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The 10 Best Gay Thriller Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

The 10 Best Gay Thriller Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, my fascination with our collective stories has always been boundless. So, it was with a heart full of excitement and a mind open to the myriad hues of queer experience that I plunged into the world of the best gay thriller books.

This genre doesn’t just narrate; it vivaciously uncovers the rich tapestry of LGBTQ+ lives, with narratives that are as complex as they are thrilling, and characters who captivate and resonate deeply.

In my quest, I’ve assembled a dazzling collection of 10 exceptional gay thrillers, penned by luminaries like Kit Mayquist and the brilliant James Han Mattson. Each book in this handpicked selection is a testament to the genre’s breadth, delving into the depths of identity, passion, and peril with an intensity that is both exhilarating and profound.

But why stop at thrillers? The literary world of LGBTQ+ is vast and varied, shimmering with genres like Sapphic romance books, where the tender, fierce love between women is celebrated in all its glory. Or the sapphic fantasy books, where queer women traverse fantastical realms, their journeys a mesmerizing blend of magic and reality. And let’s not forget the allure of the night with lesbian vampire books and gay vampire books, where the eternal dance of desire and darkness takes on a sensuously queer twist.

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These books are not just an escape but a deep dive into worlds where every shade of the LGBTQ+ spectrum shines brilliantly. From the heart-racing suspense in Mattson’s “Reprieve” to the labyrinthine intrigue of Mayquist’s “Tripping Arcadia,” these narratives are a gateway to experiences both extraordinary and deeply human.

So, immerse yourself, let your imagination soar, and prepare to embark on an odyssey through the best gay thriller books. These are not just stories; they are pulsating, vivid celebrations of queer life and love, echoing with the beats of adventure, discovery, and, most importantly, the unyielding spirit of our community. As you turn each page, be ready to be enthralled, moved, and transformed.

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Don't have time to read them all? Why not try listening to them? Audible is a great platform for listening to audiobooks because it offers a wide selection of books, including bestsellers and exclusive content. With Audible, you can listen to your favorite books on-the-go, whether you're commuting, working out, or doing household chores.

The Audible app also has features like adjustable narration speed, a sleep timer, and the ability to create bookmarks, making it easy to customize your listening experience. Additionally, Audible offers a membership program that gives members access to a certain number of audiobooks per month, making it a cost-effective option for avid listeners. 

A great resource for people who want to maximize their time and make the most out of their daily activities. Try a free 30-day trial from Audible today, and you'll get access to a selection of Audible Originals and audiobooks, along with a credit to purchase any title in their premium selection, regardless of price (including many of the books on this list!) 

For ebook lovers, we also recommend Scribd, basically the Netflix for Books and the best and most convenient subscription for online reading. While they have a catalog comprising over half a million books including from many bestselling authors, for some of the books on this list, you'll still have to purchase individually - either as a paperback or eBook to load on your Kindle - due to publishing house restrictions. 

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Reprieve by James Han Mattson

Reading James Han Mattson’s new novel Reprieve was an eerie and thought-provoking experience. The story takes place in a full-contact haunted escape room in Nebraska, where a brutal murder occurs, and the lives of those present on the day of the killing are traced.

The haunted house, run by proprietor John Quigley, is a terrifying maze of emotional terrorism, with players forced to root through all-too-lifelike corpses and dodge assaults from hired actors to proceed from room to room.

The novel, one of the best gay thriller books, dives into the topic of racial fetishism and other forms of violence, which I, as a gay person, have experienced firsthand. The character of Leonard, a middle-aged white man obsessed with his social downfall and eventually travels to Thailand to pursue sex tourism, is particularly unsettling.

His actions stem from his desire to feel important and admired for his whiteness, and Mattson captures this sense of entitlement mixed with a desperation so well in the novel.

Despite the haunting and occasionally nightmare-inducing world Mattson has created in Reprieve, he makes it clear that the book is not a gore fest but rather a character study. The author intends to explore the characters’ senses of isolation, alienation, and longing, which I, and many people in the LGBT community, can relate to. 

Overall, Reprieve is a thought-provoking and eerie novel that explores the experiences of marginalized characters on the topic of racial fetishism and other forms of violence. I highly recommend this book. 

Reprieve by James Han Mattson - Best Gay Triller

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Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

I was delighted to find that Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist was not only a gothic thriller but also had strong queer themes woven throughout the story. The book follows Lena, a med school dropout desperate for a job to help her financially struggling family. She takes a position working for the wealthy and secretive Verdeau family, not realizing the true nature of their business and lifestyle.

I appreciated this book in the way it explored the theme of addiction. The Verdeau family is full of characters struggling with various forms of addiction, from drugs to alcohol to the wealth and power they possess. Lena becomes addicted to the opulent lifestyle and the allure of the Verdeau family. It was a relatable and thought-provoking aspect of the story.

The romance in this book was also fascinating. I was particularly drawn to the character of Audrey Verdeau, who Lena is halfway in love with. Audrey is the older sister of Jonathan, the sickly heir to the Verdeau empire, and is often pushed aside by the rest of the family.

Despite this, she is determined to make her mark and prove her worth to the family business. I found her to be a strong and relatable character, and I enjoyed the dynamic between her and Lena.

The writing in Tripping Arcadia was a true pleasure to experience. The gothic atmosphere was rich and immersive, and the plot was full of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat. The only downside was that the book sometimes deflected from giving answers, leaving me wanting more. 

Tripping Arcadia was a fantastic read that I would highly recommend to any fans of gothic thrillers. It has a strong queer presence and explores themes of addiction, family legacy, and sacrifice in a thought-provoking and entertaining way. I look forward to reading more from Kit Mayquist in the future.

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist - Best Gay Thrillers

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A Burning by Megha Majumdar

From the first chapter, I was immediately drawn to Megha Majumdar’s debut novel, “A Burning”. The portrayal of lives on the margins in contemporary India was both illuminating and insightful. The author’s ability to capture the vast scope of a tumultuous society was captivating and eye-opening.

I was transported into the world of the characters and felt their hopes and fears as if they were my own. It’s no wonder this novel was chosen for the Today Show book club and became a bestseller.

One of the characters in the novel, Lovely, is a hijra, a member of the intersex community in South Asia. Majumdar’s focus on this marginalized community was both powerful and meaningful. Lovely’s voice was full of hope and determination, and her dreams of becoming a movie star were inspiring.

Majumdar’s choice to narrate Lovely’s story in almost-fluent English was a testament to the young woman’s determination to improve her station.

Lovely’s English tutor, Jivan, is falsely accused of a terrorist act and is thrown into the dangerous world of political corruption and societal pressure. The perils of social media and the illusion of freedom it creates were expertly depicted through Jivan’s story. This fragility of moral courage is central to the novel. 

Majumdar’s writing style was like a cascade, and the alternating perspectives of the three characters kept me engaged and invested in the story. The novel’s final moments were heart-wrenching, and I was left feeling emotionally drained and fulfilled.

In conclusion, I found “A Burning” a must-read novel. The portrayal of marginalized communities and the exploration of the costs of righteousness were powerful and thought-provoking. 

A Burning by Megha Majumdar - Best Gay Thrillers

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Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite

Exquisite Corpse is considered Brite’s masterpiece – and one of the best gay thriller books. The novel revolves around four gay men. Andrew Compton is an escaped English serial killer with 23 victims under his belt, who meets Jay Byrne, another killer with an unspecified number of victims. They both have a taste for young men, with Byrne having an added fetish for consuming them. 

Together, they set their sights on Vincent Tran, a Vietnamese American boy with a fascination for the dark. Vincent is recovering from a toxic relationship with his possessive ex-partner, Lucas Ransom, who is HIV-positive and vents to the world as the radio persona Lush Rimbaud. Ransom takes it upon himself to save Vincent from the dangers of Compton and Byrne.

The title “Exquisite Corpse” refers to a surrealist writing style where multiple writers build upon each other’s narratives, creating a final result that may not be known to them. In Brite’s novel, the title highlights the interconnected narratives of the four men, leading to a most horrific and ferocious ending.

The graphic and explicit depictions of violence, sex, and depravity in Exquisite Corpse are not for the faint of heart. No boundary is spared, as the line between gore and eroticism is blurred. The reality depicted is bleak and oppressive, with no happy endings. It’s a gritty, disturbing read, more akin to smut than speculative fiction.

Not everyone can stomach the explicit nature of the novel, which includes graphic descriptions of bowel perforation, sodomy, and fluid exchange. Poppy Z. Brite’s work is not for the faint of heart or those seeking a lighthearted read. But for those who crave a unique and grotesque experience, there’s no comparison to Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse.

Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite - Best Gay Thrillers

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They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

I was initially hesitant to pick up “The Never Learn” by Layne Fargo, as I wasn’t sure if the book would speak to my experiences. However, after reading it, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The book is a dark, feminist revenge fantasy that centers around Scarlett Clarke, an English professor at Gorman University who moonlights as a serial killer.

The book is thrilling and satisfying, as Scarlett targets dirtbag men guilty of crimes against women who have never seen an ounce of justice. It’s a sort of Dexter meets Hard Candy meets Thelma and Louise, and I couldn’t help but root for Scarlett as she takes down these terrible men.

As a member of the gay community, I identified with the book’s themes, even though the characters are straight. The book deals with themes of abuse, misogyny, and the lack of justice for victims, which I think all marginalized groups can relate to.

One of the things I appreciated most about the book is how it portrays Scarlett’s relationships with other women. For example, her friendship with her student Carly Schiller is a beautiful and powerful bond. The two women form an intense friendship after Carly’s roommate Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, and how they support each other is uplifting and inspiring.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a dark, feminist revenge fantasy. The book is a thrilling and satisfying read that deals with important themes all marginalized groups can relate to. It’s a book that will leave you thinking long after you’ve finished reading it, and I look forward to reading more by Layne Fargo in the future.

They Never Learn by Layne Fargo - Best Gay Thrillers

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Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I found Fingersmith by Sarah Waters to be a truly captivating and engaging novel. The author is well-known for her neo-Victorian novels featuring lesbian protagonists, and this novel is no exception.

The plot of Fingersmith is fantastic and deals with class issues rampant in Victorian England by focusing on two women, Sue and Maud, who are restricted by their gender and class in very different ways.

The book challenges class distinctions with a wonderful twist towards the middle of the story. It’s a mystery and thriller novel with many excellent plot twists that make you second-guess everything you’re reading. You don’t know who to trust.

The neo-Victorian setting and attention to detail in this book were also something I appreciated, as they made the story feel realistic without trying too hard to mimic the language of the Victorian period.

One of the things that stood out to me as a gay reader was the beautiful and complicated romance between Sue and Maud.

Their feelings for one another develop throughout the novel, but they constantly doubt themselves and each other, and they’re always being torn away from each other by circumstances beyond their control. It’s a well-written romance, and the book wouldn’t be the same without it.

The characters in this book are also wonderful and varied. Sue and Maud, the two main characters, are feisty women who live in a society that works against them. I found myself warming up to Maud as the book went on and surprisingly liking the villainous character, Gentleman, because of his sly and unpredictable nature.

Fingersmith is a fantastic and captivating novel I would highly recommend. It’s a great mystery/thriller with wonderfully written characters and a beautiful romance between two women. 

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - Best Gay Thrillers

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All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes

All the White Spaces was a captivating and thought-provoking read. The story is about Jonathan Morgan, a young gay man who stows away on an Antarctic expedition in search of his true identity and place in the world. All the White Spaces is also a story about the aftermath of war and its impact on the people who lived through it.

The characters are all dealing with their own traumas and emotional scars, and the way the author explores these themes is both poignant and powerful. The themes of loss, grief, and self-discovery are woven seamlessly into the narrative, creating a truly immersive reading experience. 

One of the things I appreciated most about this book was how it portrayed Jonathan’s struggles as a gay man in a time when homosexuality was not widely accepted. His fear of being rejected and ostracized by the other expedition members was palpable, and it made me feel a deep empathy for his character.

I also appreciated how the author depicted the relationship between Jonathan and James Randall, his hero and the expedition’s leader. Their dynamic was complex, and it was clear that they had a deep respect and admiration for each other, despite their differences.

The setting of the book – the harsh and unforgiving Antarctic landscape – was also a standout feature for me. The sense of isolation and danger that the characters faced was palpable, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread as the story progressed.

The writing was evocative and atmospheric, and I found myself fully immersed in the story from start to finish, a testament to the author’s skill as a storyteller. 

I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a thought-provoking and deeply moving read. Ally Wilkes is a talented author, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes - Best Gay Thrillers

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The Bright Lands by John Fram

The Bright Lands takes place in the small, conservative town of Bentley, Texas, where football is king and secrets are kept under wraps. The protagonist, Joel Whitley, is a gay man who left the town a decade ago but returned when his brother, Dylan, a popular high school quarterback, goes missing.

One of the things that stood out to me was how the book portrays homophobia, racism, and abuse in a grimly realistic view. As a gay person, I could relate to Joel’s struggle of feeling trapped and suffocated by the small-town mentality.

The fear and repression of living in a place where your identity is not accepted is something that I, and many others in the LGBTQ+ community, have experienced.

The book also delves into the theme of football and its hold on the town. Football is an obsession in Bentley; it chews up and spits out its players. The sport is seen as a way out of town, but it also comes with a price. As someone who has never been interested in sports, it was interesting to see the impact it can have on a community and the pressure it can put on individuals.

The characters in the book are complex and multi-dimensional. They all have their secrets, fears, and regrets. The loneliness inside them is palpable, and the whispers and nightmares that happen to them are unsettling.

The book’s ending is an explosion of sex, drugs, and violence, and I loved the haunting supernatural touch. The book’s willingness to venture into the grief and loss, yet still has its characters emerging with hope, is quite moving.

Overall, The Bright Lands is a bold and unrelenting book that left a lasting impact on me. The themes of fear, repression, and secrets are woven into the story in a gripping and thought-provoking way. 

The Bright Lands by John Fram - Best Gay Thrillers

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By Way of Sorrow By Robyn Gigl

I was excited to dive into Robyn Gigl’s debut novel, By Way of Sorrow. The book, set in April 2007 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, features Erin McCabe, a transgender lawyer who takes on the case of Sharise Barnes, a 19-year-old transgender sex worker accused of murder.

Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence against her, Sharise maintains her innocence, and Erin is determined to fight for her client’s rights. 

One of the things that I appreciated about By Way of Sorrow is how it centers trans rights and issues in the legal thriller genre. The book delves into the intersections of class, race, and gender and how they impact Sharise’s case.

Throughout the book, Erin must navigate the complexities of the case and the prejudices and biases of the legal system and society. As someone who has also had to defend my personhood and rights, I found myself relating to Erin’s journey on a deep, personal level.

Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the political intrigue and murder mystery. Senator William E. Townsend Sr., the victim’s father, is a powerful figure who will stop at nothing to ensure Sharise’s conviction. As the story unfolds, Erin must navigate the senator’s machinations to uncover the truth about his son’s death.

Overall, I found By Way of Sorrow a compelling and thought-provoking read. Although I did have some questions about the authenticity of Sharise’s vocabulary, the book does have strong black representation and fully-realized minority characters. I am excited to see where Robyn Gigl takes this series next and am glad that she is writing about trans issues in a field that often lacks trans leads. 

By Way of Sorrow By Robyn Gigl

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We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth

I was excited to dive into A.E. Osworth’s novel; We Are Watching Eliza Bright. It is an excellent novel that painfully tells the truth about the challenges faced by women and non-binary folks in the gaming industry. 

The story of Eliza, a woman who works as a developer at a popular gaming startup, immediately drew me in. The studio’s CEO is a white male wunderkind, and the story explores the sexism and toxicity that Eliza faces as the only woman in the room.

As a gay person, I found myself relating to the experience of internet voyeurism that Osworth captures so accurately. The chorus of narrators can’t possibly know all of the “offstage” events and conversations that Eliza has in private, leading to wild speculation by the narrators. This reminded me of how online rumors and gossip can spread quickly and how easy it is to get caught up in them.

One of the things I appreciated about this book was how it portrayed the intersectionality of the characters’ experiences. For example, Eliza’s male coworker and friend, a Black man, faces his struggles as he navigates the targeted harassment of GamerGate.

The targeted women in the story only see him as a man and grow frustrated at his perceived inaction, but we soon learn why he’s so quiet. This was an example of the need for intersectionality in any social or political discourse.

We Are Watching Eliza Bright is a courageous and thought-provoking novel exploring fan culture’s toxicity and online communities’ power. The characters’ inner battles and their choices in the face of adversity kept me on the edge of my seat. Osworth’s writing is enjoyable and smart, and I couldn’t put the book down.

We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth - Best Gay Thrillers

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