Thriller Authors

Thriller books became so popular and a lot of people love reading it. Behind these different stories are people who we consider some of the greatest authors of thriller genre of all time. Here, will provide you the top 20 on the list.

#20 Stuart MacBride

Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride claims the #20 spot with his intricate police procedurals along with his authentic investigator Logan McRae. Infusing the stress and suspense of crime fiction with a dark humor, MacBride’s novels generate an exciting distinction of feelings all through, prepared against the grimly colored backdrop of Aberdeen. His debut novel ‘Cold Granite’ won the Barry Award for the best first novel and that he was awarded the dagger within the library in 2007 by the Crime Writers’ Association.

#19 Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris is perhaps best known for his charming, cannibalistic villain Hannibal Lecter. Toying with FBI agent Clarice Starling with intelligence and sociopathic cruelty, Harris’s character is unique in that his notoriety is greater than the detective hunting him. The award-winning Hannibal Lecter books have since been adapted for film and TV with great success, most famously brought to life by Anthony Hopkins. Thomas Harris is known for being particularly private and protective of his personal life and has in fact not been interviewed since 1976.

#18 P. D. James

P. D. James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL established herself as a leading voice in crime detective fiction during an outstanding career that saw her awarded an OBE and win the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award in 1999. James’s most famous creation – Adam Dalgliesh – is a tall, dark and handsome example of a gentleman detective, and featured in 14 of her novels. At the start of her career Phyllis worked for both the NHS and the police, and used her experiences alongside extensive research to include authentic details in her work. Her characters have captivated many crime fans over the years and a huge hole has been left in the literary world since she sadly passed away in November 2014.

#17 Simon Kernick

Simon Kernick has featured heavily in the voting throughout the Crime section of #WHSBookmarks with several of his books voted as the most underrated crime book and ‘Relentless’ appearing as the sixth most voted for crime book that should be made into a film. Simon is best known for his Tina Boyd series and Mike Bolt series, crafting tension and suspense expertly through intriguing characters and ever-thickening plots. Simon first broke onto the mainstream bookshelf with his Tina Boyd novel ‘Relentless‘ – which went on to become the best-selling thriller in the UK in 2007. 

#16 Lee Child

Lee Child has earned a fiercely loyal fan base with his lead character Jack Reacher, a rogue, ex-army major who seeks out criminals to get revenge for their crimes. Lee grabbed attention early on in his writing career, winning the Anthony award for best first novel with his debut book ‘Killing Floor’. Since then Lee has gone on to be awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement by the Crime Writers’ Association and was elected president of the mystery writers of America in 2009. His previous experience in TV production seems to have influenced his gripping characters and action-fuelled scenes, and we’ve now even seen Jack Reacher brought to life by Tom Cruise in the film ‘Jack Reacher’. 

#15 Chris Carter

Brazilian writer Chris Carter studied psychology with specialisation in criminal behaviour and worked as a criminal psychologist before turning to music and writing. His books follow detective Robert Hunter, diving into unusual, graphic and haunting cases as Chris demonstrates his in-depth understanding of the criminal mind. Receiving several votes throughout the crime period of #WHSBookmarks, ‘One by One’ and ‘The Crucifix Killer’ have appeared both on our underrated crime books as voted by you list, and on our crime books we’d like to see on the big screen list along with ‘The Death Sculptor’. 

#14 Karen Rose

American romance suspense novelist Karen Rose is hugely popular in both the US and UK and has won the RITA award twice. Her debut ‘Don’t Tell’ was released back in 2003, and since then she has gone on to publish a total of 16 novels within the same fictional world. With characters that feature across books, her novels can be read as standalone stories although there is a benefit to reading them in order. Karen’s unique blend of romance and suspense makes for engrossing reads, while her masterful control of pace and detail keeps you hooked until the end. 

#13 Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell CBE is often credited as the author that first introduced psychological details of criminals and victims within crime fiction to the mainstream. As well as the novels that helped carve out a niche for psychological crime books, Ruth is also well known for her Chief Inspector Wexford police procedurals. She has received the Silver, Gold and Cartier diamond daggers from the Crime Writers’ Association as well as three Edgar Awards during her career, for work she published both under her real name and her pseudonym Barbara Vine. Sadly Ruth suffered a stroke in January 2015 and was last known to be in a critical but stable condition. 

#12 Patricia Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell is the author behind the Dr Kay Scarpetta series and is often credited with bringing forensic science into mainstream crime fiction. Patricia worked in a chief medical examiner’s office herself for 6 years and has used her experiences to provide insightful and knowledgeable detail in her books. Her novels have received many awards over the years, and her debut ‘Postmortem’ resulted in her becoming the only author to receive the Edgar Award, John Creasey Memorial Award, Anthony Award and Macavity Award in the same year.

#11 Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham first started out in acting, before moving onto comedy and then writing. His bestselling Tom Thorne series incorporates a sense of drama and humour that makes for well-rounded and engrossing reads. Since his first crime novel ‘Sleepyhead’ was published in 2001, Mark has gone on to become the first author to win the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award twice. Mark has also been inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame and won the Sherlock award for best detective novel by a UK author for ‘Scaredy Cat’. 

#10 Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen is a writer of medical and crime thrillers, and is perhaps best known for Rizzoli and Isles books which have been adapted into a TV series. Tess has a background in anthropology and medicine and is a retired physician which has leant itself well to the detail she provides in her medical thrillers. After originally publishing a number of romantic thrillers, Tess released her first medical thriller – Harvest – in 1996, which saw her debut on the New York Times bestseller list. In 2006 she won the Nero Award for best mystery novel and both James Patterson and Stephen King have praised her work.

#9 Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter’s first novel ‘Blindsighted’ became an international success back in 2001, earning her an army of fans around the world that has continued to grow and grow. Karin is best recognised for her Will Trent series and Grant Country series and is often praised for depth and intricacy in her work. 

#8 R. C. Bridgestock

R. C. Bridgestock is the name that husband and wife co-authors Robert (Bob) and Carol Bridgestock write under. Bob spent many years working in the police force, taking charge of 26 murder cases and even working on the Yorkshire Ripper case, while Carol also worked for the police in the admin department. Between them they have nearly 50 years of police experience, offering an authentic edge to their stories. The couple self-published their first book ‘Deadly Focus’ and were then picked up by a publisher who re-released their novel 2 years later. The writing duo created the character DI Jack Dylan, a down-to-earth and relatable detective, written with warmth and humour.

#7 Sheila Quigley

Sheila Quigley released her debut ‘Run for Home’ back in 2004, beginning her best loved series set in the fictional estate of Seahills. Sheila’s lead detective DI Lorraine Hunt has struck a chord with fans with her strong and tough female persona, and was even voted #10 in our top fictional detectives poll. Sheila is also the author of the more recent DI Mike Yorke series which has received praise-filled reviews from crimes fans. 

#6 Martina Cole

Martina Cole is one of the most recognisable names in contemporary crime fiction, her stories often taking us into the dark and seedy underworld of London’s gangsters, sometimes within London Irish communities. Her fast-paced and action-packed novels usually follow a female protagonist, drawing us into the characters’ lives and motives to deliver sharp, punchy plot twists. Her novels usually hit the top of bestseller lists soon after release and many of her books have now been adapted into high-rating television dramas.

#5 Agatha Christie

The queen of crime fiction, Dame Agatha Christie has written 66 detective novels, and has even been credited with creating the motifs that we now expect of detective crime fiction. Her most famous characters – Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot – have become heroes of the genre, and in fact Poirot is the only fictional character to receive an obituary in the New York Times. Her astonishingly successful career has seen her appointed a CBE in 1956 which was promoted to a DBE in 1971. She has also served as president of the detection club in the 1950’s, and her book ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ was voted the best crime novel ever by a poll of 600 writers of the Crime Writers’ Association in 2013. The Guinness World Records lists her as the bestselling novelist of all time, having sold approximately 2 billion copies of her books. They don’t call her the queen of crime for nothing!

#4 Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin OBE is considered a writer of tartan noir, setting his dark and brooding stories on the streets of Edinburgh. His most famous character – Inspector John Rebus – is particularly well-loved in the world of crime fiction and was even voted #2 in our poll of top detectives as voted by you. Ian has won the Edgar Award, had 10 of his Rebus novels adapted for TV and has won 4 Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. 

#3 Val McDermid

The last of many Scottish authors to feature on our list, Val McDermid has earned the third spot on our list with her suspense novels that are often classed as tartan noir. Well known for her investigative characters Dr. Tony, Lyndsay Gordon and Kate Brannigan, Val’s work is considered quite dark and graphic, sparing no details in her realistic portrayal of crime. Most notably Val has won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and her Tony Hill series was adapted to create the popular TV series ‘Wire in the Blood’. Val is also the co-founder of the world’s largest crime fiction festival, The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and their novel of the year award. 

#2 James Patterson

James Patterson is perhaps one of the best known names in modern literature having sold over 300 million copies of his books and achieving the Guinness World Record and the New York Times record for most bestselling hardcover fiction titles by a single author – including 19 consecutive no.1 New York Times bestselling novels. James has won multiple awards over the years, including the Edgar Award, the BCA Mystery Guild’s Thriller of the Year and the International Thriller of the Year Award. In his later years James has collaborated with other authors on much of his work, allowing him to achieve an impressive number of published novels under his name. His most recognised series include the Alex Cross novels, Michael Bennett and the Women’s Murder Club series.

#1. Peter James

Peter James has effortlessly stolen the crown with an incredible number of votes. Best known for his Roy Grace novels, which have achieved seven consecutive UK Sunday Times #1s, James has won multiple awards for his work and had many of his books adapted for TV and stage. Embracing a supernatural element to much of his work, Peter’s novels are full of intriguing plot twists and memorable characters, drawing us into their stories with masterfully crafted suspense. Peter has served two consecutive terms as chairman of the UK Crime Writers’ Association and is now the Overseas Vice-President of International Thriller Writers in the USA. He is certainly a worthy winner!

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