The best psychological thriller books seem to be the most requested books, and I think it’s because people really want to be satisfied with the journey on which the book takes them. If choosing a thriller is difficult for you, check out the list below of best psychological thriller books for you to read. I have personally read and can vouch for each one!
And if you are reading the best psychological thriller books to get ready for Halloween, then be sure to check out the literary Halloween costumes I recommend.
What is a Psychological Thriller?
The best psychological thrillers books contains mystery, suspense and unexpected plot twists. They most often include crime(s), usually murder. The narrator(s) may be unreliable, immoral or suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.
What is the Best Psychological Thriller Book?
Below are some of the best psychological thriller books.
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
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.
I’m tough on thrillers, and I loved it! I recommend this book if you want a very female based thriller.
Books Like The Last Mrs. Parrish
Click here for more details about my favorite books like The Last Mrs. Parrish. Some of them are also mentioned below!
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train is one book I could not put down. Unreliable main character Rachel rides the commuter train past a 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
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.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
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 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 5 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, like many readers have said, you will never think of The Sound of Music the same way again…
And if you are already a fan, check out my reviews and rankings of ALL of Riley Sager’s thrillers.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
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.
And if you are looking for even more, I wrote a full review with book pairings for The Kind Worth Killing here.
Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
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 5 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 for people who love thrillers.
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
Pretty Things is one book 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. I named it one of my Best Books of 2020.
Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier
“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 forthe 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 swoonworthy 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 their 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
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’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 aftermath, in which the crew spiral 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 was a lot of pay off 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
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.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
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!
The Whisper Man by Alex North
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
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 intigued and likely surprised! I recommend this book if you like twists.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Woman in the Window is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and it was one of the few thrillers that really held my attention throughout. It’s got an unreliable narrator — an agoraphobic, alcoholic woman, who believes she witnesses 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.
Those are the best psychological thriller books to read. I hope you choose at least one to try.
The links above for these books are directed to Amazon, but you can also support independent bookstores by shopping my thriller list at Bookshop.org.
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