Psychological thrillers are not for the faint hearted. Indeed, they are perhaps the most terrifying and chilling of thrillers. In fact, this subgenre of thrillers deals with complex, distressed psyches and distorted thinking patters. Hence, they’re often scarier than ghosts and other standard horror tropes. Today, we’ve made a list of the best psychological thriller books of all time, that you should have on your shelf if you love some Goosebumps.
Psychological Thrillers: Best Psychological Thriller Books of All Time
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This psychological thriller is the story of Rachel, who catches the same train every morning and feels like she knows everyone she sees everyday. She gives them names, wishes she could be as happy as them, and observes them closely. However, one day, she seems something extraordinary that she can’t un-see. Now, she gets to be a part of the lives she has watched from afar. This event will change her life. This critically acclaimed psychological thriller will creep you out, but will also be impossible to put down.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
This one-of-its-kind novel follows Alicia, who leads an apparently perfect life as a fashion photographer’s painter wife. They’re rich, happy and in love. But all of that crumbles down when Gabriel, the husband, returns from work one day and his wife shoots him five times. She then goes silent and never speaks again. Meanwhile, a criminal psychotherapist, Theo, becomes obsessed with uncovering Alicia’s darkest secrets. As he deals with Alicia, the story skyrockets and becomes an intense masterpiece that won’t let you sleep at night.
I Know Where She Is by S B Caves
A work of immense grip and gravity, this follows Francine, whose daughter has been abducted ten years ago. Then, on the anniversary of the abduction, Francine receives an anonymous note that says, ‘I know where she is.’ From here, the story snowballs into something much bigger – sinister and dangerous. Indeed, Francine must travel to the deepest, darkest most sinister and dangerous places to find her beloved abducted daughter, Autumn.
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Dark and disturbing, this novel revolves around a couple married for fifteen years. Their love story is regular at prima facie – they met, fell in love, got married, had kids, got bored. Like all other married couples, they have their fair share of secrets. However, their secrets involve something way more sinister than usual – a murder. This book is a sharp look at the complex psychology of couples and how twisted things can happen due to it.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
This novel follows Camille Preaker, a reporter who is forced to reconcile with her past and resolve her psychological issues in order to cover a story. Her professional duty requires her to cover, in her hometown, the unsolved murder of a preteen, and investigations regarding the disappearance of several others. Stuck in her home and forced to be with her hypochondriac mother and an ominous half sister, she is forced to confront her demons. All of this, while realizing how intensely she identifies with all the victims. This book is one hell of a ride, especially if you love dark novels.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
This wonderfully paced book is a fictional imagination of a true crime that occurred in Canada in 1843. The story is told beautifully and richly from the perspective of Grace Marks, the woman convicted for the murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his mistress Nancy Montgomery. Grace has no memory of the incident, and the novel begins with the arrival of a psychiatrist who employs his knowledge to extract Grace’s memories. This book is ideal for lovers of psychological thrillers and historical fiction. This book is softer than others on the list, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat nonetheless.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Another classic of horror literature, this novel is known to give jitters to the most unafraid of readers. And that is because it is a chilling psychological thriller as well. It is the story of an eclectic lot of four – Dr Montague, the owner of the haunted Hill House as he enlists the help of Theodora, Eleanor and Luke. As the story unfolds, intense and thrilling things reveal themselves, the revelation of which would ruin the reading experience. Suffice it to say that this novel is an exemplar of the horror genre, and its psychological undertones and literary beauty make it one-of-a-kind.
Room by Emma Donoghue
This psychological thriller does what very few manage to do – it moves you to tears. Indeed, this is not just a disturbing story, it is a poignant tale of a mother’s love for her son. But it’s also a powerful thriller, and ensnares you in its pages as it talks about Ma and Jack’s story. This story is that of the captivity of Ma by Old Nick. Ma gives Jack a relatively good life within the confines of the room, but she knows that he must see the world to be able to live in it. So she devises an escape plan, that is both extremely dangerous and extremely fragile. Together, the tenacious mother and brave son navigate the journey to freedom, tackling as many psychological obstacles as physical.