Author: Agatha Christie
Year published: 1934
"The train, it is as dangerous as a sea voyage!"
Recently featured in film, a booklist on suspense thrillers cannot be made without featuring some of Agatha Christie’s works on it. And “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of the best and certainly most entertaining mysteries ever written. It has all the elements of a classic suspense story – a snowy night, a vintage train ride, and a murder mystery. What’s more, it has Christie’s beloved detective Hercule Poirot to solve the whodunit!
The plot isn’t too complicated. Hercule Poirot is traveling on the Orient Express, along with a few others, when a man is found dead by stabbing. There are 13 possible suspects and you won’t be able to guess who committed the crime right up to the very end. The author, possibly the most celebrated detective novelist of all time, has created a fascinating atmosphere where you feel you are right inside that train with the others. What works is that all the characters are defined properly and the more you know them the more you feel that each of them might have a motive for the murder. It’s a fast-paced and exciting read – everything happens over a span of one day – that will keep you hooked all the way through.
2. The Hound of the Baskervilles
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Year published: 1902
“A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is considered one of the greatest crime novels ever written. It’s also famous for being the book that brought Doyle’s most famous character, Sherlock Holmes, back to life after his apparent death in a previous story.
In this gripping novel, the famed sleuth investigates the legend of the supernatural hound that haunts the Baskerville family and has caused the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, who recently died of a heart attack while being chased by that terrifying hound. What’s more, footprints of a gigantic hound were reported to have been found near him.
Doyle sets up an eerie atmosphere and keeps the readers on the edge as Holmes along with his trusted assistant, Dr. Watson, begin uncovering the mystery. The spooky setting of the dark English moor is legitimately chilling and the legend of the demon-like wolfhound keeps us fascinated. At some point in the novel, you are bound to feel the terror of being on the moor at night listening to the howling of a demon hound close by… This is a great story and if you have never read Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the perfect place to start.
3. The Woman in White
Author: Wilkie Collins
Year published: 1859
"In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop... There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white."
“The Woman in White” is widely seen as one of the first mystery novels ever written. And even though Wilkie Collins’ book was written in 1859, the mistaken identity story still holds up pretty well even today.
Victorian England serves as the setting where a drawing teacher named Walter is hired to tutor two affluent sisters. Before he reaches their house, though, he encounters a mysterious woman, clad entirely in white, who has just escaped from a lunatic asylum. The interaction leaves him shaken and mystified. Soon after, the teacher goes on to form a friendship with the older sister, Marian, and a romantic attachment to the younger sister, Laura. However, he is disappointed to know that Laura is supposed to marry a man she doesn’t love. By this time, you might feel like the story resembles a quintessential Jane Austin soap opera set in the Victorian era. It’s not. After Laura is married, Walter and Marian set about investigating the woman in white. Strangely, she appears to have a weird resemblance to Laura...
The plot of The Woman in White might seem complex, but it is full of intrigue, suspense, and drama that should keep you riveted. It's a story that demands your patience and attention and ultimately rewards you with a terrific twist in the end.
4. The Day of the Jackal
Author: Frederick Forsyth
Year published: 1967
“It is cold at six-forty in the morning on a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.”
This espionage thriller by English writer Frederick Forsyth is about a professional assassin who is contracted by the OAS, a French rebel paramilitary organization, to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. By sheer chance, however, the French agencies uncover the plot of the assassination set out to quarry their prey. This prey, though, is wily and knows how to outwit them at every turn. What follows is a breathtaking cat and mouse chase that culminates in a pulsating climax.
The author has adopted a factual tone for the book and it almost reads like an actual episode from history. The character development is excellent and you can’t help cheer both the adversary and the hunter at different turns of the story. The Day of the Jackal is a thrilling page-turner and despite being written in the ‘60s, its suspense holds up really well. Reading this book will feel like undertaking an exciting ride.
Related: The Real-Life Spy Who Inspired the James Bond Series
Author: Stephen King
Year published: 1987
“I am your number one fan.”
Who wouldn’t want to have a fan who showers them with lovely compliments? Not if you are Paul Sheldon, a bestselling novelist from Stephen King’s book “Misery” who has been left invalid after being involved in a horrible automobile accident. To help him, the author’s “biggest fan”, Annie Wilkes, volunteers to be his nurse. However, what Sheldon doesn’t know is that Annie is psychotic and plans to hold him captive in a remote cabin.
Stephen King is popular across the world for his horror stories. But in Misery, he has formed an intense psycho-thriller. With just two characters in a cabin taking center stage for a large part of the book, the suspense has to be pretty good, and King nails it. You will be terrified by Annie’s deranged attempts at keeping Sheldon with her and petrified for the man as he spends the entire story attempting to escape. The writing is crisp. The imagery is visceral. And the story is thoroughly suspenseful and entertaining at the same time.
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