Have you ever observed a couple and wondered what their private life is like? Or maybe you’ve watched two people interact and thought ‘I wonder what happens behind closed doors?’ If this sounds like you, the domestic thriller is the perfect literary genre for you to explore.
Domestic thrillers are jam-packed with secrecy, mystery, and gossip that will have you on the edge of your seat until the book’s conclusion. These novels are predominantly set within a marriage, relationship, or family dynamic and tell stories that typically incorporate affairs, abuse, family secrets, manipulative characters, and sometimes violence.
If you find any of those themes triggering, please refrain from reading these books. They often depict turbulent relationships and families in a very realistic way and the descriptions or character arcs may trigger some unwanted feelings.
However, each of these books follows different plots and characters, so please carefully read the descriptions to ensure that you’ll be comfortable reading the book.
These books are great for many readers and domestic thrillers have become one of the most popular genres out there. Perhaps due to their relatability, realism, and unpredictability, readers across the globe have lapped up these brilliant stories, leading domestic thrillers to become one of the most rapidly growing genres available.
Domestic thrillers frequently incorporate psychology, violence, murder, romance, and mystery, making the genre one of the most wide-ranging and multifaceted out there.
The Couple Next Door, written by Shari Lapena is an excellent example of a domestic thriller, following an interesting couple through a police investigation after their baby goes missing while they’re at a dinner party.
This novel is realistic and gripping, full of unexpected twists and turns. It has grasped the attention of millions worldwide and has been receiving positive reviews since its release in 2016.
If this sounds like the type of book you may enjoy or the description of domestic thrillers appeals to you, stay tuned to uncover the 20 best domestic thrillers like The Couple Next Door.
The End of Her by Shari Lapena
Where better to start than the same author? Shari Lapena brings a similar but refreshingly new story with The End of Her. This novel follows Stephanie and Patrick, a young couple struggling to adjust to life with twins.
When a woman who claims to have a history with Patrick turns up, all hell breaks loose and Stephanie’s life is completely thrown into question. She comes with a harrowing message – Patrick had been responsible for his ex-wife’s death. As new secrets and evidence emerge, the reader will become more confused and conflicted as they gradually unearth the truth behind the lies.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This book was hugely successful after its release and gained even more attention when a TV adaptation was made. Set in the idyllic suburbs of Cleveland, single mother Mia and her daughter Pearl move in, renting a house from the wealthy Richardson family.
The Richardson children instantly take an interest in the tenants. But Mia’s past will come back to haunt her and the controversial adoption battle, which incorporates an intriguing racial conundrum, may come to tear the relationship apart.
Little Fires Everywhere is a gripping and fantastically constructed book, filled with fascinating characters and thought-provoking concepts.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
Louise is hired by a new family and is a dedicated, hard-working nanny. Many other families envy the work Louise does and Myriam considers herself lucky to have such a kind and brilliant nanny.
But as Louise grows closer to the family and dependence surges, the picture-perfect situation soon crumbles into something far more sinister.
The Perfect Nanny is a brilliant read for anyone interested in psychological or domestic thrillers.
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
This married couple has everything – the perfect house, the perfect marriage, and the perfect kids. But the novelty soon wears thin and this couple must find a way to maintain the thrill in their lives. So, naturally, they begin committing serial murders.
The Housemaid by Freida McFadden
Following the life of Millie, who has taken the job as a housemaid at the Winchester family home. She is desperate and frankly has no other option, so she lies in order to obtain the role. Millie will do everything she can to make sure her secret stays hidden but as she discovers more about this twisted family and gets wrapped up in a web of lies and manipulation, her secret becomes harder to keep.
The Housemaid is a great psychological, domestic thriller that will shed light on the facade of perfect families. It is gripping, unpredictable, and comes with a string of trigger warnings. If you’re vulnerable to themes like blackmail, torture, murder, violence, kidnapping, and gaslighting, please pick another from this list!
The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose
Sarah’s career is really taking off. Things are going to plan and she is exactly where she hoped she’d be. However, her husband Adam is the complete opposite. As he struggles to get a grip on his life, he starts an affair with Kelly.
But when Kelly is found dead and Adam is the last person to see her alive, all eyes look to him as the suspect. The Perfect Marriage creates a realistic portrayal of the strains of marriage and blends romantic mystery with murder mystery.
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
This New York Times best-seller has taken the genre by storm, following the idyllic couple, Jack and Grace. But as we delve inside their relationship, the reader is exposed to the realities of their marriage. There’s a reason Grace looks so thin and frail, or why she refuses to meet anyone without Jack in tow.
Behind Closed Doors is one of the most realistic and insightful novels within this genre. It is based on perspective and helps to illustrate that no relationship is perfect and you never know what goes on in the background. If you find domestic, physical, or emotional abuse triggering, you may want to skip this one out.
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
Lucy and her mother-in-law have a very complex relationship. Diana makes it obvious that Lucy isn’t good enough for her son and feels no remorse for making rude comments.
But Diana is loved by everyone else. She is a kind, friendly, and charitable member of the community who has always had time for anyone. So when Diana’s body is found with a suicide note attached, the community goes wild. The note claims she killed herself because of cancer but autopsies found nothing of the sort.
As suspicion spreads throughout the community and more and more people realize that Diana was murdered, Lucy looks like suspect number 1. She was the only one that didn’t like Diana but would she have gone to such lengths
The Mother-in-Law is a brilliantly-written psychological murder mystery that will have you guessing until the very end.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
After taking a nanny job at a fancy house in the Scottish Highlands, Rowan thinks she’s struck gold. Technological gadgets, unlimited food, and great kids are just a few of the bonuses that come with the role but when a child ends up dead, Rowan’s dream quickly becomes a nightmare.
She is forced to go on trial for murder and must prove her innocence but the only other explanation is far more sinister… and unrealistic.
The Turn of the Key is a great murder/psychological/domestic thriller. Jam-packed with plot twists and suspense, there’s no better novel if you’re looking for something gripping and unpredictable.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Libby Jones was orphaned at the extremely young age of 6 months. Now she’s 25 and due to inherit a life-changing estate. She is now the rightful owner of a grand, beautiful London townhouse. But this house comes riddled with secrets and a harrowing history that will get many more involved. Some will be there to help and some will protect themselves but who can Libby trust and what has she got herself into?
The Family Upstairs is a chilling story that almost delves into the horror genre. With complex characterizations and a plethora of plot twists, the domestic thriller genre doesn’t get eerier than this.
The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
This novel has a strange premise – so strange it’s almost dystopian. Your husband has two other wives, they’ve never met each other and they can only see their husband once a week.
But when one wife finds the details of an arrangement with another wife, Hannah, curiosity gets the better of her and she undergoes a thorough investigation to find out more about her rival. Hannah is completely unaware and so a friendship blossoms. But when Hannah begins showing signs of domestic violence it throws everything into question. Is he the person you think he is?
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Three very different women get wrapped up in a horrific crime, one that shocks the community and will change the lives of each of them respectively.
Big Little Lies incorporates ex-husbands, children, complex marriages, and any other domestic cliché you can think of. But with a brilliant murderous twist, this book has so much to offer and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Ayoola has a reputation. She is fierce, feisty, and… well, a sociopath. When Ayoola’s third boyfriend turns up, stabbed by the same knife as the previous two, her sister, Korede is forced to intervene.
My Sister, The Serial Killer portrays a vivid and complex sister relationship that incorporates mystery, similarities, and a whole lot of differences. Sister bonds are strong but will Korede continue to risk herself for her sister’s deadly behavior?
The Widow by Fiona Barton
When her husband was forced into the limelight, suspected of horrendous crimes, Jean stuck by his side and defended him the entire way. But now he’s dead, people have questions and Jean has nothing left to lose.
The Widow is a psychological rollercoaster, filled to the brim with twists, shocks, and lies. This book will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about the plot and will read more like a mental puzzle than anything else.
The Next Wife by Kaira Rouda
Kate and John were an idyllic couple, the couple everyone looks up to and envies. With a joint company and a beautiful daughter together, the two had everything and appeared indestructible.
But when John found another younger woman everything was thrown into despair. John’s new woman, Tish, and his daughter Ashlyn create an unexpected bond that would seemingly drive Kate out of the question.
Kate wants her life back. Tish wants the life Kate had. But neither of them expects what’s around the corner.
The Next Wife is riddled with complicated family dilemmas and complex characterizations. It’s enthralling, mind-boggling, and unpredictable.
Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
Little Secrets follows college sweethearts Marin and Derek, who have the perfect marriage and the dream life. But everything collapses when their son, Sebastian, is kidnapped.
The police have given up and the media are no longer interested. The search seems impossible, so Marin hires a private investigator. But instead of finding evidence to do with Sebastian’s disappearance, evidence regarding Derek’s affair comes to light instead. Determined not to lose her husband too, Marin will do everything she can to fix their marriage.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Having had a turbulent childhood herself, Blythe is determined to give her new baby the life she never had.
But she soon convinces herself that something is wrong – Violet doesn’t act like a normal baby and something feels very wrong. Everyone tells her she’s crazy but she can’t get the idea out of her head. When secrets are revealed, Blythe’s world is turned upside-down and the entire family will face turmoil.
The Push is compelling and fast-paced – the ultimate untrustworthy narrative.
The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkanen
The Wife Between Us is one of the most famous domestic thrillers in the genre – and for good reason!
The book is designed for the reader to doubt themselves, it is riddled with twists and the untrustworthy perspectives will throw everything into question. It follows an ex-wife who becomes obsessed with the woman marrying her ex and it will have you hooked until the last word.
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
Adam is wrapped up in work, so much so that he barely notices his wife anymore. So a getaway to Scotland seems like the perfect way to get their marriage back on track and rekindle the fire.
Rock Paper Scissors unravels the intense web of lies that has been growing since the start of this couple’s marriage ten years ago.
All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham
Isabelle and her husband are still grappling with the kidnapping of their son, Mason, over a year ago. With barely any evidence available, the case was quickly dropped and no one seemed interested.
But Isabelle is willing to risk everything for the chance to have Mason in her arms again, even if that means uncovering the harrowing memories that haunt her own childhood. All the Dangerous Things dives into the psyche of Isabelle, whose memory begins to blur and she begins doubting herself. Will she unearth the truth or will something more sinister come to light?
Any of these 20 books will help you dive into the personal lives of a mysterious and intriguing couple or family. Whether you want something with a psychological, mysterious, or violent twist, there’s something out there for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best domestic thriller out there?
Gone Girl is a very famous thriller that revolves around a couple but some may say it verges more into the psychological genre.
Why are domestic thrillers so popular?
Many people love reading realistic, mysterious novels set around a twisted couple or turbulent family. It appeals to those seeking relatability but provides the same thrill as many other genres out there.
What is a domestic thriller?
Domestic thrillers are typically based around families or relationships and have dark, psychological twists that make the stories intriguing and gripping.
Who is the most famous domestic thriller writer?
Gillian Flynn, Samantha Downing, Shari Lapena, and Sarah Pekkanen are all fantastic writers who have produced some top-rated domestic thrillers.
Are domestic thrillers suitable for under 18s?
It depends on the themes and plot lines but most violent domestic thrillers or books that depict manipulative narratives should not be read by those under the age of 18.