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Last Updated on May 7, 2024 by Jella Erhard

Explore some of the most thrilling and suspenseful classic and new historical thriller books from around the world.

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Must-Read Classic & New Historical Thrillers

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Immerse yourself in a universe of gripping and layered historical thriller books where the past confronts suspense and journey through the highest-rated and most riveting chilling, suspenseful, and political historical thrillers across different periods.

Mixing history and suspense is like pairing a rich cheese with an exquisite wine – it’s an unexpected pairing that is just absolutely irresistible.

These riveting novels fit into the historical thriller genre because they brilliantly blend past events and suspenseful plots. It’s not your standard walk down memory lane but rather a thrilling ride through the complex maze of history.

The most heart-stopping historical thrillers, an outstanding fusion of the fascinating and suspenseful. Here, you’ll find classic spy thrillers, and you’ll also get the chance to delve into modern historical suspense novels, and even engage with the captivating world of YA historical thriller books.

On our list, you’ll also discover the most popular and timeless historical thriller books that are the bedrock of the genre because they smoothly weave historical contexts with gripping suspense, building an atmosphere you’ll be thrilled to explore.

RELATED: Best New Historical Fiction Books To Read

However, the world of historical thrillers isn’t just about the classics. A number of new historical thriller books and new chilling historical fantasy books are stirring things up, crafting engrossing stories that weave the tapestry of history with suspenseful narratives.

Take a daring leap into the realm of military historical thrillers and investigate titles that blend the adrenaline-fueled drama of warfare with intriguing plot twists. Just as enthralling are conspiracy historical thrillers and political historical thrillers, delivering a rollercoaster of emotions with each shocking revelation.

Whether you’re in the market for new suspense-packed books with historical settings or the most exhilarating classic suspense tales, our list has a thrilling read for every history buff.

Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Genres: Historical Thriller, Psychological Drama

Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp - new historical thriller books

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Publication Date: March 2024
Themes: Family Secrets, The American Dream, Violence and Society, Redemption and Consequences

Synopsis:

In Wolf at the Table, Adam Rapp tosses us into 1951 Elmira, New York, where the seemingly innocent encounter between young Myra Larkin and a Mickey Mantle impersonator spirals into a nightmare.

That very night, a triple murder rocks their neighborhood, kicking off a decades-spanning thriller that’s less about chasing dreams and more about escaping nightmares.

As the Larkin kids scatter across the states, chasing their versions of the American dream, shadows from their past loom large. Myra ends up doling out meds as a prison nurse, her sisters wrestle with the binds of class, and their brother Alec? Well, he’s off on a lonely path that nobody wants to follow.

Then there’re the postcards—each one more ominous than the last, peeling back layers of a family secret so chilling it could freeze your bones. If you thought your family gatherings were tense, the Larkins’ saga of hidden violence and unsettling revelations will make you thankful for your boring relatives. 

The Last Lifeboat by Hazel Gaynor

The Last Lifeboat by Hazel Gaynor - new historical thriller book

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Published: June 2023

Synopsis:

Set against the turbulent backdrop of 1940s Kent and London, “The Last Lifeboat” by Hazel Gaynor chronicles the courageous journey of Alice King, a teacher turned wartime hero, and Lily Nichols, a mathematics whiz navigating a war-torn home.

Alice helps evacuate children overseas amidst the looming threat of German invasion, while Lily must choose whether to risk sending her own children to safety far away.

Their worlds converge when a Nazi U-boat attack leaves a lifeboat adrift at sea, intertwining their destinies in a story of resilience and hope.

The Last Lifeboat is one of the most popular new historical thrillers that vividly captures the strength of ordinary people amidst extraordinary circumstances.

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff - best historical fiction books about ww2

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Published: February 2023

Synopsis:

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff is a riveting historical thriller set in the heart of WWII. Hannah Martel, a resilient woman escaping Nazi Germany, is forced to dive back into the dangers of the underground resistance after her cousin’s family is threatened.

As part of the enigmatic Sapphire Line, she’s faced with impossible decisions and profound sacrifices in a race against time. This suspenseful narrative, driven by unshakeable resilience and courage, underscores the power of love and family amidst the direst circumstances.

Code Name Sapphire is a riveting new historical thriller book that’s a tribute to the indomitable spirit of women in the most harrowing of times.

Homecoming by Kate Morton

 

Homecoming by Kate Morton - new historical fiction books

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Published: April 2023

Synopsis:

Homecoming is an enthralling historical thriller that weaves an intricate narrative across time and continents. When journalist Jess stumbles upon a true crime book linked to her own family, she’s pulled into a mysterious murder case from 1959.

As she uncovers shocking connections and long-buried secrets, the story explores themes of love, lies, and the profound meaning of home. The narrative is a captivating journey that poses challenging questions and keeps you gripped to the very end.

Homecoming is a sprawling historical thriller with an intergenerational mystery story about the lengths we go to protect our loved ones.

Who Cries for the Lost by C.S. Harris

Who Cries for the Lost by C.S. Harris - historical thrillers

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Published: April 2023

Synopsis:

In Who Cries for the Lost, historical thriller aficionados find themselves in 1815 London, embroiled in a tense murder investigation led by the audacious Sebastian St. Cyr.

When the mutilated body of Major Miles Sedgewick emerges from the Thames, the probe not only threatens St. Cyr’s closest friend but also unveils a dark web of secrets, occult interests, and a valuable list of Napoleon’s spies.

As the body count grows, St. Cyr races against the clock to save his friends from the chilling grip of the gallows.

Who Cries for the Lost is a rollercoaster ride through history filled with suspense, secrets and a relentless quest for justice.

A Tempest at Sea by Sherry Thomas

A Tempest at Sea by Sherry Thomas - historical thriller

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Published: March 2023

Synopsis:

In A Tempest at Sea, the cunning Charlotte Holmes finds herself in a high-stakes investigation onboard a ship amidst a terrifying storm. Having faked her death to escape Moriarty’s menacing clutches, Holmes accepts a risky task: retrieve a vital dossier for the crown.

However, her mission veers off course when a ruthless murder unfolds on the ship. Now, instead of piecing together clues, she must stay clear of the investigation to protect her carefully constructed ruse.

A Tempest at Sea is a thrilling historical thriller-mystery novel that’s a great choice for Holmes fans.

The Echo of Old Books by Barbara Davis

The Echo of Old Books by Barbara Davis - historical thriller book

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Published: March 2023

Synopsis:

The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder

The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder - modern historical thriller book

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Published: May 2004

Synopsis:

The Devil of Nanking is a chilling historical thriller set in Tokyo’s neon underworld, embarks on a quest to uncover the truth about a notorious massacre during the Sino-Japanese war.

Grey, a young Englishwoman obsessed with a film that may or may not exist, delves into a hidden past, involving a notorious war criminal and an enigmatic scholar.

Encountering danger and darkness at every turn, her search intertwines with the tale of a survivor of the Nanking Massacre, revealing horrifying truths that have been suppressed and denied.

The Devil of Nanking is a gripping historical thriller with a story that explores wartime atrocities and their concealed history.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - historical thriller book

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Published: May 2001

Synopsis:

The Shadow of the Wind weaves an intricate tale of love, mystery, and tragedy set against the backdrop of post-war Barcelona. Young Daniel, enthralled by a book from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, becomes obsessed with its elusive author, Julian Carax.

As he delves into Carax’s past, he finds himself drawn into a labyrinth of secrets mirroring the city’s dark alleys. With gothic undertones, this enchanting novel is a tribute to the power of books, revealing hidden truths and echoing lost voices.

It’s a perfect choice for readers who love unique thrillers and want to check out one of the best fantasy books set in Spain.

The Shadow of the Wind is one of the most bewitching historical thrillers where the lines between fiction and reality blur enticingly.

The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler - modern classic historical thriller

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Published: 1939

Synopsis:

The Mask of Dimitrios offers a thrilling foray into a world of international intrigue and espionage. Crime writer Charles Latimer becomes captivated by the enigmatic figure of Dimitrios – a criminal whose history is fraught with deceit, murder, and political conspiracy.

As Latimer retraces Dimitrios’s steps across Europe, he plunges into an underworld where the stakes are high and danger lurks at every turn. From Istanbul to Paris, Ambler weaves a complex tapestry of suspense, delivering an exhilarating ride that leaves readers questioning the true identity of Dimitrios.

The Mask of Dimitrios is one of the most absorbing modern historical thriller books that unravels the intriguing enigma of Dimitrios.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan - classic historical thriller book

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Published: October 1915

Synopsis:

The Thirty-Nine Steps is an unrelenting pursuit of suspense and adventure. Richard Hannay becomes an unexpected hero when he stumbles upon a deadly conspiracy that could plunge the world into war.

Forced to go on the run, Hannay’s resilience is tested in this pulse-pounding chase across the wild landscapes of Scotland. Brimming with clever twists, dangerous encounters, and high-stakes espionage, Buchan’s masterpiece set the standard for modern spy thrillers.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is a fast-paced, classic historical thriller that showcases Buchan’s masterful knack for suspense and storytelling.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - classic historical thriller novel

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Published: 1989

Synopsis:

Pillars of the Earth is an emblematic tome of historical fiction, steeped in mystery, human struggle, and the grandeur of medieval European architecture.

The saga unravels around the denizens of Kingsbridge, bound in a collective endeavor to erect a cathedral, while wrestling with their individual hopes and adversities within the shadow of its looming silhouette.

This evocative tale not only peers into the gritty realities of the Middle Ages, but also pays homage to the indomitable human spirit that dares to dream and build amidst chaos.

Pillars of the Earth is a mesmerizing fusion of historical authenticity and suspenseful narrative, weaving an epic drama that scrutinizes the perennial duel between ambition and adversity.

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