There are some thrillers that will go down in history as being the trendsetters responsible for some of the tropes and plot twists you’ll see in books in the future. These are the books that kept us up hours past our bedtimes, the ones that made us double-check our locks, and even the ones who made us question not only those around us, but ourselves as well. If you’re looking for a list of influential thrillers that changed the game, here are the stories that truly stand the test of time.
Here’s our ultimate guide to psychological thrillers>>
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Combining police procedural aspects, psychological thriller, and serial killer plots, The Silence of the Lambs is one of the most popular crime fiction books of our time. Clarice Starling is a young FBI trainee who is sent to interview an imprisoned psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal the Cannibal) in hopes that his knowledge can help Clarice and the FBI catch a serial killer who is hunting women after the daughter of a senator is abducted.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The trope of having an unreliable narrator was flipped and spun around when this story came out, featuring a woman certain she witnessed something terrible, yet no one believes her. Rachel rides the same train in and out of the city every single day. During her commute, she begins to notice the same couple, and even lets her imagination run wild dreaming of what their life is like. Rachel feels like she knows them. One day she sees something terribly disturbing and goes to the police, only to find herself much too close to the investigation.
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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Missing persons’ thrillers were never the same after Gone Girl hit bookshelves everywhere. Gone were the days of a missing woman resulting in horrific violence, and Gillian Flynn forever changed the domestic aspect for thrillers. On the day of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. Told from the perspective of Nick the day Amy vanishes, and Amy’s diary entries leading up to the day she went missing, Nick is put in an unexpected position as tension mounts from the police, Amy’s parents, and the media making him suspect number one.
Here’s a list of thrillers like Gone Girl>>
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History combines a beautiful prose, sensational imager—and murder. In one of the most popular literary thrillers, Tartt brings her readers on a trip to a New England campus setting where Richard Pappin is determined to be accepted into an eccentric group of friends that Greek mythology professor, Julian Morrow has created. Richard will stop at nothing to be part of this group, including creating a secret past.
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Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Noir returns with a vengeance in this poignant and action-packed thriller. Beauregard “Bug” Montage used to be the best getaway driver of the East Coast, but now he makes an honest living as a mechanic. When Bug’s life hits a few bumps in the road, the money from his old life swirls in his memory and soon, a former associate contacts him for one last job—a jewelry heist. The money is too tempting and could provide Bug with all the money he needs, but as he prepares for one final job, he wonders if you ever truly leave your past behind.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie practically invented the locked-room mystery with And Then There Were None in one of the most iconic stories that has influenced an abundance of thrillers with an ensemble cast. Ten people—each with their own secret—are invited to an isolated mansion on an island by an unknown host who never shows up. Cut off from the outside world, one by one, the guests begin to drop like flies.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
In the novel that inspired a slew of Nordic Noir to be translated in English for readers, this serial-killer thriller and atmospheric chiller brought readers on an imaginary trip to Sweden, with little to no chance of being able to put this one down. Harriet Vanger was an heir to one of the wealthiest families in Sweden when she mysteriously disappeared forty years ago. Her uncle has been searching for answers since and hires journalist Mikael Blomkvist to investigate, who enlists the help of the tattooed genius Lisbeth Salander to uncover the dark past of what really happened to Harriet
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Mr. Ripley is one of the first in psychological thrillers that gives you a true insight into the mind of a sociopath in a novel that will chill you to the core. Tom Ripley is a young man in Manhattan trying to forget about his past as a bullied orphan and making a living through small scams. When Tom meets a wealthy man who hires him to bring his playboy son back home from Italy, Tom finds himself becoming more and more obsessed with Dickie Greenleaf. When Tom learns of Dickie’s affection for Marge, the deadly games begin.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho changed thrillers so much with its combination of violence, dark humor and satire. Gone were the cliches of a serial killer being the deranged trucker or the creepy janitor. In the 1980s in Manhattan, Ellis introduces us to the young and handsome Patrick Bateman. Bateman works on Wall Street by day—and spends his nights giving into his sinister desires through torture and murder.
You by Caroline Kepnes
You by Caroline Kepnes changed the game when it comes to psychological thrillers and stalker stories. By putting the reader in the mind of the watcher, Kepnes gives an inside look into the mind of a man looking for love. Joe Goldberg works in a bookstore in the East Village and believes it’s love at first sight when a young aspiring writer comes into the store. After Googling the name on her credit card, Joe finds social media accounts for Guinevere Beck and uses this to his advantage for the opportunity for a seemingly random encounter. Soon enough, Joe has infiltrated his way into Beck’s life and will stop at nothing to show her he is the man she was meant to be with.
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