Suspense novels have a way of making our worst fears spring to life from the page. It might surprise you that many studies have actually shown that these horror stories are — wait for it — stress relieving!
You might be shocked by these findings, wondering to yourself why on earth sordid tales that are so deeply disturbing help people feel relaxed, but the reasons behind these feelings are actually quite understandable: No matter how hard a person’s life is, it’s usually not quite as bad as Stephen King’s Misery, in which a nurse slowly tortures an author for not telling her what happens next in his beloved novel series and killing off her beloved characters. At the end of the day, when readers close these books, they breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that, even though life is tough, it’s not nearly as nightmarish as being stuck in the cabin in the middle of nowhere with a sadistic nurse.
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Mr. Mercedes is a brilliant novel. It’s the first one in a gripping trilogy, and it’s about a very mean-spirited man who drives a posh Mercedes into a crowd of people, injuring many and killing some. He then proceeds to torture a retired detective, who struggles with loneliness and has taken it upon himself to investigate the case, surrendering to the allure of feeling as though he has a purpose even though he’s not exactly a part of the workforce any longer. Many potential suspects who are in cahoots with Mr. Mercedes — the twisted man’s nickname — raise doubts in the reader throughout the novel, but the one who is truly guilty is actually quite shocking.
Carrie by Stephen King
Carrie was Stephen King’s debut novel, and it’s quite a wild ride: It’s about high school, also known as hell for most of us. The author used to be a teacher, and he’s taken the rather nightmarish reality of many “nerds” to the extreme in the making of this book, eliciting a great deal of disgust, nausea, and horror from readers along the way.
Most people who are outcasts in high school have at least thought about killing their bullies in cold blood, exacting their revenge in the most cathartic of ways, but Carrie White, who has been blessed, or perhaps cursed, with telekinetic powers, lacks the impulse control that the majority of sane people command. On top of having to endure humiliation at school daily, she also resides in an oppressive, not to mention radically religious, household. You can imagine how angry this young woman is, but how far is she willing to go to avenge her enemies?
This isn’t for those with a weak stomach — there’s a lot of blood, in every form — but it’s a real page-turner!
Alex Cross’s Trial by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
This novel makes a political point, and it’s quite a poignant one: It’s about racism in the southern United States, and the side effects of bigotry. Tragically, it mirrors reality in more ways than one.
A successful and controversial lawyer by the name of Ben Corbett has made it his mission in life to stand up for racial justice. When he is asked by President Teddy Roosevelt himself to investigate the rumors swirling around about the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in Eudora, Mississippi, he leaves his wife and children behind, compromising his marriage and risking his life in order to confront the bigotry that is present within his once-beloved hometown.
Best friends become enemies, and everyone seems to have a hidden racist streak, no matter how kind they once appeared when he attended church alongside them during his youth. He meets a lovely black family and a very angry young woman aptly named Moody, who is uncomfortably but necessarily candid about the racist reality of this place and all of the falsely nice folks residing in it. He risks his life many times over to stand up for the people who need him the most. There is a shocking revelation on nearly every page, and the reader will likely be enthralled by whether or not Ben Corbett will win the trial that has been deemed by many to be the most important one in history, but he faces many obstacles along the way — the jury gleefully lynches black people on weekends and would much rather not see any progress whatsoever in their hometown, because that would mean they’d have to sacrifice their privileged place atop the proverbial food chain of rural society.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Lula Landry is a bipolar model, and one can imagine that she is quite a troubled individual. Her body is found, lifeless, on the pavement outside a hotel, and it’s assumed that she has jumped off of the Mayfair balcony. However, her brother has his doubts — the woman was engaged to a wonderful fiancé and was just about to get married: Although she struggled with depression and anxiety, it strikes him as odd that she would kill herself, considering that she seemed incredibly content preceding the event. He employs Cormoran Strike to investigate the case, and the man’s findings reveal that the truth is far more complex than he ever could have imagined. You’ll probably be turning pages late into the night, unable to sleep because you simply cannot wait to discover what might happen next.
The Harry Potter fans out there will be pleased to know that this masterpiece is actually by the beloved J.K. Rowling, and it’s the first installment in her adult mystery series.
These are some of the best mystery books of all time, but there are many more thrillers that are quite enticing. There are so many other incredible works by authors who are appropriately revered by their dedicated readers — Dan Brown comes to mind: His novel — The Da Vinci Code — is probably one of the most complex puzzles of a book you’ll ever read, and it reveals many secrets along the way. It also explores the dark side of radicalized religion, portraying a disturbing display of extremism in the process. If you love symbols and mind-bending clues, you’ll likely become a fan of this man’s psychological thriller books quite quickly.
I also admire classic mystery novels, like the many brilliant ones by Agatha Christie, and a wide variety of suspense novels by a myriad of authors, including Dean Koontz and John Grisham.
If you enjoy great mystery books, these are some of the best thrillers of all time, and, at the end of a long week, our hope is that they will provide you with a welcome escape from the world as you follow despicable villains and heroic characters on their journeys to curse humanity or save it, facing many obstacles along the way in the ever-present battle between good and evil.