Five Debut Writers Making a Splash in the Thriller World

By Amy Stuart


The past few months have been a difficult time for authors promoting books, with all in-person events cancelled in favour of Zoom readings. But many debut writers have made the best of it, finding creative and unique ways to connect with their budding readership. For the five debut novelists below, it doesn’t hurt that their freshman novels are gripping and incredibly hard to put down. Here are five debut thriller writers whose novels are so worth your reading time.


Lauren Wilkinson with American Spy

 This thrilling debut novel jumps back 30+ years to 1986 and the heart of the Cold War. Marie Mitchell – a character we hope we’ll see again on the page – is an FBI officer and a young Black woman who isn’t getting the credit she deserves at work. When she’s finally given the opportunity to join a covert operation in the small African country of Burkina Faso, Marie is put in a complex situation where her loyalties will be deeply tested. Soon after its release, Wilkinson had a multi-award nominee bestseller on her hands, and it’s easy to understand why. American Spy is an amazingly riveting read.


Erin Ruddy with Tell me my Name

This October, readers will be treated to Erin Ruddy’s inventive and chilling debut thriller, Tell me my Name. When a couple—Ellie and Neil Patterson — endures a horrific kidnapping at their new cottage, the suspect insists that he is Ellie’s soulmate and gives her three chances to utter his real name. If Ellie is going to save her husband, she must figure out who the kidnapper is to her. This deep dive into her own memory serves to unravel some secrets, and of course, things are not what they seem. Ruddy’s novel takes two simple domestic realities – a marriage and a trip to the cottage – and twists them in wonderfully murky ways.


Stephanie Wrobel with The Recovery of Rose Gold

Rose Gold spent most of her young life believing she was gravely ill, until her mother, Patti Watts, was arrested and sent to jail for the heinous act of causing her daughter’s illness to gain attention and sympathy. Fast forward half a decade and Patti is released from jail, not terribly repentant but hellbent on repairing her relationship with her daughter. Wrobel wrings so many lies and so much deceit from this mother-daughter relationship that the reader can barely keep up, not to mention decide who is in the wrong. A bestseller upon its release, this novel is a wonderful read for anyone intrigued by the dark corners within our closest family relationships.


Kiley Reid with Such a Fun Age

While not touted as a thriller per se, Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such a Fun Age reads with all the page-turning force of the best thrillers out there. The story begins when young Black caregiver, Emira Tucker, is stopped by a security guard while visiting a grocery store with the toddler in her care. The toddler’s parents, an affluent white couple, are horrified by what Emira endured and promise to support her, but of course it’s never that simple. Reid digs into the backstory from there, navigating the complex mingling of race, power and money. Reid is a profoundly gifted storyteller, and this novel will thrill fans of mystery and literary fiction alike.


Samantha M. Bailey with Woman on the Edge

In 2018, Samantha M. Bailey’s debut novel Woman on the Edge sold around the world with a splash. The editors recognized something that readers would soon too – that Bailey is capable of writing deeply propulsive thrillers. On the opening page, a woman hands Morgan Kinkaid her baby then jumps in front of an incoming subway train. From there, we dive into the history and the unexpected connection between these two strangers on a subway platform. A brilliantly conjured and fast-paced novel with too many twists to count. Readers will be left waiting for Bailey’s sophomore effort.



Amy Stuart is the #1 bestselling author of three novels, Still MineStill Water, and Still Here. Shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award and winner of the 2011 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Fiction Competition, Amy is the founder of Writerscape, an online community for hopeful and emerging writers. Amy lives in Toronto with her husband and their three sons. Connect with her on her website and on Twitter @AmyFStuart.







STILL HERE (Gallery Books On-sale August 11) When a seemingly perfect couple goes missing, everyone who knew them sees the husband as the prime suspect, but private investigator Clare O’Dey is certain there’s more at play. As she searches for the man who helped her build her career as a PI, Clare discovers that many women are in grave danger. And she is among them.