ravaged economy. On a caffeine boosted whim, he inadvertently discovers a therapeutic breakthrough in neuroscience. Or so he thinks…

His seemingly trustworthy lab partner, Henry, is an unlikely Australian spy. His official duty is keeping tabs on the project and their Lamarr chips. But the whole project is now classified top-secret. Marcus remains blissfully unaware of the many secrets surrounding him, until he witnesses the graphic murder of a colleague. Could this event reveal Henry as a master deceiver and ruthless double agent?

Will the scientific discovery be fatal for Marcus, those he loves, and the one he yearns for? Marcus faces a soul tearing dilemma: is the only means of stopping the carnage to weaponise his prototype? Foreign intelligence agencies realise the top-secret breakthrough is priceless.

One particular spy leads the race to seize the invention. A psychological master of the long game, espionage, and extortion, his only rule according to Kung Fu: Win.

Friend and foe alike confront this psychotic mastermind. All will FEAR him, but is their FEAR real? Only the next six minutes will tell…



Sci-Fi Thriller of the Year

Quantum Alibi by Liam Fialkov

Best sci-fi thrillers of 2021

When the FBI arrested Professor Eldridge for the murder of his arch rival, they relied primarily on eyewitnesses’ accounts and a security camera.

The professor had been on the other side of the country when the crime took place, where he gave a lecture to hundreds of students. Or was he?

Did he use the laws of nature to commit an impossible homicide?

A revered Native American healer and shaman trains his only grandson to follow in his footsteps. The curious boy is on a quest for his life’s purpose. After high school, the young man goes to the university, where he experiences the promises, depths, and risks of love.

Delving deeply into the clues, Michael, an investigative journalism teacher, is stumped by the paradoxical footage of the accused man at the scene of the homicide.

Can Michael discover the truth before more people die?




Action Thriller

The Pilate Scroll by Michael Byars Lewis
Deadly Driver by JK Kelly

Conspiracy Thriller

Eagle Ascending by Daniel Whitfield
Crucible of Fear by D.W. Whitlock

Crime Thriller

The Hike by Landon Beach
Stolen Lives by Joseph Lewis

Historical Thriller

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Douglass Reynolds
Rock n’ Fire by Mark Stallard


Level Zero by Dan McDowell
Horde by Bryan Cassiday

Legal Thriller

The Girl in Cell 49B by Dorian Box
Express Intent by Karen S. Gordon

Medical Thriller

Condition Black by Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington
Primordial by David Sobel

Military Thriller

Deceit of the Earth – Heavy Metal by Henry Cox
The Theseus Conspiracy by Victor Alvarez


Darkness Hides by JC Gatlin
FUGUE by Michael J. McLaughlin

Paranormal Thriller

Hell is in Me by Colleen Parkinson
Time Of Death by Carrie Merrill

Political Thriller

Special Activities by Mark A. Hewitt
Divided States by Rick Treon

Psychological Thriller

Furious: Sailing Into Terror by Jeffrey James Higgins
Ophelia’s Room by Michael Scott Garvin

Romantic Suspense

Our Song, Memento Mori by PG Lengsfelder
Tangled Lies by Karen E Osborne

Spy Thriller

The Secret Brokers by Alexandrea Weis
Curve of the Dragon by Matt Stokes

Sci-Fi Thriller

The Virgo Paradox by R.H. Johnson
Prior Futures by Dan Kopcow

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