Explore our curated list of thrilling authors like Lisa Gardner. Dive into their captivating narratives and keep your suspense levels high!
If you’re in the mood for heart-stopping thrillers, authors like the American thriller writer Lisa Gardner should be on your radar. Lisa Gardner is a bestselling author renowned for her gripping narratives and complex characters. She made her literary debut under the pseudonym Alicia Scott.
Then came her breakout domestic thriller, The Perfect Husband, in 1997. By this time, Gardner, as a prolific writer, had already shown a knack for keeping readers on their toes. Even her jumping genres—from some of the best detective novels to classic crime series—proved to be successful. She also hosts the Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy Sweepstakes giveaway, where readers can nominate real-life characters to be included in Gardner’s next books.
As per Writer’s Digest, Lisa once said, “I particularly like to write characters who are bits of shades of gray, so we don’t know exactly where they’re going to go.” Her quote encapsulates her knack for weaving everyday characters into high-stakes scenarios, resulting in chilling narratives that keep readers hooked from the first page to the last.
Authors Like Lisa Gardner Ranked
1. Karin Slaughter
American crime writer Karin Slaughter is a force to be reckoned with in the thriller genre. She burst onto the literary scene in 2001 with her debut novel, Blindsighted. With her compelling writing, it’s no wonder that it became a success on an international level. She has penned over 20 books over her career, some of which are Pretty Girls and Cop Town.
She’s on top of our book recommendations for her incredible ability to construct intricate, pulse-pounding narratives. Just like author Lisa Gardner, Slaughter excels in creating complex, relatable characters. If you enjoyed Alicia Scott’s Detective D.D. Warren series, you’ll enjoy After That Night.
“Nothing ever truly faded. Time only dulled the edges.”Karin Slaughter, The Good Daughter
2. Tami Hoag
Like Gardner, Tami Hoag doubles in the genre of romance and crime thrillers. This American author’s journey began in 1988 with The Trouble with J.J. Soon, she found her true calling in the suspense genre, with her works regularly gracing The New York Times Best Seller list. Her ability to craft intricate suspense narratives laced with riveting romantic subplots sets her apart in a crowded genre, earning her a well-deserved spot on our favorite authors like Lisa Gardner.
Hoag is deft in handling character development and plot progression. Often, readers empathize with her characters as she places them in high-stakes scenarios. The result? An exhilarating reading experience. Her meticulous attention to detail and immersive descriptive writing transport readers directly into the pages of her books.
“But then I had long mistaken being spoiled for being strong, being defiant for being independent, being reckless for being brave.“Tami Hoag, Dark Horse
3. Iris Johansen
A prolific writer, Iris Johansen started her literary journey penning romance novels in the late 1970s but made a successful shift to the crime thriller genre in the 1990s. This transition was marked by the birth of her most enduring character, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan, first seen in The Face of Deception.
Johansen’s work is reminiscent of Lisa Gardner’s nuanced narratives. With at least 100 books, Johansen has a massive global following. Her Eve Duncan series is particularly well-loved. Aside from complicated characters and meticulously researched details on forensic sculpting, she plays with emotional depth. Her characters are real, their struggles tangible.
“It’s easy to blame everyone else when it hurts to blame yourself. But in the end you have to face it.”Iris Johansen, The Face of Deception
4. Lisa Jackson
Lisa Jackson contributed more than 75 romance and suspense novels over her career. Additionally, Jackson has multiple bestsellers under her name. She’s fond of creating narratives that blend suspense while exploring her characters’ predispositions.
What sets Jackson apart is her ability to inject a blend of gruesome suspense and psychological depth into her works. Her novels, often featuring complex female protagonists, weave intricate plots that delve deep into the psyche of the characters, laying bare their darkest fears and deepest secrets. For instance, her Deep Freeze centers around a serial killer mystery.
“That’s what families are for, don’t ya know? To love each other to death, all the while ripping their hearts out.”Lisa Jackson, You Don’t Want To Know
5. Jonathan Kellerman
Since it aligns well with his initial work, Jonathan Kellerman thrives in the suspense and psychological thriller genre. His narratives dig deep into the human mind—an effortless combination of his psychological expertise and writing prowess. This New York Times bestselling author has penned more than 60 books. Many of these have been hits all through the globe. His writing is intriguing, with a deep dive into psychological facts.
Kellerman’s tales are more than your typical murder mysteries; they are journeys into the human psyche. His presentation and explanations of how humans tick make his narratives amusing. Through his writing skills, his characters become more than just words on paper. They transform into real, complicated individuals with their histories and objectives. When readers understand the characters’ reasoning—both perp and hero, the reveals become more satisfying.
One of his best works is When the Bough Breaks, featuring a double-murder investigation, a traumatized child witness, and a psychologist who attempts to solve the mystery.
“All of us are like locks. No matter how strong the bolt, there’s always a key out there that opens it.”Jonathan Kellerman, Self-Defense
6. Allison Brennan
Allison Brennan initially entered the literary world as an ardent fan of romantic suspense novels. Her dedication to the genre led her to jot down some of the fascinating books, like The Prey, that she released in 2005.
Brennan’s novels stand out for their masterful storytelling and meticulously researched plots. She blends the anticipation of a thriller with the heart and emotion of romance. Her experience working with the California State Legislature provides an authentic touch to her crime novels, making them all the more spellbinding. If you’re a fan of authors like Lisa Gardner, you’ll find Brennan’s strong, independent characters and multi-layered stories entrancing.
“Every villain is a hero in his or her own mind.”Allison Brennan, The Prey
7. Kay Hooper
Kay Hooper’s literary journey began with romance novels. Later, she found her real calling in mingling romance with elements of suspense and intrigue. Today, she’s best known for her Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series, featuring FBI special agents dealing with paranormal crimes. The first book in the series is Stealing Shadows. Hooper’s novels, meticulously crafted, are an enticing mix of suspense, romance, and, uniquely, the supernatural.
If you’re intrigued by authors like Lisa Gardner, you’ll be drawn to Hooper’s distinct narrative style and her ability to create hypnotic characters. Her novels are consistently transfixing, with plot twists that keep readers hooked. With over 80 works to her name, she’s consistently on The New York Times list.
“Death takes people away from us all our lives. We have to move on. Or die ourselves.”Kay Hooper, Stealing Shadows
8. Stuart Woods
Stuart Woods, a renowned author in the crime thriller genre, hoops readers with narratives brimming with adrenaline and high-stakes drama. He has at least 40 novels to his credit, and Wood’s work has become a stable on The New York Times bestseller list. His flagship series, which begins with New York Dead, features the suave and sophisticated protagonist, Stone Barrington. The series has collected fans for its intricate plotting and fast-paced storytelling.
His stories are not just about solving crimes. They delve deep into the psyches of his characters. This lets readers in on their motivations and conflicts. Woods’ knack for crafting engrossing storylines without compromising his characters’ authenticity balances suspense and human drama.
“He was a simple animal hunger, and he didn’t care what he was eating or how it tasted. It was like taking aspirin to make a headache go away. You don’t enjoy the aspirin.”Stuart Woods, New York Dead
9. Tess Gerritsen
Tess Gerritsen is an intriguing figure on this list, bringing a unique blend of medical knowledge and creative storytelling to the thriller genre. Originally a practicing physician, Gerritsen transitioned into a full-time writer. Her debut novel, Harvest, quickly captivated readers with her medical and crime thrillers. Her books, marked by high stakes, suspenseful narratives, and meticulous attention to medical details, have catapulted her to the status of a New York Times bestselling author.
Gerritsen’s work often draws comparisons with Lisa Gardner, primarily due to their shared passion for tense, psychological thrillers. Her adeptness at delving deep into her characters’ personalities, combined with her medical expertise, lends a chilling touch to her narratives.
“So little time. We have so little time on this earth with the people we love.”Tess Gerritsen, Harvest
10. Linda Castillo
Diving into the world of Linda Castillo is an exhilarating foray into suspenseful narratives set against the backdrop of Amish country. Born in Ohio, Castillo developed an early fascination with the Amish way of life that continues to permeate her works. She’s known for her Kate Burkholder series. Sworn to Silence introduces the chief of police in a small Amish town.
Castillo, like Lisa Gardner, is a master of suspense and psychological exploration. She brings her characters to life with expert detail. She creates narratives that are as intriguing as they are engaging. Her skill in weaving zero-sum crime stories with the tranquil simplicity of Amish life makes for a unique reading experience that’s hard to match.
“He didn’t know why he was running away. Maybe because being close to someone took a hell of a lot more guts than being alone.“Linda Castillo, Sworn to Silence
11. Lisa Unger
Lisa Unger previously used her maiden name, Lisa Miscione, when she published her first four novels. Her works, such as In the Blood and Beautiful Lies, won awards for her writing prowess.
Unger’s storytelling mastery is reflected in her impressive collection of accolades, including the International Thriller Writer Award. Whether it’s her standalone novels or series like The Hollows, her work leaves readers pondering long after they’ve closed the book. If Lisa Gardner’s thrilling narratives leave you spellbound, delving into Lisa Unger’s books will be an equally captivating experience.
“I should have been sending up flares, instead I was offering smiles.”Lisa Unger, In the Blood
12. Kathy Reichs
Leaping from the world of forensic anthropology to crime fiction, Kathy Reichs is a force to be reckoned with. With her insider knowledge, Reichs masterfully crafts gritty, authentic, and immersive thrillers that leave readers breathless. In fact, her wildly successful Temperance Brennan series inspired the hit T.V. show Bones.
As a bestselling author and a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Reichs has the unique gift of translating complex scientific concepts into gripping narratives. Her works have achieved international acclaim, with Deja Dead, the first book in the Temperance Brennan series, winning the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.
“Death in anonymity is the ultimate insult to human dignity.”Kathy Reichs, Deja Dead
13. Kendra Elliot
Award-winning author Kendra Elliot is a powerhouse in the world of romantic suspense novels (read our guide to the best romance authors). Her books often feature strong, dedicated protagonists thrown into complex and dangerous situations, much like Lisa Gardner’s characters. Elliot is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author who has sold millions of books worldwide and won numerous awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.
Her Bone Secrets series, starting with Hidden, in particular, encapsulates her writing skills. The series features a variety of characters with different professions and a serial killer. Elliot’s deep understanding and insightful portrayal of human emotions amidst turmoil and danger are reminiscent of the psychological depth found in Lisa Gardner’s works.
“The house had an aura of acute emptiness—a home simply waiting for time to go by.”Kendra Elliot, Hidden
14. Linwood Barclay
Meet Linwood Barclay, a master storyteller who has taken the world of crime thrillers by storm. Born in the United States but residing in Canada, Barclay rapidly rose to fame as a beloved international bestselling author. His novels are known to be a rollercoaster of suspense, similar to Lisa Gardner’s intense thrillers. He has a unique ability to create a web of suspense from the opening page until the final, shocking conclusion.
Put Barclay’s breakthrough novel, No Time for Goodbye, on your reading list to experience his fascinating narratives.
“You think, if you’re dying a little each day, how does life manage to stretch out so long.”Linwood Barclay, No Time for Goodbye
15. Steve Martini
In the universe of legal thriller authors, Steve Martini is a master storyteller and a craftsman of suspense. He’s known for page-turning works that showcase the intricacies of the legal world. All without alienating the readers. Just check out his book, Compelling Evidence, for proof.
His unique vantage point as a lawyer lets him illuminate every corner of the legal system with precision. Moreover, he intermingles this expertise with the human condition. Readers then experience moral ambiguities and ethical dilemmas alongside the characters he creates.
“But circumstances make victims of us all at times.”Steve Martini, Compelling Evidence