Leave your nine-to-five behind to channel your inner detective. Dark crimes, gray morality, and unreliable narrators wait for you in the world of psychological thrillers, where the answers you crave are only a few pages away (or so you tell yourself, as one more chapter becomes a book checked off your TBR).
If you’re in the mood for a cinematic yet gritty read, check out our list of the 20 best psychological thriller books with a twist.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
If you can’t stop thinking about Netflix’s Glass Onion, you won’t want to miss The Guest List.
A wedding party consisting of the rich and famous ventures to an island off the coast of Ireland to celebrate, but when drama arises, somebody ends up dead. And since they’re isolated, the group comes to a sobering conclusion that someone wasn’t so thrilled for the happy couple.
With close but alternating narration, The Guest List will keep you guessing until the final page.
Find it here.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is an addictive read that toys with reader expectations and taunts you with twist after twist.
Every day, Rachel takes the same train and observes life around her, including the couple on their porch who seem to have a perfect life. Yet when Rachel witnesses something terrible, everything changes. Now, deeply entangled in an investigation and the lives of those involved, has Rachel shattered everyone’s reality?
You’ll never be able to predict how this story ends, so let yourself be shocked and find The Girl on the Train here.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
From psychological thriller titan Gillian Flynn comes Sharp Objects, a cutting-edge story of a reporter who must dodge her demons as she covers two small-town murders.
Camille Preaker did a brief stint at a psych hospital, but now, she’s tasked with covering the disturbing demise of two young girls in her hometown. Embroiled in the world she fled, Camille must confront her terrible past to unravel what happened to the victims.
Carve out an evening to read Sharp Objects after you pick up a copy here.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty crafts a scathing tale of ex-husbands, scorned women, and dangerous scandals in Big Little Lies.
Get to know Madeline, Celeste, and Jane, the three women who wind up at the center of a mysterious death. All have drastically different lives and personalities: Madeline’s a force to be reckoned with, Celeste’s a bombshell who seems too good to be true, and Jane’s an impossibly young mother. But when little lies unite them, the threat to their world is too real.
Pick up Big Little Lies here.
The Night Shift by Alex Finlay
Three intersecting crimes unite an unlikely trio in Alex Finaly’s searing sophomore novel, The Night Shift.
A Y2K Blockbuster murder and a present-day attack on teen employees at an ice cream shop share eerie similarities. Both crimes left only one survivor, and now, the survivor of the Blockbuster attack is determined to solve the crime. To uncover the truth, she must work with the accused’s brother and a no-nonsense FBI agent.
You can find The Night Shift here.
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
Winter Counts is a rip-roaring tale of a vigilante on a Native American reservation who is determined to find the source behind a heroin influx, damn the costs.
When heroin ravages the reservation, Vigil Wounded Horse and his ex-girlfriend are determined to stop the flow of drugs. Their hunt brings them to Denver, where clues quickly fall into place, but nothing is ever so simple. To find the truth, Vigil must reckon with his own identity.
Discover the chilling ending here.
The Body Snatcher by Patricia Melo
This suspenseful and surprising novel from Brazilian author Patricia Melo will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The Body Snatcher tells the explosive tale of a fatal plane crash and ensuing blackmail. Told in first person, a salesman finds himself in a desperate situation as he promises the pilot’s wealthy family that he has their son’s body and will return it for the right price. The truth? He has no idea where the body is and must find another.
Discover the wild conclusion when you pick up The Body Snatcher here.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Equal parts psychological thriller and exploration of the American Indian experience, Stephen Graham Jones tells the story of four American Indian men who are all haunted by a terrible event in their childhood. Years later, someone is hell-bent on revenge, and to survive, all four must confront the culture they left behind.
With sharp social commentary and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat, The Only Good Indians enthrall.
Be sure to pick up your copy here.
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching is a must-read for fans of Jordan Peele’s blockbuster hit, Get Out.
Cole’s unflinching examination of gentrification in a Brooklyn neighborhood follows Sydney Green as she clings to what her community once was. But as people begin to disappear, Sydney and an unlikely ally realize that the attempts to ‘revitalize’ her community may be more sinister than she ever dreamt.
Grab When No One is Watching here.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Korede and Ayoola take sibling rivalry to an entirely new level in Oyinkan Braithwaite’s tightly-paced novel.
Ayoola’s boyfriends have the troubling habit of dying. Ayoola stabbed the latest through the heart, and of course, Korede helped her gorgeous, possibly sociopathic sister hide the body. When a handsome doctor asks Korede for Ayoola’s number, Korede must recognize Ayoola’s true nature and figure out how to break the spell Ayoola seems to have over her.
Find My Sister, The Serial Killer here.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Courtney Summers’ Sadie is an electrifying, haunting glimpse at the reality behind the true crime.
Sadie is told from two perspectives: a transcript from a radio personality’s podcast, and an account from the podcast’s subject, Sadie Hunter. Nineteen-year-old Sadie fled her small town after her little sister was brutally murdered, and the podcast traces the clues she left behind while hunting her sister’s killer.
Sadie’s close narration draws readers deeper into the story and leaves you desperate for answers
Find Sadie here.
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
In her daring second novel, Attica Locke crafts a tale of death and defiance that interweaves two murders centuries apart.
Present day: a murder rattles a historical landmark in Louisiana. One hundred years ago: a slave goes missing amidst a murder mystery. The two crimes are more connected than anyone could dream, and as clues align, the past returns to haunt the present.
Pick up The Cutting Season here.
Bad Men and Wicked Women by Eric Jerome Dickey
Sensuality and secret desires clash in Eric Jerome Dickey’s Bad Men and Wicked Women, a pulse-pounding tale of terrible passion.
Ken Swift lives a turbulent life. Between his role as an enforcer in Los Angeles and his wild romances, there’s little room for stability. But matters go from bad to worse when Ken’s daughter emerges from the shadows demanding $50,000—and is willing to blackmail him to get it.
Check out the explosive ending here.
Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia
Venture to 1926 Harlem in this daring novel with a historical twist.
When young Black girls begin to show up dead, speakeasy employee Louise Lloyd must confront the truth of the crimes. After she is roped into assisting the investigation, elements of her past begin to come to light. Can she survive this mysterious murderer?
Be sure to grab your copy of Dead Dead Girls here.
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
A family heirloom resides in the center of this shocking story of a Black classical musician determined to establish a career in the cutthroat world of classical music.
After Ray McMillian’s violin—a priceless family heirloom—is stolen and a ransom note for $5 million appears, Ray is determined to find who is looking to sabotage his chance at glory.
Find The Violin Conspiracy here.
The Better Liar by Tanen Jones
Tanen Jones weaves a sensational web of secrets in her sharp debut, The Better Liar.
To receive her inheritance, Leslie Flores must reunite with her estranged sister. Yet when she discovers her sister’s body, Leslie will do anything to pretend she is still alive, including hiring an actress named Mary who resembles her sister. Mary has secrets of her own, though—secrets that are bigger than them both.
Become tangled in the web when you grab The Better Liar here.
The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Something dark descends in Snakebite, Oregon, and ghost hunter Logan Ortiz-Woodley finds herself in the center of the chilling teen deaths.
As her investigation continues and she teams up with the beautiful Ashley Barton, Logan discovers there’s more to the darkness than she imagined. Snakebite has a history filled with grief and gruesome secrets, and to uncover it, Logan and Ashley must stick together.
You can find The Dead and the Dark here.
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
Love, lies, and murder collide in this dark story about the lines of friendship by Malinda Lo.
Jess Wong and Angie Redmond are best friends. Even as Angie falls for a boarding school girl, Margot Adams, and breaks Jess’ heart, Jess sticks with her. But Margot’s world is more sinister than either girl could have imagined. To save Angie from impending consequences, Jess will do whatever it takes, moral or immoral.
Become mesmerized when you purchase A Line in the Dark here.
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
Ex-con artist Nora has held several identities throughout the years. But when a scheme went wrong, she fled. Now, she’s been taken hostage in a bank heist. To survive and save the people from her past who are also hostages, Nora will have to confront who she has been.
The Girls I’ve Been is slated for a Netflix adaptation starring Millie Bobby Brown, so before it hits streaming, read it for yourself here.
They Never Learn by Layne Fargo
Readers who also binge-watched Killing Eve, run to pick up They Never Learned by Layne Fargo (Did you know that Killing Eve was based on a book series? Read more about the Codename Villanelle books here).
Professor Scarlett Clark has an annual habit: pick the worst man at Gorman University and get away with his murder. Meanwhile, freshmen roommates Carly and Allison become fast friends. So when Allison is assaulted, Carly is determined to take justice into her own hands and knows just where to turn.
Fast-paced and dynamic, you won’t be able to read this quickly enough to satisfy your morbid curiosity.
Find They Never Learned here.
Thrills and Chills
With these stories, you may never want to return to reality. All good—most of these authors have more books than those featured here. And the best part? Even as you become a seasoned reader, these twists will still shock you.
What is a psychological thriller?
This subgenre blends the interiority of psychological fiction with the high action of thrillers to arrive at an exciting and character-driven result.
How are psychological thrillers different from psychological horror?
Thrillers tend to focus on a character’s interiority and emotional states, while horror in this vein relies upon shock, gore, and other tactics to build unease and fear.
Why are psychological thrillers so popular?
These novels allow the reader to go on an action-packed, suspenseful mystery without facing any of the IRL consequences (read: danger). Escapism at its best!
Where should I begin if I’m unfamiliar with the genre?
The Girl on the Train and Sharp Objects will hook your interest immediately so you can speed through the rest of the books on this list!
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