Sure, there are the quick fix scares of a horror movie, but real thriller fans know the best scares are the ones that play with your mind. From award-winning masters of the genre to overnight debut successes, these psychological thriller books use the slow burn of suspense to get under your skin—and stay there.
The 7th Victim
In the first of Jacobson’s Karen Vail series, FBI profiler Vail is on the hunt for a serial killer known as “dead eyes” who’s been terrorizing the Fairfax County, Virginia. It’s bad timing. Karen is going through a divorce and dealing with an ailing mother. But despite her personal problems Karen’s gut tells her the secret to unlocking the case lies within its seventh victim. Can she solve the case in time to stop the killer and save her career?
Cage of Bones
Detective Phil Brennan and psychologist Marina Esposito have made a shocking discovery inside an abandoned house in a cage … made of bones. They’ve unwittingly stumbled upon the grisly work of a serial killer who's evaded their grasp for 30 years. In a terrifying marriage of horror and psychological suspense, this novel will chill you to the bone.
This darkly gripping novel by Josephine Hart follows a man who seemingly has everything, but his obsession with his son’s fiancée drives him into a reckless sexual frenzy from which his family can never recover. The basis for the 1992 movie adaptation starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche, Damage is a masterful psychological thriller that will make your blood run both hot and cold.
Purely by luck, Steve Harris evaded the fate of his mother and brother—murdered in cold blood by his father in 1959. Since then, Steve has tried to move on with his life, though his father was never brought to justice. Bad memories of that day are dredged up when an author decides to write a book about the crime, raising questions about Steve’s father, and his motivations that fateful day.
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From the creator and showrunner of the BBC series Luther, Kenny Drummond is going through a checklist of all those who touched his life as he’s dying from cancer. But when he reaches the name of his former schoolmate Callie Barton, all his attempts to locate her come up empty. Kenny vows to find out what happened to Callie—but does he have enough time?
Loosely based on the Parker-Hulme murder case which inspired the film Heavenly Creatures starring Kate Winslet, two bored teenage girls take up a strange mission for their summer vacation in this disturbing psychological thriller. The narrator and her best friend, the enigmatic Harriet, trap a local married man into a very dangerous game. How far will they take it? Well, it’s up to what Harriet says.
Fans of the movie Single White Female will recognize a familiar trope in this thrilling novel form Gillian White. Martha and Jennie are next door neighbors, and frenemies of sort, with Martha on top and Jennie struggling to fit in. When the tables are turned, what began as a harmless friendship turns into a dark obsession that can’t end well.
In Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s first terrifying novel, reporter Camille Preaker thinks she’s conquered her demons. But when she’s assigned to cover the the murders of two young girls, it turns out her demons are closer than they appear … in her own backyard, her own house … amongst her own family.
Sisters Claire and Lydia are bound by tragedy—their younger sister, Julia, disappeared into thin air more than 20 years ago. Since then, the remaining sisters have become estranged, living very different lives. But when Claire’s husband is murdered, the two women must reunite to come to terms with what connects these two devastating crimes.
Before I Go to Sleep
One of the most highly acclaimed debut novels of 2011, S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep is the epitome of psychological turmoil. The victim of a terrible accident, a woman cannot remember who she is or what happened to her, and must keep a journal in hopes of putting the pieces together. Fans of films like Memento or Shutter Island will love this New York Times bestseller, adapted into a movie version in 2014 starring Nicole Kidman by Alien director Ridley Scott.
A Place of Execution
This award-winning compelling thriller from Val McDermid contains two simultaneous narratives: One in 1963, as inspector George Bennett attempts to solve the case of a missing girl in England, and another in the present day, as journalist Catherine Heathcote who hopes to write a book about the case. But when Bennett, initially cooperative, stonewalls Heathcote, she becomes suspicious—what is he hiding?
The Judas Child
Since his twin sister was murdered 15 years ago, policeman Rouge Kendall is only consoled by knowing her killer was apprehended. But when two young girls disappear from a local school, the similarities in the crimes have Rouge wondering if his sister’s killer could still be on the loose.
Before the Fall
From the creator of the critically acclaimed Fargo on FX, comes the New York Times Bestseller Before the Fall. When a plane filled with 11 people crashes into the ocean on its way back from Martha’s Vineyard, the only survivors are a down-on-his-luck painter and the four-year-old son of one of the prominent families killed. As the investigation unfolds, the stories of those onboard indicate that perhaps the crash wasn’t an accident after all.
In the Blood
In this award-winning psychological thriller, college student Lana Granger is a compulsive liar whose always gotten away with her fabrications. But when she starts babysitting for a manipulative 11-year-old boy, her lies have met their match. When her best friend disappears, police attention turns to Lana. Can she tell the truth, even if it means implicating herself?
Margo, who lives in a derelict house with a negligent mother, finds purpose in life when a neighborhood girl goes missing. With the help of her neighbor, the wheelchair bound Judah, the two decide to investigate the disappearance themselves. But Margo and Judah’s newfound mission puts them both in serious danger.
Let Me Die in His Footsteps
Winner of the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Novel, Let Me Die in His Footsteps takes place in the lavender fields of Kentucky, where 15-year-old Annie Holleran ventures into forbidden territory one fateful night in 1952. Her discovery of a body reveals more than Annie had bargained for—and now she must confront her family’s deepest, darkest secret.