How To Choose A Thriller Novel

Don’t waste money

Most fiction lovers enjoy well-written thriller novels. Picking one that suits you,though, can be hit and miss; with the best authors commanding $20 (and the rest) for a hardback, then you want to get it right,though paperbacks and e-readers offer less risky routes. Some readers will just take a chance, and that’s fair enough. Others though, might take their time choosing and follow a process which enables them to find exactly what they want.


The skill of the thriller writer is in working the levers of the reader’s emotions and imagination to ratchet up the levels of tension and anticipation, laying false trails and building suspense. Not all writers are suitably skilled – and I’m still learning! Then, for me, a good thriller should inform as well as entertain and so the best thrillers will have been built around a lot of research – maybe into technology, culture or locations. They very best will have a fair bit of detail about all three, and other aspects, too.

When Stephen King wrote Jurassic Park, he had to research DNA. Just enough to add some credibility to the tale, but the layman could learn a little from the text – less so from the film. Coma, by Robin Cook, is another example, where some medical background was included. I find that sort of information interesting, and books which don’t have any depth in that sense will bore me. How about you? What do you look for in a book?

Genres and Sub-Genres

So, how do I pick a thriller to read, or assess its content? This is not simple as the thriller novel has so many sub-genres. I know which of these categories of thriller that I like. There are several,and I read most. Usually thriller novels can be divided into conspiracy thriller, crime thriller, action thriller,legal thriller, espionage and political as well as psychological thrillers – and that’s for starters: there are others, and even sub-sub-genres too. Then there’s horror which I don’t read, but some supernatural (e.g. Dean Koontz) I enjoy, provided I can suspend disbelief. Which are your preferred sub-genres?

Know Your Authors

Then there are authors whose writing I particularly enjoy. However, even they can get tired and some will bring in co-authors to inject fresh ideas. Generally, I lose interest when an author reaches that stage in his writing.

Consult best seller lists? Obvious – maybe, maybe not. There are some top-selling authors whose books I just cannot read. They figure in the best seller lists but I throw them down in frustration. My list of ‘don’t reads’ is building up, but I’m getting wiser.

So, I know which authors I like. Build your own list and follow them.

Best Seller Lists

Armed with ideas from the best seller lists (which you can find online – e.g. the New York Times Best Sellers, I will then check online book stores and read the reviews. The best reviewers will have taken their time to write a useful critique (and there is a lot of junk to sort through) which will help others decide.

If I’m still in doubt about a book – I might be on the hook, but not yet landed, as a fisherman might say – then I’ll log into one of the reading sites such as Goodreads, where there’s a chance of some solid reviews from intelligent readers.

Following Specific Reviewers

If you find a review that you think is helpful, then note the reviewer’s name – many of them specialise in genres and you can then check their other reviews (easy to do at Goodreads and Amazon), which will give you ideas for future books. On Goodreads, you can add such a book to your ‘To Be Read’ shelf; on Amazon,just put them on your Wishlist. Good reviewers also appreciate a click on ‘this review was helpful to me’ or a‘Like’ button.

Obviously, my own preference is for thriller novels of the type I write, which are informative and topical, with plenty of action and suspense and some speculation about the future. I put a lot of research effort into my books and include research references where I can, and also write background research articles which I put on my site.Entertain and inform, that’s my writing credo. If you think I’m worth following, then please bookmark me with a Ctrl D right now!