Our latest list of best psychological chiller novels by women authors has it all: From classics by Shirley Jackson and Sue Grafton, to sensational writers like Gillian Flynn, there is something for every taste.
With the exception of Gillian Flynn, we have limited the number of titles for each author to one, in order to introduce you to as many great voices as possible. Our list also includes a select group of novels from Scandinavia and Britain in case some readers want to venture into non-U.S. psychological thrillers.
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.
Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.
Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town.
Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.
3. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. Catherine Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.
But what begins as flattering attentiveness and passionate sex turns into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon learns there is a darker side to Lee. His increasingly erratic, controlling behaviour becomes frightening, but no one believes her when she shares her fears. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine plans a meticulous escape.
Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine—now Cathy—compulsively checks the locks and doors in her apartment, trusting no one. But when an attractive upstairs neighbour, Stuart, comes into her life, Cathy dares to hope that happiness and love may still be possible . . . until she receives a phone call informing her of Lee’s impending release.
Soon after, Cathy thinks she catches a glimpse of the former best friend who testified against her in the trial; she begins to return home to find objects subtly rearranged in her apartment, one of Lee’s old tricks. Convinced she is back in her former lover’s sights, Cathy prepares to wrestle with the demons of her past for the last time.
4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life–as she sees it–is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
5. Behind a Twisted Smile (#2 Dark Minds) by Faith Mortimer. What do you do when an ex-lover won’t take “no” for an answer? Moya thinks Martyn will eventually take the hint – but the rejected lover has no such intention.
Three weeks later, Moya meets her older sister Evie at a picnic, and learns that she has recently met the man of her dreams. Only problem is – He’s Moya’s spurned ex.
Almost at once, Moya finds herself in a long and terrifying ordeal; she has to deal with an adversary who loves playing sinister mind games, all under the guise of his twisted smile.
As the months slip away, the mental battles with Martyn move insidiously towards physical conflict. A conflict where only one person will step away Alive!
6. The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings. At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving.
Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will’s painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences.
But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband s past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal and revenge.
7. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. The novel follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.
At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.
8. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath.
On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she?
9. Now You See Me (Lacey Flint, #1) by Sharon Bolton. One night after interviewing a reluctant witness at a London apartment complex, Lacey Flint, a young detective constable, stumbles onto a woman brutally stabbed just moments before in the building’s darkened parking lot.
Within twenty-four hours a reporter receives an anonymous letter that points out alarming similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper’s first murder—a letter that calls out Lacey by name. If it’s real, and they have a killer bent on re-creating London’s bloody past, history shows they have just five days until the next attempt.
No one believes the connections are anything more than a sadistic killer’s game, not even Lacey, whom the killer seems to be taunting specifically. However, as they investigate the details of the case start reminding her more and more of a part of her past she’d rather keep hidden. And the only way to do that is to catch the killer herself.
10. Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes. Genevieve has finally achieved her dream: to leave the stress of London behind and start a new life aboard a houseboat in Kent. She’s found the perfect vessel: Revenge of the Tide. She already feels less lonely; as if the boat is looking after her.
But the night of her boat-warming party, a body washes up, and to Genevieve’s horror, she recognizes the victim. She isn’t about to tell the police, though; hardly anyone knows about her past as a dancer at a private members’ club, The Barclay. The death can’t have anything to do with her. Or so she thinks.
Soon, the lull of the waves against Revenge feels anything but soothing, as Genevieve begins to receive strange calls and can’t reach the one person who links the present danger with her history at the club. Fearing for her safety, Genevieve recalls the moment when it all started to go wrong: the night she saw her daytime boss in the crowd at The Barclay.
11. Backlands by Belinda Bauer. Eighteen years ago, Billy Peters disappeared. Everyone in town believes Billy was murdered—after all, serial killer Arnold Avery later admitted killing six other children and burying them on the same desolate moor that surrounds their small English village.
Only Billy’s mother is convinced he is alive. She still stands lonely guard at the front window of her home, waiting for her son to return, while her remaining family fragments around her.
But her twelve-year-old grandson Steven is determined to heal the cracks that gape between his nan, his mother, his brother, and himself. Steven desperately wants to bring his family closure, and if that means personally finding his uncle’s corpse, he’ll do it.
Spending his spare time digging holes all over the moor in the hope of turning up a body is a long shot, but at least it gives his life purpose. Then at school, when the lesson turns to letter writing, Steven has a flash of inspiration.
Careful to hide his identity, he secretly pens a letter to Avery in jail asking for help in finding the body of “W.P.”—William “Billy” Peters. So begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.
Just as Steven tries to use Avery to pinpoint the gravesite, so Avery misdirects and teases his mysterious correspondent in order to relive his heinous crimes. And when Avery finally realizes that the letters he’s receiving are from a twelve-year-old boy, suddenly his life has purpose too. Although his is far more dangerous.
12. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.
When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.
13. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.
When reclusive writer Leonora is invited to the English countryside for a weekend away, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. But as the first night falls, revelations unfold among friends old and new, an unnerving memory shatters Leonora’s reserve, and a haunting realization creeps in: the party is not alone in the woods.
14. Precious Thing by Colette McBeth. Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last forever.
They met in high school when Rachel was the shy, awkward new girl and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Instantly, they fell under one another’s spell and nothing would be the same again. Now in their late twenties Rachel has the television career, the apartment and the boyfriend, while Clara’s life is spiraling further out of control. Yet despite everything, they remain inextricably bound.
Then Rachel’s news editor assigns her to cover a police press conference, and she is shocked when she arrives to learn that the subject is Clara, reported missing. Is it abduction, suicide or something else altogether?
15. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all.
You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.
But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable. Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim.
Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows. Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.
16. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.
Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.
What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.
17. Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant. Gaby Mortimer is the woman who has it all. But everything changes when she finds a body near her home. She’s shaken and haunted by the image of the lifeless young woman, and frightened that the killer, still at large, could strike again.
Before long, the police have a lead. The evidence points to a very clear suspect. One Gaby never saw coming…
Full of brilliant twists and turns, Under Your Skin is a dark and suspenseful psychological thriller that will make you second guess everything. Because you can never be too sure about anything, especially when it comes to murder.
18. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. During a picnic at her family’s farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday.
Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—whose lives are forever after entwined.
19. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister.
Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers–with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.
The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building’s other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin’s devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery.
As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt’s neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including–perhaps–their aunt, who can’t seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.
20. The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall. Emma has everything Rose lacks: a faithful husband, beauty, and a healthy baby boy. Rose meets her in the hospital after her own baby dies from premature birth, and when Emma’s child dies in a suspicious house fire shortly after, the obsessive and unstable Rose is the primary suspect.
Now, after almost five years in prison, Rose is up for parole, but probation officer Cate Austin must first decide whether this accused murderer can be released or if she really is a threat to society.
The answer seems obvious at first, but as Cate delves deeper into Rose’s disturbing past—a suicidal mother, a distant father, on her own at a young age—the probation officer becomes entangled in the inmate’s dark world.
21. Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline. Dr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer General Hospital outside of Philadelphia. Recently separated from his wife Alice, he is doing his best as a single Dad to his seven-year-old daughter Hannah.
His work seems to be going better than his home life, however. His unit at the hospital has just been named number two in the country, and Eric has a devoted staff of doctors and nurses who are as caring as Eric is. But when he takes on a new patient, Eric’s entire world begins to crumble.
Seventeen-year-old Max has a terminally ill grandmother and is having trouble handling it. That, plus his OCD and violent thoughts about a girl he likes makes Max a high risk patient. Max can’t turn off the mental rituals he needs to perform every fifteen minutes that keep him calm.
With the pressure mounting, Max just might reach the breaking point. When the girl is found murdered, Max is nowhere to be found. Worried about Max, Eric goes looking for him and puts himself in danger of being seen as a “person of interest” himself.
Next, one of his own staff turns on him in a trumped up charge of sexual harassment. Is this chaos all random? Or is someone systematically trying to destroy Eric’s life?
22. The Book of You by Claire Kendal. A mesmerizing tale of psychological suspense about a woman who must fight to escape an expert manipulator determined to possess her, Claire Kendal’s debut novel is a sophisticated and disturbing portrait of compulsion, control, and terror that will appeal to fans of Before I Go to Sleep, The Silent Wife, and Into the Darkest Corner.
His name is Rafe, and he is everywhere Clarissa turns. At the university where she works. Her favorite sewing shop. The train station. Outside her apartment. His messages choke her voice mail; his gifts litter her mailbox. Since that one regrettable night, his obsession with her has grown, becoming more terrifying with each passing day. And as Rafe has made clear, he will never let her go.
Clarissa’s only escape from this harrowing nightmare is inside a courtroom—where she is a juror on a trial involving a victim whose experiences eerily parallel her own. There she finds some peace and even makes new friends, including an attractive widower named Robert, whose caring attentions make her feel desired and safe. But as a disturbingly violent crime unfolds in the courtroom, Clarissa realizes that to survive she must expose Rafe herself.
Conceiving a plan, she begins collecting the evidence of Rafe’s madness to use against him—a record of terror that will force her to relive every excruciating moment she desperately wants to forget. Proof that will reveal the twisted, macabre fairy tale that Rafe has spun around them . . . with an ending more horrifying than her darkest fears.
23. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.
Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution.
But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.
What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.
24. The Pachinko Girl by Vann Chow. An American businessman Smith who loved to linger in Pachinko parlors every night in his lonely life as a foreigner in Tokyo met Misa, a young Japanese hostess working there by chance. He quickly found out that Misa was entangled into a web of gang-controlled business operations that involved illegal drugs distribution, money laundering and prostitution beneath the harmless facade of Pachinko casinos.
Knowing her personal woes, he gave her his winnings to help her out to survive a difficult patch and change paths. That large sum of money quickly incriminated them to false accusation of sex trade. Meanwhile, a film director Tanaka investigated the death of his idol Sergey Ribery, the legendary French arthouse movie-maker who happened to have filmed Misa in his last work in which she was seemingly strangled to death in the story.
Tanaka sought the help of a psychologist who may shed some light into the strange casts of characters involved in the case, but the doctor was later murdered. Who did this? And what was he or she trying to cover up?
25. A Dark-adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell. Faith Severn has never understood why the willful matriarch of her high-society family, aunt Vera Hillyard, snapped and murdered her own beloved sister. But long after Vera is condemned to hang, a journalist’s startling discoveries allow Faith to perceive her family’s story in a new light.
Set in post–World War II Britain, A Dark-Adapted Eye is both a gripping mystery and a harrowing psychological portrait of a complex woman at the head of a troubled family. Called “a rich, beautifully crafted novel” by P. D. James, Time magazine has described its author as “the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world.”
26. Split Second by Cath Staincliffe. On a winter’s evening, a trio of unruly teenagers board a bus, ganging up on Luke Murray, threatening to kill him. No one intervenes until Jason Barnes, a young student, challenges the gang. Luke seizes the chance to run off the bus, but he’s followed. Andrew Barnes is dragged from the shower by his wife Valerie: there’s a fight in the garden and Jason’s trying to break it up.
As Andrew rushes to help, the gang flees. Jason shouts for an ambulance for Luke, but it is he who will pay the ultimate price. As Valerie and Andrew are faced by the devastating loss of their only child, their grief affects them in different ways.
27. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. Kim Edwards’s stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever.
He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century—in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that winter night long ago.
A family drama, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter explores every mother’s silent fear: What would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you? It is also an astonishing tale of love and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets are finally uncovered.
28. Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach. A sheltered young woman raised by a single mother, Leila often struggled to connect with the girls at school. On an internet community for philosophical and ethical debate, she finally comes into her own, and is flattered when the website’s brilliant, charismatic founder invites her to be part of Project Tess.
Communicating only through online channels, Leila immerses herself in Tess’s world. She must learn every detail about this other woman’s life: her mother’s birthday, her favorite songs, her best friends, her first kiss. Because soon, Leila will have to become her. And Tess will disappear.
29. You Can Trust Me by Sophie McKenzie. On a quiet, sunny Sunday morning, Livy arrives at her best friend Julia’s apartment for a lunch date only to find her dead. Though all the evidence supports it, Livy cannot accept the official ruling of suicide; the Julia she remembers was loud, inappropriate, joyful, outrageous and loving, not depressed.
The suspicious circumstances cause Livy to dig further, and she is suddenly forced to confront a horrifying possibility: that Julia was murdered, by the same man who killed Livy’s sister, Kara, eighteen years ago.
Desperate to understand the tragedies of her past and hold her unraveling life together, Livy throws herself into the search for Kara and Julia’s killer, who she now believes is someone close to her family. But if that is true, can she still trust anyone? Damien, the man Julia was secretly dating? Leo, her husband’s boss and a close family friend? His son Paul, her husband’s best mate since college? Or even Will, her own dear husband, who has betrayed her perhaps one time too many?
And when Livy finally faces her sister’s killer, and he traps her with one horrible, impossible choice, she must finally decide: is she strong enough to trust herself?
30. The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5) by Tana French. A year ago a boy was found murdered at a girlsʼ boarding school, and the case was never solved. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of the boy with the caption: “I know who killed him.”
Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case—beneath the watchful eye of Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined.
31. In Her Footsteps by Ruth Harrow. Harriet is trapped in an unhappy marriage to her abusive husband, Dan. She dreams of a life where she does not have to live in constant fear. One night, she finally summons the courage and makes the life-changing decision to leave him behind for good. She leaves with only a suitcase and a closely-guarded box she is terrified of anyone discovering…
Eighteen-months on, Harriet has her freedom. Or does she? She is living her lifelong dream of running a successful art gallery. She should be happy, but things are not what they appear. Her perfect world is plagued by crippling anxiety and disturbing nightmares. Dark secrets from her past threaten to tear her new world apart.
Why is she so terrified of her own family finding her? Can she ever truly escape the past? Soon, Harriet will learn that running from her worst fears is a dangerous mistake and one that will have deadly consequences.
32. The Reckoning (Maeve Kerrigan, #2) by Jane Casey. To the public, he’s a hero: a brutal killer who targets sex offenders. To most of London’s police force, he’s the suspect in a gruesome, time-consuming case to be avoided. But to Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan, he’s a murderer—no matter the sins of his victims—and catching him is her job.
Assigned to the case with the division’s unreadable new DI, Josh Derwent, young and inexperienced Maeve is determined to prove she has what it takes to make it as a female in the tough world of the London police.
But for a killer who strikes with such spectacle, this one is proving remarkably elusive. And when Maeve learns his motive might be about exacting revenge, his acts of incredible violence move from abstract justice to the intensely personal, and become all the more terrifying.
Unsure whom she can trust even within her own department and knowing her life is at stake, Maeve will have to decide how far she’s willing to go to ensure justice is served.
33. The Back Road by Rachel Abbott. When a young girl, Abbie Campbell, is knocked over and left for dead on the back road of the village of Little Melham, waves of shock ripple through the small community and a chain of events, which threatens to expose long-kept secrets, is triggered.
For Ellie Saunders, the truth about that night puts both her marriage and the safety of her children in jeopardy–she has to protect her family, no matter what the cost. And Ellie isn’t the only one with something to hide. She and her sister Leo believe they have put their troubled childhood behind them, but Leo’s quest for the truth reveals a terrible secret that has lain hidden for years.
Ellie’s neighbour, former detective Tom Douglas, has escaped to Little Melham in search of a quiet life, but finds himself drawn into the web of deceit as his every instinct tells him that what happened to young Abbie was far more than a tragic accident.
34. Evil Games (D.I. Kim Stone, #2) by Angela Marsons. When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.
With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.
Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.
35. Black Out by Lisa Unger. On the surface, Annie Powers’s life in a wealthy Florida beach neighborhood is happy and idyllic. Her husband, Gray, loves her fiercely; together, they dote on their beautiful young daughter, Victory. But the bubble surrounding Annie is pricked when she senses that the demons of her past have resurfaced and, to her horror, are now creeping up on her.
These are demons she can’t fully recall because of a highly dissociative state that allowed her to forget. Disturbing events trigger strange and confusing memories for Annie, who realizes she has to quickly piece them together before her past comes to claim her future…and her daughter.
36. Destroyer Angel (Anna Pigeon, #18) by Nevada Barr. Anna Pigeon, a ranger for the U.S. Park Services, sets off on vacation—an autumn canoe trip in the to the Iron Range in upstate Minnesota. With Anna is her friend Heath, a paraplegic; Heath’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth; Leah, a wealthy designer of outdoor equipment; and her daughter, Katie, who is thirteen.
For Heath and Leah, this is a shakedown cruise to test a new cutting edge line of camping equipment. The equipment, designed by Leah, will make camping and canoeing more accessible to disabled outdoorsmen.
On their second night out, Anna goes off on her own for a solo evening float on the Fox River. When she comes back, she finds that four thugs, armed with rifles, pistols, and knives, have taken the two women and their teenaged daughters captive.
With limited resources and no access to the outside world, Anna has only two days to rescue them before her friends are either killed or flown out of the country, in Destroyer Angel, the New York Times bestseller by Nevada Barr.
37. How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman. Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector.
He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife—as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day.
But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of a blonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember—or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her.
As Marta’s visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something.
38. Lake of Sorrows (Nora Gavin, #2) by Erin Hart. American pathologist Nora Gavin has come to the Irish midlands to examine a body unearthed at a desolate spot known as the Lake of Sorrows. As with all the artifacts culled from its prehistoric depths, the bog has effectively preserved the dead man’s remains—his multiple wounds suggest he was the victim of an ancient pagan sacrifice known as “triple death.”
But signs of a more recent slaying emerge when a second body, bearing a similar wound pattern, is found—this one sporting a wristwatch.
Someone has come to this quagmire to sink their dreadful handiwork—and Nora soon realizes that she is being pulled deeper into the land and all it holds: the secrets to a cache of missing gold, a tumultuous love affair with archaeologist Cormac Maguire, and the dark mysteries and desires of the workers at the site.
As they draw closer to the truth, Nora and Cormac must exercise the utmost caution to avoid becoming the next victims of a ruthless killer fixated on the gruesome notion of triple death.
39. Accidents Happen by Louise Millar. Kate Parker has weathered unimaginable horrors—her parents died in a traffic accident on her wedding night, and her husband, Hugo, was murdered in a tragic break-in gone wrong. All she has left is her young son, Jack, and determined to make a better future for him, she attempts to pull her life back together. But are she and her son safe?
40. Out by Natsuo Kirino. Nothing in Japanese literature prepares us for the stark, tension-filled, plot-driven realism of Natsuo Kirino’s award-winning literary mystery Out.
This mesmerizing novel tells the story of a brutal murder in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches strangles her abusive husband and then seeks the help of her coworkers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.
The coolly intelligent Masako emerges as the plot’s ringleader but quickly discovers that this killing is merely the beginning, as it leads to a terrifying foray into the violent underbelly of Japanese society.
At once a masterpiece of literary suspense and pitch-black comedy of gender warfare, Out is also a moving evocation of the pressures and prejudices that drive women to extreme deeds and the friendships that bolster them in the aftermath.
41. Close-up by Esther Verhoef. Pudgy, plain, and newly single, Margot feels simultaneously invisible and entirely exposed, all her vulnerabilities on shameful display. She has a vague memory of having had friends or at least a social circle, but those easy pleasures now feel entirely beyond her grasp.
Yet after a weekend in London she finds herself, astonishingly, taken up by a thrillingly bohemian, artsy crowd and the irresistibly glamorous and powerfully sexual photographer at their center. No food, Margot understands that she?s being used, even if she doesn’t understand exactly how or why.
And though readers will imagine they know what lies in wait for Margot, the conclusion of this award-winning thriller will surprise everybody.
42. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. One of the most terrifying stories of the twentieth century, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948. “Power and haunting,” and “nights of unrest” were typical reader responses. Today it is considered a classic work of short fiction, a story remarkable for its combination of subtle suspense and pitch-perfect descriptions of both the chilling and the mundane.
The Lottery and Other Stories, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson’s lifetime, unites “The Lottery” with twenty-four equally unusual short stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson’s remarkable range — from the hilarious to the horrible, the unsettling to the ominous — and her power as a storyteller.
43. Between You and Me by Lisa Hall. They say every marriage has its secrets. But no one sees what happens behind closed doors. And sometimes those doors should never be opened.
Sal and Charlie are married. They love each other. But they aren’t happy. Sal cannot leave, no matter what Charlie does – no matter how much it hurts.
44. The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish. ‘Exquisitely written and addictively dark. Sheer perfection’ Clare Mackintosh The Swimming Pool is the gripping, twisty thriller from the author of the breath-taking Our House . . . ‘I can’t take my eyes off the water. Can you?’ It’s summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years.
For Natalie Steele – wife, mother, teacher – it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle.
Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socializing with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn’t know she’d been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away.
But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth?
45. Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a thirty-two year old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever- patient boyfriend.
The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she’s about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all. Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent as the captive of psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.
46. A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1) by Sue Grafton. This must read novel is the first in the alphabet mystery series by legendary Sue Grafton. A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.
That’s why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.
If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer—and sharper—than she imagined.
47. Someone Out There by Catherine Hunt. Laura Maxwell appears to have it all – perfect career, perfect husband, perfect life. But how well do you really know the people around you? All it takes is one tiny crack to shatter the whole façade.
A series of accidents causes Laura to believe that someone is deliberately targeting her, trying to harm her. Fear starts to pervade every part of her life, affecting her work and her marriage, and she feels increasingly isolated.
If no one believes Laura’s story, who will be there to protect her when her attacker closes in for the kill?
48. Last To Die by Tess Gerritsen. For the second time in his short life, fourteen-year-old Teddy Clock has survived a massacre. Orphaned once more when his foster family is murdered, the traumatized teenager has nowhere to turn—until the Boston PD puts Detective Jane Rizzoli on the case. Jane spirits Teddy to the exclusive Evensong boarding school, a sanctuary where young victims of violent crime learn vital skills of survival.
But even behind locked gates, Jane fears that Evensong’s benefactors aren’t the only ones watching. And when she learns of two other students whose pasts bear a shocking resemblance to Teddy’s, it becomes chillingly clear that a circling predator has more than one victim in mind. Joining forces with medical examiner Maura Isles, Jane races to stop an obsessed killer’s twisted quest—before an unspeakable secret dooms the children’s fate.
49. Tombstone Courage (Joanna Brady, #2) by J.A. Jance. With grit, courage and dogged determination, Joanne challenged the status quo — and won. Now, as newly elected Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, she must battle the prejudice and hostility of a mistrustful, male-dominated police force — and solve a grisly double homicide that threatens to tear the sleepy desert community to pieces.
For the two bodies baking in the harsh Southwestern sun are connected by sinister threads that reach back generations — and by devastating family secrets of greed, hatred and shocking abuse that could destroy the innocent along with the guilty.
50. The Hidden Child (Patrik Hedström, #5) by Camilla Läckberg. Crime writer Erica Falck is shocked to discover a Nazi medal among her late mother’s possessions. Haunted by a childhood of neglect, she resolves to dig deep into her family’s past and finally uncover the reasons why.
Her enquiries lead her to the home of a retired history teacher. He was among her mother’s circle of friends during the Second World War but her questions are met with bizarre and evasive answers. Two days later he meets a violent death.
Detective Patrik Hedström, Erica’s husband, is on paternity leave but soon becomes embroiled in the murder investigation. Who would kill so ruthlessly to bury secrets so old? Reluctantly Erica must read her mother’s wartime diaries.
But within the pages is a painful revelation about Erica’s past. Could what little knowledge she has be enough to endanger her husband and newborn baby? The dark past is coming to light, and no one will escape the truth of how they came to be.
51. Last Will by Liza Marklund. In the midst of a brutal Scandinavian winter, a member of the Nobel Prize committee is gunned down in the city of Stockholm.
Reporter Annika Bengtzon, who made eye contact with the killer just seconds before the shots were fired, is the key witness. Because of the sensitivity of the crime, police issue a gag order on her immediately—and she is forced to figure out on her own why an American assassin known only as “the Kitten” ordered the hit.
With her marriage falling to pieces and her job on the line, Annika quickly finds herself in the middle of a violent story of terror and death, the roots of which date back centuries. The research all leads her to the same man: a rich and famous industrialist responsible for one of the world’s most coveted gifts, who died a tragic and mysterious death.
If Annika wants to learn the truth, she risks uncovering secrets that some will do anything to protect.
52. In Big Trouble (Tess Monaghan #4) by Laura Lippman. Tess Monaghan has learned the hard way how to survive on the streets of Baltimore—first as a fearless investigative reporter and lately as a PI. But a new case is about to take her way out of her element.
What begins with a tantalizing shard of a newspaper headline—”In Big Trouble”—above a photograph of an old boyfriend will end far away in another world, where people dress and talk differently . . . and rich people’s games can have lethal consequences.
Here where the sun is merciless—and curiosity can kill faster than a rattler’s bite—Tess is going to have to confront her past and, hopefully, live to tell about it. For the answers she seeks about a man she thought she knew may be somehow linked to a murderer who two-steps to a very deadly drummer.