Looking for great psychological thriller books? This list offers mystery, unreliable narrators, and creepy serial killers. 5-star thrillers guaranteed!
I’ll lead with an unpopular book opinion- The Woman in the Window & The Silent Patient are not my favorite thrillers.
Embracing the unreliable narrator trope requires more than replicating the next Gillian Flynn Gone Girl experience. It must come with a good backstory and the writing chops to lead me down the wrong path.
Do these books exist?
You bet they do!
Today I’m sharing 12 thrillers to get your book stack started.
The Best Psychological Thriller Books To Read
Mary Kubica is a MomAdvice favorite and for a good reason. She writes some of the best psychological thrillers, and I’ve been sharing about her work since her debut (read my exclusive interview on that one).
In fact, I am such a fan that Mary graciously agreed to co-host the podcast with me to share about HER favorite psychological thrillers, so definitely give this episode a listen to learn more about her writing process and the books she loves.
Did you know that Local Woman Missing won the Audie Award? If you are looking for an audiobook to devour, I would recommend adding this to your listening stack.
Kubica builds a great twisty story that has the just right amount of suspense and whodunit fun that had me flipping the pages as fast as I could.
It is unusual for more than one person to go missing in a neighborhood, but that’s what happens in this story leaving one to wonder if these cases could be related. Not only do two women disappear, but a six-year-old little girl has also vanished.
Eleven years later, though, the child is found, and everyone wants to know where she could have been and how this is connected to the other disappearances.
This book is fast-paced, has inventive twists, and reads like a suspenseful film. I, truly, had zero idea where this was going and that made it a pleasure to read from start to finish.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Meaty enough to be a book club pick, shocking enough to have you holding your breath, and twisty enough to keep you guessing until the final pages. What more could a girl want in a thriller?
Motherhood doesn’t come naturally to everyone and Audrain shows how this can make connections with our children difficult, especially if we don’t have any example of what that looks like.
This is the case for Blythe who ends up having a child that is unusually difficult and where she struggles to find connection.
Is it because she hasn’t had the right example or is it because there really is something disturbing about her child?
The book shares Blythe’s story, but also shares the story of generations of women before her that have all had disturbing relationships with their children.
When a tragedy happens, the reader is left wondering if this is really brought on by the child or if Blythe’s past is just catching up to her.
Marigold struggles with anxiety after a bedbug situation in her home caused significant stress, among other difficult situations she has had to face.
Her newly blended family is embarking on a new journey, though it is just the change they all need. Her mom has accepted a new job, and one of these fun perks is rent-free living.
When they pull up to their newly renovated home, they realize that the neighborhood is unexpectedly creepy. All the houses are rundown, and the neighbors are less than welcoming.
But that isn’t the only thing that’s unwelcoming.
The house has a vibe to it that is deeply unsettling.
Jackson’s love for the Goosebumps series inspired this fast-paced YA psychological thriller. If you need a further endorsement, R.L. Stine said: “The creeps come on slowly, then start to build. I wanted to scream, but I was too busy to turn pages. I had to know.”
Marin seems to be leading the perfect life- a fantastic husband, a beautiful son, and a successful career.
Her life comes to a crashing halt when she is out shopping and her son is taken. In this split second of her looking away, her son goes missing, and her entire world is shattered.
One year later, Marin’s marriage is struggling, they still have been unable to find her son, and she is in a spiraling depression.
She hires a private investigator to reexamine the case as a last-ditch attempt.
What she digs up, though, isn’t information about Sebastian but surprising information about her husband that changes everything.
The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
This thriller doesn’t lean into the intoxicated woman trope or a therapist who suddenly has become the love interest in the couple’s story. For that, we are thankful.
Marissa and Matthew Bishop are the title’s “golden couple” who surprisingly found their perfect marriage in trouble. Who better get their marriage on track than Avery Chambers, whose controversial therapy methods have gotten her kicked out of traditional therapy settings and featured in headline news.
Her program guarantees results even if it explores beyond the boundaries of the traditional settings. As each viewpoint is revealed, the reader is led on a wild goose hunt on who offers the most reliable view since they ALL harbor a few secrets.
This writing duo delivers again on a fast-paced thriller with solid twists.
I love that they wrote in a few red herrings that had me fixating that I knew the endings or twists, but I was wrong.
Eliza is one of only two women who are hired as a programmer at a gaming company. Unfortunately, her presence isn’t welcomed, particularly in the programming department, where Eliza becomes a source of ridicule and is harassed.
When the incident is reported, her boss doesn’t take the necessary next steps and goes along with the “boys will be boys” toxic dialogue instead of addressing the issue correctly.
When Eliza takes the incident to a journalist, all hell breaks loose as people begin to demonize, target, and dangerously harass her. One user, in particular, has made it his mission to destroy Eliza for her actions.
Need a thriller you can finish in a single day? This novel from Lisa Jewell is just the ticket!
I am, admittedly, fascinated by cults and the power of charismatic leaders to manipulate people to do unthinkable things. I’m reading another cult thriller RIGHT NOW.
In this story, Libby returns home from work to find a letter written to her on her 25th birthday.
It is the letter that she has been waiting for all her life.
Within the note, she learns the identity of her birth parents and that she is the sole inheritor of an abandoned mansion in one of London’s most fashionable neighborhoods that are worth millions.
This house has a dark history that makes it less desirable than one might expect.
Twenty-five years ago, the police were called to this house because there were reports of a baby crying.
This baby, healthy and happy, was found in her crib- safe and sound.
Downstairs though, were three dead bodies, all dressed in black, and the other four children had mysteriously disappeared.
Get the surprising backstory in this twisty thriller.
Told from the husband’s perspective, we are quickly enveloped in how much he adores his wife. They seem like the perfect couple, and she does all the things any good wife would do. She’s beautiful, she keeps track of everyone’s activities, she makes incredible dinners, and they have a great romantic life.
It’s just that their new favorite hobby is working as a team to seduce and murder
This web of lies affects everyone in their house, like their poor unsuspecting children, and it becomes more and more difficult to keep anyone from finding out, especially when people turn up dead.
This added and believable suspense is what I loved about this story and kept me engaged until those final pages.
While Skye is over the moon to find her soulmate, her family and friends remain skeptical about Burke because she knows so little about him.
It doesn’t help that Burke doesn’t have a lot of friends or family to back up the story of his past.
Burke’s real story is deeply twisted with another woman, and Skye is about to find out why she has become the target of Burke’s affection and how deep his lies go.
This is one of those books that you should read as little as possible about and enjoy one of those crazy 24-hour stay-up-way-too-late thriller vibes.
Nina’s mom is a con artist who does her best to keep Nina in a good school and has given her the best childhood she can, despite her profession.
When Nina finds friendship with a wealthy boy at school, they find comfort in being outcasts together.
As their friendship blossoms into something more, they get busted by his father, and Nina is removed from the school and taken away from him.
Now Nina works as a high-end con artist herself; she scopes social media accounts for the fabulously wealthy, drugs them up, and then takes all she can from their home.
When she hits a rough financial patch, she remembers the boy she fell in love with…oh, and the passcode to the family safe that holds millions.
Lucy knows that she is not the wife that Diana has envisioned for her son. Lucy struggles with the distance Diana seems to create within them, despite her charitable spirit and working tirelessly for others as an advocate for female refugees.
When Diana unexpectedly dies of suicide, her family is surprised and realizes that her cancer diagnosis may have just been too much for her.
The autopsy shows that she never had cancer, but the body does show traces of poison and evidence of suffocation.
Diana’s complex relationships come into play as you try to piece together what has happened. Told in alternating points of view, through past and present, you realize just how many people had a motive in Diana’s death and how many layers she did have to her own story.
Trigger warnings galore- proceed with caution.
Leigh has been running from her past for twenty years, and the only one who knows the truth is her estranged sister. Callie hasn’t been a part of Leigh’s life as she battles a lifetime of addiction. Yet, the sisters must come together because time is running out, and life as they both know it could end.
I would suggest reading the letter to the reader BEFORE reading this one, which you will find tucked in at the back of this book.
Slaughter chose to set this story during pandemic times, and it is laced with all the daily dilemmas we are finding ourselves in with our current pandemic and why she felt it was important for this story.
This book is so gripping and has so many layers to it. The dynamics between how these two sisters weather the pandemic and the big moral dilemmas these two face make this an incredibly captivating read.
Looking for more thriller fun?
QUESTION: What’s the latest thriller you read that kept you up past your bedtime? Comment below!