Last month I asked our readers to the newsletter what standalone thrillers they would recommend.

Here were the responses:

Rhea: There are so many but the first that comes to mind is “Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter. She writes a series as well but this standalone was excellent. It’s about two sisters whose youngest sister disappeared years ago. Then a murder opens up a big can of worms as to what really happened to their sister and uncovers many twists and turns. It’s a page-turner!

Irene: I know Nelson DeMille is a very popular author and rightly so. The book I enjoyed reading the most is Cathedral. I have read it over and over, too many times to give you a number. I think it came out in 1981, but it is my go to book in print and audio book when I don’t have a book to read. The first time I read it I said to myself, of course, is WOW!!!. I am answering your “Standalone question”. Don’t know if this qualifies. Luv your newsletter and website.

Sandra: Josephine Tey, The Singing Sands is one of my favorites; especially as she left her entire estate to the National Trust.

Charlye: Eyeshot by Taylor Adams: An ordinary couple traveling through the Mojave Desert are pinned down by an insanely evil sniper. This novel is anything but ordinary. Brilliantly written. Impossible to put down. Laugh out loud funny in parts. Scarey as hell. Totally believable. Until you read this one, you don’t really know what gut wrenching suspense feels like,

Sam: Okay, here’s a great stand-alone that I’m sure very few people have heard of. The name of the book is Resurrection written by Arwen Dayton. This has got to be one of the most originally creative sci fi books that is actually situated, for the most part, in present time that I’ve ever read (they do dive back into ancient history for small parts of it). I’m trying to figure out what to write here as I feel that giving any details at all will act as a spoiler. Let’s say you cross Stargate with The Martian and spice it up with a bit of Avatar and you’ll have it. For the record, the book was written after Stargate and before The Martian and Avatar, so it’s not a copycat. It involves people from other worlds, past history of this planet and present day and actually gives some fairly original yet realistic concepts on space travel and such. Its great reading, not especially long (less than 400 pages paperback, if memory serves) and worth going for. Last I checked, you can buy the book on Amazon.

Max: Hi there, Thank you for all your good work. Several classic stand-alone thrillers I really enjoyed were “Tell No One” by Harlan Coben, “Term Limits” by Vince Flynn (his first book), the classic “The Charm School” by Nelson DeMille, “The Poet” by Michael Connelly, and “Dirty White Boys” by Stephen Hunter. This last one is perhaps as much a crime novel as a pure thriller, but it’s one a hellova read! (As is anything by Stephen Hunter.) I could add almost anything by Linwood Barclay to the list, too.

Also, a tip for you: Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series actually gets better with every book!!

Katrina: Nathan’s Run – John Gilstrap
“Twelve-year-old Nathan Bailey, an escapee from a juvenile detention center who has been accused of killing a guard, becomes the center of a national dialogue on violent youth crime, the object of a nationwide manhunt, and the target of a professional killer.” Nathan just can’t catch a break; he is being relentlessly pursued by a professional killer with no one to rely upon but himself. The reader is rooting so hard for poor Nathan that your own nerves are shot.

Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams
The only thing seventeen-year-old Wyatt knew about his biological father was that he was serving a life sentence, but circumstances and a new girlfriend bring them together and soon Wyatt is working to prove his father’s innocence.​”​
​ ​
​- publisher description but the story is just a ​riveting page-turner with many a twist and turn and a completely unexpected ending. Incredibly well-written.

Kenicia: An excellent stand-alone mystery that I have read is “Eureka” by William Diehl. I was planning to visit Eureka, CA so I thought it would be interesting. The town in the book is actually fictional, but the story was gripping. It is a current case tied up with a cold case. The characters were varied and well-drawn also.

It has been several years since I read the book, but I still recall how much I enjoyed it.

Linda L: I enjoy each month’s newsletter and have read quite a few of your recommendations. I have always loved each one I read. This month you asked for stand alone thrillers. I had just finished a series and wanted to read some books that did not carry over characters for a change. So I turned to my trusty author “Harlen Coben”. I had several of his books sitting on my shelf. I picked two ” Fool Me Once ” and Tell No One”. I must say “Tell No One” was one of the best books ever. “Fool Me Once” was excellent also. I just don’t think Coben can write a bad book. I am now reading a Lisa Jackson series set in New Orleans. Much milder reading than Coben, but a nice switch. Not sure what I will try next but the Barton book looks promising. I have probably recommended Mark Greaney “Gray Man ” series, but in case I have not, everyone should try it. His last book “Gun Metal Gray” was his absolute best. Thank you so much for all of the recommendations. You never go wrong.

B SY: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz: Set in the Sherlock Holmes universe (with ACD estate seal of approval, no less), it follows Pinkerton detective Frederick Chase and Scotland Yard inspector Athelney Jones as they search for the new crime lord who’s taken over since Moriarty’s death at Reichenbach Falls. It feels just like a Conan Doyle story and the twist makes you immediately want to reread it.

Cruel is the Night by Karo Hamalainen: Four friends meet up in one’s apartment for dinner and by the end of the night, no one in the apartment is alive. Each chapter switches between characters, giving a full account of the evening. The mystery isn’t so much who killed who as much as it’s how did it all come together. I read it in one sitting, it’s that brilliant.

Ray: I just finished “A Single Spy” by William Christie. It’s the first book I’ve read by him, but won’t be the last. I classify spy books as thriller genre, so hope it’s OK.

It’s about a teen-age orphan/thief who is surviving under the Soviet System. In

1936 he is caught by the NKVD and is made into a spy to go into Germany. He joins the German army and advances rapidly. Because he speaks both Russian and German fluently

he is chosen by the Gestapo to head a hair-brained scheme to assassinate Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt at the Tehran conference. Lots of exciting things happen.

Fran: I just finished reading False Witness by Randy Singer and WOW I give it 5 stars.It is a stand-alone novel and the first time I read a book by this author. I usually stay with my same authors,glad I gave this a try.

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus: Five students go into detention, and within minutes one of them is dead. It’s technically Young Adult and the characters are high school seniors, but it’s genuinely worth the read. It’s almost like a junior version of Cruel is the Night (also with chapter POV changes), again where the twist isn’t just “who killed who” but also “who’s keeping things going”. The teens aren’t written like idiots, which is a big plus in its favor.

sefcug: The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe:
The daughter of a billionaire oil tycoon is also an operative of a kidnap rescue company deals with his kidnapping and that of his son twenty years ago.
This is a debut novel, billed as the first of a series.

David: Re standalone thrillers:

I’m afraid I can’t nail just one – I have to mention The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva, as good as the Gabriel Allon stories, which I’m slowly working my way through. And also a true standalone, In Secret Service by Mitch Silver, set in today with a World War II background and a contemporary plot line. Both excellent reads.

I enjoy your newsletters. Keep up the suggestions.

Barb: Good Morning,
One of my most favorite standalone novels is ‘The Day After Tomorrow ‘ by Allan Folsom, originally published in 1994. It tells the story of a boy who, while walking on the street with his father, witnesses his murder. He spends his life tracking down and punishing the perpetrators. I have read this book about 5 different times and each time I still enjoy it immensely. Mr. Folsom wrote other novels, and I have read them, but none compares to this debut in my opinion . Other outstanding standalones include the early works by Robert Ludlum – before the Bourne series. I think I got hooked reading ‘The Holcroft Covenant’, then had to begin at the beginning and read them all.

Jim: Just finished The Tracker by Chad Zunker. Great character, great story, I am an instant fan.

Political intrigue, murder, fast paced adventure, a page turner. I have already pre-ordered

the next book.

Patt: A favorite of mine, both in print & definitely on audio, is “Kill Me,” by Stephen White. Although there is a character that is in other of his books, he is minor and the main protagonist is actually intrigue. Highly recommended by an author who is, unfortunately, no longer writing. More’s the pity. Enjoy your site.

Sam: You asked for good stand alone thrillers. For me, a great thriller is one that could conceivably happen today.
Following are several of my favorites:
“I am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes; this would make a good series.
“Rising Phoenix” by Kyle Mills. – this was Kyle’s first book, and the Foreword was given by Tom Clancy, who thought so much of Kyle’s first novel that he took the manuscript to Clancy’s publisher, who promptly wrote the Mills a check for the right to publish the book. A word of caution — do not begin this book if you have something important to do, as you’ll likely not put the book down till finished. You may find yourself rooting for the bad guy in this one.
“One Second After” by William Forstchen – a scary possibility, especially with regimes such as North Korea, China and Iran.
“Marine One” by James W. Huston.

Summaries are available from various sources including Amazon and Goodreads.

Thanks for your monthly letter, and your website. I check it often.

Kim: Thanks for the good tips. My favorite mystery writer is Michael Connelly. Anything in the Harry Bosch series! And I fell in love with Jo Nesbo’s novels they are dark but definitely thrilling! Keep up your good work!

Linda: Midnight by Charlaine Harris

Sandy: Incredible Thriller (stand alone) The Tower by Greg Hurwitz 2001

It’s Gregs first book and that’s why he became so successful. It will take your breath away.
Once you start reading it , you can not put it down. Non stop thriller.

This book is in a class by its self.
Find a copy and have a great read.

Katrina: My favorite so far is Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Chris: For a standalone mystery, I highly recommend Barbara Hambly’s Those Who Hunt the Night, a Victorian dectective vampire mystery novel. Yes, she did return to the series with other books down the road, but this one stands on its own as an entry point to the world of detective James Asher. Jolly great stuff!

Debbie: I enjoy your newsletter and your chit chat about books you’re reading or intend to read. I have taken a few of your suggestions, and your readers’, without any disappointment. My reading for the past few years has been totally connected to the genre of military thrillers. I have googled “authors like Vince Flynn” to get to others that would never have crossed my path. My favorite author that I came across that way is Jack Coughlin. His Kyle Swanson Sniper series is one I always recommend. If you’ve not read it, do yourself a favor. However, in response to a stand alone book, I would like to recommend the following:

Cold Barrel Zero by Matthew Quirk The central character is John Hayes, a Special Ops legend who goes rogue after an operation gone wrong. Was it him? On the run, but determined to clear his name he returns to the United States. Nothing is as it seems. As the story unfolds, back tracks a bit, you, the reader, will decide who to trust. The blistering pace and non-stop action will make this a book you won’t want to put down.

Doug: I may be dating myself, but my favourite standalone thrillers are “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow, “A Simple Plan” by Scott Smith and “The Firm” by John Grisham. Also, whenever I get in a “reading slump” after a couple of sub-par books, I will turn to whichever Harlan Coben book I haven’t read yet……he is consistently good.
I concur with many of your readers regarding the excellence of Greg Iles Penn Cage series. However, if you plan to start reading them, don’t short change yourself by starting with “Natchez Burning”, which is billed as the first book in the trilogy. It is actually the fourth book in a 6-book Penn Cage series which begins with “The Quiet Game”, a 5 star book in its own right……dig in there and enjoy……..

Elizabeth: I loved The Expats by Chris Pavone. I think it would be a great series. It is about American family who move to Luxembourg for the husband s job. Soon the wife realizes another is not what they seem. We then discover she is also not what she seems to be.

Jackie: The woman in cabin ten. The child – Fiona Barton

Alan: By Denise Mina, based on a true story of a serial killer in 1950’s England:
The Long Drop: A Novel
May 23, 2017
by Denise Mina

and a definite thriller (in my opinion anyway!):

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake Series Book 1)Jul 1, 2017
by Rachel Caine

both were excellent, “quick” reads! Stillhouse Lake will have a sequel but not until Dec. ’17

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Standalone Thrillers

3 Responses to “Reader Mailbag: Standalone Thrillers”

  1. Matrix49: 7 years ago

    Great first novel by Amanda Kyle Williams ‘The Stranger you Seek”. P.I. Keye Street, ex FIB profiler having been fired for alcohol abuse. Now a recovering alcoholic with an attitude. She came to the USA from China as an infant and was raised by a family in Georgia so is a bit of a contradiction! Dark humor, a clever plot and very enjoyable to read.


  2. Phoenix Hocking: 7 years ago

    You asked this month if a book ever inspired us to do anything. The answer for me is a resounding YES! Soon after reading Jan de Hartog’s book, “The Peacable Kingdom,” I was moved to become a Quaker myself. The book takes place in the 1600s, when the Quakers were getting started. George Fox and Margaret Fell became as real to me as any living person. After reading the book, my husband and I took a vacation to visit his folks in Philadelphia. I went into the Quaker Meeting House there and just sat in the silence for a while. When I came out, I knew I was a Quaker. (Now I’m an Episcopalian who attends a Lutheran church, but that’s another story…)


  3. Dan Bird: 7 years ago

    “One Second After” by William Forstchen


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