I always enjoy discovering an author early on in their writing career, and then being able to follow along with them over the years as their writing evolves and changes.
It’s been quite the wild ride doing that with John Marrs.
I read his first novel, When You Disappeared (also known as The Wronged Sons) the year it was released. Being able to relate to characters can increase our enjoyment of a novel, and as a runner I was able to immediately relate to this book. I also go for early morning runs. I also occasionally think “what if I just disappeared” while on said run, which is what happens to the main character.
What I really enjoy about Marrs is how versatile he is. He was able to transition from standalone thrillers to a more character-driven story Welcome To Wherever You Are. He also has the ability to be able to tell his stories from numerous perspectives, all with their own voice, but able to individualize each character so you’re never having to look back to remind yourself of a character’s traits.
Many of you will no doubt have heard of John Marrs from the novel The One which was made into a Netflix special. What I really enjoy about that is John has created his own “Universe” following the events of The One. The novels The Passengers and The Minders both fall under that universe and if you are looking to read his books for the first time, I’d recommend reading those three within that order.
John is currently still releasing new books so this will be a list I will be looking to revise each year of course. With that said, here are my current Best 5 John Marrs Books:
Best John Marrs Books:
See at Amazon#5: Welcome To Wherever You Are (2015)
This is the story of 8 people who are staying at a backpacking hostel in Los Angeles. All of them are escaping something and looking for a new identity and a fresh start. You’ve got the Englishman who has traveled to the USA to escape a tragedy that occurred back home. Then the woman in hiding from her controlling father. The childhood friends who have left Ireland for. The odd girl from Australia who is infatuated with a celebrity.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “a game of two halves” and that’s how I would describe this book. The first half of this book was absolutely incredible. I was so engrossed in it and all the characters and I couldn’t stop reading. The second half? Not so much. It just started to get ridiculous and unrealistic.
Regardless, that first half of the book really displayed Johns’s strengths at developing characters each with their own individual stories but an overhanging storyline and it is well worth listing on here purely due to that.
See at Amazon#4: The Minders (2020)
This novel follows The One and The Passengers within the same universe. I should note I decided not to include The Passengers on this list. While the book was great and I enjoyed the dystopian future that John had created the entire social media aspect of it just came off too unrealistic for me.
In The Minders to protect all of their data from hackers, the UK decide to implant all that information in the brains of 5 regular people and have them hide out for a few years to protect the data. Doesn’t that sound ludicrous? Yet what I love about John is he makes it work! That’s where his writing talent lies; although I had read the prior novels about this dystopian future I still went in with a strong degree of skepticism. Yet within a few chapters, I was completely hooked.
The power in John’s writing always lies with the characters he creates and your connection to them and he is able to do this. You get to enjoy reading these characters creating new lives and relationships. There’s also a bit of fun involving the secrets they have in their brain that they are aware of. Not sure if John wrote this book purely so he could get people to read a Princess Di conspiracy theory but either way it worked! Excellent book and has me hoping that John follows this one up with more within this universe.
See at Amazon#3: When You Disappeared (2013)
Also known as The Wronged Sons although I never really understood that title. When people ask me to recommend them a few standalone thrillers, When You Disappeared is always on the list. Some may classify it more as a family drama but either way, it’s always a fun one to recommend.
Catherine wakes up one morning and notices her husband Simon is gone. She assumes he has just gone for a run before work however discovered that is not the case – he has disappeared. Never to be found…
…until 25 years later, when he shows up at her door.
The story jumps from everything that happened during the disappearance, and present time. It is also from the perspective of both Catherine and Simon. It’s easy to follow and keeps you guessing with little mysteries being revealed as the book goes on, and the reader unaware of what camp to park their loyalties in.
This is one of those novels that seem to have polarizing reviews. For me personally, I loved it. I always enjoy those type of books where someone simply leaves and has a fresh start and being able to follow that sort of thing. It’s one I fondly remember and just writing about it here makes me want to go read it again.
See at Amazon#2: The One (2016)
Match Your DNA. That’s the name of a company that promises to find you your soul mate. You can have only one soul mate and by submitting your DNA, the company will tell you who that is if they have also submitted their DNA.
Sounds great right? Well maybe. What if you’re a police officer and get matched with a criminal? What if you are a male, in a happy heterosexual marriage, and get matched with another man? What if the person you are matched with doesn’t want to ever see you?
John covers a few different perspectives of people who were matched and the situations that arise from it in this absolutely incredible thriller. Each individual story is incredible and this was one of those books that as soon I was finished reading it, I was buying for all my friends so they could read it and we could discuss it.
Even if you’ve watched the Netflix show be sure to read this book. Such a fascinating premise and executed perfectly.
See at Amazon#1: What Lies Between Us (2020)
This is the story of Nina and Maggie. Maggie is Nina’s mother. Maggie has done something that Nina will never be able to forgive. Due to that, she will not let her leave the house. Ever. Maggie is chained up in the attic. The story jumps between the present time and 20+ years ago as we slowly get the background of everything that occurred and the reason for the imprisonment.
There are so many good things I can say about this book. The visualization for one. You can really picture Maggie in her room all chained up and everything she is going through and a year after reading the book, those images still haunt me thinking of that situation.
The best thing about this though is the author’s ability to sway the reader. You’ve always heard there are two sides to every story and that comes into play here. Your opinion on both characters will sway drastically as you read the book. Your loyalty to the characters goes back and forth and just keeps you hooked.
This one was just incredible and it really showed the talent that John Marrs has.
Best Authors To Read If You Like John Marrs
Shari Lapena: If you are a fan of the standalone thriller novels that John puts out, then author Shari Lapena is right up there. One of the best thriller authors in the business.
Blake Crouch: If the more dystopian, futuristic worlds that John creates is what you most enjoy about his books then I would suggest Blake Crouch. He has the same ability as John of creating new worlds and storylines that may sound unrealistic but are done in a realistic and believable way.
Marcus Sakey: Another one if you like that futuristic dystopian type deal. His “Brilliance” trilogy is must-read.
C.J. Tudor: I love C.J. Tudor novels and I am not alone. John Marrs gave a very strong recommendation for The Other People, stating “Like no book you’ve read before. It’s the definition of a nail-biting page-turner, and sets the bar high for every other thriller this year.”