If you loved Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, but have struggled to separate the wheat from the chaff of recent thriller releases (there’s a LOT of dross out there), here’s my round-up of thrillers which I think you’ll enjoy! Don’t be distracted by the number of feeble imitators whose editors seem to be persuading them to throw “girl” in the title of their books to sell more copies and piggyback on this sub-genre, stick to these tried-and-true reco’s.
The criteria for inclusion in this list are:
- They’re excellent thrillers that are enjoyable to read
- They center a female character or are narrated by a female character
- Many of them are variations on the theme of the unreliable narrator
I’d also like to throw in that while it doesn’t make this list because of the stringent criteria I have backed myself into, I Am Pilgrim is one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read, and is required reading for thriller fans.
Let me know which thrillers you love in the comments, as I’m always on the hunt for new great ones!
The Housekeeper by Natalie Barelli
So I never download cheap Amazon kindle “deals” because I read some truly horrendous ones when I first got my Kindle and was casting around for a way to keep the price of my reading habit down (now I’ve just given up!). I kept seeing The Housekeeper recommended though, and I’m so glad I tried it. This definitely ticks some of the boxes of the classics of the “girl” genre: unreliable and actually pretty unpleasant narrator, big twist at the end, creeping sense of discomfort and tension etc. I think the difference between The Housekeeper and some other Gone Girl imitators though is that this is genuinely well-written and well plotted. For $3.99 on Kindle, you really can’t go wrong with downloading this!
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
If you haven’t already read The Woman in the Window, you might have come across the savage but seemingly well-deserved expose of its writer, A.J. Finn (real name Dan Mallory) in the New Yorker. Among other things, he faked having cancer, so sounds like a great chap all around. Feelings about the author aside, he can write a pretty good thriller. The Woman in the Window is set in New York and centers around a pill-popping, reclusive witness to a Hitchcockian crime. It’s a slow burn, and I know some people who take issue with the twist at the end (or who saw it coming) but I enjoyed it.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
If you love Agatha Christie, you’ll love Lucy Foley. I’m torn as to whether I preferred her first novel, The House Party, but The Guest List is a little bit more of a thriller than a whodunnit. The Guest List is about the wedding of two glamorous Londoners, held on a remote island off the coast of Ireland and the dysfunctional relationships between their families, friends and even the wedding planner. When a body is discovered late into the evening, there are multiple subjects with powerful motives. This is such a cosy book to curl up with!
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Long Bright River is a contemporary fiction novel with a good dose of thriller sprinkled in, rather than a straightforward tense page-turner. The writing style is literary, and the story delves deeply into the childhood and adolescence of the main character, Mickey, a female police officer in search of her opioid-addicted sister, who has gone missing. When the bodies of dead women start to turn up in Mickey’s precinct, and she is continuously thwarted by sexist colleagues and plagued by bad luck, Mickey needs to take matters into her own hands. Long Bright River is both gritty and gripping.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell writes pacy, spooky thrillers, which while “light reading” are always really good stories with great characters who become very real to me as I’m reading. The Family Upstairs was included in my Best Reads of 2019, and is the story of a young woman who inherits a mansion in Chelsea, where she eventually finds out her whole family died (or did they?!) after becoming involved with a sinister cult-leader-type-figure. Another great Lisa Jewell is I Found You. Skip The Third Wife though, a rate miss for Jewell.
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Newlyweds Erin and Mark are on honeymoon on Bora Bora when they make a deadly and lucrative discovery. They decide to keep their good fortune a secret, and fly home to the UK. But has someone followed them back to claim back their find? Or is the truth even more sinister? This is a fun, pacy and chilling read.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Alicia Berenson had a seemingly perfect life, until one day six years ago, she shot her husband. And hasn’t spoken since. Alicia is committed to an institution, where a young psychotherapist, Theo starts to take an interest in treating her unusual case. The story is told from both Alicia and Theo’s alternating viewpoints, and while there’s an initial slow burn, this is a deliciously twisty psychological thriller.
Someone Like Me by M.R. Carey
The story of a kind, gentle, struggling mother, Liz, who discovers she has a dark, malicious side, which sometimes entirely takes over, leaving her scared as to what it might do next. Does she suffer from split personality disorder (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder) ? Or is there a less rational (supernatural) explanation? This is definitely on the horror side of the thriller spectrum, but there’s enough of a thread to connect the initial set-up to the Gone Girl sub-genre! Be warned, it takes a little while to get going, so be patient.
Do you have additional suggestions for thriller readers who loved Gone Girl and Girl on the Train? I’d love to know! Drop them in the comments please.