Psychological Thrillers: The 20 Best Books Like The Silence of the Lambs

“The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris is a crime, horror, and thriller classic. After winning the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel (more on him later) in 1989, it was adapted into the equally stunning motion picture starring Anthony Hopkins. 

Psychological Thrillers: The 20 Best Books Like The Silence of the Lambs

One of the reasons that “The Silence of the Lambs” is such a literary masterpiece is its masterful use of suspense and tension. Harris expertly builds fear and unease as the story unfolds, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat until the very end.

The sense of realism and authenticity that Harris creates through his vivid and evocative writing style makes the story all the more chilling.

So, now that you’ve devoured this delicious classic (see what we did there?), what should you read next? Here are 20 novels that should sate your desire for thrills, horror, crime, and more.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larson 

2005 (Swedish) – 2008 (English) | Published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (US)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Series)

Written by the late great Swedish author Stieg Larson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is the first of the internationally best-selling “Millennium” series. The story follows journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander as they investigate a wealthy family’s dark past and uncover a web of corruption and murder.

 “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has been praised for its complex and well-developed characters, intricate plot, and exploration of themes such as power, corruption, and family dynamics. All of the novels were published and translated from their original language of Swedish after Larson’s death in 2004. 

While he never got to see the impact that his writing had on the world, you can still experience it for yourself by picking up a copy here.

“Kiss the Girls” by James Patterson 

1995 | Little, Brown and Company

Kiss the Girls (Alex Cross)

Another in a long line of page-turners by the expert thriller writer James Patterson, “Kiss the Girls” is the second novel to feature protagonist Alex Cross. The story follows Cross as he tracks down a serial killer that goes by the moniker “Casanova.” 

Featuring a plot with no lack of twists and a variety of well-developed characters, “Kiss the Girls” will have you gripping the edge of your seat until the very last page. Check out this and more by James Patterson here.

“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis 

1991 | Vintage

American Psycho

Not for the faint-hearted, “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis is a novel that explores the psyche of a wealthy Wall Street businessman named Patrick Bateman, who leads a secret life as a sadistic serial killer. 

A satirical commentary on the excesses of the 1980s and the shallowness of yuppie culture, this book is considered a modern classic known for its graphic violence and disturbing subject matter. 

With a unique narrative structure that keeps the reader engaged, “American Psycho” is a must-read for those interested in dark satire and horror. Get yours here.

“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

1818 | Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones

Frankenstein

“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley is an all-time classic. By most accounts, this is the original horror novel. Exploring the dangers of playing God and the consequences of unchecked ambition, the story tells of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a monstrous creature from dead body parts and brings it to life. 

He ultimately rejects his work and abandons it. The Creature then seeks revenge on its creator. It is a profoundly psychological and emotional story that delves into themes of loneliness, rejection, and the search for acceptance and belonging. 

It also prompts readers to think about the ethics of science and technology and the responsibility of creators towards their creations. If you’re ready to read this classic, get your copy here.

“Cage of Bones” by Tania Carver

2013 | Pegasus Crime

Cage of Bones

From the beginning, “Cage of Bones” by Tania Carver has your attention. The story follows detective Phil Brennan and psychologist Marina Esposito as they investigate a series of gruesome murders after disturbing a killer that has been lurking undetected for 30 years. 

Carver’s writing style is characterized by her attention to detail and her ability to create tension that leaves you uneasy. This book is a page-turner with a fast-paced narrative that keeps you engaged until the end. “Cage of Bones” is also a part of a series of novels featuring Phil Brennan as the main character, so if you enjoy this book, you can continue following his story. Start your journey here.

“Broken Monsters” by Lauren Beukes

2014 | Mulholland Books

Broken Monsters (Reading Group Guide)

A serial killer novel unlike anything you’ve read before, “Broken Monster” by Lauren Beukes will keep you up all night. Following the story of a detective named Gabi Versado as she investigates a series of gruesome murders in Detroit. 

The book has a unique and imaginative plot, which combines elements of science fiction, horror, and crime fiction. Beukes creates a sense of anxiety throughout the novel, and her use of vivid imagery and descriptive language immerses the reader in the story. This book is definitely a must-read if you enjoy thrillers, science fiction, and unique storytelling. If that’s you, then order yours here.

“The Snowman” by Jo Nesbø

2007 | Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The Snowman (Harry Hole Series)

The Snowman” by Jo Nesbo is a crime thriller novel that follows the story of detective Harry Hole as he investigates a series of murders that may be connected to a snowman left at the scene of each crime. After digging through a number of cold cases, Hole realizes that he is tracking Norway’s first-ever serial killer. 

There’s a reason Nesbø is a bestselling crime novelist with his ability to create a sense of tension and unease throughout the novel and for his unique and engaging storytelling style. With its suspenseful, fast-paced, intricate, and twisted plot, “The Snowman” will keep you turning the page. Get your copy here.

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

1959 | Viking

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics)


Shirley Jackson is truly a master of horror literature, and her 1959 work, “The Haunting of Hill House,” is considered one of the best literary ghost stories of the 20th Century. This gothic horror novel follows a group of people invited to investigate the paranormal activity at the Hill House. 

The book explores themes of mental health, the nature of fear, and the unknown. It has also been praised for its psychological depth and its exploration of the human mind. Unsurprisingly this novel has also been adapted into several successful movies and TV series. You can order your copy of this classic here.

“Sidetracked” by Henning Mankell 

1995 (Sweden) – 1999 (English) | Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Sidetracked

The fifth novel in his Kurt Wallander series, “Sidetracked” by Henning Mankell, is considered one of the best and most popular in the series. Featuring well-written, complex, and interesting characters and with a gripping and suspenseful plot, this novel keeps the reader engaged throughout. 

The story is set in Sweden and deals with themes of family, love, and the darkness that exists in human nature. The setting and culture of Sweden also provide a fascinating aspect of the book. Mankell’s writing is atmospheric and evocative, and he masterfully creates a sense of place and time. 

The book is a good blend of crime and psychological thriller, making it a must-read for anyone who enjoys crime fiction, with a touch of social commentary. The rest of the series is also well worth your time if you find yourself unable to put this book down. Pick up “Sidetracked” here.

“Ragdoll” by Daniel Cole

 2017 | Trapeze

Ragdoll

Daniel Cole’s debut crime novel “Ragdoll” has received positive reviews from critics and readers alike. The book is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller with a unique and complex plot that keeps the reader guessing until the end. The story follows detective William Fawkes as he races against time to stop a series of gruesome murders that have been leaked to the media with the name of the victim and the dates on which they are to be murdered. The last name on the list? Fawkes himself.  

The novel features a diverse and well-developed cast of characters, including Fawkes, who is a highly relatable and compelling protagonist. The writing is descriptive and intense, creating a vivid and disturbing image of the crime scenes. With a touch of dark humor and a strong sense of suspense, this book is a must-read. Order yours now.

“Dracula” by Bram Stoker

1897 | Archibald Constable and Company

Dracula: Unabridged and Fully Illustrated

Another classic of the 19th Century, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, has had a significant impact on the horror genre. It is considered the prototypical vampire novel and has inspired countless adaptations and imitations. Similar to “Frankenstein,” it is an epistolary novel, told in the form of letters and journal entries, which gives it a sense of realism and immediacy. 

With no central protagonist, the story is rich in themes such as good versus evil, the power of the supernatural, and the dangers of temptation. Stoker’s portrayal of the vampire Count Dracula as a charismatic, seductive, and terrifying figure has become iconic and continues to influence vampire literature and popular culture to this day. 

It’s a must-read for any horror fan and those interested in the historical context of the vampire genre. If you want to sink your teeth into a copy, order one here.

“Psycho” by Robert Bloch

1959 | Simon & Schuster

Psycho

While “Psycho” is most commonly known as one of the seminal Hitchcock masterpieces, the novel by Robert Bloch which inspired the film, is considered Bloch’s most enduring work and had a massive influence on the genre in the 20th Century. The novel alludes to the real-life crimes of serial killer Ed Gein whose crimes parallel those of Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs.” 

The story follows the character of Norman Bates, a seemingly ordinary man who runs a small motel in the middle of nowhere. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Norman is anything but ordinary and that he harbors some dark and disturbing secrets. Bloch’s writing is masterful, and he expertly builds tension and suspense throughout the story. 

Just as the film is considered a must-watch classic, the novel is a must-read. Pick your copy up here.

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

2012 | Crown Publishing Group

Gone Girl

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn is an international bestselling thriller novel and has received widespread critical acclaim. Switching between the perspectives of the main characters, Nick and Amy Dunne, Flynn’s use of unreliable narrators creates a situation where the reader never truly knows what is fact and what is fiction. 

The story’s intricate plot, well-developed characters, and sharp prose leave no wonder as to why this novel was quickly adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film with the screenplay penned by Flynn herself. The story explores themes of marriage, trust, and manipulation. 

If you enjoy psychological thrillers, then add “Gone Girl” to your reading list and pick up a copy today.

“Irène” by Pierre Lemaitre

2006 (French) – 2014 (English) | MacLehose Press

Irène: The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy (The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy, 2)

For Commandant Verhœven, life is perfect. He is happily married and is expecting his first child with his beloved Irène. Little does he know that his entire world is about to be shattered. When a savage murder makes headline news, he is cast into a showdown against a serial killer who quickly becomes known as “The Novelist” due to his penchant for modeling the crimes of killers from classic crime literature. 

With Verhœven and the killer’s every move being followed by the media, time is running out to see who can outsmart the other. “Irène” marks the beginning of Pierre Lemaitre’s thrilling series of the same name. The story continues but only after you pick your jaw off the floor once you experience this novel’s shocking conclusion. Start your ride through Lemaitre’s work here.

“The Fourth Monkey” by J.D. Barker

2017 | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Fourth Monkey (A 4MK Thriller)

Rarely does a novel start with the death of the antagonist, but that’s just what happens in J.D. Barker’s “The Fourth Monkey.” The first entry of the 4MK series follows detective Sam Porter as he attempts to stop the machinations of a killer whose death hasn’t prevented him from terrorizing Chicago. With few clues to go off of and while having to deal with his own personal demons, Sam is running out of time to stop a killer who is taunting him from the grave. 

Featuring a fast-paced plot, well-developed characters, and its exploration of the darker aspects of human nature, “The Fourth Monkey” will deliver all the thrills and spills that you crave in a novel. Get yours now.

“Eeny Meeny” by MJ Arlidge

2014 | Berkeley

Eeny Meeny (A Helen Grace Thriller)

The first entry of her Helen Grace series, “Eeny Meeny” by M.J. Arlidge, has been well-received by readers and critics. The novel follows the story of detective Helen Grace who is on the hunt for a kidnapper and serial killer who chooses his victims through a twisted version of the children’s counting rhyme “Eeny Meeny Miny Moe.” He abducts two victims and forces them to decide who lives and dies. 

With an intense and suspenseful plot, complex and well-developed characters, and exploring the darker side of the human psyche, “Eeny Meeny” is a captivating first entry into Arlidge’s series. You can start your journey with the detective by ordering a copy here.

“The Darkness of Evil” by Alan Jacobson

2017 | Open Road Integrated Media

The Darkness of Evil (The Karen Vail Novels)

The seventh entry in his Karen Vail series, Alan Jacobson’s “The Darkness of Evil,” is a standout piece of storytelling. Jasmine Marcks was only a teenager when she discovered her worst nightmare was true: her father was a serial killer. Now dealing with the fallout of publishing a novel about growing up the child of a killer, Jasmine’s problems are compounded when her murderous father breaks out of prison. 

Agent Vail faces a race against time to catch the escaped convict and prevent Jasmine from becoming her father’s fifteenth victim. This novel has won praise from the likes of James Patterson and Michael Connelly (both with entries on this list), so order your copy and see what the hype is all about for yourself.

“A Philosophical Investigation” by Phillip Kerr

1992 (UK) – 1993 (US) | Chatto and Windus (UK) – Farrar Straus & Giroux (US)

A Philosophical Investigation

Set in a 2013 London that’s facing an epidemic of serial murders, “A Philosophical Investigation” by Philip Kerr explores a wide range of philosophical and existential themes, such as the nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the relationship between the individual and society. 

Featuring a dual narrative perspective where the reader experiences the viewpoint of both the killer and the detective tasked with tracking him down, “A Philosophical Investigation” is known for its thought-provoking and intelligent writing, and it offers readers a unique perspective on some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. 

Overall, reading “A Philosophical Investigation” is a stimulating and enriching experience that will have you thinking more deeply about the world and your place in it. Pick up your copy here.

“The Shining” by Stephen King

1977 | Doubleday

The Shining

“The Shining” by Stephen King is a classic that is widely considered one of the greatest horror novels of all time. With his masterful storytelling, richly drawn characters, and ability to create an atmosphere of suspense and unease, King tells the story of struggling writer Jack Torrance.

He has recently taken a job as the winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, a remote and isolated resort in the Rocky Mountains. As the harsh winter sets in and the isolation of the hotel begins to take its toll, Jack’s mental state starts to unravel, leading to a terrifying and deadly climax. In addition to the novel, it was adapted into a critically acclaimed film directed by Stanley Kubrick, considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. 

Overall, reading “The Shining” is a chilling and unforgettable reading experience that is sure to stay with you long after you finish the book. Add this classic to your collection here.

“The Bone Collector” by Jeffrey Deaver

1997 | Viking Press

The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme Novel)

The Bone Collector” by Jeffrey Deaver is a classic crime-thriller novel. The story follows quadriplegic forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme in his hunt for the serial killer known as “The Bone Collector.” This devious antagonist leaves gruesome puzzles for the police to solve at each crime scene. 

The story is fast-paced and filled with many different twists and turns, as you would expect of a novel in this genre. Deaver is known for his meticulous research and attention to detail, which adds to the realism of the story. 

The success of “The Bone Collector” spurred Deaver into continuing the series, which now features 14 novels. If it hooks you, then this is absolutely a novel that you should add to your collection.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. Twenty more novels like “The Silence of the Lambs” (and more if you read the series) that will have you staying up late and turning the page until you’ve devoured every word.

FAQs

Is “The Silence of the Lambs” part of a series?

Yes. “The Silence of the Lambs” is actually the second novel in a series and the sequel to Harris’s 1981 novel “Red Dragon.”

How many books are in the Hannibal series?

Harris wrote a total of four books in his series following Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In chronological order, they are “Hannibal Rising,” “Red Dragon,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and “Hannibal.” Although chronologically first, “Hannibal Rising” was actually the final book released in the series when it was published in 2006.

Who is Thomas Harris?

Thomas Harris is an American author and screenwriter best known for writing the novels “Red Dragon,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Hannibal,” and “Hannibal Rising,” which were all adapted into films. 

The character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic forensic psychiatrist, is a recurring character throughout Harris’ novels and is considered one of the most iconic villains in modern literature. Harris has also penned two other novels not containing Dr. Lecter. They are “Black Sunday” and “Cari Mora

How disturbing are some of these novels?

Quite. These are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. While “The Silence of the Lambs” has more than its fair share of gruesome depictions, many of these novels were either the inspiration for or take inspiration from Harris’ work.

What are the most popular psychological thriller books?

1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
3. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
5. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
6. I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
7. Misery by Stephen King
8. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
9. The Shining by Stephen King
10. The Alienist by Caleb Carr

YouTube video
Tanner McLeod