When it comes to books, you might crave the thriller genre, and you would not be alone! I and millions of others love to be riveted by stories of gruesome murders, detectives, and serial killers.
James Patterson is considered one of the masters of the thriller genre. James Patterson is the first author to sell over a million digital copies of his books.
His career currently spans decades and he has branched out into many different genres. However, the thriller novel is what he is best known for. But what are the best James Patterson books?
Which James Patterson books will have you coming back for more again and again? Well, I’ve compiled a list of 15 great James Patterson books that you can start delving into straight away!
15 Best James Patterson Books
I’ve ordered these books on how popular they are, which ones have the most gripping narratives and characters, and the general tone of the book itself. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get into it!
This is probably one of James Patterson’s most famous novels and was adapted into a 2001 film starring Morgan Freeman. This is the first novel in what will come to be known as the Alex Cross series.
The narrative of this book revolves around Alex Cross, an African American forensic psychologist, who begins a love affair with Jezzie Flannigan, a member of the Secret Service.
These two have to outfit a master serial killer, Gary Murphy, who has a split personality and begins a murdering spree. However, there are many twists and unexpected turns in this plot, which is one of the reasons why the story is so compelling.
There are plenty of themes in this novel, including race, sexuality, and abuse. This is a great book for anyone who is a fan of authors like John Grisham.
- Gripping narrative with identifiable characters.
- A great entry point for James Patterson newbies.
- Wonderful film adaptation.
- An affordable start to James Patterson’s canon.
- There are lots of elements in the film that deviate from the book.
This next book is the first in the Women’s Murder Club series, where a group of women from different fields of detective work band together to solve a series of grisly murders.
This narrative is unique and will certainly appeal to readers who prefer female protagonists. The central characters are very well rendered, with each one having its own distinct personality. You’ll soon have your favorite after reading this book!
- Female-centered narrative.
- Fast-paced plotting and lots of action.
- Distinct and believable characters.
- Great for fans of the thriller genre.
- A few reviews have described this novel as clichéd in places.
Next up, we have another novel in the Alex Cross series, this time the forensic psychologist has to deal with two serial killers who are working together across the country.
This really develops the character of Alex Cross, which is great for anyone who is a fan of the series already. This novel quickly becomes a number 1 bestseller, as well as appearing on the list of 100 great American reads.
- Gripping story and character arc.
- A unique approach to the thriller genre.
- Very affordable for new readers buying the paperback.
- Perfect for fans of the Alex Cross series.
- Some readers have described this book as being too slow.
Next up, we have another bestselling novel in the Alex Cross series. This time, our intrepid investigator has a fiancé. However, it is not long before both he and his wife-to-be are embroiled in a series of murders involving a diplomat.
This is another riveting novel, with the narrative slowly gathering speed and tension as Alex closes in on the murderers. Many fans of James Patterson have commented that they find this book the most intriguing.
- Adds further depth to the Alex Cross character.
- A taut narrative that builds as it reaches its climax.
- A great entry into the Alex Cross series.
- Has won multiple awards for fiction.
- There are a few plot holes in this novel as well as inconsistencies between this one and previous Alex Cross novels.
This is James Patterson’s first novel, and you can already see the style that will inevitably make him famous. This is a novel that starts out with 3 grisly murders in the deep South of America, which soon becomes a countrywide manhunt.
This is a story of assassination, betrayal, and revenge. It also features romance and some degree of political intrigue. However, it does have some of the hallmarks of a first novel and some people don’t find this as interesting as some of the later novels.
- Simple storytelling and gripping prose.
- Good characters with solid story arcs.
- A decent standalone novel.
- Great as a starting point for James Patterson.
- Fans of James Patterson might prefer the later novels.
This is a bestselling novel and marks the latest in a collaboration between Patterson and writer Michael Ledwidge. This focuses on Michael Bennett, a detective who has been featured in 14 other James Patterson books.
In this novel, Detective Bennett is put under the witness protection program after incurring the wrath of drug lord Manuel Perrine. However, when Perrine starts a killing spree across the country, Bennett has no choice but to come out of hiding to face him once again.
- Different style from James Patterson’s usual novels.
- Compared to the James Bond movies for high-intensity action and thrills.
- A good novel for anyone who is not a fan of the Alex Cross series.
- A decent introduction to the thriller genre.
- Might be too dissimilar to James Patterson’s other works for die-hard fans.
This next novel is a gripping tale of kidnap and intrigue that will get you turning the pages from the very start. This is the story of an army ranger whose family is kidnapped and held for ransom for the freedom of a captive whose location is unknown.
This is another female-centered thriller that has been described as thrilling and cinematic. If you are a fan of the suspense thriller and murder thriller subgenres, this is a great option for you, as it ranks very highly in both of these genres.
- Female-centered plot.
- Character-driven narrative with plenty of action.
- Great for any intermediate experts on Patterson.
- A good starting book for people who might not consider themselves ‘avid readers’.
- Deviates radically from Patterson’s usual narrative formula.
This is another book in the Alex Cross series, this time our hero faces a bank robber that kills anyone who does not meet his exacting demands. This is another novel where Cross’ personal and professional intermingle in a very deadly way.
This is a novel about perfectionism and control. This novel is far more police procedural than some of the Alex Cross series, although it still features a lot of the tropes that make the series very popular.
- A thrilling novel that features a lot more detective work.
- This a great introduction for anyone new to the Alex Cross series.
- Riveting narrative and characters.
- A little less gruesome than other James Patterson novels.
- Not a traditional Alex Cross novel.
This is another standalone murder novel that was written in collaboration with David Ellis. It tells the story of Detective Jenna Murphy who comes to a large Gothic mansion in the plush Hamptons to solve a gruesome murder.
This is a revenge story that features a cast of colorful characters. This is great if you like plenty of twists and turns in your narrative (although what James Patterson novel doesn’t have its twists and turns?)
- An exciting novel with plenty of unexpected turns.
- Great news for anyone who wasn’t a fan of the Alex Cross novels.
- Different in style from other James Patterson novels.
- Exciting and adrenaline-fueled novel.
- At 400 pages, many readers have described this novel as too long, which might not appeal to the casual reader.
This next novel was an international bestseller, appearing at the top of many must-reads of the year. This is another collaborative and standalone novel.
It is set in an elite home in the Hamptons, with a tale that starts with a body washing up on the beach that soon develops into a conspiracy of money and power.
This one has drawn comparisons to John Grisham with the legal elements that are peppered throughout the narrative. This combines elements of the murder thriller genre with a little action and adventure.
- Another different take on the usual James Patterson thriller.
- This is a very exciting novel that hooks readers on the first page.
- A decent introduction to Patterson’s work.
- The perfect novel to get someone for a vacation read.
- Not for those who are expecting an Alex Cross-style thriller.
This is another collaboration, the first in the NYPD Red series. NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan has to team up with his detective ex-girlfriend to find the killer of a well-known film producer.
However, this is just one in a string of brutal crimes that will sweep the city of New York. This has been described as a ‘masterwork’ by a lot of reviewers, with more of a suspense plot that still comes with plenty of thriller elements.
This one is also very character and plot focused than some of Patterson’s other novels.
- This is a very suspenseful narrative.
- Great characters and believable character moments and interactions.
- Will certainly appeal to fans of the Alex Cross series.
- Contains elements of police procedural and murder thriller.
- Might not be a great place to start for a Patterson beginner.
This is another collaborative novel written with Candice Fox, part of the Harriett Blue series of books.
This starts with a sexual crimes investigator Harriet Blue as she is banished to the Australian outback after the revelation that her own brother has murdered 3 women.
It is in Australia where she must investigate the disappearance of a mine worker in a decadent mining town. This is another novel that topped the bestseller list, with millions of people rushing out to buy it on its release.
- Female-led narrative.
- This novel takes place in a different location from other James Patterson novels.
- More of a thriller, with a pacey plot.
- Perfect for anyone who likes murder thrillers.
- This might be a little too different from other James Patterson novels.
We mentioned the Michael Bennett series earlier, well, this is the first installment in that series. Here we are introduced to the eponymous detective Michael Bennett, who has to deal with both a nationwide kidnapping spree and a personal loss.
As New York City descends into chaos, Michael Bennett has to rescue 34 hostages just as he is informed of the death of his wife.
How will he manage to solve this dilemma when dealing with such a huge personal crisis? Well, find out by delving into this rollercoaster narrative.
- A gripping narrative that gets going immediately.
- Great for any fans of the Michael Bennett series.
- Three-dimensional characters.
- Some readers have claimed that they found the plot far-fetched.
Now we end up further down the Alex Cross history, with the 25th novel in this series of books. Now Alex Cross is on trial for murder, so he opens a counseling office in his basement as he awaits trial.
However, when his own partner turns up needing help, Cross ends up risking his career.
- A later and engrossing installment in the Alex Cross trilogy.
- A page-turning read.
- An explosive and riveting narrative.
- If you haven’t read the other Alex Cross books, you might not get much from this novel.
Finally, we have a collaborative novel written with a real ex-president, Bill Clinton. This is a multi-award-winning novel about the disappearance of a president.
This is a thrilling and haunting political novel that will certainly appeal to readers of Patterson, new and old.
- Full of political intrigue.
- Written with a real ex-president.
- Has won multiple awards for fiction.
- A standalone novel that might not satisfy Alex Cross fans.
Best James Patterson Books Buyer’s Guide
Here are some of the things that you can expect from James Patterson’s books:
Most of these novels, and many novels in the thriller genre, are instigated by a gruesome murder or a series of grisly murders.
This features a lot of investigative work done by something within the police or some form of crime agency.
Patterson has written a lot of novels where the main character is female. His novels also deal with distinctly female themes.
If you are hungry for a thriller novel, then I would certainly point you in the direction of James Patterson. The 15 novels above are some of his best and are a great place to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Other Well-Known Books Has James Patterson Written?
Here are a few other popular James Patterson thrillers: ‘The Angel Experiment’, ‘Suzanne’s Diary For Nicholas’, ‘2nd Chance’, ‘Sam’s Letter To Jennifer’, ‘Saving The World And Other Extreme Sports’ and ‘3rd Degree’.
How Many Novels Has James Patterson Sold Worldwide?
James Patterson has sold over 25 million books around the world. He was also the first author to sell 1 million e-books.
Which Of James Patterson’s Have Been Adapted Into Films?
The films that have been adapted from James Patterson’s books include: ‘Along Came A Spider’, ‘Kiss The Girls’, ‘Maximum Ride’ and ‘Alex Cross’.