Sometimes you get in the mood for a little suspense, and there’s no better way to scratch that itch than with a killer book—literally. Thrillers and mysteries never fail to get your heart pumping, making you turn the page at warp speed while also delivering an oddly satisfying uneasiness about what’s to come. Naturally, these gripping domestic and psychological thrillers make for excellent beach reads or poolside companions.
To add a bit of excitement to your bookshelf, we found some of the best thriller books out there. And you might recognize one in particular that has been adapted into a Netflix show: You, which streamed its second season in December and stars Penn Badgley as bookish murderer Joe Goldberg. If you want to read the novel that started it all, check out Carolyn Kepnes’s tale below—plus more of the best thriller books of all time. You’ll be glad you’re reading them on a hot summer day because they’ll all send a chill up your spine.
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The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Named a Reese’s Book Club Pick, The Guest List is an Agatha Christie-esque mystery set over the course of a highly exclusive weekend wedding. The groom, the bride, and the other key players narrate their parts in this atmospheric thriller that takes place amid the drizzly vistas of Ireland.
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The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Attica Locke, a TV writer-turned-novelist, writes her acclaimed mystery and thrillers with an expert sense of pacing. While The Cutting Season’s plot is gripping, its historical and social insight will stick with you long after the ending. The Cutting Season interweaves two murder mysteries: One that takes place on a historic Louisiana landmark, and the disappearance of a slave, 100 years earlier.
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Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
The author of Big Little Lies set her latest novel at a remote wellness center. Masha, Tranquillum House’s charismatic owner, lures nine guests deeper and deeper into her spa’s twisted philosophy. Watch in preparation for the upcoming series starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy.
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The Herd by Andrea Bartz
Andrea Bartz breathes new life into the psychological thriller by setting her novels in modern settings. The Herd is a biting satire of a women’s workspace like the Wing, and the darkness that may lurk behind that perfectly coiffed sitting room with rainbow bookshelves.
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Long Bright River by Liz Moore
An earlier O review of Long Bright River called Liz Moore’s novel “equal parts literary and thrilling—a compassionate, multidimensional look at an epidemic that surrounds us.” A spin on the procedural, the novel follows a police officer who is consumed by looking for her missing sister, last seen struggling with a heroin addiction.
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An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Written by the acclaimed Roxane Gay, this thriller about a woman named Mireille Duval Jameson shows Mireille living a privileged life as an adored wife and daughter of one of Haiti’s richest men—until one day she’s kidnapped for ransom and her father refuses to pay the debt.
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Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine
An “average” housewife’s life is changed forever when a car accident reveals that her husband is a serial killer. She quickly goes into hiding and assumes a new identity—but soon, as you can probably guess, a new threat finds her.
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In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Reclusive writer Leonora attends what’s supposed to be an exciting, care-free bachelorette weekend in the English countryside, but it soon turns into something sinister in this psychological thriller.
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Finalist for the 2019 Women’s Prize
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This award-winning novel follows a woman named Korede as she loyally cleans up after and covers for her sociopathic sister Ayoola—who appears to have now killed her third boyfriend.
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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
2019’s standout thriller follows Alicia Berenson, a celebrated painter married to a famed fashion photographer. But one day, she shoots her husband in the face…five times…and never speaks again.
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Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Picture-perfect newlyweds Jack and Grace are the couple you love to hate. He has the money and perfect job, and she is a beautiful homemaker. But when you look closer, they’re almost too flawless, and Grace is nearly unreachable and impossible to get to know—eerily so.
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Adapted as the Netflix series You!
Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
This is the second book in Kepnes’ series, adapted for Netflix as the series You. (Catch the first book here). The follow-up to the novel follows the same storyline as the series’ second season, seeing protagonist Joe Goldberg leave behind his murdering ways in NYC for sunny L.A. But he soon finds a new object of obsession—as he fights to keep his violent, stalking instincts at bay.
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An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
This hypnotic novel packs an unexpected twist as it follows a woman named Jessica Farris who enters into a psychological study to earn extra money. The experiments are led by Dr. Shields, who soon takes the study beyond the lab, infiltrating Jessica’s real life.
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The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Rowan Caine seems to score herself a dream job as a live-in nanny at a luxurious smart home in the Scottish Highlands. But what seems too good to be true actually is, as Rowan eventually finds herself in prison and on trial for a murder she insists she didn’t commit.
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Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Jules Larson becomes an apartment sitter at Manhattan’s elite and mysterious building the Bartholomew. She soon befriends another apartment sitter named Ingrid—but when she disappears, Jules must investigate and delve into the building’s dark history.
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My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Dubbed “Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” a seemingly everyday couple has gotten bored with their monotonous life…so they spice it up. With murder.
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It Ends With Her by Brianna Labuskes
FBI agent Clarke Sinclair has spent years trying to catch a serial killer named Simon Cross. He has a habit of only targeting red heads, but when he breaks his pattern, Clarke must figure out what he’s up to.
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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
One of two Gillian Flynn novels on this list, this bestseller follows the mysterious disappearance of picture-perfect wife Amy Dunne and her husband Nick, who seems to be guilty of her murder. But the story that seems obvious is nowhere close to the truth. Gone Girl was adapted into the acclaimed 2014 film starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and Neil Patrick Harris.
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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
All assumptions go out the window with this twisted story of a suffering ex-wife who’s stalking her ex’s new, younger fiancée. But a twist you won’t see coming is what makes this story truly standout.
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The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
You’re likely familiar with the 1991 film starring Jodie Foster that brought this startling story to life. It follows young FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who—in her efforts to understand the mind of serial killer Buffalo Bill—interviews Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychologist and murderer.
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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Created into a 2016 drama starring Emily Blunt, this story follows Rachel Watson, a commuter who catches sight of the same alluring couple every day while on her train ride. But on one ride, she witnesses something shocking, and unexpectedly becomes embroiled in an ever-complicated investigation.
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The Shining by Stephen King
In this King classic, Jack Torrence moves his family to the Overlook Hotel after earning a job as its caretaker. But once the fierce winter weather comes around, a darkness creeps into Jack that threatens his wife and son. The unforgettable 1980s adaptation stars Jack Nicholson at his…well, creepiest.
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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Adapted as a binge-worthy HBO miniseries last year (that we’re hoping gets renewed) is this thrilling novel about journalist Camille Preaker. She returns to her hometown to report on the unsolved murders of two preteen girls. But as she deals with her own demons and family drama, Camille soon discovers that the danger is closer than she thinks.
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In this 1938 classic—and National Book Award winner—newlywed Mrs. Maxim de Winter must adapt to her new unsettling life as she uncovers the dark secrets of her husband’s beautiful first wife, Rebecca.
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Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
In this unnerving thriller, a woman with amnesia fights to discover who she is, despite her inability to recover her past or form new memories.
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