Fans of psychological thrillers have had a deliciously twisted selection of new books to read this summer, with unpredictable plots and captivating characters. If your to-be-read pile is running low, we’ve selected some of the best psychological thriller books of the year. Check out our recommendations below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
The Child by Fiona Barton
As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?
As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.
But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn — house by house — into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women — and torn between what she can and cannot tell…
The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author — a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.
Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…
Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.
Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly 30 years ago won’t stay buried forever…
Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling.
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door, a new thriller featuring a suspicious accident, a wife who can’t account for herself, and unsettling questions that threaten to tear the couple apart.
You’re home making dinner for your husband. You expect him any second.
The phone rings — it’s the call you hoped you’d never get.
You jump in your car and race to a neighborhood you thought you’d never visit.
You peer into the dark, deserted building. You brace yourself for the worst.
And then, you remember nothing else.
They tell your husband you’ve been in an accident. You lost control of your car as you sped through the worst side of town.
The police suspect you were up to no good. But your husband refuses to believe it. Your best friend is not so sure. And even you don’t know what to believe.
Final Girls by Riley Sager
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to — a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well — maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started 10 years ago is finished.
Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber
Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case — and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.
The only thing more dangerous than a lie… is the truth.
Josie Buhrman has spent the last 10 years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.
The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past — starting with her last name.
When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past — and the lies on which she has staked her future.
Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident… until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.
Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out — and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.
Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date — one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…
The next morning, three women in and around London — Fatima, Thea, and Isabel — receive the text they had always hoped would never come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”
The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other — ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).
Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed — which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style — The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.
It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan — a Berkeley mom with an enviable life — went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.
But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?
Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth — about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.
The Breakdown by B. A. Paris
If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods. It was on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, and a woman was sitting inside — the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm, and she probably would have been hurt herself if she’d stopped. Not only that, her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home.
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing. Where she left the car; if she took her pills; even the alarm code.
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.
And the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…
You won’t be able to put down B. A. Paris’s The Breakdown, the next chilling, propulsive novel from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors.
The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?
Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.
When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…
With its brilliant rendering of a shocking kidnapping plot and the secrets some women hold close, The Secrets She Keeps delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.
Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: 15-year-old Cass and 17-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up.
Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.
Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon
In a bustling suburban neighborhood in Manchester, England, sits an unassuming house. There is no sign of life behind the unwashed windows, but Robin Marshall is inside. Driven by fears and obsessions, racked by anxiety, Robin is frantically pushing her body through punishing workouts, eating little, haunted by what happened to her family when she was a girl. Robin’s only connection to the outside world is through her rear windows and the lives she spies upon in the apartment house across the way. Then a stranger starts pounding on her door.
Sarah Marshall is Robin’s twin, estranged from her sister after their parents’ betrayal and a violation at the hands of a man she should have been able to trust. Sarah has recently lost custody of the child she loves more than anything and has set off on her own, hoping that somewhere in England she can find Robin, the braver twin, the rock star, the survivor, the savior.
These two young women, polar opposites, cannot go on unless they reckon with the past. While Sarah, slowly unraveling, searches for her sister’s hiding place, Robin sees another life hanging in the balance in the lighted windows across the street. It is a life only Robin can save — as long as she never looks away.
In a novel that is stunning in its twists, shocks, and gripping psychological suspense, two sisters find themselves on the razor’s edge of sanity. Untold secrets, a ghastly lie, and suffocating guilt hold them back. Only one astounding act can set them free. And one last revelation will leave readers gasping in surprise.
The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter….
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother 40 whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father 41.
Or did she?
In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most spellbinding murder cases of all time into a sensitive and humane portrait of two sisters caught inside a volatile household — and what it means to be free and truly loved.
On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid Bridget: Someone’s killed father. The discovery of the brutal axe-murders of Andrew and Abby Borden under their own roof in Fall River, Massachusetts paralyzes the small community. No one can understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens. But secret witnesses to the crime have a different tale to tell — of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful step-mother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.
As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? Before or after she last spoke to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Through the overlapping perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, we return to what happened on that fateful day.
The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer
On Ruby’s 13th birthday, a wish she didn’t even know she had suddenly comes true: The couple who raised her aren’t her parents at all. Her real mother and father are out there somewhere, and Ruby becomes determined to find them.
Venturing into the forest with nothing but a suitcase and the company of her only true friend — the imaginary Shadow Boy — Ruby discovers a group of siblings who live alone in the woods. The children take her in, and while they offer the closest Ruby’s ever had to a family, Ruby begins to suspect that they might need her even more than she needs them. And it’s not always clear what’s real and what’s not — or who’s trying to help her and who might be a threat.
Told from shifting timelines, and the alternating perspectives of teenage Ruby; her mother, Anna; and even the Shadow Boy, The Doll Funeral is a dazzling follow-up to Kate Hamer’s breakout debut, The Girl in the Red Coat, and a gripping, exquisitely mysterious novel about the connections that remain after a family has been broken apart.
Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
In this “compelling, clever, and dark” (Heat magazine) thriller, a man’s shocking act of savagery stuns a local community — and the revelations that follow will keep you gripped until the very last page. This work of psychological suspense, a #1 bestseller in Ireland, is perfect for fans of Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Ware.
“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”
So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel — a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.
Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease — until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.
In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.
With its alternating points of view and deft prose, Unraveling Oliver is “a page-turning, one-sitting read from a brand new master of psychological suspense” (Sunday Independent) that details how an ordinary man can transform into a sociopath.
The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti
Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.
“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…
Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”
In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.
Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alicia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar… and leaving Alicia to wonder if her husband has a second life.
And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.
Told from the alternating points of view of Alicia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.
Release date: September 26
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