For a long time, it seemed like maybe Liane Moriarty and Stephen King had cornered the modern market on the suspense-fiction genre. But no more: These days, there are plenty of psychological thrillers to pick from — many of them more sinister and more spine-chilling than
Big Little Lies or even The Shining. Not that we're knocking either of those authors. It's just that there are so many stories to choose from, which you already know if you, like millions of other readers, rapidly inhaled novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train over the last few years.
Here's the thing about suspense thrillers, though: Once you've reached the end and all the secrets have spilled out, it's not always fun to go back and read them again. You need new mysteries to unravel — new plotlines and characters to make the hair on your neck stand on end.
Luckily, there is no shortage of these sorts of books. We've pulled together some of our favorites (and by favorites, we mean the ones that freaked us out most) that should get you through the summer, at least. And if you rip through 'em all, no worries: We'll be adding more psychological suspense titles as time goes on. If we know anything about these books, its that they attract voracious readers always in need of a new literary fix.
By Josephine Hart Damage Released in 1992 Damage is more psychological portrait than psychological thriller, but it is thrilling. In the slim book, a British politician seems to have everything a person of his age and stature could want. He has a seat in Parliament, and a trajectory bound for even more success. A wife. A son. A big house. But for reasons not even he can completely understand, he incites an affair with his son's fiancee that leads to his downfall. Once passion enters his life, everything — all the superficial success — seems meaningless.
The French Girl By Lexie Elliot Released February 20, 2018 A group of six Oxford students goes to a French villa for the summer, bringing their love triangles and rivalries along with them. Severine, the girl in the house next to theirs, rattles up the group dynamic. And then — she disappears. Years later, where the novel begins, Severine's body is found. Our narrator, Kate Channing, reconnects with her old clique to confront what really happened that summer.
Anatomy of a Scandal By Sarah Vaughan Released January 23, 2018 Anatomy of a Scandal is a psychological thriller practically made for the #MeToo era. The novel is entrenched in British politics and elite society. It begins when James Whitehouse, a politician, is accusing of raping his mistress. His wife, Sophie, stands by him; she's sure he's innocent, and anyway, she already knows his biggest secret. Kate is a lawyer determined to take James down. Anatomy of a Scandal is a win on every side: It has a gripping plot, but it's also an intelligent, kaleidoscopic look at the conversations surrounding sexual harassment going on today.
Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finlay Boylan Released in April 2017 Fans of Donna Tartt's A Secret History will already love Long Black Veil's collegiate setting by default. Right before college started in August 1980, a group of friends decide to visit Eastern State Penitentiary, the notoriously haunted prison, for a lark. They get locked in, and soon find they're not alone. The group of friends emerges the next day marked by tragedy, and changed forever. As adults, a man is falsely accused of the crime. Judy can step up and testify, but that'll mean her own secrets about that night are dredged up in the process.
If You Knew Her By Emily Elgar Released January 26, 2017 Carve out a few hours, because you'll want to see this book through until the end. Cassie Jensen arrives to the intensive care ward in a coma. Her nurse, Alice Marlowe, knows there's something familiar about her — but can't quite place it. So she looks. And she looks. And she brings out every detail of Cassie's life in the process. Only Frank, Cassie's ICU neighbor who has locked-in syndrome, has figured out through observation why she's there, but can't express himself. Who was Cassie Jensen, and how did she get there?
And After the Fire By Lauren Belfer Released in 2016 This beautifully written book doesn't center around a murder, like some of the other selections on this list. Instead, it's about a precious, stolen piece of music: A cantana by Johann Sebastian Bach. The book switches perspective between 1945 Germany, when the piece was stolen, to the mid-2000s, when it surfaces again. You'll get to know the family members on both sides of the timeline.
By Lauren Oliver
Released in 2015
YA authors can write suspense fiction, too! Oliver, the author of
Before I Fall
, crafts a story about two sisters wrenched apart by an accident, which leaves one sister permanently scarred. Alternating as narrators, Dara and Nick describe the lead-up and the aftermath of the accident through first-person accounts, diary, and blog entries. Somehow, the accident is
connected to the disappearance of a local girl — but you'll have to read to find out how.
A Great Reckoning By Louise Penny Released 2016 A Great Reckoning has all the elements of a fabulous thriller. There's a mysterious map stuffed inside a wall in Quebec. There's an upwelling of the deep sadness of history. And there's a great mystery. If you like this novel — and you probably will — there are many more Chief Inspector Gamache novels that have come before.
In the Blood By Lisa Unger Released in 2014 Lana Granger's an expert liar. She's told so many lies about her past that sometimes she can't remember who she is. About to graduate from college and quickly running out of her trust fund, Lana begins working as a babysitter for a boy named Luke. Luke, as it turns out, is as much of a manipulative liar as Lana. Luke becomes obsessed with finding the truth amid Lana's lies, as well as figuring out Lana's connection to her friend, Beck's, recent disappearance.
The Party By Elizabeth Day Released 2017 Martin Gilmour's best, best friend in the world is Ben Fitzmaurice. They met in high school. Since then Martin's followed around his rich, handsome friend with such fervor he's been branded the Little Shadow. It's clear to everyone but Martin that Ben's best friend is not Martin, though. So when someone becomes gravely injured at Ben's 40th birthday party, Martin and his wife, Lucy, are suspected to be involved. The four main players in this tale — Martin and his wife, and Ben and his wife — weave together a suspense thriller that reads like Gone Girl meets The Great Gatsby.
Before I Go To Sleep By S.J. Watson Released in 2012 If 50 First Dates were a suspense thriller, you'd get Before I Go To Sleep. After a car crash, Chrissie develops a form of amnesia in which her short-term memory is wiped every morning upon waking. She's unable to form new memories. And so, every morning, she must relearn who the man sleeping next to her is — her husband, Ben. One day, she finds a notebook that she'd been hiding. Within, she finds a foreboding message: "Do not trust Ben." And it's written in her own handwriting.
And Then There Were None By Agatha Christie Released in 1939 This mystery novel, considered to be Agatha Christie's greatest, is the kind of book you could devour in one long sitting. Boil a cuppa tea, put your feet up on the Ottoman, and lean back into this tale of a group of strangers lured to a house off the coast of England, each for a different reason. Then, one by one, they begin to die. Will the remaining inhabitants solve the crime before they're next?
The Silent Wife By A.S.A. Harrison Released 2013 As with the crumbling marriage at the heart of Gone Girl, Harrison paints a picture of a relationship through alternating accounts from a husband and wife in this well-plotted thriller. With its twist-a-page pace, you'll be gobbling down The Silent Wife with the same mad fury as you did Gone Girl.
Fates and Furies By Lauren Groff Released in 2015 As with Gone Girl, the marriage at the heart of Fates and Furies is a multi-faceted beast. The first half of the novel tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde's whirlwind romance and ensuing 20 years of marriage from the perspective of the exuberant, positive, and naive Lotto. Then, halfway through, Mathilde's voice is heard — and what she has to say will shock you. Groff's insanely beautiful prose makes the novel's compelling plot all the better.
Girl Last Seen By Nina Laurin Out June 20, 2017 When Olivia Shaw goes missing outside of her elementary school, a stranger, Lainey Moreno, can't stop following the case. A surviving of kidnapping herself, Lainey spent the last 13 years scanning the faces on missing posters to find a case which resembled her own. And now, she's found one. Not only are the circumstances of Olivia's kidnapping familiar, the little girl also happens to look just like Lainey. This is Lainey's chance to find the man who kidnapped her — but she'll have to confront her past in the process.
The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon Release 2001 In the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a young Spanish boy finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Captivated by the novel, Daniel seeks to find more of the author's works. Then, the boy discovers the shocking truth that someone has been systematically destroying all of Carax's books. As Daniel's obsession Carax grows, so does his involvement with the shadowy, literary underworld of 1945 Barcelona. Part romance, part fantasy, part gothic thriller, The Shadow of the Wind will have you up all night reading.
Rebecca By Daphne DuMaurier Released 1938 Lest you think that the psychological thriller originated with Gone Girl, here's proof that the origins of the genre stretch all the way back to 1938. I dare say that this mysterious, lush novel is the ultimate psychological thriller. The story begins when our young unnamed narrator moves to her new husband's estate, Manderley. Though Max de Winter is a widower, his new wife discovers that traces of the late Rebecca are all over the house — especially in the presence of Mrs. Danvers, the servant who remains loyal to Rebecca.
In the Woods By Tana French Released January 2007 Katy Devlin, a 12-year-old girl, is found dead at an archeological site in Dublin. Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are assigned to the case — the biggest case of their careers so far. But Ryan is shook by the similarities between Katy's murder and the murder of Rob's two best friends 20 years ago. Only Maddox is aware of Ryan's potential involvement in that long-ago crime, but soon, Ryan becomes a suspect in this one, too. This will leave you twisty and turny and floored by the identity of the killer.
The Chemist By Stephanie Meyer Released November 2016 We knew Meyer could write about vampires, but it turns out she's a master of thrillers, too. As Alex, or Casey, or Juliana, or whatever her name is at the moment, can tell you, it's not easy to be on the lamb. A while ago, this secret agent learned a bit too much about her employers, and now they're hell-bent on killing her. She lives in a state of paranoia, running from location to location and name to name. Soon, she gets a call from her boss, calling her in for one last mission. She's not sure who to believe, but still, she goes along with the kidnapping of a schoolteacher, Daniel Beach, who's supposedly involved with the design of a virus intended to wipe out the human race. Only problem with Mr. Beach? He's irresistibly attractive, and doesn't seem to be much of a villain at all.
Photo: Courtesy of Random House.
Night Film By Marisha Pessl Released August 2013 When Ashley Cordova, the daughter of legendary director Stanislas Cordova, commits suicide, disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects her father of foul play. But when he starts to dig into Ashley's death, Scott gets far more than he bargained for — and it turns out the truth could transcend the limitations of rational, scientific explanation.
Photo: Atria/Emily Bestler.
Everything You Want Me To Be By Mindy Mejia Released January 2017 Hattie Hoffman has spent her entire life up to this point playing different parts — the straight-A student, the dutiful daughter, the civically-minded teenager. So when she's found stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, her small town is torn apart by the tragedy, as well as the idea that Hattie's killer might be hidden in their midst. But things aren't always as they seem, and as the local sheriff seeks out the murderer, he finds out that Hattie had some dark secrets, unseeable from the surface. Told from alternating perspectives — Hattie's, the sheriff's, and a high school english teacher who has secrets of his own — Everything You Want To Be is a chilling and mesmerizing look at the final year of a young woman's life.
Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
The Passenger By Lisa Lutz Released March 2016 In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it... Thus begins Lisa Lutz's acclaimed thriller, about a woman on the lamb after her husband's body is found at the base of the stairs. Did she really do it? It's hard to tell until the final pages — but this book will keep you gripped, and guessing, until the very end.
Photo: Courtesy of Thomas & Mercer .
Moral Defense By Marcia Clarke Out November 8 In the years following the O.J. Simpson trial, Marcia Clark turned into a top-notch mystery writer. In the follow up to her bestseller Blood Defense, Clarke picks up with her character, defense attorney Samantha Brinkman, who is hired by legal aid when a teen named Cassie Sonnenberg is accused of fatally stabbing both her brother and father. Suddenly Sam is facing her biggest challenge yet. And it turns out, the maybe-murderer and her attorney have more in common than Sam ever could have imagined.
Photo: Little, Brown and Company.
You Will Know Me By Megan Abbott Released July 26 What lines would you cost to achieve your dream? That's a question that Katie Knox — mother of Devon, a gymnastic prodigy and Olympic hopeful — has to ask herself when a violent death rocks their close-knit community and she finds herself being drawn ever-deeper into the chilling details of the crime. There's always a price for ambition, and ultimately Katie must decide if she's willing to pay the steep cost.
Image: Random House.
The Last Days of Night By Graham Moore Released August 16 Devil in the White City fans, you'll adore this one. Picture it: It's New York City at the turn of the 20th century, and Paul Cravath is a newly minted lawyer from Columbia University who takes on a case that seems impossible to win. His client, George Westinghouse, is being sued by Thomas Edison over a claim about who invented the light bulb — and who will be the one to spread their glow across America. But the deeper Paul goes into the case, and into upper crust society, the clearer it becomes that his opponent is frighteningly formidable. Secret societies, private spites, vast fortunes — this book has it all. But the way all its stories fit together at the end will make you realize that everyone was playing their own game all along. But of course, only one will win.
Pretty Girls By Karin Slaughter Released in 2015 When they were teenagers, Claire and Lydia's middle sister, Julia, disappeared. Thie trauma tore their relationship apart. Now adults, the sisters barely speak. Claire's the wife of a millionaire. Lydia's in a relationship with an ex-con, and always struggles financially. The sisters are thrust back together when Claire's husband dies in a robbery. Desperate for an answer, Claire reconnects with Lydia and they begin to piece together the connections between the two crimes.
Dark Matter By Blake Crouch Out July 26 “Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before being knocked unconscious by his unknown abductor — and wakes up to a new life as someone else. His wife has been swapped out for another woman, and he doesn't have a son anymore. In this new version of existence, he's not just a college physics professor, but a genius who has achieved a truly remarkable, game-changing feat. But which version of Jason Dessen's life is real, and which one is the dream? That question is at the heart of this suspenseful thriller, which also asks how far we'll go to get what we want — and what we are willing to sacrifice to get it.
Photo: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
The Girl Before By Rena Olsen Out August 9 Claire Lawson's life with her husband and daughters is running along smoothly — until one day, a squad of armed men break into her house and tear her away from her family. The last thing she hears is her husband commanding her to say nothing. From there, the book spirals back to Claire's past: a tumultuous youth, escaping her family, falling in love with the son of her adoptive parents. But Claire's history is full of dark secrets, some of which she doesn't even remember herself. The more she finds out about herself, the more it becomes possible that the past could ruin her life as she knows it.
Photo: Pamela Dorman Books.
The Couple Next Door By Shari Lapena Out August 23 Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all: the gorgeous home, the loving relationship, the beautiful baby girl. But one night, while they're at a dinner party next door, a horrifying crime is committed. Investigators pounce on the case, but the more they delve into the details of the Conti's lives, the clearer it becomes that the couple has a trove of skeletons in the closet, and secrets that they've been keeping — from the world, and from one another — for years. If you loved The Girl on the Train, then take The Couple Next Door for a spin.
Image: Gallery/Scout Press.
The Woman in Cabin 10 By Ruth Ware Out July 19, 2016 Lo Blacklock is a travel writer whose latest assignment lands her on a luxury cruise line in the North Sea. At first, the trip is a dream — but the longer she's on the boat, the more it begins to seem like a nightmare. When a woman goes overboard one stormy night, it becomes clear that something dangerous is afoot. Especially when it turns out that all the passengers have been accounted for, and so the ship sails on without a second thought.
Image: Simon & Schuster.
All the Missing Girls
By Megan Miranda
Released June 28, 2016
Nic Farrell returns to her hometown to deal with some family affairs, but she never imagined that she'd be forced to relive the same nightmare that drove her away 10 years ago, when her best friend disappeared without a trace.
Now that she's back, another girl has gone missing. And as this page-turner presses forth, it becomes clear that maybe Nic knows more about what happened than she feels safe sharing. Fast-paced and frightening,
All the Missing Girls
will teach you why it's dangerous to go into the woods alone at night.
Read our full review of All the Missing Girls
Image: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo By Steig Larsson Released in 2011 By now, you probably have some inkling of what this best-selling mystery is about. (There was only so long anyone could hold out before watching the movie, right?) But just in case... Harriet Vanger is a member of one of Sweden's wealthiest families — but she's been missing for nearly half a century. Her uncle decides to investigate her disappearance, hiring journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his punk-prodigy assistant Lisbeth Salander to unearth the truth. But what they find is far more than anyone involved bargained for.
Strangers on a Train By Patricia Highsmith Released in 1950 Brought to you by the same author behind Carol, Strangers on a Train is the tale of two men who meet in a train car and agree to "trade" murders, so that neither will be a suspect in the death of their intended victim's death. Brilliantly plotted and hair-raising, this is an oldie but still one of the best. (And if you like it, we would highly recommend getting into all of Highsmith's other novels, The Talented Mr. Ripley among them.)
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The Trespasser By Tana French Out October 14, 2016 Tana French is a master of suspense, and her latest novel is no different from the rest of her canon: brilliant, fast-paced, and an undeniable page-turner you won't be able to put down until the final words have floated across the page. Detective Antoinette Conway was thrilled to join the murder squad, but the only colleague with whom she feels any connection is her partner, Stephen Moran. Their latest case looks like a lovers' quarrel, but the investigation reveals that there is a lot going on beneath the surface. Every time they think they have it solved, a new loose thread comes to light, and it's up to Antoinette to unravel it until the end.
The Good Girl By Mary Kubica Released in 2015 Mia Dennett walks into a bar one night to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend, but he never shows. So instead she makes the decision to leave with a stranger. Their one-night stand is going fine at first — but soon enough it sours, and the stranger kidnaps Mia. But there's much more going on here than a run-of-the-mill abduction: Her captor has an agenda. And the story only gets more terrifying once we realize what it is — and that time is running out.
Image: Broadway Books.
Sharp Objects By Gillian Flynn Released in 2007 There's no better way to recreate the Gone Girl suspense than to go back and reread books by the author who brought us that book. Gillian Flynn has several psychological thrillers under her belt, and this is our second favorite among them. Sharp Objects tells the story of reporter Camille Preaker, freshly released from a psych ward and on a new assignment: to return to her hometown and cover the murders of two tween girls. But uncovering the mystery behind who killed the girls forces Camille to confront her own family secrets — and inevitably, to fight for her own survival.
Image: Thomas & Mercer.
The Butterfly Garden By Dot Hutchison Released June 1, 2016 On the outside, the old, rundown mansion seems sort of romantic — especially when you get a peek at the beautiful garden housed in the expansive space. But look closer and you'll find that, among the flowers, are "butterflies": women who have been captured and tattooed by the Gardener, a twisted man obsessed with ensnaring and preserving his precious beauties. When the FBI raids the mansion, they find only one survivor, a young woman named Maya who lived to tell the story of what happened at the mansion. But the more secrets unspool, the more it becomes clear that Maya may not be telling the whole truth — and that she might have some secrets of her own to keep buried.
Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Good as Gone By Amy Gentry Out July 26, 2016 Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her childhood bedroom late one night when she was just 13 — and the only witness was her younger sister. Julie's disappearance shattered the family, but they never gave up hope that she was alive. One night, years later, a young woman who claims to be Julie shows up at the front door. She's welcomed with open arms — except by her mother, who hates to admit that she's not entirely sure that this girl is really her daughter. Partnering with a private eye, she tries to track down the truth. But it's dangerous to seek out secrets you don't really desire to find.
Image: Harper Paperbacks.
Before I Go to Sleep By S.J. Watson Released in 2012 After a horrible accident, Christine develops amnesia — and every day, she wakes up without knowing anything about her own life. Her husband has been protecting her from the world all this time, but as her memories begin to return, she realizes that there is no one she can trust — and that the only thing that can save her is to remember the truth about what happened the night of the accident.
Image: Grand Central Publishing.
Before the Fall By Noah Hawley Released May 31, 2016 One foggy summer night, 11 people depart on a private jet headed from Martha's Vineyard to New York. Less than 20 minutes later, the plane goes down — leaving only two survivors: a painter who didn't quite fit in with the crew, and a 4-year-old boy who is also the sole heir to his dead parents' vast media fortune. As for what happened that sent the aircraft into a tailspin — well, to find out, you have to go far back before the moment of liftoff.
Image: Simon & Schuster.
The Luckiest Girl Alive By Jessica Knoll Released in 2015 As a teenager at a prestigious high school, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking public humiliation — and became hellbent on self-reinvention. Years later, she's got everything she ever wanted: a killer job, an impressive wardrobe, a handsome fiancé. But she also has a secret — something that, if it came to the surface, could destroy her. But staying silent has its own devastating repercussions. Knoll's novel tackles the dark side to "having it all" — and the cost some women might go to achieve it.
Image: Vintage International.
In Cold Blood By Truman Capote Released in 1966 On November 15, 1959, in a small Kansas town, four members of the Clutter family were tortured and murdered in their home. There was never a clear motive, and very few clues. In this masterful reported work, Truman Capote retraces the steps that led to what has become one of the most notorious crimes in American history. Both terrifying and thrilling in the same breath, this book is proof that the most bone-chilling stories are often plucked from real life.
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