Welcome to the SheReads Bookish Entertainment column! Each week, enjoy a new article by Garrett Billings— Bookstagrammer, blogger, book-to-screen junkie—on all things Reading + Hollywood. Stars’ book club picks and trailer reveals, book-to-screen news and book pop culture, and of course, Gare’s specialty, choosing his ideal Hollywood casts for book adaptations—Bookish Entertainment has you covered.
One thing I love about Bookstagram and the reading community in general is that, in the past few years, I have read some incredible books that I might not have found without this community and readers in general. And when it comes to thrillers, there’s this feeling I get with some of them that I’ve felt when reading some of the books that are classics or have become classics; books like The Silence of the Lambs and Gone Girl. Here are some of those books that are the perfect thrillers for lovers of suspense.
Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Even though Find Her is book number 8 in the DD Warren series, it can easily be read as a standalone and features one of my favorite plots in a book. A deranged trucker kidnapped a young college student and held her captive for 472 days. After surviving and spending five years trying to go back to an everyday life, Flora Dane is still struggling to gain normalcy. When detective DD Warren is called to a homicide where a young man is found dead, she meets Flora Dane – who has also been involved with other suspects – and wonders if Flora’s return to society has caused her to become a vigilante. This one is told in a present timeline, as well as Flora’s encounter with the serial killer who had abducted her. This one is a phenomenal read that is terrifying, chilling and brilliantly paced. Not only do I think thriller fanatics would love this book, but it might also spark their interest to read the other books in the series; if you do, you don’t necessarily have to go back to books 1-7, as this is a great place to begin the series as well.
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
There’s some trends in thrillers that have evolved over the years including media, and each trend really hits the mark for me. We have books-within-a-book, books that include newspaper clippings, and more. One more updated trend that I’m loving within crime fiction is books that include podcasts, and The Night Swim by Megan Goldin is one novel that did the whole podcast-within-a-book trend seamlessly. When Rachel – a true crime podcaster – reports to a small town to investigate a rape trial for her podcast, she quickly begins to investigate. On top of this investigation, someone is stalking Rachel and leaving her notes that reference a 25-year-old drowning of a young woman whose death may not have been an accident. As Rachel begins to investigate both crimes, she realizes the two may be connected. I loved this book and it has some really creepy scenes and the storylines are so well written. I think years from now, people will read this book and so much of it will scream to the hills of what things were like with the #MeToo movement during this present time.
The Woman Inside by E.G. Scott
The Woman Inside is like reading Basic Instinct as a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This book is smart, sexy and filled with intense scenes from multiple perspectives. A noir thriller that deals with secrets, murder and marriage, you do not want to miss out on this read. Rebecca and Paul have been married for 20 years—and to say they’ve fallen out of love would be an understatement. Rebecca is an addict. Paul is cheating. Around the time that Rebecca discovers Paul’s infidelities, his mistress begins stalking the couple. This book is insane and twisty and perfectly written. The characters are sensational, the plot is diabolical, and the ending is my favorite book ending that I have ever read. I’ve read this book about three times since it’s release and it is my favorite comfort read.
The Sandman by Lars Kepler
The Joonia Linna series by Lars Kepler is one of my favorite books series, and The Sandman is easily my favorite installment. Although this is book four in the series, it’s perfect to read as a standalone. My recommendation is to actually start the series at this point and then continue on, and read the first three books later if you’d like. If you were afraid after reading The Silence of the Lambs or watching the movie Se7en, then The Sandman will absolutely terrify you. Sweden has been haunted for years by Jurek Walker, the most notorious serial killer the country has ever seen. When a child, who disappeared thirteen years ago, resurfaces and says his sister who was also taken is still alive and in danger, it is up to Detective Joona Linna to bring the girl home safe. Relying on help from an inspector named Saga Bauer, who goes undercover in the psychiatric hospital where Walker is being kept, the two must join forces to get Walker to speak. This book is completely terrifying and eerie and cinematic. If you ask me what books I’ve fallen head over heals in love with since starting my blog, The Sandman is easily one of my favorite serial killer thrillers that combines the police procedural aspect and is done so effectively. Not only is this whopper of a story completely immersive, but I guarantee you’ll be double checking the locks before crawling into your bed at night.
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Speaking of serial killer thrillers, Jar of Hearts is one of the most unsettling and most terrifying books I’ve yet to read. Georgina, Angela and Kaiser were three best friends growing up. At the time the trio was 16, Angela went missing and was never found. Kaiser went on to be a detective and Georgina, an executive at a pharmaceutical company. Things take a chilling turn when Angela’s remains are found 14 years after her disappearance in the woods behind Georgina’s home and the police discover she was a victim of Calvin James, a serial killer…and Georgina’s first boyfriend. For 14 years Georgina has been holding the secret to what happened to Angela, and she is soon sent to prison—and that’s only the beginning. This plot is sensational, the pacing brilliant, the characters vivid, and it all takes place in Seattle. Just writing this makes me want to pick the book up again; if you want the kind of book that you will take everywhere just so you can sneak in pages during times you wouldn’t otherwise think of reading, this is the ideal read.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Let’s start this off with a bang. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter is not only one of my favorite thrillers (easily top five), but the reason I even thought to write this article. Shortly after joining Bookstagram, it was the heat of the summer in 2017 and I had just devoured the novel The Good Daughter. After that came the comments from my followers: Was it better than Pretty Girls? Why haven’t you covered Pretty Girls? How does this one compare to Pretty Girls? I was flabbergasted with the buzz over this novel. The next Monday night, I ran a hot bath and dove right in – nothing has kept me engrossed like Pretty Girls. The backstory, the present timeline, the letters from a missing girl’s father – Pretty Girls is an emotional and extremely dark and gritty thriller that will make the entire outside world disappear. The plot is about two estranged sisters who uncover some new leads regarding the 20-year-old cold case of their sister’s disappearance. Then a local girl goes missing and it is a race against the clock to find out the truth – the only question being what price do they have to pay to get there? A powerful thriller that reels you in – Pretty Girls has it all.
Tony and Susan by Austin Wright
I’m sure most of you have heard of the movie Nocturnal Animals starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. I was so looking forward to the movie when it first came out and like the little book nerd that I am, I knew I had to read the book before the movie. Fifteen years after leaving her first husband, Susan is now remarried and playing the role of the doting housewife to a doctor when her world is turned upside down. Out of nowhere, she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward, asking her to read his work. Edward’s novel is about a man named Tony who, when on vacation with his wife and daughter, has his life violently turned upside down. The contrasts and similarities between what is real and what is fiction is eerie, unsettling and riveting in its prose. Terrified to read more and too stubborn to put it down, I dove into this violent and poignant novel with curiosity and determination. Take a nap during the day, because this one will keep you up all night long.
A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice
Christopher Rice is easily one of the biggest blessings in the publishing world. The fact that A Density of Souls came out when he was 22 is astounding. A Density of Souls is a beautifully written story that is part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age story, and all around a stunning story that will not only make your heart race but also break it. Four childhood friends enter high school – one of them devastatingly shunned as an outcast. Shortly after the friction of revelations, secrets and even death, shatter their lives, affecting their future indefinitely. Years later, when tragedy strikes again, secrets are dug up and exposed, violence emerges, and the consequences are earth-shattering. A Density of Souls will make you cry, keep you on the edge of the world with its prose and thrill you to no end until the brilliant and jaw-dropping finale that is guaranteed to make you a forever Christopher Rice fan. Reading this at 15 definitely shaped my expectations when it comes to novels and it will always be one of the best novels I’ve been ever immersed myself in.
Valentine by Tom Savage
Do away with the world of cell phones and get lost in the world of ’90s stalking with this terrifying read that is not only brutally entertaining but exceptionally paced. This book features an author in Greenwich Village who is being stalked by what could be an obsessed fan or something far more sinister. One of the first novels that I read featuring alternating perspectives, Savage gives the reader the stalker’s perspective as well as some of the women he has killed in the past. Are they connected? Is Jill next? Featuring a plethora of red herrings, a glamorous setting and a brutal backstory, Valentine is the thriller that turned me into a fan of the genre and I haven’t looked back. The novel is completely different from the movie and so much more chilling.
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
When I lived in Boston, my Kindle was always with me. I read on the commute to and from work, on my lunch break and loved nothing more than fighting the chill with a thriller and some hot coffee. The Weight of Silence is the novel that brings me back to Boston. When I read it, I was blindsided. I wouldn’t shut up about it and recommended it to anyone who would listen. Featuring a story told from multiple perspectives, the novel starts off with seven-year-old Calli disappears in the night. The catch? She’s mute from a past tragedy. What’s even more insane is that her best friend and neighbor, Petra, has also gone missing. With alternating perspectives between young Calli and the family members of the two missing girls, this novel is a brilliantly paced psychological suspense novel that is beautifully woven together and shocking with its revelations. I was so wrapped up in it, I may or may not have missed my stops on the Boston T a couple of times.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Who cares that this novel came out the year after I was born? Everyone has heard of or gotten to meet Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in the movie The Silence of the Lambs, but have you been able to fully embrace the story by reading it? I believe this is the novel that brought about my love for reading psychological thrillers, police procedural novels and fictional serial killer stories. I love the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice, but the brilliance in the plot is amazing. The Silence of the Lambs exposes the ugliness in the criminal world and ensures you that you’ll not just be staying up late to read, you’ll be triple-checking the locks on all of your doors before going to sleep. If you haven’t picked up this one or feel you don’t need to because you saw the movie a hundred times, do it anyway – I promise it’s better than the movie.
The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
Unfortunately, A.S.A. Harrison died shortly before the publication of her debut novel The Silent Wife but what a legacy did she leave behind. Harrison’s voice is prominent and razor sharp in this domestic psychological thriller that is both cunning and Hitchcockian. The Silent Wife tells a harrowing and cinematically stunning tale of a husband and wife and the wreckage of their marriage. Todd, a serial cheater, is used to his wife and her denial of their lifestyle. With nothing to lose, Jodi soon begins to plot revenge on Todd for all of the years he has taken advantage of her. Told through dual perspectives, this noir cat-and-mouse thriller is both character-driven and deliciously deceiving. I couldn’t get over how brilliantly Harrison created two very distinct voices to tell this story and was both shocked and enamored with the ending. If Gone Girl is the rebelling teenager, The Silent Wife is her cool older sister that she’s always admired… and could never one-up.
The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
The minute I read the synopsis for The Long and Far Away Gone by Lou Berney, I knew it was endgame for me. This novel is unlike any thriller I have read. It is phenomenal and I eagerly await the day I can pick it up for a re-read. This is a psychological thriller that combines a police procedural/private investigator element with, not one, but two cold cases (which is a big yes for me) and a character study of two survivors. Almost 30 years ago, two crimes rocked a small community. Neither crime was ever solved… until now. Wyatt, a private investigator and the sole survivor of one of the tragedies takes on a case that brings him back to his past and collides brilliantly with the female lead’s story. This novel is psychologically compelling and visually stunning. Berney captures the feeling of the ’80s brilliantly and weaves together two stories with a plethora of smalltown characters that are frighteningly believable and provides the reader with a shocking novel that will not only keep you on your toes but emotionally shock your heart.
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
I’ve heard things for years about the brilliance of a Patricia Cornwell novel. In my opinion, this is a prime example of the brilliance behind movies and novels released in the 1990s. Cornwell nails the forensic aspect so brilliantly in Postmortem, a thrilling suspense novel featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta – a Chief Medical Examiner who finds herself working with the police on a case involving a serial killer. Listen, I’m lucky I passed bio in both high school and college, but Cornwell has a knack for being both detailed while making the forensic aspect easy to follow and understand… thank God! This series was a beautiful combination of Scarpetta’s home life, love life and the work that goes into a case like this, all while being paced spectacularly. I may have read this one years ago, but the minute it was done, I was feverishly taking notes on the Scarpetta series as it’s definitely one I’d love to revisit.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Peter Swanson is brilliant and The Kind Worth Killing is easily one of the best novels I’ve read. A tale as old as time, Ted meets Lily in an airport and the two get to drinking martinis and talking about life. Ted admits in his drunken stupor that his wife is cheating on him and he wishes he could kill her. To this news, Lily is fully on board to help. By the time Ted finally gets to Boston, he stays in touch with Lily and they begin to take their drunken confessions to a whole other level by actually plotting his wife’s death. But what Ted doesn’t know is that Lily is no stranger to these dark thoughts and actions. Told in alternating timelines between the present and Lily’s past, this novel is full of shocking twists and turns all while being both cinematically stunning and atmospherically delicious. You either kick off your summer reading with something like this or you save it for the fall on one of those crisp nights with red wine and your favorite hoodie.
Hush by Anne Frasier
Anne Frasier captivated me in high school and scared the living daylights out of me with Hush. Sure, I was 15 and wow did this one shake me! This was the first novel that I read arrogantly, believing what happened on the page could never be real… I was wrong. Hush tells a story about a serial killer called the Madonna Murderer who would target single mothers and their newborn sons… killing both and leaving a snow globe in the crib as his signature. Twisted, isn’t it? Twenty years after Ivy Dunlap survived her attack and ultimately lost her newborn son, she is now a criminal psychologist who is trying to mind her own business, still haunted by her loss… and then the Madonna Murderer strikes again. Is it a copycat or is he back? A story that is sure to frighten, encompass and thrill its reader, I definitely can’t write a review about amazing thrillers I’ve read in my life without including this terrifying tale.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware is the Agatha Christie of our generation. Featuring well-paced mysteries with psychological thriller aspects, Ware delivers each time. In her most atmospheric and chilling story yet, In a Dark, Dark Wood is an instant classic. Leonora is a reclusive writer who has just been invited by an estranged friend for a bachelorette weekend and reluctantly agrees to go. Things start to get weird during the first nightfall upon the group arriving and Leonora begins to wonder if they aren’t alone in the woods.
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
Ashley Winstead’s In My Dreams I Hold a Knife is one of the best dark academia meets cold case murder thrillers that has ever existed. It’s been ten years, but Jessica Miller is returning to Duquette University for the first time since she graduated. Ten years ago, Jessica’s best friend, Heather, was brutally murdered and her friend group changed forever. Now, she is determined to show everyone how different she is, but not everyone is willing to let go of the past and this reunion turns into the search for a killer.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
If you’ve noticed the amount of Nordic Noir that is becoming increasingly popular over the last few years, one of the first books that made this subgenre popular was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Harriet Vanger was the heir to one of the richest families in Sweden when she vanished forty years ago, and her uncle never stopped searching for answers as to what happened to her. Now, he has hired journalist Mikael Blomkvist to finally get to the bottom of what happened to Harriet.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides brought back Hitchcockian suspense with a wild and twisty story and a shocking ending that has had people talking about it since its release. Criminal psychotherapist, Theo Barber, has been waiting his entire career for a patient like the one that has just come through the hospital doors. Alicia Berenson is a beautiful woman who seemingly had the perfect life until she shot her husband in the face and hasn’t spoken since. Theo is determined to find out what happened that night and finds himself becoming obsessed with Alicia and trying to get her to speak. But as Theo knows, there’s always more to the story and if Alicia speaks, he could find himself in a dangerous position.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
This domestic drama and mystery with a strong female cast became a NYT Bestseller and the book that everyone was talking about before its premiere as an HBO series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. Big Little Lies is centered around a group of women and a scandal surrounding the prestigious school that their children attend that results in a death. Everyone in this town has a secret, including the sassy Queen B, Madeline, the beautiful and perfect Celeste, and the young newcomer, Jane. On a parents night at the school, secrets and lies come to insufferable tension that results in someone not surviving the night.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins took the unreliable narrator trope in thrillers and created a unique premise with The Girl on the Train through the eyes of Rachel, an alcoholic dealing with the fact that her husband has moved on. As Rachel rides the train in and out of work every day, she begins to notice this couple that results in her dreaming about what their lives are like. When Rachel witnesses something and goes to file a police report, she begins to even question herself regarding what she saw and what really happened before the train pulled away?
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Simone St. James took thriller lovers on a wild ride with this thriller that combined a cold case missing person with a plot that weaves in supernatural elements. In Fell, New York, in 1982, a young woman named Viv takes a job as a night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in hopes of saving enough money to start a new life in New York City. After some strange occurrences, Viv vanishes and is never seen again. Twenty-five years later, Viv’s niece, Carly, moves to Fell to visit the Sun Down Motel and hopes to find answers to what really happened to Viv. Carly ends up taking a job as a night clerk and begins to have eerily similar experiences that Viv had…right before she vanished.
You by Caroline Kepnes
Kepnes took the world by storm with this stalker tale. Eliminating stereotypes and the usual stalker plot, Kepnes introduced readers to Joe Goldberg and told this toxic love tale from the eyes of the stalker. Joe works in a bookstore in the East Village and finds himself experiencing love at first sight when the beautiful aspiring writer, Beck, comes into his shop. After he Googles her name, he finds Beck’s social media and uses them to his advantage in hopes of “running into her” accidentally. Soon enough, Joe has infiltrated his way into Beck’s life and won’t let anything (or anyone) get in his way of experiencing true love.
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