In human sexuality, the term kinky refers to unconventional sexual practices, mores, or fantasies. For centuries, anything other than straight-up vanilla sex was hidden and judged. Modern society is moving toward a more sex positive outlook, where what consenting adults do in the bedroom is considered their own business. But sometimes, couples are aroused by violence. Even murder. Sometimes, the sexual games they play have horrific outcomes.
Literature has not shied away from exploring these darkly unorthodox lovers. There’s something so intriguing about the juxtaposition of affection and brutality. In my novel, The Swap, one night of sexual shenanigans between two couples leads to obsession, violence, and murder. And the following crime novels all feature characters whose lust, passion, or proclivities have lethal results. Whether you’re reading for the sex or for the murder, these eight books will keep you riveted.
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
Yvonne Carmichael, a scientist, wife, and mother, has a risky exhibitionist affair with a charming stranger. She’s rejuvenated by the dalliance . . . until her lover is charged with murder. And Yvonne is charged as his accomplice. As she faces hostile questioning in court, she must recount the story of her affair with a man for whom she risked everything. A man who is not at all what he seemed. (This sexy British thriller is also a BBC One TV series starring Emma Watson.)
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
What if your first love turned out to be a serial killer? And what if you’d helped him cover up a heinous crime, living with that horrible secret until a body is found fourteen years later? That’s the premise of Jar of Hearts, the 2019 International Thriller Fest award-winner for best novel. Hillier is a truly fearless writer who takes readers on a very dark, very sexy ride to a jaw-dropping conclusion.
You by Caroline Kepnes
When Guinevere Beck walks into the bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he’s instantly smitten. His fascination soon grows into full-blown obsession as he stalks her online, and in real life, learning everything about her so he can become her perfect guy. When they develop a relationship, the bodies pile up as Joe fights to protect what they have. (For those living under a rock, You is also a hugely popular Netflix series.)
Our Little Secret by Roz Nay
Roz Nay writes beautifully—even when it’s about an obsessive ex-girlfriend who can’t seem to let her high school sweetheart move on with his life. Angela sits in a police interrogation room recounting the tender relationship she once had with H.P. But now, H.P.’s beautiful new wife has gone missing. And Angela must tell the police how she inserted herself into their lives and their relationship . . . and what she knows about her replacement’s disappearance.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
When their babysitter suddenly cancels, Anne and Marco decide to leave their infant daughter at home with a baby monitor while they attend a boozy dinner party next door. As Marco flirts with their buxom neighbor, Anne goes to check on their daughter and finds her gone. In the panicked aftermath, everyone is a suspect. The attractive couple next door is hiding something. And, so are Anne and Marco. This propulsive read about the secrets between husbands and wives, between families, and between neighbors builds to a dark and twisted finale.
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
When Mike and Verity were together, they played a secret game called “Crave”. Verity would flirt with a man, then signal Mike to “save” her. But a year later, Verity has moved on and is engaged to someone else. When Mike receives an invitation to her wedding, he believes it’s a clever ploy to reignite their twisted game. He watches her every move, waiting for a sign to come to her rescue… Is Mike a devoted soul mate? Or a mentally ill stalker? Araminta Hall’s novel explores the complicated lines between reality and perception.
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Millicent’s husband loves her, and he’ll do anything to keep her happy. Anything. Even murder. But sometimes, murder isn’t the darkest game a couple can play. This highly original tale of a married couple turned-on, and undone, by violence is the definition of unputdownable.
The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica
Dr. Sadie Foust and her family have no sooner moved to a creepy old house in small-town Maine than their neighbor is murdered. Sadie’s understandably shaken. She’s also struggling to forgive her husband, Will, for having a hot and steamy affair. But Will’s lover may not be who she seems. And she might even be connected to the mysterious death next door. (The Other Mrs. is coming soon to Netflix.)