The best novels about secret societies will intrigue your mind and often make you wonder if they truly aren’t based on actual events.
From satanic cults and religious organizations to underground political agencies and the supernatural, unraveling the secrets of these societies as you browse through the pages will give you mixed feelings.
Here is a quick list of 11 of our top picks for fictional books about secret societies, all written by award-winning and/or bestselling authors.
1. Angels & Demons
Author: Dan Brown
Robert Langdon is a world-renowned symbologist from one of the most prestigious universities, Harvard, caught in a war between the Catholic Church and the Illuminati.
He suspects the resurgence of the century-old, powerful secret society when he deciphers the mysterious symbol engraved into a murdered physicist’s chest. He confirms this suspicion during the Holy Conclave when an Illuminati messenger announces they’ve planted an unstoppable time bomb somewhere in Vatican City.
Running against time to save the city from the secret brotherhood’s deadly vendetta against the church, Langdon travels to Rome to seek the assistance of Vittoria Vetra, an Italian scientist. They start hunting for the said time bomb and Vatican’s only hope for salvation.
Langdon and Vetra need to decode centuries-old mystery symbols to use as a trail, leading them to deserted cathedrals, dangerous catacombs, sealed crypts, and the Illuminati’s long-forgotten secret lair.
Throughout their journey, they uncover dark truths about divine revelations and Catholic Church secrets that made Angels & Demons a very controversial book and one of the most explosive thriller books around the world.
2. Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
The Ninth House reveals the secrets of a Yale University society of the rich, powerful, and famous. Its main character, Alex Stern, is a school dropout raised by a hippie mother in Los Angeles.
At a young age, she goes through all the difficulties life has to offer, from jumping from one bad job to another to being in a relationship with drug dealers and surviving unsolved homicides. A mysterious benefactor offers her a chance to turn her life around while she lays in her hospital bed.
Despite her lack of academic qualifications, she’s able to attend the famed college without spending a dime. The catch? She needs to find out who uses dark magic, practiced during ancient times, by monitoring the activities of a clandestine society on campus.
As Alex monitors Yale societies, she discovers the eight windowless “tombs” where the members of the secret societies meet and do the unimaginable. They prey on innocent lives, raise the deceased, and perform other ominous occult activities.
3. The Seven Dials Mystery
Author: Agatha Christie
A recommended book among novels of secret societies, the mystery starts with a party hosted by a couple and held at a rented place.
Among the guests is Gerry Wade, known for being an oversleeper, so some of the other guests play a practical joke on him. They place eight alarm clocks in his room and time them to go off at several intervals, starting at 6:30 in the morning.
The following morning, the host’s footman finds him dead in his bed and a bottle of sedative on the nightstand. One of the pranksters, Jimmy Thesiger, also notices that one of the alarm clocks they placed in his room is missing. Only later do they find it in one of the property’s hedges.
After this incident, dead bodies start dropping from one prankster to another. Before Thesiger’s death, he utters the words “Seven Dials,” which turns out to be a gambling den and nightclub. It’s a place with a secret room where people wearing clock-faced hoods meet and discuss the “missing number seven” mystery.
Author: Max Barry
A USA-based university focuses on teaching students how to persuade, manipulate, and coerce people while ensuring they don’t get persuaded and reveal their true identities. Those who develop an excellent gift of the gab will graduate as “poets” and become a member of the influential, secret organization.
The campus society notices and recruits Emily Ruff, an orphan who works in the streets of San Francisco, for her way with words. She manages to pass all the strange examinations and becomes one of the most talented wordsmiths in the university. The only mistake she makes is falling in love.
In a different setting, two strange men ambush Wil Jamieson in an airport bathroom because of things he had done that he’s clueless about or has forgotten. Continuously pursued by powerful individuals and saved by one of the men who attacked him in the airport, he finds out that everything he knew about himself was a lie.
He travels to Australia to find out who he truly is and why the entire Broken Hill town was blown off the map. As he realizes he’s the key to the unknown war between factions of poets, the number of dead bodies increases, the true works of the poets unfold, and the world begins to reach the stage wherein language is about to become meaningless.
5. The Atlas Six
Author: Olivie Blake
The secret Alexandrian Society takes good care of the lost knowledge of civilizations from ancient times and recruits some of the best magicians every decade to be considered for initiation. Those who succeed in becoming part of the society will enjoy a prestigious and wealthy life and gain power.
This year, the mysterious Atlas Blakely presents six individuals with unique, powerful capabilities who need to compete to be part of the five initiates. With preliminary access to the archives, they need to have a significant magical contribution to several impossible subjects, including thought and luck, space and time, and life and death, within the 12-month period.
The main challenge is to have the desire, will, and skill to win even when they begin to build a bond that can blur reality and crumble the moral high ground.
6. Foucault’s Pendulum
Author: Umberto Eco
One of the best novels about secret societies based on an actual invention, Foucault’s Pendulum is a fictional story that revolves around a made-up intellectual game: The Plan.
The three bored book editors who invented the game got inspiration from the many occult conspiracy theories they’ve read. This hoax conspiracy for fun connects medieval Knights Templar with several ancient and modern occult groups. Players would also need to follow a map that leads to a treasure that can control all the earth’s power.
Being obsessed with the game, they often forget it was just a fake game they invented. Worst, it attracts real secret occult organizations and conspiracy theorists, including a satanic group.
The members of this dark society won’t stop until they have a grip on the power to control the earth, even if it means killing anyone who gets in their way. Suspecting that one of the editors has the key to the lost Knights Templar treasure, they start hunting them down.
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
The global recession lands Clay Jannon a night-shift job at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, which only has a few patrons and makes little to no profits.
What piques his curiosity is that most regulars don’t seem to purchase anything. They just come in to check out volumes of books in one of the strangest corners of the bookstore, stating that the owner, Mr. Penumbra has a long-term arrangement with them.
Not believing every word they say as he finds everything strange and suspicious, he wonders if Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is just a front for something else. Maybe something bigger.
He starts to analyze the customers’ behavior and calls his closest friends to help him in his quest for the truth. Their adventure leads them to uncover one secret at a time until they discover the existence of a 500-year-old secret society.
8. Hidden Order
Author: Brad Thor
For years, the members of a powerful secret organization pretend to be part of the US Government. Some politicians and government agencies also cover up their activities as “official” operations, leaving them with no accountability at all.
When five members who qualified to head the agency soon go missing, the organization starts to crumble. The White House decides to assign the case to Scot Harvath, a skilled, smart counter-terrorism operative.
As he begins to investigate and look for the missing members, one murdered body appears after another. This dangerous chase catches the attention of the public eye. It also starts the speculations that it’s a plot rooted back in the American cabal established in the 1700s.
Worst, it poses a danger to the country’s collapse, putting pressure on Harvath to untangle centuries-old conspiracy theories and save the country from one of the greatest threats of all time.
9. More Miracle Than Bird
Author: Alice Miller
The young Georgie Hyde-Lees gets introduced to the older, eccentric poet William Butler Yeats on the eve of the Second World War. She gets drawn to him for some reason, making it easy for her to say yes when he invites her to join a top-secret society of magic and rituals called “The Order.”
This occult society has an obsession with the afterlife and is composed of séances, fortune tellers, and hooded, robe-wearing mysterious individuals.
Living in two different worlds, Georgie spends her day caring for the wounded soldiers of war and befriends the heartbroken, injured Lieutenant Pike, who seems to want more than just friendship. When night falls, she gets immersed in the clandestine society together with Yeats.
At some point, the forces between the two worlds strengthen the relationship between Yeats and Georgie but also tear them apart. It is when Georgie unearths a secret that changes everything.
10. The Rook
Author: Daniel O’Malley
Myfanwy Thomas, a woman in her 30s, wakes up in a park surrounded by deceased humans wearing latex gloves. Not remembering anything, including who she is, she finds a note in her pocket with the words “To You.”
The letter briefly details who she is: a top operative (Rook) of Checquy. It is a secret government agency tasked to protect the UK from unnatural and supernatural forces or threats, but now a target of an unknown assassin. It also states that she can choose between a new identity or continue to live as Myfanwy.
Initially choosing to live a different life, she eventually takes up the life of her old, original self and finds out that a traitor in the agency is the one who wants her dead. As she fights for life and survival, she discovers she has supernatural powers, much like some of the agency’s members. She also encounters several supernatural beings and unfolds terrifying conspiracies.
11. The Ancient Nine
Author: Dr. Ian Smith
The Delphic Club is one of the long-standing all-male secret clubs exclusive to Harvard students and graduates. Its members include Hollywood legends, titans, power brokers, and heads of state.
Among its new, young members is the privileged Dalton Winthrop, whose great uncle is one of the oldest living Delphics. Because of this, he grew up learning about the club rituals through first-hand stories.
Knowing that the club has strict regulations regarding membership offers, Dalton wonders why his newly found friend, Spenser Collins, gets invited. He also finds his great uncle’s puzzling reaction towards the Ancient Nine, an influential group protecting Delphic’s oldest and darkest secrets, odd.
His inquisitiveness leads him to ask Spenser to help him make sense of everything, gathering pieces of information from every source they could find. As they start to entangle the Delphic Club and Ancient Nine’s history, story, and secrets, they encounter complications and find themselves fighting for their lives.
Which Among the Best Novels About Secret Societies Is Your Favorite?
Every underground society is mysterious, making you more and more interested in finishing the novel as you join the main characters in their journey of uncovering secrets, conspiracy theories, and more. There is definitely something for everyone, so the list above is as diverse as possible.
So, which one is your favorite? Or do you plan on reading them all? Let me know in the comment section!