This Advice was Last Updated 15 hours ago.
The best psychological novels and thrillers are like movies in that they keep you fascinated from the time you press play until the closing curtains fall, with plenty of stunning plot twists along the way. So it is no surprise that many of them are picked up by Hollywood for television and film interpretations.
Themes of crime, ethics, psychological disorder, drug misuse, and inconsistent protagonists are common in psychological thriller fiction.
Here is a selection of 40 spine-chilling psychological thrillers great for anyone looking to mess with their head.
Looking for more great book reviews ☍ ? Check out all our articles on this topic.
40 Best Psychological Thriller Books
Dear Child by Romy Hausmann
Her father takes Lena hostage in a dimly lit shack in the woods with her two children. Under the pretence of protecting them from the perils of the outside world, all their meals, restroom breaks, and study time are controlled and supervised. However, when Lena discovers a method to flee, she is confronted with far more issues than anticipated. The question left unanswered is whether she is the woman under the disguise name “Lena” who disappeared 14 years ago.
The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan
Hannah, Jo’s babysitter, disappeared without any explanation when she was seven years old. Her parents’ relationship was tainted forever because of this distress. Now, 30 years later, Jo is ready to confront them, and she knows she needs to connect the dots of Hannah’s life. Haunting revelations, dark family secrets, vast lies, and an unexpected visitor combine to create a deep, engaging mystery.
Lakewood by Megan Giddings
Lena Johnson quits college when her grandmother passes away, and the extent of her family’s obligations is exposed. She takes a job in a small, unknown Michigan city to help her family. The employment pays well, covers her health costs, and provides her with a place to live. She must take part in a top-secret research study kept hidden from her family and friends in exchange.
However, when the program’s secrets emerge, the teenager must decide how much she is willing to risk her family.
The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
Alexa W is a profoundly self-aware young lady whose life is run by several different personas. Her therapist, stepmom, and closest friend, Ella, are the only ones who are aware of this fact. Alexa finds herself the unwitting bearer of a dangerous secret when she starts working at a Gentleman’s Club and becomes associated with the owner.
She pursues Ella into London’s underside on a rescue operation since she has no one else to turn to. One girl will discover whether her personalities are her biggest strength or her most hazardous obstacle in this thriller authored by a real-life psychologist.
The Swap by Robyn Harding
Low falls under the impact of a shop’s owner, ex-social media influencer Freya, after signing up for a small pottery class. The two become close, sharing their innermost secrets. Still, when Jamie and her husband relocated to town, Freya’s focus shifts to Jamie and her husband. Freya proposes they switch partners after a night of partying with their spouses. But what should have been a carefree night of fun instead provides Low with the perfect time to avenge her betrayal.
The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
A mystery woman, infidelity, inconsistent storyteller, and unlikable people are all present in this modern spy thriller. Three women and three men are linked by marriage or betrayal. All of them are responsible for the others doing.
The book is portrayed through the viewpoints of Rachel, Megan, and Anna in alternate chapters, although primarily through Rachel’s. Rachel takes the train to work every day, and the plot revolves around the houses and people she observes from her window. She conjures up stories about the lives of these people, even giving them names.
If you enjoy reading well-written psychological thrillers, you will enjoy this page-turner with a compelling storyline.
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Denis Lehane’s Shutter Island is a disturbing psychological adventure story that will have your teeth grinding long after you have finished reading it. This book is packed with twists and turns and delivers a powerful blow. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have arrived on Shutter Island to uncover the abduction of a patient at Ashecliffe Hospital. Despite being confined in a locked cage under continuous supervision, serial killer Rachel Solando is free somewhere on this bleak island.
A peculiar case takes on even darker, more deadly colours as a lethal cyclone presses down on them, with horrible surgery and lethal strategies undertaken in the name of a hidden military campaign.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Alicia Berenson, a well-known artist, shoots down her photographer husband five times in the face, murdering him, then disappears.
For years, criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber has been captivated with her and Alicia’s solitude. After working his way into the personnel of Grove, a restricted investigative unit, he obtains the job of Alicia’s therapist.
In this engaging psychological thriller, very little is what it seems, and you will be on the edge of your seat from the very first paragraph.
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
We expect psychological mysteries to screw with our heads. Still, Alice Feeney has gone one step ahead with this brilliant, intriguing novel that will have you second-guessing all truths.
Amber Reynolds, who is in a coma, tells us a story while lying in a hospital bed. From the title itself, one can deduce that they will be dealing with a dubious storyteller.
The chapters alternate between previous ones, outlining what happened and diary entries of a little girl who is now in a coma and can still think but not move or call out for help.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Mia is a 25-year-old Chicago judge’s daughter. She is abducted, but the kidnapper changes his opinion and refuses to hand her over to the perpetrator.
She is ultimately sent home, but she is completely oblivious to what has occurred. Multiple narrators tell the story, which jumps back and forth between before and after her recovery.
Mia is the only character you never hear directly from till the very end. It is a character-driven tale with very little action. In the end, it raises some intriguing issues about topics like Stockholm Syndrome.
I Know Where She Is by S.B. Caves
Francine discovers a cryptic letter ten years after her daughter vanishes, saying: I know where she is. Having her life split in half yet again, she returns to the quest for the truth behind the kidnapping. Francine is left appalled by what she uncovers afterwards.
She finds danger in the most unlikely locations and partakes in actions she never thought she would do before.
This is a pleasurable debut novel by S. B. Cave that will have you questioning the characters in this mind-boggling psychological thriller.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Reporter Camille Preaker is returning to her small village after a short period in a psychiatric facility to investigate the unresolved death of a teenage girl and the abduction of another.
Camille has not spoken to her hysterical schizophrenic mother or her thirteen-year-old half-sister in years. Since Camille’s arrival at her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian castle, she feels intensely associating with the poor victims.
Any fan of mystery thriller books should get their hands on Sharp Objects. HBO has also converted this into a limited-edition series recently.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
With its depiction of a wedding gone drastically wrong, Gone Girl seized the literature market by storm. Amy Dunne abruptly vanishes on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband Nick is the prominent suspect. Throughout the investigation, we see holes in the Dunne marriage. Along with the rest of the world, Nick is enthralled by Amy’s diary entries, which almost seem to reflect a level of precision that might push any relationship to the limit.
Gillian Flynn maintains her place as one of the finest writers today with a wickedly twisted and brilliantly crafted mystery that showcases her signature psychological expertise.
Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
Joe Goldberg, aged thirty, has been dumping the bodies of his slain victims throughout New York for ten years. He is now on his way to Los Angeles, ready to leave his baggage in the waters of New York. Joe obtains work in a bookstore in Los Angeles, where he spends his leisure time eating guacamole and chatting with his reporter neighbour.
While others around him appear to be focused on their shadows, Joe cannot seem to stop staring behind him. Around this time, his girlfriend starts noting his half-truths. However, even though Joe wants to spend the rest of his life with her and not want to harm her, he may need to do just that if she starts discovering what he has committed.
The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Harriet Vanger, a descendant of one of Sweden’s richest families, has been missing for nearly four decades. Her elderly uncle is still searching for the truth after many years. He pairs up with Lisbeth Slander, a tattooed coder with a ruthless temper inherited from her rough past.
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an international bestseller that mixes a detective story, a family history, a love triangle, and corporate politics into one gratifyingly complicated and fascinating novel.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Maggie Holt’s parents scooped her up and escaped Baneberry Hall in the middle of the night when she was a child. Maggie’s father revealed their motives for departing in a book titled House of Horrors.
She comes to Baneberry Hall following her father’s death to refurbish the property so she can sell it. Her welcome home, however, is far from cordial. In the shadows, people from the past, as depicted in House of Horrors, linger.
The mysteries of Baneberry Hall don’t take much time to show themselves to Maggie, and she begins to suspect that perhaps House of Horrors was more reality than imagination.
The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth
The contrasting worlds of strong, successful women and parenting are explored in this unsettling and intriguing novel. It is a dual narrative that begins with Helena, a successful entrepreneur without a job and a mom without a baby. Helena is taken aback yet charmed by Ashley’s intense determination when she hires her to work. She is ecstatic since they have formed an ideal team, but Ashley has other plans and is willing to go to any length to succeed.
Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward
Maddie and Ian met at a party in a foreign country while she was working as a freelance journalist and meeting her closest friend, Jo, and Ian, serving in the British army. They soon married and were blessed with a son, as they lived the ideal city life in America.
A murder investigation in a house introduces the readers to the concept of Beautiful Bad. The narrative spans Maddie and Ian’s sixteen-year relationship, from an accidental meeting overseas to the closing days leading up to the disaster.
The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda
This complex, suspenseful novel will transport you into the psyche of a mother suffering from a tragic event. Jane has been caught in a fog of sorrow since her dear daughter Mary passed away last year. David, Jane’s husband, has scheduled a funeral ceremony for Mary. On the other hand, Jane’s family has changed without her when she comes back to reality. David works late nights at the office, and Betsy, her daughter, has become mysterious and defiant. To make matters worse, Jane starts receiving weird signals that suggest Mary’s death was not a coincidence.
Lee Roy Sears had already been sentenced to death, but his lawyer, Micheal O’Meara, was able to have his conviction reversed. Lee maintains a close relationship with Michael even outside prison while contacting his wife often. However, Michael quickly starts to second guess his decision on whether or not he made the right call by releasing Lee and allowing him to become so close to his family. Now, two men’s aspirations and truths are about to clash. And sooner or later, the distinctions between lies and reality, confidence and deceit are lost.
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
Michelle Frances’ first murder mystery, The Girlfriend, is a compelling and terrifying novel about the consequences of an awful deception. Laura has the ideal lifestyle with a prolonged marriage, a good job, and a righteous son. However, her son soon starts seeing Cherry, a youthful, attractive, and intelligent girl who will stop at nothing to take Laura’s life. When Cherry first arrives at Laura’s house, her suspicions are confirmed on Cherry not being who she claimed to be. When disaster strikes, terrible lies get in the mix. Still, the consequences of the desperate measures will affect their lives permanently.
After She’s Gone by Sheryl Browne
Chief Inspector Matthew Adams has dealt with many criminals in his career, but very few of them are as wicked as Patrick Sullivan. Patrick is a drug addict, liar, and assassin who will go to any length to get what he wants. When Patrick’s brother is killed in a failed police raid, the intense rivalry between the men escalates, and Matthew struggles to maintain the higher moral ground.
The Practice of Deceit by Elizabeth Benedict
Eric Lavender, a Manhattan therapist, befriends Colleen O’Brien Golden, a sultry, elegant lawyer. He later follows Colleen to Scarsdale, where he enjoys family life as a husband and dad to a new infant and a lovely stepdaughter. However, these perfect beginnings are temporary, as tragedy lurks in the future. Colleen has a dark past and goes through a major crisis to expose her real character.
Elizabeth Benedict navigates the treacherous elements of passion, ambition, and revenge with sharp sarcasm and great insight through this tale of family life gone wrong.
I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney
I know who you are, is a psychological drama that takes chances and provides a warped storyline; it is not for the faint-hearted, but it will be exactly up your street if you are looking for a thriller novel with twists.
When Aimee gets back home and realizes her husband has gone away, she appears to be at a loss on what needs to be done. The cops believe she is concealing information, and they are correct. Aimee has a mystery she has never told anyone about, but she has a distinct feeling that somebody else knows about it. As she fights to retain her job and her health, her past traumatizes her in a manner she would have never expected.
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Riley Sager’s LOCK EVERY DOOR is a crime thriller blockbuster that blends Victorian ambience with New York City elegance as well as a whole deal of terror. ‘There will be no guests and no evenings spent travelling from the house,’ Jules Larsen’s new position as a unit caretaker at the Bartholomew has these regulations. She is attached to her colleague flat sitter Ingrid, who resembles her younger sister, who she buried eight years ago. When Ingrid confesses to Jules that Bartholomew is not at all what it appears to be like, Jules dismisses it as a lighthearted murder mystery until the day Ingrid vanishes.
Jules digs further into Bartholomew’s stormy history and the secrets hidden inside its walls. She tries to identify a murderer and flee the Bartholomew lest her temporary residency turns official.
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Jessica Farris assumes she will just have to respond to the questions and leave when she gets access to psychology research with the enigmatic Dr Shields. But as the questioning becomes a little more severe and intrusive, and the meetings turn into trips where Jess is advised how to dress and behave, she begins to suspect that Dr Shields knows what she is contemplating and avoiding. Is this a genuine research project, or is Dr Shields engaging Jess in some bizarre, deceitful game?
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Lo Blacklock is a writer who opts to take a vacation to bring back her motivation to write after an invader smashed into her residence. She hears cries emanating from cabin 10 one night, even though there is no one there on examination. She immediately goes to Nillson, a sailor on the cruise, but he ignores her allegations and claims that she is hallucinating. This crime thriller novel will keep you intrigued till the very last page because of how gripping, unexpected, and impossible to put away it is.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Louise is a young single mother working as a secretary in a contemporary routine. She meets a guy in a bar on a work night out, and she is delighted that she finally got to meet someone. Unfortunately, David, the bad guy, turns out to be her boss. Then there’s Adele, David’s mysterious and stunningly gorgeous spouse. As Louise becomes further entangled in David and Adele’s world, she discovers more problems than solutions. Only one aspect is certain: there is something terribly wrong in this relationship, but Louise has no idea what it is or how far someone would go to keep their secrets hidden.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
Le Sommet has long been a dark spot, covered by forest and dominated by intimidating heights. The previously deserted monastery has now been rebuilt into an elegant five-star hotel with tarnished rumours. Elin arrives at the hotel to celebrate her brother’s engagement. She is nervous because she arrives because of how dangerous the storm was, but matters worsen the next morning when the bride-to-be mysteriously disappears. People are becoming increasingly concerned as she remains absent, and Elin is obliged to intervene when another girl goes missing.
These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall
Mickie Lambert makes “digital scrapbooks” for customers to assure those valuable mementoes are not neglected or misplaced. When Mickie’s most current client, Nadia Denham, dies in an alleged suicide, she fulfils the older woman’s dying wish by collecting her odd artefacts, which include a box for music, a hair clip, and a keychain, which Nadia has gathered on her thrift store excavates throughout the state. However, someone is not pleased with Mickie’s intrusion into Nadia’s background and goes to great lengths to hear their opinions.
The Girl from Widow Hills by Meghan Miranda
Arden Maynor was only a youngster when she was torn down during sleepwalking in a horrific thunderstorm and disappeared for months. She was discovered intact, hanging to a drainpipe against all expectations. Thousands of adoring messages, spammers, and a reputation she did not desire accompanied her. In due course, Arden vanished once more when she reached adulthood. However, as the 20th anniversary after her departure arrives, she starts to sleepwalk once again, ultimately waking up to the corpse of an individual from her past existence.
The Shadow by Melanie Raabe
Norah was only settling in after coming from Berlin to Vienna to abandon her old identity when a homeless lady approaches her on the sidewalk and tells her that on February 11th, she will murder a guy named Arthur Grim. Norah, however, dismisses this as a whim until she meets Arthur Grimm.
Norah soon develops a terrifying presumption on a legitimate motive to take vengeance on Grim. She battles with her inner demons on whether or not she can ensure that justice prevails by taking a life on her own.
Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
Marin’s life was ideal. She operates a network of fancy salons with her college beau, while Derek manages his own business. They are well-liked in their neighbourhood and have a wonderful family, but everything changes when their boy Sebastian is abducted. Martin appoints a private detective to pursue the case a year after the FBI case has gotten old. Rather than uncovering facts about her son, the investigator learns truths about her partner that leaves the investigation cold.
The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
Fern and Rose are twin sisters, and they appear to be quite close from the outside. Fern, who has a sensory integration problem and perceives the best in their sadistic mom, has always been under Rose’s protection. Fern committed a heinous crime many years earlier. And Rose has kept it a secret from the rest of the world. When Fern chooses to help her sister accomplish her dream of having a child, Rose fears that Fern would make decisions that will only lead to disaster.
The First Mistake by Sandie Jones
Life seems to be great for Alice. She has a solid business, two kids, and a lovely home with her new husband, Nathan. Alice believes that she can handle anything with her closest friend Beth at her edge, through the complexities of life, from joyful evenings to consoling one another through grief. When Nathan begins to act strangely, Alice seeks help from Beth. But she will soon have to determine who among them she can truly trust.
Into The Jungle by Erica Ferencik
Into the Jungle is a standalone thriller about existence that is filled with action and heart-wrenching adventure. It portrays Lily, a woman who embarks on a journey across Bolivia’s vast forest. She landed upon a teaching job and was quite satisfied when Omar comes into the scene and takes Lily on the best and worst adventure of her life.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
When Anne and Marco’s babysitter leaves at the very last moment due to a dinner party, they are left in a bind. Marco persuades Anne to leave their six-month-old Cora at home unattended. Cora cannot be found when the two return home, which leads to cops getting involved as secrets start to unravel.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
The poisonous brilliance of Hannibal Lecter, the passionately motivated girl Clarice, and the famous terror evil Buffalo Bill all contribute to a gripping psychological thriller. The piece reads like a screenplay, with a strong focus on character and conversation.
Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke
The story features the host of a crime podcast named Ellie Castillo. Elle believes it is best to take on The Countdown Killer, who abducts and kills three girls over the course of seven nights. She prepares a trip to question him after getting a letter from a reader, only to discover him lifeless.
Mirror Land by Carole Johnstone
Cat and El are twins and have created Mirror land, a fictional world consisting of knights, wizards, and gipsies hidden beneath the pantry steps of their house in Edinburgh. Cat currently resides in Los Angeles, while El lives with her husband in their childhood house. When El goes missing after a sailing trip, Cat arrives home to uncover a trail of facts possibly connected to Mirror land.
What is the best psychological thriller book to read?
Some of the best psychological thriller books are:
- Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
- I Know Where She Is by S.B. Caves
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
- Mystery by Stephen King
What is a psychological thriller book?
A psychological thriller is a kind of thriller that focuses on the individuals’ psyche. They often avoid science fantasy themes, focusing instead on incidents that could happen.
What are the best thriller books?
From historical criminal dramas to riveting emotional page-turners, here are some of the most exciting mystery titles to exist:
Magma by Thora Hjorleifsdottir
- Rabbits by Terry Miles
- Fragile by Sarah Hilary
- The Imposter by Anna Wharton
- Sixteen horses by Greg Buchanan
- Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
Who is the best crime thriller writer?
Some of the best crime thriller writers are:
- Thomas Harris
- P.D James
- Lee Child
- Chris Carter
- Karen Rose
- Patricia Cornwell
- Karin Slaughter
- R.C Bridgestock
What makes a good thriller?
A good thriller contains quite a lot of elements that other genres do not offer distinctively. Some of these features include having a clear and striking threat relevant to the storyline. Good thrillers tend to keep readers up and excited about what will come next. The storyline of excellent thrillers is full of suspense and unexpected twists. Moreover, thrillers do not skimp on story and character development. If you come across such a novel, make sure not to let go of it, as it will surely be an emotional roller coaster for you.
What is the difference between a thriller and a psychological thriller?
The fundamental distinction between the two is that a psychological thriller novel usually features a killing and its consequences. Suspense and intrigue are hallmarks of the thriller genre, and psychological thrillers are no exception.