Get all the best psychological thriller books of all time that will shock, surprise, and disturb you are you compulsively turn the pages, from Gone Girl to Verity, The Kind Worth Killing, The Last Mrs. Parrish, and more books like them.

thriller book

If choosing a thriller is difficult for you, you will definitely want to check out my personally curated list below of the best psychological thriller books for you to read. I am REALLY tough on thrillers, so they truly are the best of the best!

What is a Psychological Thriller?

The best psychological thrillers books contain mystery, suspense, and unexpected plot twists. They most often include crimes, especially murder. The narrators may be unreliable, immoral, or suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.

Top 2 Best Psychological Thriller Books

Are you wondering, “What is the best psychological thriller to read?”

First, below are the two best psychological thriller books that I love AND have also been REALLY popular with readers of The Literary Lifestyle over the years and more books like them.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Best for fans of popular thrillers about women vying for one man

In The Last Mrs. Parrish, The main character Amber is a woman with a plan for a bigger life — to take over the life of wealthy Daphne Parrish and become the new Mrs. Parrish. Amber and Daphne become friends and the pieces of Amber’s plans start to fall in place … with unexpected results.

As mentioned, I’m tough on thrillers, and I loved it! I recommend this book if you want a very female-based thriller. It’s a longtime favorite of readers of The Literary Lifestyle as well.

Related Post: Books Like The Last Mrs. Parrish

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Best for fans of truly macabre thrillers

  • New York Times bestseller
  • USA Today bestseller
  • The Globe and Mail bestseller
  • Publishers Weekly bestseller

The single most common reaction I hear to Verity is, “OMG!” It’s the book I hear talked about most in my book clubs, and the book I always recommend to others looking for a psychological thriller or an escape book. I read it in one sitting, and I know several others who have done the same.

Struggling writer Lowen accepts a job from Jeremy, husband of best-selling author Verity Crawford, to complete her books after she sustains terrible injuries. As she sorts through Verity’s materials, she finds Verity’s autobiography, which is filled with an array of chilling events sure to make you gasp. At the same time, Lowen develops feelings for Jeremy.

There’s SO MUCH MORE to this story, but I will leave it for you to find out. I recommend this book to everybody who doesn’t mind really dark and depraved content.

Related Post: More Books Similar to Verity

More of the Best Psychological Thriller Books

Below are even more of the best psychological thriller books of all time, based on my very stringent standards when it comes to thrillers.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Best for fans of the “original” thrillers you can’t miss and unreliable narrators

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • USA Today Book of the Year

The Girl on the Train is one of the best books I could not put down. Unreliable main character Rachel rides the commuter train past perfect suburban homes every day and watches the same happy couple breakfasting on their deck. One day, she seeks something shocking. She tells the police and becomes intimately involved in what happens next.

I recommend this book if you are looking for a real page-turner!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Best for fans of the “original” thrillers you can’t miss and unreliable narrators

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • One of the most influential books of the decade by CNN
  • One of Time’s 10 best fiction books of the decade
  • One of Entertainment Weekly’s best books of the decade

Gone Girl is the original of the best psychological thriller books, and it is one shocking and sinister book. Chances are you have already read it or watched the movie, but if not, here’s a brief intro: The story centers around married couple Nick and Amy Dunne. On their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes a suspect after a series of evidence unfolds.

The story takes dark and unexpected turns from there. I recommend this book if you are looking for a dark thriller.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

  • Reese’s book club pick
  • New York Times bestseller
  • A New York Times thriller of the year.

The Guest List is one of the best psychological thriller books that has stayed front of mind for me for several years now.

It involves a seemingly happy, posh wedding on a remote, secluded island off the coast of Ireland, but when the bash of the year has officially begun, the power goes out, and a body is discovered. What follows is a classic “whodunit” amongst the wedding party, staff, and guests, and it’s SUPER satisfying.

Related Post: Book Club Questions for The Guest List

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Best for fans of ghost stories and haunted houses

  • Instant New York Times bestseller
  • One of USA Today‘s Best Books of 2020

Home Before Dark is one hyped-up book that does not disappoint!  In short, a woman named Maggie returns to her childhood house, made famous by her father’s bestselling memoir describing it as a haunted house of horrors, with a sordid trail of deaths within its walls.  Maggie’s family fled the house after living there for only three weeks after a series of ghostly encounters.  

(It’s definitely one of the best books to read in the Fall.)

Skeptical Maggie was only five at the time and remembers nothing, as she makes plans to renovate and sell the home.  After a grizzly discovery, the house gains notoriety once again as Maggie goes on a quest to determine the true history of the horrors described in her father’s book, and dark secrets are revealed.

Home Before Dark feels like both a slow burn and a page-turner at the same time.  The ending surprised me, and it truly delivered.  I also enjoyed reading the perspectives of both Maggie’s adult story and her father’s book, the chapters of which are sprinkled throughout Home Before Dark.  And, as many readers have said, you will never think of The Sound of Music the same way again…

Related Post: Rankings For All Riley Sager’s Thrillers

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Best for those looking for an unputdownable thriller

  • Instant New York TimesUSA Today, and Los Angeles Times bestseller
  • An NPR Best Book of the Year, Entertainment Weekly Summer Books pick, Buzzfeed “31 Books to Get Excited About This Summer” pick, Publishers Weekly “Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers” pick, Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year, BookReporter Summer Reading Pick, New York Post “Best Novels to Read this Summer” pick, Shelf Awareness “Book Expo America 2015 Buzz Book” pick

In a Dark, Dark Wood is about the bachelorette party from H-E-double hockey sticks. A lonely writer named Leonora is surprisingly invited to an old friend’s pre-wedding bash at a glass-encased home deep in the English countryside, and she makes an agreement to attend alongside another friend.

The Bachelorette party storyline is told in the past, and in the present, Leonora is staying in the hospital after an accident, being suspected of murder, and trying to remember what happened and how she got there. Thus begins a deadly spiral of events.

This was an exceptional thriller and debut novel in my humble opinion! I absolutely could not put it down, and Leonora’s “present” situation kept me completely glued to the pages to figure out her past — both recent and distant in time.

And, since bachelorette parties can make for strange bedfellows, I thought this was the most perfect, unique setting for a psychological thriller involving an unlikely group of characters forced to come together and deal with each other in an isolated location. It has all the markings of a great, suspenseful read.

Related Post: Ruth Ware Books Ranked

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Best for fans of truly macabre thrillers

Amazon Editors’ Pick

The Kind Worth Killing had a scene so disturbing I almost didn’t finish it. But, I’m glad I did. It was one truly dark tale that paid off for the reader.

Ted and Lily meet on a flight, where they play a game of “truth” after a few drinks. Ted reveals that he believes his wife is cheating on him and he could kill her for it. Lily offers to help, as some people are “the kind worth killing.” As they put their plan into place, there are several twists that keep you deeply engaged in what happens to whom.

I recommend this book if you like books with untrustworthy characters.

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Bookstagram favorite

Little Secrets was a book I kept seeing so many top recommendations for on Instagram.  I simply never would have picked it up if I didn’t see SO MANY people giving it five stars. 

It’s about a mother whose son is kidnapped and then learns her husband has been cheating.  This begins a suspenseful quest both for revenge and to find her son, amidst a cast of characters hiding secrets — including her.

Little Secrets is well written, and the ending provides a great payoff.  I definitely recommend it to people who love thrillers.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Best for fans of family dramas

#1 national bestseller

The Lovely Bones is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a page-turner that depicts the rape and murder of a young girl with a focus on the aftermath and growth that follow in the years that follow.  At its core, it’s the story of a family dealing with tragedy as well as a hunt for the killer. 

If you like both thrillers and family dramas, The Lovely Bones is the perfect choice for you, and it’s also on the Rory Gilmore book list if you are reading along with the Gilmore Girls.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Best for fans of unique thrillers

The Plot moves in different, shocking directions than most thrillers. It’s about a once-respected author and current teacher who uses the fictional plot idea of a student who died in order to earn his way back into literary fame and fortune.

And it seems to be working — until he starts receiving threatening anonymous messages. The anxiety of the situation causes him to investigate the truth behind the story in one of the most unique thrillers I’ve read to date.

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

Best for fans of suspense

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Amazon Editors’ pick

Pretty Things is one book about fraudsters that truly lived up to the hype for me. It’s not a traditional thriller, but it had so many twists that I could barely keep count, and it also had tons of suspense at the end.

It’s about a young female con artist following along the path of her deceitful mother in order to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments. She encounters a new con opportunity via a family she knew in the past. But, of course, that’s only the beginning. There are connections between these families that get deeper and more twisted as the story progresses.

I love recommending this book because it’s so universally likable and has SO many twists, which I know readers of thrillers love.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Best for fans of thrillers that explore dark family issues

The Push is a shocking thriller with dark themes involving motherhood.

Blythe is a mother who believes her first child, Violet, may be evil at her core, but she bonds with her son, Sam. As she struggles to figure out the truth about Violet and navigate these unfavorable feelings, the reader is left questioning what’s real and who is good and evil, just like Verity.

It’s the kind of thriller that really makes you think about life. In fact, I’m still thinking about it.

Related Post: Ashley Audrain Books in Order

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Best for fans of classic thrillers

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

– Daphne du Maurier

So begins the classic suspense novel Rebecca from the Rory Gilmore book list. It’s also the perfect addition to an Around the World Reading Challenge for the United Kingdom. Rebecca also happens to be on Netflix as a new adaptation!

It was a slow burn, but creepy and atmospheric. The main character is NOT Rebecca, whom the reader never meets. She’s a lower-class woman without a family, working as a servant, who meets and quickly marries a wealthy older widow who owns the swoon-worthy estate Manderley. Upon arrival, the “ghost” of his first wife, Rebecca, lingers in the memories of the staff, who loved her and constantly refer to her and how she did no wrong (we all know someone like that, don’t we?!).

But, like all thrillers, there’s so much more to the story and the truth behind Rebecca‘s tragic death.

The writing is immersive and, while there is resolution, the last 100 pages keep you wanting more. You will assuredly be left wondering what a sequel may uncover.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Best for fans of dark academia and atmospheric thrillers

The Secret History by Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch, is a MUST READ for book lovers, and it’s the ultimate thriller/suspense/mystery book.  A favorite of Reese Witherspoon and Jenna Bush Hager (it was on her book club list), it’s a modern classic, with some of the best writing (especially dialogue) I’ve ever read.

The Secret History is about an outcast from California, desperate to fit in, who attends a preppy college in Vermont in the 1980s and becomes friends with an eccentric group of his fellow Greek classmates.  Ultimately, their dark obsession with Greek has deadly consequences, and the novel explores the lead-up to these events as well as the aftermath, in which the crew spirals downward in processing the gravity of their actions.

The Secret History gave me the vibes of Catcher in the Rye and The Talented Mr. Ripley.  The ending had a lot of suspense, and I felt like there were a lot of payoffs and really no way of “figuring out” where it would go.  I also adored the picturesque setting and 80s school mood.  I felt transported to the time and also like I actually knew the characters, and I was constantly trying to “cast” them for a hypothetical movie.

In conclusion, PUT THIS ONE ON YOUR LIST! It’s my favorite on this list.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Best for fans of unexpected twists

  • Instant #1 New York Times bestseller

The Silent Patient is popular for a reason — it contains a really amazing twist! A famous painter named Alicia, married to a popular fashion photographer, shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word again.

But criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to get her to talk. In the process, he goes down a twisted part of revealing why he is so consumed with her silence. The Silent Patient is a quick and unique thriller almost guaranteed to please.

Related Posts: Summary and Book Club Questions for The Silent Patient | Guide to Alex Michaelides Books

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Best for fans of popular thrillers

New York Times and international bestseller

Sometimes I Lie is a stunning, very shocking and open-ended debut book that will leave you wanting more from both the story and from Alice Feeney. I have read and enjoyed all of Alice Feeney’s books, but I picked this one to highlight here because it both ranks high on my personal list AND has widespread popularity.

Just after Christmas, Amber Reynolds is in a coma and, while she believes her husband doesn’t love her anymore, she also admits that sometimes she lies. She can’t remember what happened, but she believes her husband and sister were involved.

Don’t you just love a good old-fashioned holiday season mystery?! Jumping from pre and post-accident timelines, as well as revealing childhood diary entries, this book will undoubtedly take you by surprise and make you question all the characters and their motives.

It kept me up past minute finishing it and then Googling everything I could find dissecting THAT ending. All of the above make it an absolute must-read for fans of thrillers.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

Bookstagram favorite

New York Times bestseller

The Whisper Man is a page-turner! When Tom’s wife unexpectedly dies, he and his young son Jake move to a new home.

At the same time, a young boy has been abducted in a manner similar to the serial killer “The Whisper Man,” who was captured twenty years earlier and is in jail. The old detective gets involved in the case and, after a series of events, Tom and Jake become involved in the investigation as well, with interesting twists linking the characters.

Then, young Jake begins to hear whispers at his window, and the book takes fast turns that will keep you guessing.

I recommend this book if you want a unique thriller.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Best for fans of books involving two female and one male lead

Instant New York Times bestseller

The Wife Between Us delivers on twists. Naive Nellie is a teacher with the sense she is being followed as she plans her wedding to the older Richard. Previously, Richard had dumped his first wife, Vanessa, who was forced to start over from the bottom. Vanessa is determined to stop Richard’s wedding.

The twists come in the way the story is told, and it will keep you intrigued and likely surprised! I recommend this book if you really like plot twists.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Best for fans of re-tellings

  • Instant New York Times bestseller
  • USA Today bestseller
  • One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2021: CNN, Newsweek, Vulture, PopSugar, Parade, BuzzFeed, E!Online, TimeOut, Woman’s Day, Goodreads, She Reads, Good Housekeeping, CrimeReads, Frolic, Hello!, Mystery and Suspense
  • January 2021 Indie Next pick and #1 LibraryReads pick

The Wife Upstairs is a re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre, which is what made it so interesting for me to include on this list of the best psychological thrillers of all time. Jane is a broke dog walker to the rich in Birmingham, Alabama, stealing from her employers.

But when she meets Eddie, a recent young widower in the wealthy community where she works, she thinks her luck has turned a corner and sets out to date and marry him.

Eddie’s wife Bea, had a rag-to-riches Southern lifestyle brand, and she had drowned in a boating accident with her best friend. As Jane and Eddie fall deeper in love, Jane feels haunted by Bea’s absence.

This is one twisted love triangle generating a lot of buzz, with some plot points you may expect and some that will surprise you. I quite enjoyed it!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Best for fans of unreliable narrators

#1 New York Times bestseller

The Woman in the Window is one of the few thrillers that really held my attention throughout. It’s got an unreliable narrator — an agoraphobic, alcoholic woman who believes she witnessed her neighbor being stabbed. Then, the woman appears totally fine.

As the aftermath unravels, we learn the truth about the narrator’s past, and she risks it all in one truly suspenseful ending, trying to figure out what happened the night she believes she witnessed a crime.

It’s a popular modern thriller that really delivers what readers love.


Those are the best psychological thriller books to read for shocking twists that keep you glued to the pages. To recap and help you decide what to read first or next, mine and my readers’ top 2 picks are:

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  1. Downloaded several from this list and can’t wait to read them! Wondering if you have any recommendations from author Freida McFadden? So far, from her, I’ve read One by One and The Wife Upstairs.