Cozy to Cold-Blooded: My Auto-Buy Authors

by Sara Farmer
published in Reading

While I work on part 2 of my Sherlockiana post, here is another I promised—my auto-buy authors. You know what series I buy on sight (and don’t miss part 2 here). Now you will know the authors who inspire similar devotion in me. 

My Auto-Buy Authors

Rhys Bowen

When I started reading mysteries more often in the early 2010s, I turned to Bowen’s Molly Murphy mystery series. I was hooked and blew through the first dozen or so that were published at the time. I devoured her Royal Spyness series in a similar fashion a few years later. 

Whether it’s another entry in one of those series or a standalone, I always pre-order Bowen’s books. I can count on a thoroughly researched, witty, immersive story. Bowen’s depictions of other time periods and the characters she creates to inhabit them pull you in and keep you entranced. 

Favorite: Her Royal Spyness (Royal Spyness 1)

Latest: Wild Irish Rose (Molly Murphy Mysteries 18, co-written with Bowen’s daughter Clare Broyles)

Laura Lippman 

You can’t beat Lippman for the depth and complexity of the characters and their emotions. She also concocts gripping, dense plots. Her main characters are female, intelligent, and often hiding a secret past or leading a double life. They are resilient and strong and make the best out of their situations. 

Favorite: Sunburn

Latest: Dreamgirl

Megan Abbott 

When you enter a Megan Abbott book, the Modern Gothic atmosphere wraps around you. Abbott understands the dark side of being a woman and you identify with her characters even as you feel glad you aren’t them. 

She’s written everything from noir to dark drama about high school girls to books about adult women navigating a world that pits them against each other. She is quite simply one of the finest authors working today. Her books are dark, poetic, and deeply satisfying to those who relate to the darker side of identifying as female in this world. 

Favorite: Give Me Your Hand 

Latest: The Turnout

Gillian Flynn 

Flynn hasn’t published in a while, so she maybe technically doesn’t belong on an auto-buy authors list. But you better believe I would smash that pre-order button if she released something new. 

Her stories are horrifying, yet you melt into them and actually enjoy being there. They are so dark with amazing prose and thrilling plots. 

This woman single-handedly started the “Girl” trend in mystery and thriller novel titles. Gone Girl became the mark everyone aimed to surpass or at least circle. So many thriller writers tried to come up with a twist as good in the decade since. Many came close or even succeeded. But she was the first. She yanked the rug out from under us and spun the story in a different direction and we gleefully hung on for the ride. 

Favorite: Sharp Objects

Latest: Flynn hasn’t published a book since Gone Girl in 2012. She’s been busy with screen adaptations of her books and writing for TV and film. She is also writing a new book, but there is no release date yet. 

Lisa Jewell 

Jewell began her career writing romantic comedies and you can see that influence in her justifiably popular thrillers of recent years. She crafts intricate plots filled to the brim with emotion. She writes about families mostly from the female point of view. You become immersed in the worlds she creates, whether it’s a family dealing with the mother’s worsening hoarding issues or a family being infiltrated by a cult after their money. 

Her books are satisfying, intense, poignant, heartbreaking, and, at times, scary. They are a bit slow-burn to really be thrillers. They are just damn good books and there is a big back catalog to jump in and enjoy. 

Favorite: The Family Upstairs

Latest: The Night She Disappeared

Gilly MacMillan 

MacMillan is one of the rare authors who perfectly balances raw emotion with the pacing and tension so integral to the psychological thriller. Her stories usually revolve around the theme of facing uncomfortable truths in families, communities, and inside ourselves. You finish one of her books with that tingling sense of being changed by a new aspect of the human experience and its effect on the human psyche revealed. 

Favorite: The Nanny

Latest: The Long Weekend

Sophie Hannah 

When I read mysteries and thrillers, I sometimes try to figure out the ending. Quite a few times, my ending has been a lot more complicated than the real one. Hannah outdoes me in the intricate, too-muchness of my brain. I read one of her books for the first time and truly felt I had found a kindred spirit.

Her plots are meticulous, detail-oriented, wildly inventive, and dark. She comes up with crimes I never would have thought of. And literary references sometimes play a pivotal part in the plot. Swoon. 

Favorite: It’s a tie between Little Face and The Wrong Mother

Note: Hannah is British and some of her books have different titles in the US and the UK. It has made tracking them all down and reading them pretty confusing. I ended up making a list in my iPhone of ALL the titles from each country and matching them. Helped a lot.

Latest: The Killings at Kingfisher Hill (Hannah was chosen by Agatha Christie’s estate to write more Poirot novels. This is number 4.)

Ruth Ware 

Ware’s books are just so good. SO good. She seems able to handle any subgenre or setting while creating gripping, thoroughly interesting, dark, and complex women to navigate them. 

Whether it’s a glass house in a dark wood, a cruise ship, an old, creepy house, a ski chalet, or a hybrid new/old smart house, Ware beckons you into normal, even happy situations (bachelorette parties, cruises, reunions) and injects a jarring note that warns you to stay away. But you can’t resist seeing what’s hiding underneath the surface. 

Favorite: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Latest: One by One

Tell us in the comments: Do you have any auto-buy authors?

Sara Farmer lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, three kids, and two cats. When she’s not chasing kids and cats, she reads and writes mysteries. You can find her at and on Twitter @avonlea79.

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