Discover the best Fall thrillers and Fall mystery books for an especially spooky season this Autumn. Here, you’ll find the perfect read if you’re looking to indulge in a suspenseful tale on a chilly Fall day with a cozy sweater and cozy blanket.
I read a lot of books, and I am especially tough on thrillers (they really need to deliver plot twists and shock value), so I consider this to be a “best of the best” list for Fall thrillers and Fall mystery books. What this means more specifically is that these novels also have Autumnal vibes, including things like haunted houses, ghost stories, dark academia, and the like.
If you like popular books like The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Little Secrets, Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and crime fiction from the biggest names in writing like James Patterson, Tana French, and A.J. Finn, then you will love these fall thrillers. They are also great for fans of tv and movies about real life cold case mysteries from the national news, detective shows, and law enforcement procedurals.
You’ll love these ideas for Autumn self-care!
Top 3 Fall Thrillers and Mystery Books
First, if you’re extra curious or in a rush, below is a quick, shoppable list of all the books that made the list.
- The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
- Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
- Halloween Party by Agatha Christie
- Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
- How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
- If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
- IT by Stephen King
- Layla by Colleen Hoover
- The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
- One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
- The Only One Left by Riley Sager
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
- The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
- Verity by Colleen Hoover
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
- The Whisper Man by Alex North
Details on the Best Fall Thrillers and Mystery Books
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
While you can’t go wrong with any cozy Louise Penny mystery, The Brutal Telling takes place deep in the woods and has such an Autumnal cover (reminiscent of the opening credits of Gilmore Girls). After a murdered stranger is found on the bistro floor in Three Pines, the owner seems suspicious.
Deep in the woods at a cabin are his fingerprints… along with valuable antiques and the blood of the deceased.
Inspector Gamache follows clues across Canada and within the words of first editions of famous books to solve this mystery.
Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney
Instant New York Times bestseller
Daisy is a woman with a heart condition who claims to have died several times in her life, and her beloved grandmother, Nana, is an author who loved and wrote about her. Nana has now gathered the family at her spooky island estate in Cornwall for her 80th birthday, where she reads her will.
Cut off from the world, a storm rages, and the dysfunctional Darker family eerily and ominously discusses how they would each murder someone. Then, at the stroke of midnight, Nana is found dead and, each hour, the death toll increases.
This may sound like a familiar plot, but the mystery includes riddles and old home movies that show the secrets of the Darker family are truly unlike any others.
And the ending provides the kind of unexpected shock that makes you want to go back and re-read everything. It’s a five-star read in my opinion, with a unique plot that’s really exquisitely executed and a truly satisfying conclusion you won’t see coming, especially if you listen on audio (based on my conversations with other readers and my own experiences).
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- #1 New York Times bestseller
- One of the most influential books of the decade by CNN
- One of Time’s 10 best fiction books of the decade
- One of Entertainment Weekly’s best books of the decade
Gone Girl is one of the best Fall thrillers not necessarily because of its content, but rather because it’s the original domestic thriller, and it is one shocking and sinister book about a missing woman.
Chances are you have already read it or watched the movie, but if not, here’s a brief intro: The story centers around married couple Nick and Amy Dunne. On their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the prime suspect after a series of evidence unfolds.
The story takes dark and unexpected turns from there. I recommend this book if you are looking for a dark thriller this Autumn.
Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
Good Girls Lie is one wild ride that you won’t be able to put down by the last one hundred pages. SO much happens in this psychological thriller set at a boarding school for girls in Virginia after British student Ash Carr arrives on campus.
At the outset, the reader learns that someone is dead — hanging from the school gates, but the who, why, and how is unknown. But that’s only one of many dead bodies at issue in this twisted novel.
The story is told from numerous perspectives in small tidbits, laying out a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow as the truth unfolds. With this type of storytelling, it’s hard to know who to believe — and that’s part of what makes Good Girls Lie unputdownable.
There are school politics, secret societies, Honor codes, haunted histories in a sprawling mid-Atlantic campus, and everything you can want from a dark academia book, as you wait to learn who lives and who dies and more importantly — who is behind it all.
Halloween Party by Agatha Christie
Autumn is always a good time to read the classic mysteries of Agatha Christie, one of the best-selling authors of all time. And, Halloween Party is the one that’s most relevant to the theme of Fall mystery books here.
When an unlikeable teen says she witnessed a murder at a Halloween Party, no one believes her… until a body is found drowned in a tub being used for apple bobbing. The infamous Hercule Poirot is on the case.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
- Instant New York Times bestseller
- One of USA Today‘s Best Books of 2020
Home Before Dark is the ultimate Fall haunted house book and it’s one of my favorite Riley Sager novels. Maggie returns to her childhood home, which was made famous by her father’s bestselling memoir painting it as a haunted house of horrors, with a trail of sordid deaths within its four walls.
Maggie’s family had fled from the house after a series of ghostly encounters. She was only 5 years old at the time and, as an adult, she remembers nothing about the events, as she makes plans to renovate and sell the house.
After a grizzly discovery, however, the haunted house gains notoriety once again. Maggie becomes determined to figure out the true history of the horrors described in her father’s book, and dark secrets are revealed.
Home Before Dark is both a slow burn and a page-turner at the same time. While I am often disappointed by thrillers, the ending of this one both surprised me and felt like it truly delivered. And, like so many readers have remarked, after reading this book, you will never think of The Sound of Music the same way again…
How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Instant New York Times bestseller
How to Sell a Haunted House is the absolute weirdest book that I couldn’t put down. At its core, it’s a book about demonic puppets, trauma, and grief… yes, you read that right.
After their parents tragically die, Louise and Mark reunite in Charleston to sell the family home. Complicating things, however, is a possessed puppet named Pumpkin who has been part of the family for many years.
This book mixes horror with family drama in all the right ways, and that’s what makes it so special and beloved by readers.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
One of Bustle’s Best Thriller Novels of the Year
If We Were Villains came highly recommended to me by my lifelong friend who has similar reading interests and implored me to read it during the Fall.
Ten years before Oliver Marks was released from prison, he was part of a group of Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. It’s a passionate environment of immersive theater, where a night of drunken debauchery leads to the death of their own.
And Oliver’s finally ready to tell the truth about what happened.
With parallels to Shakespearean tragedies and their extreme emotions running throughout, it’s a daring and ambitious coming-of-age novel with a school-based mystery that truly delivers ALL the Fall vibes.
Exploring everything from coping with grief to the motivations that drive us, this is the kind of book that will keep you up late at night just to finish it faster. I found it to be deeply satisfying.
Related Post: Summary of If We Were Villains
IT by Stephen King
#1 New York Times bestseller
In Derry, Maine, seven men who once experienced haunting as children reunite where they battled an evil creature as teens. Since children are being murdered again, they must once again fight evil.
Layla by Colleen Hoover
- Wall Street Journal bestseller
- USA Today bestseller
Layla is Colleen Hoover’s thrilling, Fall romance that’s also a “ghost story.” It felt a bit odd at first to me with the paranormal elements, then took a twist that made it really suspenseful and just as satisfying as all her novels.
Leeds wants to spend his life with Layla, but he’s torn because she was left a different woman as the result of a violent attack. When they retreat to a “bed and breakfast,” Layla’s behavior becomes downright bizarre, and that’s not the only odd thing happening in this place.
When Leeds meets a ghostly “guest” named Willow, he starts falling for her, which ultimately leads to him learning the truth about what happened to Layla and the strange occurrences.
Related Post: Layla Trigger Warnings
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Instant New York Times bestseller
After another death, Mariana becomes obsessed with the group and determined to prove the professor’s guilt at any cost.
This dark academia thriller was really well written overall, with complex layers beyond that of most thrillers that kept me intrigued throughout.
Related Post: Guide to Alex Michaelides Books
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
One of Us Is Lying is one of the best Fall thrillers for Young Adults. It has the vibe of the 80’s cult classic, The Breakfast Club, with a deadly twist. After five students walk into detention at Bayview High (the brain, the beauty, the criminal, the athlete, and the outcast), one ends up dead, and the others are left suspects, scrambling to uncover the truth behind the death.
Everyone has a secret in high school, and this maxim certainly applies to the characters of One of Us Is Lying. As they struggle with protecting or revealing their secrets and get to the bottom of the mystery, there are satisfying twists in this beloved read, as the truth is ultimately revealed.
Related Post: One of Us Is Lying Book Series
The Only One Left by Riley Sager
The Only One Left is Riley Sager at his absolute finest. It’s a chilling 1980s Gothic tale about a tarnished caregiver named Kit who must work for a woman named Lenora, accused of a gruesome family massacre as a young girl in 1929, at the murder scene, her spooky cliffside estate called “Hope’s End.”
Lenora, the fear-inducing “Lizzie Borden” of her Maine town, has been rendered mute by a stroke but wishes to tell her side of the story over a typewriter, like a crime novel.
It’s eerie and ominous, and it takes twists and turns the reader can never expect. My jaw actually DROPPED several times. It would be a great book to binge on a blustery Fall night.
Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”– Daphne du Maurier
So begins the eerily moody thriller Rebecca (also a fantastic Netflix adaptation!). Its creepy and atmospheric vibes at the Manderley estate in the English countryside, haunted by the ghost of Rebecca, just make it feel like one of the most quintessentially Fall thrillers.
The main character is a young woman and servant who meets and quickly marries a wealthy older widow. Upon her arrival at his Manderley estate, it quickly becomes clear that Rebecca lingers in the memories of the staff.
But, like all thrillers, there’s so much more to the story and the truth behind Rebecca‘s tragic death, and the ending will leave you wanting even more.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History is the most classic “Dark Academia” novel , as well as a Read with Jenna book club pick. (It’s actually one of her favorite books.) A modern classic, it contains some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read.
Filled with moody scenes of a small town in New England in the Fall, it’s about an outcast from California, who attends a preppy Vermont college in the 1980s and befriends his Greek classmates. Ultimately, their obsession with Greek has deadly consequences.
It has all the vibes of The Catcher in the Rye mixed with The Talented Mr. Ripley, and the ending will keep you glued to the pages.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Instant #1 New York Times bestseller
The Silent Patient is a massively popular, page-turning thriller set in a mental institution, giving it especially spooky Fall vibes.
Famous painter Alicia shot her fashion photographer husband five times in the face, then never spoke another word again.
But criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to get her to talk. In the process, he goes down a twisted part of revealing why he is so consumed with her silence.
Pick this fan favorite if you want a REALLY fast and shocking read!
Related Post: Summary and Book Club Questions for The Silent Patient
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Instant New York Times bestseller
But, her dream job becomes a nightmare when a child dies and she finds herself in prison awaiting trial for murder. She writes to her lawyer, trying to explain the odd events in the home that led to her incarceration and prove her innocence.
I think what makes this book so popular amongst readers is that the reader immediately knows Rowan is in prison. It really keeps you hooked to learn how she got there and whether she will be convicted. Also, the “haunted mansion” deep in Scotland makes it feel very ominous.
I think most Ruth Ware fans will enjoy this spooky mansion mystery, especially as one of the most moody Fall thrillers.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
- #1 New York Times bestseller
- USA Today bestseller
- The Globe and Mail bestseller
- Publishers Weekly bestseller
I don’t know anyone who comes away from Verity NOT in utter shock. For that reason, it’s the top book I recommend to others looking for disturbing Fall thrillers. I read it in one sitting, and I know several others who have also done so.
When struggling writer Lowen accepts a job from Jeremy, the husband of best-selling author Verity, to complete the writing of her books after Verity sustains terrible injuries in a tragic accident. But as Lowen sorts through Verity’s materials, she finds Verity’s writing, which is filled with an array of truly chilling events that are almost guaranteed to make you gasp in horror.
The question becomes whether the writing is a fictional manuscript or a memoir of Verity’s darkest secrets.
Meanwhile, Lowen develops feelings for Jeremy. But that’s just the beginning, and I will leave the rest of the thrilling details for you to find out.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
I can’t think of the last time I read a Fall book as disturbing as We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I mean, just look at that book cover. Teenager Merricat lives with her ill uncle and agoraphobic sister, Constance, in an isolated New England home.
Six years earlier, the three survived a tragedy. But, this one left Constance on trial for murder. To protect Constance from the judgmental eyes of the town, she now practices magic.
When their cousin Charles visits, they sense danger, and their lives, once again spiral out of control. It’s truly a masterful thriller of family secrets you won’t soon forget — trust me.
The Whisper Man by Alex North
New York Times bestseller
The Whisper Man is a page-turner! And just LOOK at that creepy Fall-inspired book cover.
When Tom’s wife unexpectedly dies, he and his young son Jake move to a new home.
At the same time, a young boy has been abducted in a manner similar to the serial killer “The Whisper Man,” who was captured twenty years earlier and is in jail. The old detective gets involved in the case and, after a series of events, Tom and Jake become involved in the investigation as well, with interesting twists linking the characters.
Then, young Jake begins to hear whispers at his window, and the book takes fast turns that will keep you guessing.
I recommend this book if you want to read more unique Fall thrillers.
These Fall thrillers and mystery books are shocking to read under the covers on a dark and blustery Autumn night. To recap and help you decide what to read first or next, my top 3 picks are:
- Gone Girl – for those new to thrillers
- The Only One Left – for a new thriller with spooky vibes
- The Secret History – for classic New England dark academia
Share your favorite Autumnal thriller in the comments below.