We get it: You love Dan Brown. So do we. And so does the rest of the world! The Da Vinci Code author has sold more than 200 million novels globally and has caused renowned film directors to drool over his material. But believe it or not, there are other masters of action-packed suspense out there who are just as good. Rather than wade through a bunch of codswallop, we’ve done the dirty work for you. Herewith, 12 authors—and their unearthed gems—like Dan Brown.
Fantasy and adventure collide in Katherine Neville’s debut novel, a massive postmodern thriller that teeters between two parallel time frames: one set in 1972 and the other in the late 18th century. Neville’s protagonist is Catherine Velis, who is sent to Algeria on assignment to recover the missing pieces of a chess game. And it’s with historical significance, romantic flare, and supernatural flourishes that Neville checkmates readers into a thrill ride they can’t–nor want to–escape.
The Florentine Deception
A genre-blender featuring a twentysomething techie who hits the mother lode while cleaning the motherboard of a discarded computer, Carey Nachenberg’s techno-thriller is modern cyber-terrorism at its deftest. And it should be, as Nachenberg is a leading cyber security expert IRL. In The Florentine Deception, protag Alex Fife finds himself at the center of a shady deal and in a race against time to save the world from the adversaries who are trying to attack it.
The Tenth Circle
Dante’s Inferno covers the nine circles of hell, but Jon Land’s action-packed political thriller that blends sci-fi and historical fact takes it one circle further. Posing the question, “What if the lost colony of Roanoke and the crew of the Mary Celeste were connected?” Land takes readers on a joyride through the decades, courtesy of a man named Blaine McCracken, all in an attempt to the save the present U.S. from a terrorist attack promising to unleash the tenth circle of hell.
In what sounds like it could be a David Lynch project, Richard Sapir’s The Bodyis actually a religious mystery thriller that pivots around the quest to learn the identity of an ancient skeleton with the inscription King of the Jews. Sapir wades through the premise of Christianity, discusses the politics of the Middle East, and examines the humanity of priesthood, while getting to the bottom of whether or not this body is that of Jesus Christ.
The Lost Codex
Bestselling author Alan Jacobson earns the best in that hyphenate with this jet-setting thriller about a group of specially trained covert operatives assigned to track down some missing papers before terrorism has its way with the land of the free. Those papers? Oh, just half of the bible that’s been missing for several hundred years.
The Last Conquistador
Though the world’s steamrolling through a techno-boom, there are far-off locales that remain primitive, untouched, and rooted in ritual sacrifice. Like the Amazon jungle. Which takes center stage in Michael Elias’s The Last Conquistador. When an archeologist and her students happen up on the skeleton of an Inca girl and the body of a missing boy, both wearing the same outfit, the deep dark secrets of the Inca Empire aren’t so secret anymore.
The launch pad in the best-selling Sigma Force series, international thriller author James Rollins’s Sandstorm is a blast of action, suspense, and climatology. Set in the sweltering desert of Saudi Arabia, the action follows covert agent Painter Crowe on his journey from the UK to the Middle East on a mission to unearth the lost city of Atlantis of the Sands and keep its destructive power from falling into the wrong hands. And Rollins does it all at breakneck speed.
Well, we’ve offered political thrillers, and sci-fi thrillers, and religious thrillers—and, here, we have one heck of an archeological thriller. Best know as one half of the Preston/Child writing team, Doug Preston has also penned some really fun “history mysteries” that some say are better than Brown’s and Crichton’s. Unfortunately, they’re kind of forgotten gems, like this one about digging up a mysterious fossil in the New Mexican dessert.
The Great Zoo of China
New York Times best-selling author Matthew Reilly takes readers deep into the wilderness of China for a thrill ride that takes place in The Great Zoo. But the big-cat exhibit you must skip, as there are bigger creatures to admire. China has proven the existence of dragons and they are ready to share their secret with the world. Think of it as a Jurassic Park that breathes fire.
Blood of the Lamb
Fans of Brown’s Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu will fit right in with Sam Cabot’s leading pair: Thomas Kelly and Livia Pietro. He an American Jesuit priest living in Rome, she an Italian art historian, the two are a couple of unlikely heroes on a quest to find a missing document for two very different but very urgent reasons. Bouts of art, history, and even brushes with the supernatural ensue.
The Revelation Code
Another in the first-rate thriller section, Andy McDermott’s The Revelation Codetoys with unlocking the secret of the Bible’s “Book of Revelations” to thrilling effect. It’s also the next chapter in the enthralling saga that belongs to husband-and-wife team Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase. Forced into aiding a plot that could trigger the End of Days, Nina has a lot on her plate. Not only must she solve a wretched puzzle, but she must rescue her husband and stop a madman from killing all mankind. All in a woman’s work.
The Lightning Stones
In Jack du Brul’s globe-trotting nail-biter, one man–geologist Philip Mercer–is on a mission to not only solve a murder mystery, but to seek revenge on those who pulled the trigger and retrieve the mysterious crystals they stole. So what does all of this have to do with Amelia Earhart? Well, everything. But we’ll leave it to you to find out.
Featured still from "Inferno" (2016), via SONY