Best mystery thriller books, tips for writers

J. Carson Black @

If you aspire to be among the best, read the best selling mystery authors and thriller authors who write on a consistently high level—but choose the authors who speak to you. If you love mystery thriller writer John Grisham, learn from him. If you love Jodi Piccoult, read her. Don’t read bad novels. Yes, you can learn from their mistakes, but reading substandard work can drain you psychically, and at some point you’re going to think, “If so and so got away with that, I can, too.”

Why are the best mystery thriller books “the best”?

best mystery thriller booksI read the best mystery thriller books for enjoyment, and to learn from them. I ask myself, why are their books so effective? If I see something particularly good, I write down what I think they did, and why. (Hat tip: buy paperbacks and write in the books themselves. I’ve scrawled all over Robert Crais’s award-winning mystery masterpiece, L.A. Requiem, three times)

The best authors and the best mystery thriller books are the best for a reason. They do things that may seem completely natural—easy, even–but a lot of deliberate thought and practice has gone into their work. Like pilots who need a certain number of man-hours in the cockpit, these writers have developed their craft and you can rely on them to fly straight and true. You can’t get there from here unless you work hard, and the best way to get someplace is to see where you’re headed. The best in your genre can be your teacher.

Find mystery authors and thriller authors who write stories that are doable for you. Your best mystery thriller authors of the best mystery thriller books should appeal to you on a visceral level–you love their books. Of course there are many different kinds of mysteries: crime fiction, crime fiction thrillers, thrillers, and so on. I can picture myself writing in a similar vein to just a handful of writers.

What the best mystery thriller books authors share with me

They share with me these things: narrative voice, pacing, scenes I can see myself writing; they depict character, setting, mood, and tone in ways that feel familiar to me. I can relate to the biorhythms of their writing because on some basic level, we are similar. I have a comfort level with these writers, and that encourages me to write stories in a similar vein. (In my case, thrillers and crime fiction.)

That does not mean you copy the best mystery thriller books or the authors’ writing style. It means you try to see what they’re doing, why their writing is effective, and how it fits with your own style.