Are They Guilty? Pleasures: The Best Psychological Thrillers

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Ever since I read Gone Girl along with the rest of the general population in the summer of 2012, I’ve had a soft spot for psychological thrillers. They may not be heavy on the intellectual stimulation, but they certainly do the trick when you’re looking to distract yourself or keep busy. Since I’ve had so many excellent thrillers recommended to me, and recommended so many to others that they’ve loved, I thought that this might be a good place to round up all of the reads in that genre, whether or not I’ve reviewed them before, to provide those interested with a comprehensive guide. Also, pro tip: these types of books are the best to give to people who ‘hate reading’ or ‘never read, but would love to read more’ [otherwise known as half of the general population]. Here we go:

  1. In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware

Find out what happens when two old friends reconnect at one of their bachelorette [known in this British book as a ‘Hen’] parties—that just so happens to be held in a conveniently spooky glass house in the middle of the woods. Full review here

  1. Disclaimer, Rene Knight

This Summer 2015 honestly didn’t take off like I thought it would—and did not get anywhere near the recognition it deserved. It’s a far better and more intense version of Gone Girl, in which a filmmaker, Catherine, notices a manuscript on her coffee table that she’s never noticed before—only to open it and realize it is a transcript of the ‘worst thing she’s ever done.’ The plot twists in this one are insane.

  1. Her, Harriet Lane

Her and the subsequent two books on this list, were recommended to me by my friend Molly, a fellow thriller enthusiast. While the ending leaves a bit to be desired, the rest of the book—the story of Emma, a frumpy young mother, and Nina, a posh London artist, strike up a friendship that makes no sense…until it becomes clear that Nina’s playing a long game.

  1. What She Knew, Gilly Macmillan

Macmillan spins a seriously twisty tale about a recently divorced mother who lets her son run ahead of her one day during a walk in the woods…and goes missing. I’m generally good at guessing the guilty party when it comes to books like these, but this one kept me on the edge of my seat ‘til the end.

  1. Precious Thing, Colette McBeth

Rachel and Clara have been best friends forever. But when they both realize they’re drifting apart, they set up a date to meet for drinks. Clara, the exuberant and popular half of their duo, never shows up—and she never comes home that night. When her roommate reports her as missing, wallflower Rachel is thrust into the spotlight, first as an informant, but ultimately…as a suspect.

  1. The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls is a genre-bending novel that chronicles a time traveling killer named Harper Curtis, responsible for killing a specific ‘shining’ [in a not-so-subtle nod to Stephen King] girl in each decade, and his struggle to kill Kirby Mazrachi, the final girl. Bear with me, because I know it sounds weird…and it is actively scary, but Beukes writes well and manages to make the ridiculous scenario somehow feasible.

 

  1. The Shining, Stephen King

The Shining, The Ring, and The Sixth Sense are in a genre of their own: “the first scary movie you ever saw.” While Nicholson’s “HEEREEEEE’S JOHNNY” will be forever remembered as a classic, too many people assume the movie is the be-all, end-all, and miss out on the book. The plot is the same, but—take my word for it—the book is much scarier.

 

  1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Steig Larsson

I read this one during freshman year of college, and tried to start the second one but was unable to get into it [though I never do this, I think I may reread this one and then try the series again]. The book follows disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and rogue detective Lisbeth Salander researching a disappearance that has been left unsolved for forty years. The first 100 pages are a bit slow, but once you get to the heart of the book, you won’t be able to put it down.

9. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote 

Much like The Shining, this is a classic, but while many know about it, few have actually read Capote’s book, which details the quadruple murder of the Clutters, a family living in Holcomb, Kansas in the 1960s. It’s the only true crime book on this list, but it’s worth including amongst the others for it’s similarly absorbing plot and creepy vibe.

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