12 Harlan Coben books, ranked by jaw-dropping twists

12 Harlan Coben Books, Ranked by Jaw-dropping Twists

In Reading Lists by Lanie Pemberton

12 Harlan Coben books, ranked by jaw-dropping twists

Harlan Coben’s abundant catalog is a treasure trove of entertainment for thriller and mystery buffs. If you’ve read any of his bestselling novels or seen one of his numerous Netflix Original series adaptations, you already know how expertly he crafts suspenseful narratives. Coben was the first writer to win all three of mystery literature’s biggest awards — an Edgar Award, a Shamus Award, and an Anthony Award — which further solidifies that he’s one of the most coveted names in the mystery and thriller space.

Many of Coben’s best books depict people with seemingly perfect lives who are then thrown into sudden chaos by a revelation or unearthed secret. These unexpected twists transform the characters’ worlds, make us question our own complacency, and overall make for completely engrossing reads. 

Some people choose to read Harlan Coben’s books in order of publication, but with 35 titles (and counting), that can feel like a dizzying prospect. If you’d like to take a more targeted approach, here’s a ranking of the top 12 Harlan Cobin novels, starting with my personal favorite, Tell No One.

Coben’s very first New York Times bestseller is a fitting start to this ranked list, as it shows off his myriad talents in the thriller department. Tell No One was nominated for a slew of awards, including an Edgar and an Anthony, which are some of the mystery genre’s highest honors.

Dr. David Beck’s wife, Elizabeth, was murdered nearly a decade ago, and the serial killer responsible is now rotting in jail. But David’s world is upended for the second time when he receives a shocking email that could only have been written by Elizabeth.

Now, David himself is under police suspicion as he races to discover the truth: Did Elizabeth actually survive her terrible ordeal, or is someone trying to destroy his life all over again?

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Stranger danger has never been higher than in this Coben novel. When Adam, a husband and dad who seems to have it all, is told a secret about his wife by a random stranger, he has to decide what to do with the information. This quickly begins to unravel his life’s facade of perfection. 

In 2020, The Stranger became the first book by Harlan Coben to be adapted for Netflix after the author signed a multi-year, 14-title deal with the streaming service.

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Most of Coben’s thrillers are written for adults, but he shows an equal knack for YA mysteries with the Mickey Bolitar series, which starts with Shelter. Mickey Bolitar is a spinoff of Coben’s fan-favorite Myron Bolitar series and follows Myron’s nephew.

The titular Mickey, a teenager who seems followed by darkness, is already struggling with his dad’s death, his mother’s addiction crisis, and having to uproot his life to move in with his uncle. When his girlfriend goes missing on top of it all, Mickey realizes there’s a complex web of lies at play. 

The Prime Video series adaptation of this novel premiered in August 2023 and stars Jaden Michael. Mickey’s misadventures continue in Seconds Away and Found.

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Dizzying in the best and most suspenseful way, this 2019 Coben novel will soon join the ranks of the author’s prolific Netflix series adaptations (along with Missing You, as seen later in this list). 

The story centers on Simon Greene, a financial advisor whose successful life spirals as he searches for his missing adult daughter — especially when her derelict boyfriend is murdered and Simon becomes the number one suspect.

Run Away has several great, unguessable plot twists to keep even the most savvy mystery readers on their toes.

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Maya’s husband is captured on nanny cam footage — the same husband who was recently murdered. Despite the title, you’ll be fooled at least twice in this thriller from Coben, who makes sure you viscerally feel Maya’s struggles as she pieces together what’s going on. Fool Me Once is yet another in a growing list of Coben novels adapted into Netflix series.

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In Stay Close, Coben weaves together the lives of three seemingly ordinary characters who are harboring dark secrets: dissatisfied suburban mom Megan Pierce, struggling photographer Ray Levine, and haunted detective Michael Broome. 

When a fresh disappearance revives a 17-year-old cold case, these characters’ paths converge, unearthing the long-buried truth and sending Detective Broome following a string of shocking crimes.

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7. Win

Readers of Coben’s Myron Bolitar series will immediately recognize this thriller’s protagonist, Myron’s best friend, Windsor Horne Lockwood III.

The death of a reclusive man revives several decades-old crimes — including an art theft, a kidnapping, and a bombing — and they’re all tied to Windsor (or “Win,” as he’s appropriately nicknamed). Being personally involved in these cases means the uber-wealthy Win becomes literally invested, using his ample funds to track every clue and suspect (and make a few morally gray choices along the way).

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A 2015 Audie Award finalist for Mystery, Missing You reveals how swiping right can go all wrong. 

While trying her luck in online dating, police detective Kat Donovan is startled to find the profile of her ex-fiancé Jeff, who dumped her almost two decades ago. Jeff is sending up red flags right and left, so when Kat’s called upon for help by a young man whose mother disappeared after using the same dating app, it’s clear something bigger — and more dangerous — is happening behind the screens. 

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When a father who was wrongly convicted of brutally murdering his own son discovers his child may still be alive, he’ll stop at nothing to find him — including breaking out of federal prison. Tension mounts steadily as readers follow Coben’s determined protagonist on a cat-and-mouse hunt for reunification, redemption, and the shocking truth.

Audiobook narrator Steven Weber, who has brought many Harlan Coben works to life, won the 2023 SOVAS (Society of Voice Arts and Sciences) Award for Best Voiceover in the Thriller category for I Will Find You. The book was also a 2024 Audie Award finalist for Thriller/Suspense.

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The discovery of an old photograph brings Grace Lawson’s lovingly laid life crashing down around her. The picture seems innocuous enough, but it sparks something in Grace’s husband, who disappears without a word. As Grace attempts to make sense of both past and present, she has no idea how high the stakes truly are — or that a ruthless killer is following the same trail of clues. 

Once again, Coben proves his unmatched ability to explore the ways secrets, no matter how deeply buried, are often dredged up and become our undoing. 

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When does the need for protection outweigh privacy? Coben mines the worst fears of modern parents throughout this tangled web of a domestic thriller.

Once a hockey star, high schooler Adam Baye has become increasingly withdrawn, leading his parents Mike and Tia to monitor his online activities. What they discover terrifies them and sparks an increasingly frenzied search for answers, with multiple, seemingly disparate mysteries converging into one startling truth.

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A routine traffic stop leaves an off-duty officer dead and brings the past screeching into the present for New Jersey Detective Nap Dumas. Fingerprints at the scene match Nap’s high school girlfriend, who vanished 15 years ago after Nap’s brother was killed in a train accident (or so the story goes).

With more deaths mounting, Nap realizes the victims are all connected via his alma mater’s Conspiracy Club. Clearly, they uncovered something they shouldn’t have, and it’s up to Nap to figure out what.

Likened to a “nesting doll of deadly secrets” in Publishers Weekly’s starred review, Don’t Let Go, narrated by Steven Weber, was a finalist for the 2018 Audie Award in the Thriller/Suspense category.

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About the Author: Lanie Pemberton

Lanie is a San Diego-based freelance writer who loves reading crime thrillers and nonfiction about animals and the natural world. When not writing and reading (or writing about what to read), Lanie spends as much time as possible at the beach with her husband and pampered pittie, Peach.