It’s not easy to write an outstanding thriller that sends chills down the spines of readers. (Sometimes it’s not even easy to follow all the twists and turns of a wild suspense novel.)

So when you come across a truly great thriller, you know the writer has some serious talent, which might be why authors of this genre are some of the most recognized names in writing.

In this post, we’ve rounded up the best of the best so you can plan your next thrilling read.

The Best Thriller Authors

Below are 15 must-read thriller authors that you’ll definitely want to start with if you’re new to the genre.

1. Stephen King

stephen king image
Everett Collection /

Often referred to as the King of Horror, many of Stephen King’s best works can actually be considered psychological thrillers.

From The Shining to Misery, King’s masterful storytelling and often less-than-stable characters will have you anxiously trying to catch your breath, right up until the chilling end.

Must-Read: Misery

2. John Grisham

john grisham image
Debby Wong /

Best known for his riveting legal thrillers, John Grisham has real-life experience as an attorney and a politician.

He published first novel, A Time to Kill, in 1989. Grisham is one of only three authors to sell two million copies on a first printing, alongside Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling, and many of his novels have been adapted for the big screen, including The Firm, which stars Tom Cruise.

Must-Read: A Time to Kill

3. Agatha Christie

agatha christie image

Dame Agatha Christie holds the title of the best-selling fiction author of all time (tied only with Shakespeare).

Best known for her detective thriller novels, Christie’s 66 books and 14 short stories have collectively sold more than 2 billion copies.

Must-Read: And Then There Were None

4. Gillian Flynn

gillian flynn image
DFree /

Gillian Flynn is best known for her mega-hit Gone Girl, which was adapted into an award-winning film starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Although Gone Girl was Flynn’s first book to reach #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List, it was actually her third psychological thriller, preceded by Sharp Objects (2006) and Dark Places (2009). Following the success of Gone Girl, both of these novels were also adapted for film or television.

Must-Read: Gone Girl

5. James Patterson

A legend in the thriller genre, James Patterson has over 100 New York Times bestsellers to his name, and in recent years has collaborated with all kinds of talent, including former President Bill Clinton.

Patterson’s co-author partnerships have allowed him to publish so many titles, and he has said that he is better at thinking up exciting plots than crafting sentence after sentence.

Must-Read: Along Came a Spider

6. Lee Child

James Dover Grant CBE, better known by his pen name Lee Child, is the author of the best-selling Jack Reacher series.

The series follow the adventures of a former American military policeman, Jack Reacher, who is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit in the first book.

Tom Cruise stars as Reacher in the film adaptation of Child’s 2005 novel One Shot.

Must-Read: Killing Floor

7. Stieg Larsson

stieg larsson image
Image from Wikipedia

Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist and author who passed away in 2004 at age 50.

In 2008, Larsson was the second-best-selling fiction author in the world, thanks to the success of the English translation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which became a big-screen success starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

Must-Read: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

8. Dan Brown

Dan Brown is a thriller author best known for his historical conspiracies, especially the Robert Langdon novels, which include Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code.

His novels typically involve treasure hunts that take place over a period of 24 hours, which makes them all the more thrilling.

Must-Read: The Da Vinci Code

9. David Baldacci

david baldacci image
Image from

David Baldacci is a trained attorney best known for his suspense novels and legal thrillers.

While practicing law, he began writing his first novel, Absolute Power, which took three years to complete. Baldacci has published 40 best-selling novels for adults, plus seven novels for younger readers.

Must-Read: Memory Man

10. Dean Koontz

dean koontz image
s_bukley /

Dean Koontz is famous for his suspense thrillers, which frequently incorporate elements of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and satire.

Following his high school graduation, he worked as a high school English teacher and wrote his first novel, Star Quest, during his spare time.

Koontz has written under 10 different pen names and published over 105 novels, plus many novellas and short story collections.

Must-Read: Phantoms

11. Thomas Harris

thomas harris image
Robin Hill / The Guardian

Thomas Harris is best known for creating one of the most famous characters in fiction, Hannibal Lecter.

The author avoids publicity, and did not give a major interview between 1976 and 2019. He broke his silence that year to promote his latest book, Cari Mora.

Must-Read: The Silence of the Lambs

12. Alex Michaelides

Alex Michaelides image
@AlexMichaelides / Twitter

Alex Michaelides is a British-Cypriot author who studied English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge University.

Michaelides also studied psychotherapy and worked for two years at a secure unit for young adults, which provided much of the inspiration for his first novel, The Silent Patient, which was the bestselling hardback debut of 2019 in the U.S.

Must-Read: The Silent Patient

13. Tom Clancy

tom clancy image
Gary Wayne Gilbert – Flickr

Tom Clancy worked as an insurance agent before writing his first book, The Hunt for Red October, about a Russian submarine crew’s defection. His debut novel was an instant bestseller and was praised by President Reagan.

The book also introduces the character Jack Ryan, who appears in 21 novels and has been portrayed by John Krasinski, Alec Baldwin, and other high-profile actors.

Must-Read: The Hunt for Red October

14. Clive Cussler

In addition to writing novels, Clive Cussler was also an underwater explorer. He authored over 80 books, many of which revolve around oceanic adventures.

Cussler also founded the National Underwater and Marine Agency, which has discovered over 60 shipwreck sites.

Must-Read: Pacific Vortex!

15. Tana French

tana french image
Image from Goodreads

Tana French is an American-Irish writer famous for her psychological and crime thrillers, which have earned her the nickname of “the First Lady of Irish Crime.”

French is also trained as a professional actor, and began writing her debut novel between castings.

Must-Read: In the Woods

The Best Thriller Writers

Skilled writers who know how to take us for a ride and keep us guessing are why we love the thriller genre.

By reading the best thriller authors, you’re sure to find an entertaining story that you won’t soon forget. And for even more thrills, be sure to check out our list of the most addictive thriller podcasts.