So, it happened like this: last summer I started reading The Girl On The Train. Just a little innocent summer reading, right?
Well, it somehow launched me into a full-blown obsession with mysteries, psychological thrillers, and anything in the crime genre. Overnight I went from being someone who had always spent their free time reading non-fiction to only reading creepy thriller books before bed. In case you find this as interesting as I do, I wanted to share some of my recent favorites that should make it onto your reading list for summer!
And, since I’m a highly-sensitive person who has a hard time with disturbing images or stories involving violence (WHY am I into psychological thrillers again?!), if this is you too, you’ll find my notes below helpful. There are no spoilers, but I did want to warn about images of violence and abuse that others may be sensitive to. 😉
Sharp Objects: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
Oh, Gillian Flynn. I adore you, but you are dark, girl. 😉
Here’s the plot: “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.”
This story completely sucked me in and I couldn’t put it down, but in true Gillian Flynn style, it’s definitely dark and there are lots of disturbing parts that involve self-harm and drugs.
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
I love Mary Kubica’s writing so it was no surprise that this book was really engaging. The story follows Heidi Wood who sees a teenage girl (Willow) with a baby on the train platform during her daily commute. When she comes across the girl again, she decides to bring her home to stay with her family and we soon learn more about Willow’s past.
Overall, I really enjoyed the plot of this book and didn’t find the ending predictable at all. Note: there are instances of sexual abuse so please be aware if you are sensitive to this.
Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris
I debated about including this book and decided to mention it here because the story was so good, but I want to put a HUGE disclaimer that the mental and emotional abuse described is horrific. The story focuses on Jack and Grace who appear to be the “perfect” couple from the outside. Jack is a lawyer who represents abused women and is adored by the community. However, it becomes quickly clear that something isn’t right in their relationship.
I found this story so compelling, but at the same time, there are many disturbing sadistic images and at some parts, I debated if I could handle finishing it. Ultimately, the ending was so chilling that I think it was worth it, but please read at your own risk. 😉
The Apartment by S.L. Grey
The story focuses on Mark and Steph, who survive a home break-in and are left psychologically traumatized. In an effort to heal, they decide to take a vacation using a house-swapping site and wind up in Paris. Once they arrive, they realize that the apartment is not as advertised and quickly becomes a nightmare.
Let me warn you now: this book is disturbing and spooky. There were definitely several parts with graphic imagery that made me want to put it down, but some sadistic side of me decided to keep reading. 😉 (Note: I’ve heard this book compared to Steven King’s work so if you’re not into chilling stories, this might be one to skip.)
Dark Places: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
Of her three books, this one is definitely my favorite. This story centers around Libby Day who at seven-years-old, was the only survivor when her brother brutally murdered the rest of their family. For the past twenty-five years, Libby has been living in solitude and using donations that had been given to her due to the tragedy. When her fund becomes empty, she begins looking for easy ways to make money, which brings her to a secret society called The Kill Club. The Kill Club is fascinated by the murder of her family (what the media called the “Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas”) and so she begins looking for artifacts to sell to them for a fee. This search forces her to take a second look at what really happened on the night of the murder.
Like all of Flynn’s books, this one is engaging, well-written, and of course, really dark. 😉
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
This book was a bit rough for me overall, but I wanted to include it here because had some great plot twists. It centers around Ani FaNelli, a twenty-eight-year-old writer living in New York City and obsessed with perfection. A good portion of the story is about Ani’s desire to be the perfect weight, wear perfect designer clothes, and be adored by her fiancé Luke Harrison.
The story really picks up as we learn about her history at the prestigious Bradley School and the terrible things that happened when she was a teenager. Note: this story contains sexual violence so please be aware of that before reading.
Good as Gone: A Novel of Suspense by Amy Gentry
“Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts. She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.”
At first, this book reminded me of the ABC show The Family, but then it got really creepy. I was immediately sucked in by the story and unique approach to how it was told, but just know that overall it’s pretty dark and there is a lot of sexual abuse, making it a bit hard to stomach.
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
“On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street…
I Let You Go 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.”
For me, this book had a super slow start (almost to the point that I got irritated and put it down), but I’m so glad I didn’t! The story really picks up about halfway through and it kept me on the edge of my seat until the end.
All The Missing Girls: A Novel by Megan Miranda
This story centers around the disappearances of two young women in a small town that happened a decade apart: “It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.”
This book had just the right combination of creepy to make it a great page-turner. My only complaint is that the story is told backward, starting at Day 15 and then reversing to Day 1. I personally found this a bit hard to follow, but the story still made it worth it.
In The Woods by Tara French
This book is a combination of a police procedural and psychological thriller: “As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.”
In The Woods is one of my favorite books in this genre to date and I am super excited to read her second book (The Likeness), which is next on my list.
The Widow by Fiona Barton
The Widow is about Jean Taylor, whose husband was recently killed by a bus, and her struggle with the press and the police. Her husband was the main suspect in the disappearance of a local girl many years before so after his death, the question is if Jean will continue to stand by him or tell the truth.
This one isn’t as much of a thriller as the others, but I included it because I found the story compelling and sometimes it’s nice to read a well-written mystery that isn’t making you jump every five minutes.
The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard
The Drowning Girls centers around Liz McGinnis, a high school counselor, and her husband Phil who move to a fancy gated community called The Palms. When Liz’s daughter becomes friends with one of their neighbors, everything in their lives starts to fall apart.
This story honestly made me so thankful I’m not a parent of a teenage girl. I absolutely loved this book, except for the fact that I found myself constantly wanting to yell at Phil for not communicating better with his wife. I mean, communication solves everything, especially when you’re in the midst of a psychological thriller. 😉
What books are you loving right now? Please share in the comments!0