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A Quick Snapshot
These are exactly what they sound like, thriller novels about serial killers. The person hunting them down is typically an FBI agent, police detective, or other member of law enforcement and may have a partner or be part of a team.
These thrillers are characterized by offbeat villains, high body counts, and unusual methods of killing and/or displaying victims. Murders, crime scenes, and autopsies are all described in gory, graphic detail.
These novels are occasionally standalone, but usually part of a series. One of the best novels ever written in this sub-genre is of course Thomas Harris’ THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, featuring imprisoned serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling. His prequel RED DRAGON and sequels HANNIBAL and HANNIBAL RISING are also quite compelling.
RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris
Book #1 of the Hannibal Lecter series.
Will Graham, an FBI agent who put his sanity on the line to capture brutal and brilliant serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, is on a daunting new case. Now he’s tracking down another pathological serial killer, the Tooth Fairy, who’s savagely murdered two families so far.
In order to catch him, Graham has to get inside his head. And only Hannibal Lecter can take him there.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by Thomas Harris
Book #2 of the Hannibal Lecter series. A #1 New York Times bestseller and a major motion picture. The gold standard for serial killer novels.
“Buffalo Bill,” a brutal serial killer with a particularly ghastly signature to his crimes, is leaving women’s mutilated bodies in different states. His motive and how he chooses his victims are both unknown. Jack Crawford, Chief of the Behavioral Science section of the FBI, has a brilliant, outside-the-box plan to catch him. But he’s going to need some help.
As part of his plan, Crawford offers a promising but still-wet-behind-the-ears trainee at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Clarice Starling, a special assignment. He’d like her to interview serial killer and former psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who’s incarcerated in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. The combination of Lecter’s psychiatric background and experience as a serial killer could provide insights that would help the FBI catch Buffalo Bill.
Starling accepts the assignment, but Lecter demands an unsettling quid pro quo. For every insight he shares with her about Buffalo Bill, she has to reveal something deeply personal about herself.
And so begins a bizarre relationship between the sociopath and Starling, a devious cat-and-mouse-game that at any moment could turn lethal…
HANNIBAL by Thomas Harris
Book #3 of the Hannibal Lecter series.
In this sequel to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, seven years have passed since FBI trainee Clarice Starling interviewed Dr. Hannibal Lecter in his cell at a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. And seven years have passed since his ingenious escape.
Lecter still hasn’t been caught, and is out savoring his own ineffable interests in an unguarded world. But Starling has never forgotten her encounters with the startlingly perceptive sociopath, and he still haunts her dreams in a nightmarish way.
Mason Verger, Dr. Lecter’s sixth victim, who survived but is horribly disabled, remembers him too. Obsessed with a need for revenge, Verger’s stalking his prey as best he can, but Lecter remains elusive.
So Verger comes up with a plan. He’s going to offer the most innocent-looking but exquisite bait, something Dr. Hannibal Lecter will never be able to resist…
HANNIBAL RISING by Thomas Harris
Book #4 of the Hannibal Lecter series.
In this revelation of Hannibal Lecter’s past and evolution into a serial killer, he first appears as a silent boy in the snow with a chain around his neck. Emerging from the nightmare of a war-torn front, he appears to be utterly alone… but there are terrible demons inside him.
Hannibal’s uncle, a renowned painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and takes him to France to live with the uncle and his lovely, exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Where Hannibal flourishes under her care, becoming the youngest student ever admitted to medical school in France.
But the boy’s psychic wounds never really healed, and his demons return with a vengeance. That’s when Hannibal becomes a prodigy of death…
HANNIBAL LECTER SERIES COLLECTION by Thomas Harris
KISS THE GIRLS by James Patterson
A journalist investigating a series of murders is killed in Los Angeles. And a beautiful medical intern goes missing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
It appears that two ingenious pattern killers are collaborating, cooperating, competing. And they’re working coast to coast.
Now Washington DC-based homicide detective Alex Cross has to pull out all the stops to solve the most senseless and horrifying murder case he could imagine.
Hopefully before more innocent people wind up dead…
POP GOES THE WEASEL by James Patterson
Book #5 of the Alex Cross series.
Alex Cross has fallen in love, but his happiness is threatened by the series of horrifying murders he’s currently investigating. Murders with a pattern so twisted that people are reeling in shock.
Cross’ pursuit of the killer produces a prime suspect, a British diplomat named Geoffrey Shafer. But proving Shafer’s guilt turns into a nearly impossible, potentially deadly task.
As Alex and his fiancée find themselves hopelessly entangled in the web of the deadliest adversary Cross has ever faced…
VIOLETS ARE BLUE by James Patterson
Book #7 of the Alex Cross series.
Homicide detective Alex Cross has seen plenty of crime scenes. But even he is deeply unsettled by the grisly murders of two joggers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park… killings that look more like they were done by savage beasts than by anything human. Local police consider the crimes especially brutal as well, and the FBI is baffled by the case.
As Cross investigates, the killings escalate, leaving a trail of mutilated bodies across the U.S. in major cities like Savannah, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
And as he tracks down the ruthless criminal known as the Mastermind, Cross finds everything he holds dear is at risk…
HEARTSICK by Chelsea Cain
Book #1 of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell series.
Portland detective Archie Sheridan has spent years tracking devastatingly attractive serial killer Gretchen Lowell. But instead of catching her, he finds himself caught by her instead. She tortures him for more than a week, then inexplicably releases him and turns herself in.
Gretchen has been incarcerated ever since. And Archie’s been living in his own hellish prison, addicted to pain pills,and unable to stop obsessing about those ten horrific days. And Gretchen.
Now another killer is abducting teenage girls off the streets, and Archie has to pull himself together enough to head up a new task force.
But in order to stop the killer, he has to get information from Gretchen. An encounter that could destroy him…
MONKEEWRENCH by P. J. Tracy
Software company Monkeewrench recently released a new computer game called “Serial Killer Detective” on a limited basis, and people are dying for it. Literally. Two real-life murders that have just occurred, of a jogger and a young woman, appear to be copycat crimes based on the game’s first two scenarios.
Grace McBride and her eccentric partners at Monkeewrench are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they make the Minneapolis police aware of the connection between the murders and their game, they’ll be resurrecting a horror from the past they thought they’d laid to rest for good. But if they keep their mouths shut, 18 more people may die.
POST-MORTEM by Patricia Cornwell
The first book of the Kay Scarpetta series.
In Richmond, Virginia a horrible monster strikes by night, leaving a shocking trail of strangled bodies that has the city on high alert.
Finding evidence that the murders were committed by a brilliant serial killer who leaves few clues, medical examiner Kay Scarpetta uses the latest advances in forensic research to identify the perpetrator.
But Scarpetta’s going to be tested to the limits. Because her investigation is being sabotaged by an insider, and somebody wants her dead.
THE COLD MOON by Jeffery Deaver
Part of the Lincoln Rhyme series.
One freezing December night in New York City when the black sky frames a silvery full moon, two people are brutally murdered. The killer has an odd, chilling signature… leaving moon-faced clocks at the crime scenes that investigators fear ticked away the last moments on earth for each of the victims.
Quickly identifying the clocks’ distributor, brilliant criminologist Lincoln Rhyme comes to the disturbing conclusion that the killer, who calls himself the “Watchmaker,” plans to execute more murders in the hours to come.
Rhyme, who’s a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, asks his trusted partner and longtime love Amelia Sachs to visit the crime scenes and walk the grid, and help him with the investigation. But Sachs has other things on her plate – most notably, her first assignment as lead detective on a homicide of her own.
Balancing the two investigations is a high-wire act for Sachs, and takes its toll on both her and Rhyme. But the clocks are ticking, and the diabolical Watchmaker has to be stopped before time runs out for the innocent…
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