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 Thriller vs. Suspense . Book Genres

Thriller vs Suspense Mystery Novels

According to Nadine LaPierre's Blah, Blah, Blahg ... Mystery is basically a puzzle waiting to be solved. The protagonist (detective, amateur sleuth, etc.) goes searching for clues, which are only revealed to the reader as the protagonist discovers them, and adds pieces to that puzzle until it is complete and solved.

Thrillers: Well, basically, they thrill. Action such as chases, eruptions of violence, any type of physical sequence of events that gets the readers’ flight or fight response going. A more distinct definition between thrillers and mysteries is that in thriller novels the reader knows who the killer is at the outset, but that the “thrill” is in the hunt or the cat and mouse game between killer and protagonist, and that the protagonist is often in danger. Whereas in mystery the protagonist is not usually in danger, just collects clues and solves the puzzle (ie., Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot).

Suspense: The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, described suspense as “a state of waiting for something to happen.” He used the example that if two people were sitting in a cafe talking and fifteen seconds later a bomb went off, that for the audience it would be fifteen seconds of mundane conversation followed by surprise. But if the audience saw the saboteur come in, place the bomb and set the timer for one o’clock, that the audience would be in suspense during the couple’s conversation as one o’clock approaches, not knowing if they would be blown to bits or escape unscathed.  

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What do an empath, a hacker and an assassin have to do with solving mysteries? 

Check out the Raja Williams Series to find out.

Muerte en Las Vegas (Raja Williams Novel #5) by Jack Thompson

From Amazon: The glitz and glamour of Sin City hide a dark underbelly of greed and corruption. When an innocent young woman falls to her death from the top of the Bellagio Hotel/Casino, Raja and Vinny are enlisted to find out why. After Raja goes undercover at the casino and Vinny tracks down a drug operation, the death toll mounts, putting them both in the crosshairs of a cold-blooded killer. Neither the dark, tragic anti-hero nor the James Bond super-hero type, Raja Williams is a wealthy Oxford-educated PI of mixed Caribbean descent who possesses a strong empathic power and a sixth sense for evil that gives him headaches and steers him straight into trouble. His partner Vinny Moore is a gorgeous hipster geek who prefers hacking computers to haute couture. Book five in the Raja Williams mystery series has it all -- murder, mystery, love and non-stop fun.

Review by Sandy Penny, I love Raja and Vinny and their versatility and creativity in solving difficult puzzles. I like that they are the real good guys and make sure the greater good is served. When a corrupt administration tries to sully the reputation of a young woman who died under mysterious circumstances, they are engaged by the girl's family to find out what really happened. The real story is more complicated and darker than the one they tried to spin about the girl. Plenty of action, danger, political intrigue and baddies to bring to justice. Definitely a great read, and the series seems to keep getting better. These books don't leave you hanging, they are stand alone worthy, but you'll want to read them all once you get started.

The Color of Greed (Book 1) introduces Raja Williams and his partner Vinny Moore. Neither the dark, tragic anti-hero nor the James Bond super-hero type, Raja Williams is a wealthy Oxford-educated PI of mixed Caribbean descent who possesses a strong empathic power and a sixth sense for evil that gives him headaches and steers him straight into trouble. His partner Vinny Moore is a gorgeous hipster hacker who prefers hacking computers to haute couture. When the husband of a wealthy heiress is found dead on his yacht off the California coastline, his death is ruled an accident and the case is closed. The grieving widow, certain her husband was murdered turns to Raja Williams who has dedicated his significant resources to helping those in need of justice. When bodies begin to pile up, Raja suspects a cover-up that may go up as high as the governor. A colorful cast of characters, great dialogue and a suspenseful, twisting plot make The Color of Greed an entertaining ride.

Sandy Penny's Review: I just read The Color of Greed, a Raja Williams Novel, by Jack Thompson. This is my first time to read this author, and I loved it. The characters were well defined, quirky and fun. Vinny, the computer nerd was particularly entertaining. The story included modern political elements without getting preachy. The conspiracy details were plausible and seemed to be well researched. I really couldn't put this one down, and read it straight through from start to finish. It was light-hearted, but intricate enough to keep me guessing. I definitely want to get to know Raja better. I loved his taste in cars. What fun to have a wealthy intuitive hero who uses his money and skills to help people. This gets five stars from me. ***** I see a film in the future. Sandy Penny:

Killing Maine, an Environmental Thriller, by Mike Bond

This is an environmental thriller that offers plenty of action, political intrigue, accusations and conspiracies and challenges one's trust in justice. Not sure how much political bias is included, but it was still a good read.  "Pono" Hawkins is an excellent hero with a strong code of ethics honed in Afghanistan as a soldier. When one of his former buddies is falsely accused of murder and may be getting framed for several crimes, he goes to his aid even though this man testified against him in a war crimes trial. Pono quickly gets in deeper than he planned. Told in first person, it gives you the sense of sitting across the table from Pono and listening to his war stories. The fact that Mike Bond's novels use environmental concerns as the basis for their plots does not lessen the entertainment value of them as good reads. They also serve as food for thought on environmental, political and law enforcement concerns and the greed that fuels those concerns. Not that thrilled with the overt use of sex in the context of the story, but hey, that's just my opinion. It lowers my respect for the hero, but guys will probably love it. ~Review by Sandy Penny,


Hunted by Alison Golden (Diana Hunter Series Prequel)

This is the prequel to the Diana Hunter Mystery series. It defines Diana's character and tells of her idyllic family life until her mother commits suicide, and her homicide detective father is absorbed into proving it was not suicide. So, Diana loses her father and mother to a terrible incident. It's well written and sadly and darkly compelling. This establishes the deep background for how Diana became the determined brilliant kick-ass investigator of the series. I love the name, Diana, the goddess of the hunt. I had already read one of the books, and this does not have spoilers for other stories. You can read it before you start the series or anytime during it. it stands on its own. ~Review by Sandy Penny,

Snatched by Alison Golden (Diana Hunter Series Book 2)

When Diana Hunter goes for a run on the beach at 7:00 am, she notices a man reading a book on a bench which seems early for that. When she returns from her run, he is still there and hasn't moved an inch since she left. She goes over to check on him and finds him cold as ice and white as snow, like he's been drained of blood. She calls it in and smart young and handsome Detective Peter Hopkinson answers the call. He is not amused by how much she knows about the body, and thinks she may be involved. She proves to his satisfaction that she's not, and the two team up to find the killer. As a magazine journalist, Diana has helpful resources, and a keen eye for details that the detective wants on his side. But why does a magazine writer have a top secret clearance, what is she hiding? Diana and the detective have a somewhat adversarial relationship, but it makes for good detecting and good reading. When Diana gets too close to the case and goes missing, will she survive or show Peter that she really is hiding something? This is good series, fast paced and smart with well drawn characters and interesting dynamics among them. ~Review by Sandy Penny,

Just Released 
Feb. 29, 2016 

The Last Refuge (A Peter Brandt Thriller #2) by Martin Roy Hill

When Peter Brandt, journalist, is hired to do a story on a lawsuit filed against the government by the family of a contractor allegedly killed by friendly fire in Iraq, it turns out to be a difficult story to get. The contractor who employed him says he was no longer working for them, although his family says he was. The government claims there is no lawsuit, and a file Brandt just saw disappears without a trace. This is personal for him because he still has nightmares from his time as a war correspondent. He is stonewalled at every turn, and has to find some chink in the armor so he can do the right thing and help the family get what's coming to them. When people who were witnesses start dying, Peter knows he's on to something big and won't stop until he knows the truth. His freedom, what's left of his career and his life are all on the line as he tries to find a way to get this story told before he's the next one to die. This is a scary government/business conspiracy novel that has enough facts to be true. Plenty of drama and mystery and a little bit of romance carry this action-packed story to its surprising conclusion. I highly recommend it for fans of military thrillers. ~Review by Sandy Penny, Founder of - *****Five Stars

The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

A Deeply Chilling Disturbing Thriller.  I didn't want to like this thriller. It's too dark, too violent, too disturbing, too provocative, but it was so well written that I had to keep reading. It took me a while before I dove in. I had to be in the mood for all the death and destruction. I didn't think I would read it at all. I don't like entering the mind of a killer, but there were so many aspects of the story that drew me in, I couldn't help myself. If you like serial killer stories with satisfying endings, I recommend this one. You accompany the killer on his path of destruction, pulled along like a puppy on a leash. You see the danger the characters are in, and you're helpless to act on their behalf. All you can do is watch and wait and hope for the best. Deeply chilling. ~Review by Sandy Penny,

Dark Prayer by Natasha Mostert is a fascinating novel that explores the life of a girl in a fugue state with no memory of her former life. Set on a backdrop of urban parkour, the free-running culture, it is a brilliant modern thriller that explores a unique blend of science, conspiracy, god complexes and finally love. Has what Eloise forgotten put her in mortal danger? Natasha is a masterful storyteller who follows the thread of an interesting concept until it completely unravels. And when the book finishes, it leaves the reader contemplating the ideas presented in relation to one's own life. What if, what if and what if again. I love everything I've read by this author, and I will continue to wonder what she will shine her light on next. Review by Sandy Penny, *****Five Stars.

Rise of the Order by Trevor Scott

Follow Jake Adams on his fifth thrilling adventure in this international thriller series. Jake is back in Europe, trying his best to stay out of trouble. But that's never easy for him. What seems like a standard murder investigation turns into a complex conspiracy that will rock the institutions of Europe, and thrust Jake into an insidious plot that pits the old world of the Teutonic Order against new nanotechnology.

The Carpenter

by Max Myllan 

A Dark Suspense Novel

When Eric James Donovan, a carpenter by trade and former black ops squad leader, distraught from the ravages of the Great Recession, is offered a Faustian bargain, he discovers anyone will do anything if they are tempted enough or desperate enough. Seduced by the dark side, Eric accepts the deal from a dark figure calling himself a mediator and plans an assassination of a powerful real estate scammer and billionaire. Eric has never failed in any of his missions for his country. His weapon of choice is a powerful neurotoxin, TTX. Eric violates his principles and risks everything to carry out the assignment. After an introduction to a seductive criminal defense attorney involved in bi sexual encounters, murder for profit and underworld clientele, Eric has moments of despair and seeks out counseling by the family priest. Father Tom, a retread with a surreptitious past, knows Eric better than his own father and guides Eric in a disturbing manner for a Father Confessor. Everything falls into place for Eric to have the opportunity to complete his project. As you learn about Eric and his plight from dealing with death to financial ruin, you sense righteousness. He reluctantly exchanges his convictions for new pleasures. When informed by the mediator, Nothing is ever as it seems, nor is it otherwise we are exposed to the twists, turns and unexpected connections of all of the characters in this dark and edgy tale. This is the first book in The Blue Collar Assassin Series.

William H. Lovejoy is the author of two dozen thriller, suspense, and mystery novels with publications in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Hebrew. As a "master storyteller" according to Clive Cussler, Lovejoy has written novels in a broad range of genres and is currently focused on mystery and mystery-thrillers. BELLE CHASSE is a mystery that explores deadly sunken treasure, and TRIGGER HAPPY climbs into the sky to interdict international arms sales. NOW YOU DON'T chases down Romanov treasures that surfaced in Billings, Montana, and then again in Albuquerque, New Mexico. SOLID OAK examines the twisted trail of tax dollars. Lovejoy is a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

Ink in His Blood by J. M. Roman

A least likely serial killer at a city paper plagues Philly. A reporter wannabe makes crime news since he can't report it. Author:  J. M. Roman, a Philadelphia native and former veteran newspaperman, knows firsthand the mean streets and alleys of the city of over 100 neighborhoods and its suburbs. Roman first pounded the citys streets for the former Evening Bulletin and Delaware County Daily Times. Hes covered everything from the tense standoff of millionaire killer John DuPont to the Springfield Mall massacre. He has visited the families of war casualties from the Vietnam War to Iraq; nearly drowned in a flood disaster that killed 10 people, and reported on municipal corruption. Roman doggedly covered countless murders from breaking news to long unsolved cases.

 The Vigilante Series and Other Thrillers by Claude Bouchard

The series starts with Vigilante , which deals with a serial killer who is ridding Montreal of the worst of the worst violent criminals. Once the vigilante case is solved, the series centers on a specialized government group known as “Discreet Activities” which performs clandestine operations for the betterment of society. The series has been described as action-packed suspenseful page turners. The main characters, Chris Barry and Dave McCall are both intelligent, logical men, each with their own particular strong sense of ethics and justice. Both are personable and funny, sometimes in a smart-ass kind of way. Warning, these books have lots of violence and bad language, so they are recommended for fans of gritty novels only.

James Watcher . The Case of the Running Bag . by Gene Poschman  

It's winter in San Francisco and Jonas Watcher is waking up on a floating dock under a pier of the Wharf next to the bay. He is beyond hang overs and the DT's and has no memory of how he ended up on the dock. Climbing up a ladder he is suddenly hit with a large object that carries him back down, not on to the wooden dock, but into the Bay. He struggles to stay alive using adrenalin and his reflexes. After he recovers from being thrown into the Bay, Jonas finds he is the recipient of a substantial sum of money, a change of clothes, and a colt forty-four. He finds a temporary place to sleep for the night only to wake up entangled in a mystery of with a femme fatale, a missing man, and a dead private detective. He tries to extricate himself but only becomes more entrenched dealing with the very rich where he uncovers blackmail, kidnapping and even murder. He has one dubious ally in the guise of an intelligent San Francisco police detective who has an agenda of his own. It's the nineteen thirties and Jonas Watcher must solve the Case of the Running Bag if he wants to stay alive.

John Le Carre .  Master of Suspense and Thrillers

A DELICATE TRUTH by Jon Le CarrA counter-terror operation, codenamed Wildlife, is being mounted in Britain’s most precious colony, Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms-buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, and a private defence contractor who is also his close friend. Kit Probyn, Foreign Office veteran with a safe pair of hands and no previous experience of the dark arts, is to be the Minister’s eyes and ears on the ground. His “red telephone”. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister’s personal private secretary, Toby Bell, has been kept out of the loop. Suspecting a disastrous conspiracy, Toby attempts to forestall it, but is promptly posted overseas. Three years on, summoned by Sir Christopher Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house, and closely watched by Probyn’s daughter Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and his duty to the Service. If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, how can he keep silent? 

J. D. Robb . the "In Death" series

Steven Nedelton [aka Ned Stevens]

Well researched intelligent dark thrillers. The Raven Affair. Dangerous Trade. The Raven is reviewed on the blog page.

The Screen Conspiracy by Maxwell Black

 "A conspiracy story that will have you at the edge of your seat until the end!" Washington, where nothing is what it seems, and not knowing can cost your life. Middle-aged Jack Halpin knew little of the internet, neither its potential nor its danger. How could he possibly have foreseen the impact it would have on his life? Once an up and coming senior executive, Jack is on a downward career and personal trajectory. His beliefs and all the vestiges of his career and privileged family life are challenged as he is submerged in a dangerous world for which he is ill prepared. A member of the Fairfax Gun Club, Jack is a traditionalist who believes in the right to bear arms and law and order. He has a strained relationship with his wife Poppy, the daughter of respected Senator Jock Kessles, a man who is deeply disappointed in his unsuccessful son-in-law. Unknown to Jack, the mysterious death of a senator is the signature tune to a traumatic change in his world. Surviving the onslaught of rapid, life or death challenges and the sinister forces facing him, will require all his resolve. This journey  brings him face to face with murder, political intrigue, depravity and betrayal. If he is to survive, he will first need to uncover a conspiracy which runs right to the heart of the Senate that has left a trail of murders in its wake. How could a life so ordinary turn so quickly? 

Choke Point by Ridley Pearson . They make a good team [Knox and Chu], with his brawn and her brains, as they fight and kill their way to the top of the child-abuse cabal. Plenty of action and some steamy sex help make the pages fly by." –Publishers Weekly  "Drawing on the horrors of the international trade in child slaves, Pearson has written another compelling thriller. Knox and Chu are protagonists who engage the reader." –Library Journal Read more at

Barbara Michaels Suspense Mysteries (AKA Barbara Mertz, Egyptiologist and Elizabeth Peters, author of the Amelia Peabody Historical Victorian Egyptian novel series - see the historical page)  . This famous prolific author of of fiction and non-fiction died  in 2013 at the age of 85. Her body of work is a testament to her dedication to writing, story-telling skills and historical accuracy. She has a large following of dedicated readers who will miss her very much. The Grey Beginning . Ammie, Come Home .  The Dark on the Other Side . Witch . Houston of Many Shadows . The Walker in the Shadows.


Georgia Bound by Frank O'Neill . A Non-Stop Thrill Ride, 

In Georgia bound, Frank O'Neill has created a well-written, fast-moving thrill ride. When award winning NY investigative journalist, Jack Monahan, loses his wife to a mafia expose, he takes a job at a small Georgia newspaper to get away from the memories, the danger and the life he no longer has. Just when he's drinking too much and thinking he's made a mistake and is going to be bored to death, all hell breaks loose.  All the small-town skeletons start dancing around him in a crazy tarantella of who killed who, who's about to be killed, who's in charge of the drug trafficking and who wants Jack dead? The novel is well written with a cast of characters that will make you laugh while it scares the bejeezus out of you. You'll be looking back at all the latest news headlines with a more suspicious eye after Jack Monahan starts poking around in your head. I highly recommend it and plan to read more of Frank's work as it arrives.Georgia Bound  

Yvonne Mason has proved that indie authors are the wave of the future. She keeps cranking out entertaining novels that combine dark humor and good stories. Check out her titles and make her your next big read.

Michael Connelly Best Selling Thrillers have consistently hit the New York Times Best Seller List for years. His latest novel, The Last Coyote, #4 in the Harry Bosch series is at the top right now. The Edgar Award-winning author has created a dark, fast-paced suspense thriller that cuts to the core of Harry Bosch's character. Once you start it, there's no turning back. 

The Serialist

David Gordon 

A Cold Death

Michael Mandaville

Dean Koontz 

Vince Flynn Thrillers featuring  the Mitch Rapp series. Vince's first book, originally self-published, Term Limits, hit the New York Times bestseller list in paperback and started a trend for all of Flynn's novels. Since then, his books have become perennial bestsellers, and he has become known for his research and prescient warnings about the rise of Islamic Radical Fundamentalism and terrorism. Read by current and former presidents, foreign heads of state, and intelligence professionals around the world, Flynn's novels are taken so seriously one high-ranking CIA official told his people, "I want you to read Flynn's books and start thinking about how we can more effectively wage this war on terror." October 2007, Protect and Defend, became a #1 New York Times bestseller. A few months later, CBS Films optioned the rights for Flynn's Mitch Rapp character with the intention of creating a character-based, action-thriller movie franchise. Flynn's 10th hardcover, Extreme Measures, was published in October 2008. It was also a #1 New York Times bestseller. His most recent novel, Kill Shot, was published in Fenbruary 2012.

John Sandford is the pseudonym of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp.With his long running "Prey" series, Sandford has displayed a brilliance of characterization and pace that has earned him wide praise and made the books national bestsellers. He has been hailed as a "born storyteller" (San Diego Tribune), his work as "the kind of trimmed-to-the-bone thriller you can't put down" (Chicago Tribune), and Davenport as "one of the most engaging (and iconoclastic) characters in contemporary fiction." (Detroit News)

Selected Romantic Thrillers 

The Trials of Virtue by Jeff Joseph .  Meant For Her by Amy Gamet . Gingerbread Man by Maggie Shayne . Casanova Killer by Tallulah Grace 


Dead Man Rising by Jack Hayes .  Meet Rook, A former spy turned reporter, his life is planned like a game of chess. Every move has an objective - and is played strategically, and with total focus. But in the tranquil paradise of Hawaii, amid the palm trees and sunshine, he is about to play out the greatest game of his life. And the deadliest. A fellow journalist - running the paper's Hawaii bureau - has disappeared. No one knows why, or where? Rook is determined to find out. He was on the trail of one of the greatest scoops of all time - a story that brings together all the powers competing for control of the Pacific. As he starts to dig, Rook soon finds he is on the run - from intelligence agencies, governments, police forces and from his own past. He will need all his survival skills to outwit them. Because a dead man can rise once. But not twice. 'Dead Man Rising' is an edge-of-the-seat thriller of espionage and power politics that will grip readers of Tom Clancy, Lee Child and Robert Ludlum. 'Explosive action,' - Tom Kasey, best-selling author of 'Trade-Off'. 'A masterful thriller.' - Robert Foster, best-selling author of 'The Lunar Code'.  

To Steal an Election by Larry Winebrenner

Raymond Muirel is dropped right in the middle of a conspiracy investigation. Marianna LaGrange, head of the congressional investigating committee, is exploring the hot rumors about the conspiracy. The fact that Marianna is the doppelganger of Ray's wife doesn't help matters. Nor the fact that the conspirators - who realize Ray has seen something they did not want revealed - especially want Ray dead. The conspiracy is to take over the government by stealing an election in process. They plan to do this by murdering the major candidates on the eve of the election. The question is, who are parties in the conspiracy and who are genuine patriots fighting them? And can Ray and Mirianna - even with the help of a Raymond Muirel-trained crew - thwart the conspiracy?

Murder in Paris by Susan Kiernan-Lewis

Maggie Newberry returns after marrying Laurence, her French lover, and living in France on his inherited vineyard for five boring years. She jumps at the chance to go to Paris on the invite of her fashion-reviewer uncle, and when he winds up dead, she decides to stay and find his killer. There are any number of potential killers, and all of them are her uncle's so-called friends. As she tries to sort out the leads, she becomes increasingly more in jeopardy, and her marriage suffers from her absence. Maggie is finally growing up and becoming a more caring woman. This episode of the Maggie Newberry saga is better than the other two I read, tighter and better planned and executed. It maintains a high level of suspense and conflicting leads, giving away little until the end. The more I read of this author, the more I like her work.  ~Sandy Penny, Founder Sweet Mystery Books