7 Thrillers to Keep You Awake at Night 

Do you like your coffee with a side of cliffhanger? If so, you'll love these recommendations from Kelsey Donmoyer of @NightShiftReads.

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As a night shifter for the past ten years, I’ve had some WILD shifts where I haven’t sat down or eaten for twelve straight hours. Working in a NICU, however, where we very much promote “cluster care” and allow babies to sleep in between their care times, I’ve found myself struggling to keep my eyes open on more than one occasion. When that 2 AM fatigue hits, there’s nothing I enjoy more than diving into some spooky, twisty reads to help keep me awake. 

My love of reading started with my dad, who loaned me all of his James Patterson and Harlan Coben books when I was in high school. These thrillers were my gateway into the reading world and countless nights I found myself turning pages into the early morning hours. That love of reading has followed me into adulthood where I still always have a book with me, especially for a slower shift or when I can’t sleep on a night off. (I’ve even organized a book club with coworkers so we have lots of juicy reads to talk about while we work together.) 

I will always take my coffee with a side of cliffhanger so I’m so excited to share with you some of my favorite mysteries and thrillers. I’m sure they’ll keep you alert and on the edge of your seat!

The Night Shift

𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Alex Finlay @alexfinlayauthor
𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 5/5 ⭐️
𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:

  • Super fast-paced police procedurals
  • Multiple POV’s
  • Badass female protagonists
  • LOTS of twists

For obvious reasons, I had to start with this one solely based on the title! One small town, two tragic, multiple homicide events that happen 15 years apartboth with a classic “final girl” who hears the killer speak the same exact words.  I really enjoyed Finlay’s previous book and hoped this one lived up to my expectations—he definitely delivered a twisty, fast-paced thriller.

I was hooked from the insanely gripping first chapter, liked that this one was told from multiple POVs (a survivor, the brother of the accused murderer, and an FBI agent) and really enjoyed that there wasn’t a lot of unnecessary additions to the writing. Thanks to that, the pace stayed consistent from beginning to end. There’s a little 90’s nostalgia so if you’re a millennial that worked at a Blockbuster in high school—this one just might be for you.

Blood Sugar

𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Sascha Rothchild @saschagrothchild
𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 5/5 ★
𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮:

  • Want a short chapter page-turner
  • Love an unconventional thriller
  • Are interested in psychology
  • Enjoy an intriguing protagonist

“She’s accused of four murders. She’s only guilty of three.”  I mean, can we get a better tagline than this? After hearing a few friends rave about this one, I couldn’t wait to pick this one up. Once I did, I honestly did not stop and found myself awake and turning the pages at 4 AM so I could find out how it ends. I really enjoyed the short chapters and a timeline that gives us peeks into both the past and present. What I loved most was how well Sascha Rothchild wrote the book’s incredibly unique protagonist.

We know based on the cover that she’s guilty of three murders but yet, you find yourself rooting for her throughout the book. Her inner dialogue as a child, a young adult, an adult therapist, and a wife were so wildly interesting to read.

 

The Only One Left 

𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Riley Sager @riley.sager
𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 4.5/5 ★
𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮:

  • Love an atmospheric murder house setting
  • Want a Lizzie Borden-inspired thriller
  • Enjoy a twisty story + end reveal

After hearing Riley Sager speak about his newest book, I was so excited to dive into this one! This particular story is set at Hope’s End, fittingly titled as a decrepit cliffside mansion, home to a family massacre in the 1920’s. The setting is written as eerie and sinister and I could definitely picture the entirety in my head. Fifty years later, the protagonist is a disgraced home health aide who takes an assignment caring for the woman accused of these murders. As she digs more into the history of the murders and the suspicious bare-bones staff that currently resides in the home, she realizes nothing is quite as it seems and the accused may not be as guilty as everyone has believed.

This story was definitely a slow burn through the beginning and middle, as the characters are gradually fleshed out and unsettling truths about that fateful night are slowly revealed. There’s a little 80’s nostalgia and a lot of ominous foreshadowing—I honestly think this would make a fantastic movie or mini-series. Towards the end, the twists start coming and there were some major reveals I could not have even begun to guess. You think you know how this one ends, but in true Sager form—it’s not over until he says it’s over.

The Last Word

𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Taylor Adams
𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 4/5 ★
𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮:

  • Want a fast-paced thriller
  • Are okay with a little gore
  • Like a “locked room” isolated beach setting
  • Have ever been a house-sitter for someone

The premise of this one was definitely unique—a lonely house sitter leaves a one-star book review, inciting an online argument with the book’s author—and Adams takes it to a WHOLE different level and ups the wild factor about ten notches. Does it sound borderline cheesy? Kind of. But there are breathless chase scenes, super-fast pacing and that anxiety-inducing feeling of being watched in the dark.

Honestly, at one point after a few of the twisty reveals, I found myself thinking the book had tied itself up nicely and realized I was only 70% finished. Just wait, there’s more. It’s goes a little off the rails at times, but if you’re there for a few thrills—it will deliver!

The Family Game

𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Catherine Steadman @catsteadman
𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 5/5 ✭
𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮:

  • Have a rocky relationship with your in-laws
  • Want a VERY twisty thriller
  • Enjoy reading about rich people behaving badly 

WOW. What a wild ride. I tore through this one in under 48 hours! We follow Harriett as she meets her new fiancé’s prominent family—and never could have guessed what unique family traditions she will be subjected to. This one has a little bit of everything you want in a thriller—a protagonist you want to root for, a definite cat-and-mouse game, rich people behaving badly, lots of wild twists, a diabolical family, and of course, lots of secrets, lies and murder.

Some of the “traditions/games” seemed just ruthless and creepy to me, but they are also written in a way that makes them work so effortlessly into the plot. The last 50 pages were full of action and had my heart absolutely racing. The Holbecks are straight-up savages and I very much appreciated my very normal in-laws and very uneventful Christmas traditions after reading this one.

In My Dreams I Hold A Knife

𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Ashley Winstead @ashleywinsteadbooks
𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 5/5 ✭
𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮:

  • A super fast-paced thriller
  • Dual timelines

What. A. Wild. Ride. I love a good dark academia book and this one delivered in every way. The story unfolds in dual timelines—the first ten years ago, when a group of seven college seniors, known on their college campus as the East House Seven, has their lives shattered after the brutal murder of one of their own and another of their group is suspected as her killer. The second timeline, present day, reunites the friends at a homecoming party when all the dark secrets of their college years are exposed.  Everyone becomes a suspect when someone from the past starts poking holes in their carefully crafted realities.

This was a super fast-paced thriller and I tore through chapter after chapter to see what secrets were revealed and how each of the friends could potentially be culpable in a crime against one of their own. The main protagonist is written in a way that makes you so unsure whether you hate her, whether you suspect her, or whether you kind of want to root for her. It’s such an interesting look into friendship, trust, privilege, and loyalty—as well as the ultimate price of success and notoriety.

Local Woman Missing

𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Mary Kubica @marykubica
𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 5/5 ✭
𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮:

  • Multiple timelines
  • Alternating narrators

Talk about a binge-worthy book that you will not be able to put down. This story unfolds after a new mom goes missing while out on a run and soon after another local woman and her daughter go missing. Eleven years later the daughter is found and everything we thought was true is questioned. Told through alternating timelines and three narrators, there is no lack of action and no lack of potential suspects. I couldn’t get through the last quarter fast enough and thought the ending was one of the better conclusions to a thriller that I have read! I finished this book two years ago and still find myself thinking about it.

Want more great reading recs? Find Kelsey’s latest reviews on her IG @nightshiftreads. Be sure to grab her Book of the Month $5 Referral Code. Happy reading! 

Last updated: 2023-09-18

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