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Psychological Thrillers to Get You Through Winter

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February 2, 2021

Recently, I wrote an article on my favorite cozy mysteries to coincide with winter in Wisconsin. Although I’m a fan of cozy mysteries, my all-time favorite type of novel to read is an intriguing psychological thriller. I find them really engaging, atmospheric, and I love when I can never guess the twists and turns that pop up. I love to go back and forth between cozy mysteries and psychological thrillers (with a plethora of cookbooks sprinkled in), and below are a list of my all-time favorite novels and authors:

Author: Clare Mackintosh

Recommended Reads: I Let You Go, I See You, Let Me Lie

Clare Mackintosh is the author who really made me realize I love a good thriller and mystery. The first book I read by her was I Let You Go, and it was so captivating. In this unforgettable and deeply moving novel, Jenna Gray's life is catapulted into chaos one rainy night in November. To try to survive her nightmare, she escapes to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast. But her past never stays truly hidden, and she is plagued by what happened and the choices she made, even though she tries to heal from her mistakes. When Jenna finally sees hope on her horizon, the horrors of her past catch up with her in a startling twist. I had to read the second half of this novel in one sitting, because the twists were so unpredictable and haunting I was completely hooked!

Author: Riley Sager

Recommended Reads: All of them! Lock Every Door, The Last Time I Lied, Home Before Dark, Final Girls

Riley Sager is one of my new favorite authors. I’ve loved each of his novels more than the last, his most recent being Home Before Dark, published in 2020. It follows the story of Maggie, who fled along with her parents from their sprawling Victorian estate, Baneberry Hall, in the middle of the night. They claimed their house was haunted, and fearing for their lives, they left all of their belongings inside. Driven by their harrowing experience, Maggie's father wrote a novel chronicling everything that allegedly happened inside the house. Although it brought the family money and fame, not everyone believed it or appreciated living in its shadow, Maggie included. When she inherits the estate after her father's death, she goes back with the intention to get it ready to sell. Soon, she finds herself on a search for answers on what really happened 25 years ago, and readers embark on a suspenseful tale full of twists and turns! Haunting and atmospheric, with elements of mystery, thriller, and the supernatural, this is easily one of the best books I've read this year! I’d highly recommend anything by this author.

Author S. K. Tremayne

Recommended Reads: Just Before I Died, The Ice Twins, The Fire Child

Not for the faint of heart, these are true psychological thrillers in every sense of the word. Eerie, haunting, and captivating, I find myself easily and thoroughly engrossed in any novel by this author. The first book I read by him was The Ice Twins, about a family who loses one twin in an accident before moving to a small Scottish island and getting the shock of their life when the surviving daughter claims she’s actually not the daughter they thought survived. Who really survived? And what really happened the day of the accident? I found every novel by S.K. Tremayne to be super atmospheric and engaging, and couldn’t put any of them down until I reached the very (always stunning) ending.

Author: B. A. Paris

Recommended Reads: Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown

I’d highly recommend Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown by this author. Bring Me Back, the author’s third novel (although a great read), didn’t have as many exciting twists as the author’s first two novels, and the author’s fourth read, The Dilemma, just wasn’t my cup of tea. My favorite of the first two would probably be The Breakdown.

Stuck driving home late during a dangerous storm, Cass makes a pivotal decision to drive through the woods in order to get home sooner. When she sees someone stopped alongside the road, but they make no effort to flag her down, Cass drives on. The next morning, she finds out the woman from the woods was brutally murdered. Racked with guilt, Cass's life starts to spiral out of control. Soon, she starts forgetting things, little moments at first that turn into huge gaps in her memory. Can she really trust herself, especially after what she did? Can she really trust what she feels, that she's being watched, that the silent calls she's been getting are from the murderer still at large? This was a mystery that hooked me from the first chapter, and didn't let me go until I finished it the next day!

Author: Carol Goodman

Recommended Reads: Everything by this author! My top picks would be River Road, The Widow’s House, The Night Visitors, and The Other Mother

I started reading Carol Goodman in high school, when I was first starting to find out what I truly loved to read. I remember going to my hometown library, going to adult section (because I just couldn’t get interested in anything in the teen area), and seeing one of Carol Goodman’s books on display. It was either Arcadia Falls or The Lake of Dead Languages, and ever since then I was hooked. I read every book by her that the library had, and she has since been one of my all-time favorite authors. Her books are always so atmospheric and engaging, featuring mystery elements and always featuring a strong female protagonist.

One of my favorite books by her has been The Other Mother. In this novel, the reader is immediately gripped by new mother Daphne’s doubt after the birth of her daughter, Chloe. When she meets and strikes up a friendship with Laurel, one of the mothers in her new support group, Daphne finally feels hope and reassurance. Unfortunately, events that Daphne never could have predicted lead her to run. She escapes when the opportunity falls into her lap to work and live with her favorite author, who lives next to a mental hospital and is connected to its history in a fascinating way. The reader is then taken on a winding and unpredictable path through a truly thrilling and atmospheric masterpiece.

Author: Ruth Ware

Recommended Reads: Everything by this author, but especially The Turn of the Key and The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Truly a master at an atmospheric mystery, this author always makes such engaging novels and picturesque settings. I first heard about heard Ruth Ware when The Woman in Cabin 10 was popular (which I also recommend), and then delved into In a Dark, Dark Wood (which I recommend even more). Since then I’ve followed her closely and have really enjoyed everything she’s written. One of my favorites was The Turn of the Key, which I listened to on audiobook.

Readers meet Rowan Caine, who finds an ad for a live-in nanny position in the picturesque Scottish Highlands. Beautiful surroundings, a very generous salary, and a luxurious home make this opportunity seem too good to be true. And it is, because Rowan's employment ends with a child dead and her on trial for murder. Writing to a lawyer from prison, Rowan insists she is innocent, and is frantic for someone, anyone to believe her. But if she isn't guilty, who is?

Author: C. J. Tudor

Recommended Reads: The Chalk Man, The Other People, The Hiding Place

This first novel I read by this author was The Chalk Man, about a man who thought he had outrun his past. Eddie and his friends used to leave drawings of chalk men for each other as their own secret code growing up, until one of them leads to a dead body. Years later when Eddie and his friends suddenly start receiving notes with these drawings on them, it leads to a riveting search to find out what really happened when they were kids, and has a truly surprising twist at the end for readers!

My favorite novel by C.J. Tudor so far would have to be The Hiding Place (also called The Taking of Annie Thorne), about a man who never wanted to come back to his hometown after the disappearance of his little sister. He has no choice though when an anonymous email is sent to him claiming someone knows what happened to his sister all those years ago. Like all of the novels by this author it was dark, captivating, atmospheric, and haunting.

Author: S.J. Bolton

Recommended Reads: Little Black Lies, Dead Woman Walking, Sacrifice, Awakening, The Craftsman

The first novel I read by this author was Sacrifice, about a woman on the Shetland Islands who discovers a body in her backyard that leads her on a haunting journey of discovery about the new town she just moved to. My other two favorite stand-alones from this author have been Little Black Lies, about a community on the Falkland Islands where children start disappearing; and Dead Woman Walking, about a woman who witnesses a murder and finds herself on a run for survival.

Recently this author published a series that started with The Craftsman, and I’d highly recommend this series as well. The first book in the series follows Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady and a cold case she thought was solved when she arrested the suspected murderer 30 years prior. When she discovers an effigy that bears a horrifying resemblance to those buried with earlier victims, Florence is left questioning if she really caught the murderer. A chilling and atmospheric series, and I’m really looking forward to it continuing!

Happy reading!

Adults Books Reading Recommendations

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