Patricia Cornwell is an American thriller writer, whose stories often center around crime and feature medical and scientific details that help to elevate her writing and increase the realism and relatability of her novels.
She has written a series of crime novels that follow forensic examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta called the Scarpetta series, which is made up of 26 books that have all been international best-sellers.
Much to the delight of her wide fanbase, she continues writing today, having released the latest novel in the Scarpetta series, Livid, last year.
Her books were some of the first to directly tackle forensic crime writing and have been inspirational for many following stories that investigate this niche in film, television, and literature.
She worked as a computer analyst for the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, which gave her the idea to write forensics books. She kickstarted her first novel in the series Postmortem in 1990 whilst pursuing this job. This novel went on to be a global success, selling approximately 100 million copies in 36 different languages.
The publication of this book paved the way for the rest of the novels in the series, which have been equally as successful and continue to grip readers.
Cornwell continues to research advancing forensic technologies in order to factually support her novels and has received the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Creasey awards for contributions to crime writing.
She is a well-decorated and deserving writer who aims to bring new perspectives, suspense, and enthralling stories to her readership. Although her main success resides in the Scarpetta series, she has written other novels that have provided her with similar, but new avenues of research and writing.
Stick around to find out the 20 best thriller authors similar to Patricia Cornwell – the perfect fast-paced genre to keep you reading and immerse you in gripping stories.
Kathy Reichs is also an American crime writer, a New York Times best-seller for thrillers. Reichs’ work is remarkably similar to Cornwell’s – they both use the forensic niche and likely take inspiration from each other, writing at similar times.
She has written 28 novels, the most notable of which is the 19 novels that make up her ‘Bones’ series. This series follows Temperance Brennan who works in forensics and is based on Reichs’ real-life experiences working as a forensic anthropologist.
Her life experience provides a fascinating insight into forensic work, and maintains accurate portrayals of the industry, making for even more gripping and interesting novels.
Detective fiction writer Sue Grafton is famous for her alphabet series that follows a private investigator and her work in the made-up city of Santa Teresa in California.
Her alphabet series that features titles like A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, and C is for Corpse approaches detective fiction from a different angle in comparison to many other books within this genre.
She is a well-decorated author and carries a large reputation with her – she was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.
Tami Hoag is known for blending the thriller genre with the romance genre to create books for those who simultaneously enjoy the fast-paced mystery of thrillers with the emotional attachments formed in romance novels.
This American author has published over 30 books, such as Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes, and Deeper Than the Dead. They have been translated into over 30 languages and are enjoyed worldwide by all sorts of readers.
This is an author that does not consider himself tied to a genre, having written nonfiction, short stories, and novels. He does, however, write fantastic thriller novels, hence his place on this list.
As one of the titles may suggest, Olsen often takes true stories and rewrites them in the style of a thriller writer, adding suspense and drama. The truth behind some of these stories makes them even more creepy and harrowing than if they were fiction – proceed with caution!
Best-selling crime thriller author Simon Beckett also writes using the forensic niche. The main character in his predominant series is a forensic anthropologist, who, like Cornwell’s protagonists, must use science and fact to solve cases.
His best-sellers include The Lost, The Chemistry of Death, and Whispers of the Dead are all fabulously written, thanks to his background in British journalism, and have sold over 21 million copies across the globe.
This American author originally began her writing career in the romance genre but found most success writing mystery thrillers.
Many reviewers have commented on how well-structured and memorable her writing is, not allowing any other thriller novels to come close.
With former careers in both journalism and law, Deaver is a great writer and his novels are always jam-packed with suspense, complex plotlines, and legal accuracy. His experience makes him a fantastic crime writer, which has awarded him success in 150 countries worldwide.
Iris Johansen is an American author who began writing fairly late in her life, following her children’s departure for college. She first started as a romance novelist, but soon moved on to mystery and crime novels.
Even now, at the age of 84, she still writes thriller novels, releasing a new book this year that will join her long list of successful books which include Captive, The Killing Game, and The Face of Deception.
Author of the international best-seller, The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides is one of the most reputable writers in the genre.
The British Cypriot writer is still producing novels that typically merge crime, mystery, and psychology. With twisted characters, suspenseful plot twists, and narratives that will keep you guessing, there’s no wonder why this author has received a plethora of awards.
This American author has written a selection of books all featuring the forensic sub-genre. She had a previous career as a forensic scientist, working for the Florida Police department, and uses her experiences within this industry for inspiration.
She is highly qualified and has had years of experience as a hands-on forensic scientist, so can provide narratives that give an insight into how forensics work and how they contribute to detective work.
Specializing in psychological thrillers and domestic affairs, Ellison’s work predominantly centers around two protagonists: medical examiner Samantha Owens and Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson.
She creates complex characters and intertwines secrecy, crime, and psychology. Her books include Edge of Black and So Close to the Hand of Death. She is a lesser-known author than some of the bigger names on the list but is often overlooked. Her novels are intelligent, multi-genred, and complex. Very enjoyable reads for any thriller lover!
This American author has produced 32 novels, most of which blend the thriller genre with westerns. This is an interesting combination that is not often seen in the industry, but perfect for readers who enjoy the rural ruggedness of westerns and suspenseful, fast-paced thrillers.
This Turkish-American author has only written 7 novels as of yet and has pursued a career as a Hollywood actor under the name Ben Kaya.
Even though his selection of novels is smaller than some of the thriller authors we’ve covered, they are still varied. His first novel Voice of Conscience is arguably based on his life experiences, whereas his second novel Murder on the Naval Base is more of the typical fast-paced thriller you’d expect.
Jon Jefferson is an American author and documentary creator who uses the pseudonym Jefferson Base as a reference to William Base, whom he consults about forensic work.
His novels are thrillers based on true stories, William Base’s real-life experiences working as a forensic anthropologist. Jefferson Base has written a novel series called Body Farm which tells, in an often gruesome fashion, about the cases William Base dealt with throughout his career.
Enthralling reads and hauntingly accurate, they are must-reads if you’re into the gritty truth behind detective work.
With a legal background working as an attorney, predominantly dealing with cases of violence against women. Her experience mainly concerns sex crimes, working as the leader in the sex crimes division in the Manhattan Police department. This knowledge works its way into her novels through legal and scientific accuracy,
Having said this, most of her work fits into the standard thriller genre, centering on violence, suspense, and mystery.
Intertwining medicine, psychology, and crime, this American author has written some fantastic thriller novels, most of which focus on a different job role or practice.
Her experience as a physician helps her to write medical procedures, characters, and storylines with accuracy, and some of the sub-plots used are based on her real-life work.
Lisa Stone is a brilliant writer of suspense novels, who claims to be fascinated by the ‘what if’ questions surrounding situations or events.
Her best-selling novels which include The Cottage, Taken, and Stalker, all interweave this concept within their fast-paced narratives. Her writing is creepy, gripping, and will keep you engaged until the very end.
This American author specializes in law, technology, and science, working as a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Her novels, which are often harrowing and chip away at the mystery in question, are jam-packed with scientific accuracy and deal with crimes that usually involve medical or technological help with evidence.
Author and filmmaker, Michael Crichton has sold over 200 million copies of his books, many of which have been transformed into popular motion picture adaptations.
He is best known for the Jurassic Park series, which are all thriller novels that blend suspense with paleontology. These books have been super popular with readers of all ages since their releases in the 1990s and have increased in popularity since the film adaptations were released featuring Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum.
Karl Braungart previously worked in the U.S. military intelligence, which has most definitely helped him write his spy thrillers.
He has only written 3 novels that make up his Spy Determination series, and he is not a common name among thriller writers, but is definitely worth the read! His novels are fascinating, suspenseful, and mysterious – just what you’d expect from spy thrillers!
Hopefully, this list has provided you with some niche authors to look into. Many of these authors have experience in a different field and base their writing on real-life experience, which not only makes the thriller novels more exciting but more accurate and enjoyable as a result.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many books has Patricia Cornwell written?
She has written 37 books in total, 26 of which are part of her most famous Scarpetta series.
How many series has Patricia Cornwell written?
She has written 3 mystery series in total.
Do I have to read the Scarpetta series in order?
No, although they follow the same forensic examiner, these books can be read as standalone novels.
Is there a TV series following the Scarpetta novels?
A television series with the same name is rumored to be in production, featuring Jamie Lee Curtis as Kay Scarpetta.
Who is the best thriller writer of all time?
Patricia Highsmith is the thriller author with the highest amount of sales.