11 Mystery and Suspense Authors Like Gillian Flynn
Gillian Flynn is a badass storyteller. She is an absolute master of the psychological thriller with suspenseful, gripping who-did-it tension in her novels that focus on deeply flawed protagonists set in true-to-life environments. Since she’s standout novelist, it’s not a simple task to identify authors like Gillian Flynn. But there are many mystery and suspense writers who have rightfully earned their own acclaim as great contemporary thriller authors.
Gillian Flynn has published three fantastic thrillers and, in my view, sharpened her craft for building tension with each successive novel. Flynn demonstrated her aptitude for leading up to a shocking ending in her first book, Sharp Objects. Next she constructed two compelling timelines in Dark Places that intersect at the exact right moment. And then she pulled several punches with the impactful and attention-demanding marriage story of Gone Girl.
I have greatly enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s impressive body of work, but it has been a few years since she’s released a new novel and I am starting to really miss her stories. To save you and myself from her absence, I’ve compiled a list of authors like Gillian Flynn whose criminally compelling stories will satisfy your craving for an intense thriller.
When seeking authors like Gillian Flynn I kept a few key ideas in mind. I used the boundaries of writers whose works center on thriller, mystery, or crime novels. Other traits that I believe merit comparison to her work include convincing (and definitely not cliche) use of law enforcement/detective plot elements in the story, a healthy dose of suspense, and as much focus on the characters’ growth and development in response to the mystery as to the crime itself.
Authors Like Gillian Flynn Whose Stories Can Give You Chills
1. Rachel Howzell Hall
Hall has served on the Board of Mystery Writers of America, so you can expect fascinating suspense from this author. Take pleasure in the Detective Elouise Norton Series (the first one is Land of Shadows) to follow along with a homicide detective’s activities in Los Angeles. Or, if you prefer stand-alone novels, devour her recent title They All Fall Down for the kind of thrilling denouement that you’re used to from Gillian Flynn.
2. Walter Mosley
Mosley is a prolific writer who has mastered the craft of mystery and suspense over a long career. Many of his works are wrapped into series, from the Leonid McGill mysteries to Easy Rawlins Series. One of Mosley’s most recent works, Down the River Unto the Sea, is a good place to jump in if you’re looking for a shocking tale. Just as Gillian Flynn crafts realistic and even unlikeable characters, in this novel Mosley draws on readers’ suspicions of a convicted ex-cop and the crew fated to help him uncover and resolve the crime that ended his career with the NYPD.
3. Robin Wasserman
Her novel Girls On Fire is an intense psychological thriller that mimics the gut-wrenching conclusion of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. It centers on two imperfect teenage girls who get wrapped up in dark obsessions that ultimately lead toward murder. If you like this story by Wasserman, you may wish to check out her upcoming thriller, Mother Daughter Widow Wife, with a June 2020 release. (Wasserman has also written YA Sci-Fi novels, including the Cold Awakening Trilogy.)
4. Attica Locke
Locke has produced exhilarating thrillers like Black Water Rising and The Cutting Season that intersect the mystery and history of the American South. The plot for The Cutting Season is reminiscent of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, with a woman lead taking investigative work into her own hands after a murder. Locke has also authored a compelling series that follows character Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, in Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home.
5. Joe Ide
This author has a knack for dreaming up investigative crime novels with an atypical protagonist in his IQ Series. Influenced by his taste for Sherlock Holmes mysteries and residence in Los Angeles, Ide crafted his series that trails Isaiah Quintabe (who also goes by “IQ”) on his heart-racing hunt for various criminals. If you liked the investigative element of Sharp Objects, you’ll find the IQ Series compelling.
6. Laura Lippman
Lippman’s large body of work includes stand-alone novels and the Tess Monaghan Series, which follows a journalist-turned-private investigator (seeing hints of Camille from Sharp Objects?) in Baltimore, Maryland. Start with Sunburn if you were drawn to the complicated relationship of Nick and Amy in Gone Girl. And if you found Dark Places as unbelievably thrilling as I did, I’d Know You Anywhere is well-suited for you.
7. A.X. Ahmad
In his crime series, Ahmad plunges readers into thrilling stories from the perspective of a flawed protagonist Ranjit Singh who, like many of Gillian Flynn’s tales, is forced to make disagreeable choices out of necessity. The Caretaker intertwines political intrigue, romance, and a healthy dose of criminal suspense for those of you who like to be kept on your toes.
8. Dwayne Alexander Smith
Smith leverages his expertise as a screenwriter to develop gripping thrillers with movie-like action. In Forty Acres, Smith imagines a young and successful black lawyer who gets pulled into an underground world that shakes his moral foundation. His other novel, The Unkind Hours, is attractive if you like thrillers that primarily revolve around murder (in this case, the abduction of protagonist Steven Burns’s daughter).
9. Kalisha Buckhanon
Another well established writer with several books for you to work through, Buckhanon’s work includes fiction and mysteries. Solemn gives life to a young woman trying to piece together a curious mystery while also resolving her family history and sense of identity. Speaking of Summer is an excellent choice if you want a story with shades of all of Gillian Flynn’s trademarks: a suspicious disappearance, a complicated woman protagonist, and page-turning allure.
10. Un-Su Kim
Kim has been a breakout author for years in his home country of South Korea, but his first book in English, The Plotters (translated by Sora Kim-Russell), has established him as an author for the rest of the world to watch. Be sure to get your hands on a copy if you would enjoy a dark thriller that encompasses a killer-instinct mastermind and offbeat characters.
11. Lisa Scottoline
Finally, no comparison to Gillian Flynn would be complete without mention of Scottoline. Her thrillers grab your attention with realistic characters and promises of good intentions that turn ruinous. Her most recent, Someone Knows, is a good place to start and follows a group of former friends reflecting on a haunting mystery from decades earlier. After Anna is another one to check out with family drama that resembles the sour marriage of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
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