12 Must-Read Small Town Mysteries & Thrillers To Check Out

Small town mystery books scaled

As a person who works with books (before and after publication), I’ll be the first person to tell you that setting does wonders when it comes to a thriller book.

How? It sets the tone for the story that’s being told and the atmosphere of the book is very much dependent on the extent of the execution. 

This might sound bogus if you haven’t really thought about it, but here’s an example: Would you be creeped out if you entered a house that could be described as sunny and airy and heard a child’s laughter more than you’d be spooked if the house was decrepit and dark.

Of course, as with anything, several other factors play into whatever way you perceive the book, but the setting is the very first thing that situates a reader. And, there’s nothing quite as eerie as a thriller that takes place in a small town.

The gossiping, the close-lipped townspeople, the inclinations and affiliations (religious or otherwise), and the tenuously fragile bond that ties everyone together – A thriller that takes place in this type of environment promises just the right type of fun.

If you have been on the lookout for small-town mystery slash thriller books to add to your bookshelf, I’ve compiled this list of my personal favorites. 

These are the ones that kept me up all night and I promise they’re so, so good. The characters are unforgettable and complex and they all more than deliver on their promises. 

1. Where The Truth Lies by Anna Bailey 

Where the truth lies

When seventeen-year-old Abigail disappears, her friend Emma is determined to discover the truth even as everyone becomes suspicious of Abigail’s family. 

The more Emma investigates, the more she learns about Abigail’s family and the town’s preacher, all while tensions rise. And as she gets closer to the truth, she realizes how little she knows about her friend. 

With tensions mounting, the revelation of what truly happened that night could change the town forever.

2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects

Reporter Camille Preaker, fresh from a stint in a psych hospital, has a tough assignment: covering the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another in her hometown. 

She hasn’t spoken much to her neurotic mother or her half-sister, a mysterious thirteen-year-old. But as she digs into the case while staying in her family’s mansion, Camille finds herself relating to the victims. 

Battling her own demons, she must confront her past to unravel the psychological mystery and survive her return home.

This book is straight from the author of Gone Girl, which is one of my all-time favorite books with an unhinged female lead. The 2017 movie adaptation starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck was a major hit home and abroad and that’s really all you need to know about how awesome this book promises to be.

3. When The Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash

When ghosts come home

Sheriff Winston Barnes investigates a mysterious plane crash in North Carolina. With no pilot or cargo, and a local man dead nearby, tensions rise. 

Suspects abound, racial tensions flare, and Winston faces personal challenges alongside his duty. With re-election looming and his daughter’s grief to confront, Winston must solve this gripping mystery that tests his resolve on every front. 

Also See: 30 Must-Read Romantic Suspense Novels Full Of Swoons & Thrills

4. A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie

A bitter feast

Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, enjoy a weekend in the Cotswolds.

As guests at Beck House, owned by Gemma’s colleague Melody Talbot’s family, they attend a charity luncheon catered by chef Viv Holland. 

But, tragedy strikes with a car accident and mysterious deaths, which puts Viv’s future at risk. The investigation reveals many connections to Viv’s pub and Beck House, as well as personal secrets. 

Duncan, Gemma, and their team delve into the case, with much at stake professionally and personally. The truth becomes vital in this intricate small-town mystery book that you need to check out now. 

5. The Girls In The Garden by Lisa Jewell 

The girls in the garden

In a London community with deep-rooted family drama, Pip and Grace relocate with their mother Clare after their father’s breakdown. 

They settle in a picturesque communal garden square where neighbors are trusted implicitly. 

But, when a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious one midsummer night, questions arise about safety and trust. What truly happened to her and who is accountable?

6. The Dry by Jane Harper

The dry

In drought-stricken Kiewarra, three members of a local family are murdered. Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk then reluctantly returns for the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler. 

As Falk becomes more involved in the case, old secrets resurface, including one he shared with Luke. 

With tensions high in the small Australian town, old wounds are reopened as Falk tries to find out the truth behind the Hadler family’s tragic deaths.

Related: 12 Essential Books on the American Revolution To Dive Into

7. All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the missing girls

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda is a gripping psychological suspense novel that follows Nicolette Farrell, who returns to her hometown after a decade and is drawn back into the mystery of her best friend’s disappearance and the recent vanishing of a young neighbor. 

Our author is an expert at keeping readers on their toes and trust me when I say you’re going to be in awe at the lengths people would go to protect their loved ones. 

8. Listen For The Lie by Amy Tintera

Listen for the lie by Amy Tintera

After Lucy is found covered in her best friend Savvy’s blood, suspicion falls on her for the murder. Once the golden girls of their small Texas town, Lucy and Savvy had enviable lives until that fateful night Lucy can’t recall. 

Now, years later, a true crime podcast reignites interest in the case, which encourages Lucy to return to her hometown to confront her past and reveal the actual truth, even if it means facing the possibility that she might be the killer.

9. All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers

All good people here

Margot Davies, a big-city journalist haunted by the unsolved murder of her childhood neighbor January Jacobs, returns to her hometown of Wakarusa, Indiana. 

When another girl goes missing under similar circumstances, Margot is determined to find out the truth about January’s death and find the missing girl. But the more she learns, the more resistance she gets from the police, the community, and her own family. 

With secrets lurking beneath the surface, Margot must learn to tell the town’s truths from its lies while putting her everything on the line. This is an amazing small town mystery thriller book you should totally read this weekend. 

You May Also Like: 35+ Must-Read Steampunk Novels Begging To Be Added To Your TBR

10. Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

In Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor, twelve-year-old Esther disappears in a rural Australian town and Detective Sarah Michaels is tasked with leading the investigation while Esther’s friend Ronnie is determined to find her. 

When Ronnie learns of a sighting by classmate Lewis, she becomes more determined. But Lewis refuses to cooperate with the police, which makes Ronnie question who else is hiding the truth. 

Through the voices of the town’s children, the novel dives into the bonds of community and the impact of Esther’s disappearance on the ones left behind. 

11. Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

Hattie Hoffman is a small-town girl who yearns for something more. When she’s found murdered, her community is shattered. 

It’s then revealed that she had a secret online relationship, and this only raises more questions about who else knew and what they would do to protect themselves. 

Was her boyfriend obsessed with her, or was she simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? When the lines between innocence and guilt start to blur, we see the soft underbelly built on the twin forces of love and destruction.

12. Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey

Unspeakable things

In the 1980s, Cassie McDowell’s seemingly idyllic life in Minnesota is shattered when local boys start going missing and returning changed. 

But while rumors and accusations are flung back and forth, Cassie’s own sister falls victim to the dark transformation.

To survive in a world where secrets abound and the truth is unforgivable, Cassie must somehow survive this maze of deception and danger. 

Read Next: 12 Short & Sweet Fantasy Novels Under 350 Pages You Can’t Miss

What do you think? Will you be adding any of these small town thriller books to your bookshelf? Let me know in the comment section below. 

And, if you’d like to check out another fantastic post, here are some of the best domestic thrillers you should absolutely read ASAP. 


Hi! I'm Preye ("pre" as in "prepare" and "ye" as in "Kanye"), and I am a lifelong book lover who enjoys talking about books and sharing bits and pieces of all the fascinating things I come across. I love books so much that I decided to become a developmental editor, and right now, I work with authors to help them tell their stories better. On this blog, I share everything from book recommendations to book reviews and writing tips, so feel free to stop by anytime you like!

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