Women authors tend to dominate a few different book genres, including romance novels, cozy mysteries, and of course, psychological thrillers. Each one of the books below features a female main character who finds herself in a terrifying situation—from crime thrillers to domestic thrillers to a book based on true, horrifying events, these gripping reads are sure to keep you hooked until the last page.
This list of recommendations fulfills one of our 2021 Summer Reading Challenge prompts. Sign up to participate in the challenge now!
The Woman Before Me
Rose Wilks' world feels completely broken when her newborn son is taken into intensive care. Emma Hatcher seems to have everything Rose doesn't: good looks, a healthy son, a loving husband. Until something terrible happens, and Rose is the only suspect.
Five years later, Rose is up for parole. Her probation officer Cate must determine whether Rose is still a threat to society. But as she hears Rose's story, the lines between love and obsession begin to blur, and Cate starts to doubt her own judgment.
"Once you start Catherine Burns’s dark, disturbing, and enthralling debut novel, it’s hard to stop. The Visitors is bizarrely unsettling, yet compulsively readable." —Iain Reid, author of I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Middle-aged Marion Zetland lives with her controlling older brother, John, in a dilapidated townhouse near a seaside resort. She knows he's hiding something terrible in their basement, but does her best to avoid the truth. But when John unexpectedly dies from a heart attack, Marion can't ignore what's in the basement any longer.
Related: 35 Psychological Thriller Books That Mess With Your Mind
The Lies Within
After her daughter's body is found in a Leicestershire country lane, Grace is devastated. As her family is in tatters and the investigation has no leads, Grace's only relief comes from Faye, an old friend who comes back into her life just when she needs her most.
But when another body turns up, Grace emerges as the only suspect. Now it's up to DI Will Jackman to untangle the case, before Grace is put away for a crime she didn't commit.
She Be Damned
If you're looking for a new mystery series to fall in love with, then we highly suggest starting with the first novel in the Heloise Chancey mysteries. Set in Victorian London, professional detective Heloise Chancey is more than familiar with the city's dark side, and excels at solving cases that leave the police stumped.
Her newest case involves a serial killer who has been leaving victims in Waterloo. Heloise is slowly untangling the case, but when her friend and maid Amah Li Leen turns out to be involved, she realizes she can't trust anyone.
Taiwanese-American tourist Vivian is a young, busy woman who loves to travel, and is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Johnny is a 15-year-old Irish teen who grew up on the margins of society—where Vivian sees possibility, Johnny has only ever been shown crime and violence.
When the two cross paths in West Belfast, something horrifying happens, and both are left dealing with the aftermath. Based on a true assault from Li's own life, this novel shines a light on the cruelty of the justice system, the difficulties of being a survivor, and the ways society has failed the people who commit such horrific crimes.
The Hidden Hours
After an office Christmas party, Arabella Lane's body is found in the Thames. Only the office temp, Eleanor, may know the truth about what happened—but she doesn't remember anything from the hours leading up to Arabella's death.
Now Eleanor is facing accusations from everyone, and she has no idea who she can trust...including herself.
She Chose Me
Grace has never had children of her own, but after returning to London to manage her dying mother's affairs, she begins receiving blank Mother's Day cards, followed by silent phone calls. Now Grace is starting to remember...and starting to unravel.
"A compelling page-turner with a satisfying ending and a late twist that I didn’t see coming"—Susan Elliot Wright, author of The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood
The Shadow Bird
Erin Cartwright has been a psychiatrist at a New York clinic for just three months when she's asked to evaluate the case of a man who murdered his mother and sister at 17 years old. Found not guilty for reasons of insanity, he was held in a maximum security psychiatric facility for 27 years and is now eligible for release.
Upon realizing she once visited the village where the crime took place as a child, Erin at first wants to refuse the case. But then an old memory resurfaces, and Erin realizes the wrong man might have been behind bars all these years.
The Truth Will Out
During a video call, Eva witnesses something horrible—her friend, Naomi, has been attacked. Fearing for her own safety, Eva flees her home. Now it's up to DCI Helen Lavery to figure out who would want to kill Naomi. But she needs to hurry, before the killer catches up to her and Eva first.
Sea of Bones
Juliet is devastated upon finding out her niece committed suicide—and has a lot of trouble accepting that it was a suicide at all. Though everyone else accepts the coroner's report, Juliet decides to delve deeper into the case. But almost immediately, she finds herself up against a threatening opposition who seem intent on making sure she drops her investigation.