Psychological thriller novels are filled with so much mystery and suspenseful plot twists that it always makes it incredibly hard to know exactly where the story is going, and that’s certainly true of Emma in the Night.
It’s one of Wendy Walker’s most popular novels among her wide catalog of thrilling stories that have kept fans coming back for more with each new release.
After two sisters, Cass and Emma, went missing three years ago, Cass mysteriously returns to her family home with stories of an abduction, a mysterious island, and other unnerving pieces of her memory from when she was taken.
However, once the curious psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter starts looking into this deeper, things don’t add up, and the family might have something to do with it.
There are few authors who can write family mystery stories as well as Wendy Walker, especially since she was an attorney specializing in family law before she was even a writer.
However, there are some who have written stories that are similarly engaging and will have you guessing until the very end, so if you’ve never jumped into books from authors in the psychological thriller genre such as Alice Feeney or Tara Altebrando, now’s your chance to.
Themes In Emma In The Night
The story of Emma in the Night majorly benefits from being told in the first person perspective of Cass, especially because it grants readers an incredibly unique insight into the feelings of someone who has been missing.
This sets it in opposition to stories that focus on the family, or those looking for the individual who has mysteriously disappeared.
This includes feelings of hope, and more specifically, how much hope families and people on the outside will hold that someone is still alive after they have been missing for a certain amount of time, as Cass herself states “some people needed to believe I was dead because it was too hard to wonder”.
Author Wendy Walker makes it very clear near the beginning of the book that something isn’t quite right about the family of the two girls who went missing.
This is particularly true of their mother who Dr. Abby Winter soon comes to realize has many secrets of her own, and a lot of envy for her two younger girls that causes her to commit some horrendous acts.
The theme of broken and dysfunctional families is extremely prevalent within Emma in the Night as Williams takes great care to describe the tension between each family member and the secrets each of them keeps, which all feeds back into the wider mystery.
Coming Of Age
Emma and Cas come to accept their mother’s narcissistic behavior when they’re young, believing that it must be the way all mothers act towards their children.
However, it’s only when they get older, and when Cas returns from her abduction, that they begin to see that her envy and manipulative behavior has come to the detriment of their entire family.
They realize the love and care they once believed their mother had for them may not have been there at all.
Wendy Walker manages to take the common “coming of age” story while writing it in a way that is unique and dark, but still very relevant to many readers who may have only come to realize the errors of their family once they grew older and become independent adults.
Books Like Emma In The Night
Things We Do In The Dark By Jennifer Hillier
For many fans of Emma in the Night, despite how despicable the mother is throughout a lot of the story, she is the reason a lot of people become so enthralled in the plot since characters that are this twisted and complex also make the story far more unpredictable.
This is also what makes Jennifer Hillier’s dark mystery novel Things We Do in the Dark such a compelling read.
While the mentally fragile and twisted Paris Peralta commits some horrible acts throughout the story, Hillier somehow manages to make us feel slightly sympathetic for her and even quite relatable due to how perfectly this complex character is written.
The story picks up right after Paris murders her celebrity husband with a razor in a bloody bathroom scene, so while this book isn’t as much about the mystery, it still takes a deep dive into the psychology of people who commit such heinous acts, and how they respond to their inner desires and feelings.
- Incredibly complex and well-written main character
- Beginning of the book hooks you into the story immediately
- Satisfying character development
- Perfect length
- Lack of interesting side characters
Themes: Obsession, isolation, anxiety, regret
Daisy Darker By Alice Feeney
If the intriguing and mysterious characters in Daisy Darker don’t pull you right into the story, then the premise certainly will as the book centers around a distrusting family who come together for the first time in many years to celebrate Nana’s 80th birthday.
The only problem? Nana’s gothic worn-down house is located on a small island, and when the tide starts to come in and surrounds them, no one can leave!
The Darkers family must try to be around each other despite all having their own dark secrets and tensions between one another, and to make things worse, each member of the family is mysteriously being killed off one by one.
If you enjoyed the gripping mystery that drives the story in Emma in the Night, you’re going to love Daisy Darker which also shares the concept of a dysfunctional family all with their own dark secrets that you will learn more about as the plot develops.
- Family drama mixed with a thrilling mystery
- Each character gets their moments to shine
- Mystery never becomes predictable
- Main character Daisy often gets outshined by other characters
- Ending can seem a little unsatisfying
Themes: Deceit, trust, guilt, honesty
The Leaving By Tara Altebrando
The idea of a close relative suddenly disappearing without a trace is already a terrifying enough premise for a story, however, the feeling that everyone forgets that it even happened and searches stopping after a few years pass by is a thought that is just as scary.
In The Leaving by the incredibly talented Tara Altebrando, this fear becomes a reality for Ma when the searches by the authorities for her six children who went missing eleven years ago without a trace, begin to slow down.
However, near the beginning of the story, five of the kids return, and not only are they now all grown up, but they barely remember their own mother, none of them know where they’ve been, and no one has the slightest idea of where Max even is since he’s still missing.
This book is the true definition of a psychological thriller, with Altebrando implying to the reader throughout the story that anybody could be to blame, since while the whole “memory loss” excuse from the kids does sound a little strange, Ma also seems a little more suspicious than she originally lets on.
This book is full of mystery, family tension, and at its core, is a story about growing up and coming to terms with how broken a family really can be.
- Full of twists and turns to keep the story engaging
- Unreliable narrator keeps you guessing the entire time
- Tara Altebrando manages to make all of the kids unique and gives them time to develop
- Subplots are barely mentioned or advanced for large sections of the story
Themes: Coming of age, secrecy, validation, independence
If you’re looking for a good psychological thriller full of mystery, family tension, and thought-provoking themes of trust and honesty, you need to try out a few of these recommendations that are guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very last page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Wendy Walker Only Right Psychological Thriller Novels?
While Wendy Walker does dip into other genres and ideas such as the taboo romance between two sworn enemies in What Remains, all 7 of her standalone novels primarily focus on the mystery and psychological aspect that drives the story forward.
She will occasionally therefore use ideas from other genres in her work, however, this is mostly to enhance and progress the mystery, rather than becoming a focal point of the story.
sWhat Is Wendy Walker’s Most Popular Book?
While all of her books have been highly praised by critics and fans alike, Wendy Weller is most well known for her first published book that really made her a household name in the psychological thriller scene, that book being All Is Not Forgotten.
The story focuses on Jenny Cramer who is attacked at a local party and handed a substance that erases her memories of the incident. She then tries to piece together what happened while her enraged father goes on a manhunt to find the person who did it.
- 20 Must-Read Genre-Blending Literary Fiction Books - May 26, 2023
- 32 Gripping Epic Fantasy Books To Transport You To Another World - May 26, 2023
- 12 Books Like Red, White, And Royal Blue You Will Love - May 17, 2023