The colder it gets, the more I’m drawn to the mystery and thriller section of my local bookstore. There’s something about sitting in a cozy chair with a warm drink and reading a book as chilling as the weather outside that is super satisfying. Best of all are the days where I can find a thriller with queer characters — perhaps because for much of the the genre’s history, thrillers have been unfortunately lacking in LGBTQ representation.
There’s still a long way to go, but the thriller genre’s seen some progress over the past few years. While queer characters were often delegated to be throwaway victims — if they were mentioned at all — more and more thrillers feature queer protagonists written by LGBTQ authors.
These nine LGBTQ thrillers are the sort that are perfect for nights that you want to spend hours past bedtime glued to a book. They’re compelling, twisty, and (best of all) gloriously queer.
To help you find the perfect book for your TBR list, I’ve separated these recommendations by young adult and adult fiction reads. Both sections feature thrillers set in the real world as well as some with fantastical or paranormal elements.
The Best LGBTQ YA Thrillers
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Devon and Chiamaka have secrets they’d prefer to stay buried, just like everyone else at Nievus Private Academy. After all, sometimes the price one pays for success is brutal. But when an anonymous texter going by Aces starts exposing dark secrets and targeting the two students, the must work together to silence whoever’s behind the account.
The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
If you’re in the mood for a truly chilling thriller, The Dead and the Dark delivers. Logan Ortiz-Woodley is determined to solve the string of unexplained murders in Snakebite, Oregon — even if the locals are keen to blame Logan’s ghost-hunting dads. An unexpected connection with Ashley Barton — whose boyfriend was among the first to go missing — may be the key for Logan to unravel the dark secrets behind these deaths.
The Friend Scheme by Cale Dietrich
Matt’s father wants nothing more than for his son to take over the family business someday. Unfortunately, said business is crime.
But Matt never fit in with his family’s expectations of him, and he’s tired of keeping his true self hidden. Luckily, he becomes fast friends with Jason — a boy with dark family secrets of his own. When they begin to fall for each other, however, their love must transcend the inherent danger it puts them in.
The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros
In 19th century Chicago, Jewish teen Alter Rosen dreams of helping the rest of his family emigrate from Romania. But something sinister is murdering young Jewish boys, and Alter’s best friend Yakov — who Alter loves more than he has the words to understand — becomes the next victim. Now it’s up to Alter — now possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk — to catch the killer before he becomes the next target in this mystery-thriller inspired by Jewish folklore.
The Best Queer Adult Thrillers
The Very Nice Box by Eve Gleichman and Laura Blackett
This pick is a satirical thriller, which is a sub-genre that I now adore for its high-octane laughs and chills. Ava works for STÄDA, a sleek IKEA-esque furniture company, and becomes infatuated with her new boss Mat. But all is not as it seems — not at STÄDA and certainly not with Mat.
Lakewood by Megan Giddings
This horror-thriller is so thought-provoking that it’s sure to keep you up at night. All Lena Johnson wanted was to earn extra money to help support her family. The research program at remote Lakewood, Michigan seemed like the perfect fit. As long as she participated in the medical research required of her, she’d get free room and board plus money to send home. But the program is built on dark secrets, and as Lana unravels them to their extent, she’s forced to choose between supporting her family and saving herself.
We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth
Eliza Bright’s coding job at video game company seemed too good to be true — until the industry’s toxic masculinity became too much to bear. When she speaks out, she becomes the target of trolls and anonymous stalkers. Narrated by a chorus of enraged internet gamers, this thriller is as sharp as it is heart-pounding.
Reprieve by James Han Mattson
Another equally compelling horror-thriller, Reprieve starts at a full-contact escape room. In 1997, four contestants were brutally murdered before they could enter the final room. Told through fictional court transcripts and witness interviews, this novel reconstructs what happened on that fateful night.
They Never Learn by Layne Fargo
English professor Scarlett Clark is sick of putting up with horrible men — so sick that she’s been killing them one by one. When the police start to investigate the string of murders at her university, Scarlett charms the head investigator in order to keep the case closed. But secrets have a way of spiraling out of control, and soon Scarlett’s live is intertwined with that of a college freshman who is determined to avenge her best friend’s assault.
Looking for more thriller recommendations? Check out these truly chilling historical thrillers.