The 10 Best 2021 Thriller and Horror Novels You Haven’t Read (But Should IMMEDIATELY) Rebecca Webster Okay, you already devoured Verity and...

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The 10 Best 2021 Thriller and Horror Novels You
Haven’t Read (But Should IMMEDIATELY)

Rebecca Webster

Okay, you already devoured Verity and The Silent Patient (and let’s be honest, every other mass-market thriller that’s hit the shelves). What’s going to prompt you to check the locks on the doors five times before bed now? (Especially with the spooky season right around the corner.)

I’ve got you. The following are the top hidden gems of 2021. You might not have heard of these firecrackers (because marketing budgets are comparatively TINY in the small-press and indie scene), but these new releases are the equivalent of the taco truck your foodie friend keeps raving about across town. There’s no flashy sign or ads on the radio. But you can look forward to eating some of the best darn tacos you’ve ever had.


One Left Behind

Carla Kovach

Teaser: “In a patch of forest on the outskirts of a small town, five teenage school friends prepare to spend a night away from home. Carrying their tents and  sleeping bags, they laugh and joke as they make their way into the darkest part of the woods, away from prying eyes. But as the sun rises the following morning,  only four are left alive.”

The Bottom Line: I could NOT put this one down. It pulled me in fast and didn’t let go until the last page. I stayed up way too late with it and will think  bout it literally every time I go camping.

The Lies She Told

Denise Grover Swank

“It’s been a week since Carly Moore’s friend Jerry was run off the road and killed, and the sheriff’s department has already struck out on leads. She’s not about to sit back and let it go, but the last thing she wants is to endanger anyone else. Besides, as she learned long ago, problems come in threes. . . . But lies are told for a reason, and there are people around her who are willing to kill to keep the truth hidden.”

The Bottom Line: This one will give you a hangover--because you won’t be able to put it down to sleep! Carly is a fantastic protagonist, and the author keeps the tension at an 11/10 the whole way through the book. This is the fifth book in the best-selling Carly Moore series, and I plan to go back and read the other four STAT.

One Child Alive

Ellery Kane

“In the ashes of the Fox family’s seafront vacation home, Olivia Rockwell can barely hold back her tears as she wonders who in the close-knit town of Fog Harbor could destroy such a warm, loving family. Then she spots a little green toy soldier in the sand and follows a set of small footprints along
the beach to an abandoned lifeguard hut. Inside, she finds the youngest Fox child, Thomas. The only survivor…”

The Bottom Line: While technically part of a series, this book holds its own just fine as a standalone (but you’ll want to read the others as soon as you put it down. Don’t worry, no spoilers in the third book). I thought I had this one figured out, and I was dead wrong. It was so captivating I nearly missed
picking my kids up from camp the week I finished it.

The Thicket

Noelle W. Ihli

“Would you recognize a real scream on Halloween? That’s the question haunting Norah Lewis. She can’t shake the guilt that’s stalked her since the night her brother was murdered. She heard —and ignored—his last screams. Just like everyone else at the Thicket, a haunted attraction in tiny Declo, Idaho.”

The Bottom Line: I expected to be scared by this one (and I was). But it was WAY more than a slasher. I didn’t expect to fall so completely in love with Norah and her friends in this heart-pounding serial-killer thriller. (And yes, I did sleep with the lights on the night I finished reading!)

Cross My Heart

D.K. Hood

“When the body of a man is found in the dense forest surrounding Black Rock Falls, Sheriff Jenna Alton immediately sees disturbing similarities with a past case—the same murder weapon, the remote beauty spot, and the way the victim is perched against a tree with no sign of a struggle. But the killer in that case was jailed for life. Jenna suspects a copycat killer and her fears are confirmed when, during the town’s Halloween festival, the bodies of two tourists are found further down the remote trail.

The Bottom Line: This D.K. Hood novel is part of a series featuring Sheriff Jenna Alton. That said, it holds its own as a standalone and is a twisty, read-it-till-3 am ride. I’m a sucker for serial killers novels, and this one hit all the right notes.

The Evidence

K.L. Slater

“Everyone’s heard of Simone Fischer. The young mother accused of killing her husband in cold blood, one sunny afternoon, while their son played in the room next door. So when journalist Esme secures an exclusive interview with her it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime . . . But not everyone is pleased that Esme is telling Simone’s story. And when Esme’s beloved sister is left for dead in a nearby wood, Esme’s life begins to unravel. Forced to question what Simone has told her, she can’t help but wonder if murder was the only way out of Simone’s marriage.”

The Bottom Line: If you’re not reading K.L. Slater, you should be.  Especially this latest release. She’s ridiculously talented and a master of tension and twists. Her books just keep getting better, and I will recommend her every time to thrill-seekers looking for something new.

The Forever Home

Sue Watson

“Carly had thought they’d always live there. The beautiful Cornish cliffside house they’d taken on as a wreck, that Mark had obsessively re-designed and renovated – a project that had made him famous. It was where they’d raised their children, where they’d sat cosily on the sofa watching storms raging over the sea below. It was where they’d promised to keep each other’s secrets…Until now. Because Mark has fallen in love. With someone he definitely shouldn’t have. Someone who isn’t Carly. And suddenly their family home doesn’t feel like so  much of a safe haven.”

The Bottom Line: Domestic thrillers like this one are right up my alley. You’ve got a perfect family, a perfect home, and some incredibly dark secrets that unravel everything. This one will draw you right in and stay with you long after you put it down!

A Good Mother

Sam Hepburn

“I see my son’s scooter lying in the undergrowth. Time stands still. Where is he? Deafened by my own heartbeat, I keep looking but I can’t see him. This is all my fault. My punishment for the things I did, and the things I should have done.”

The Bottom Line: As a parent, this one destroyed me in the best way possible. It’s an intense page-turner that I could not put down. And I find that I can’t stop thinking about this family, weeks after reading! Readers should know this one is INTENSE and may trigger some folks who have a history of
family trauma or abuse.

Widow’s Island

L.A. Larkin

It’s already dark when Stephanie Miller returns to her remote lakeside home on Whisper Island. It’s only been a few months since her husband died, and her bond with her daughter is stronger than ever. Calling Amy’s name, Stephanie hears her phone buzz inside her purse. She doesn’t have to look to know that it’s another anonymous threat, she’s had them all day. But now she sees that this one is different. Someone knows she’s just walked through the door. Someone iswatching her every move…

The Bottom Line: This crime thriller had it all: serial killers, murder, amazing characters, and hooks that kept me saying “Okay, ONE more chapter.” The killer was terrifying, and Stephanie and Amy were so real to me.

The Liar’s Daughter

Rona Halsall

“The call comes on an ordinary Sunday afternoon to say your sister has been admitted to hospital with a serious head injury. But you don’t have a sister… do you?”

The Bottom Line: That’s all I’m gonna reveal on that teaser, because this one will have you hooked from the first page. And I do NOT want to give away any of the incredible twists. Creepy, delightful, and fast-paced: I absolutely loved it.

Rebecca Webster

Rebecca is a freelance writer, mother, and true-crime lover. She’d rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and two children.