The soaring popularity of shows like Succession, White Lotus, and Gossip Girl is a testament to our insatiable appetite for stories set in the glamorous, high-stakes world of the wealthy elite. From dramatic power struggles to indulgent excess, we’re fascinated by the lives of the one percent of the one percent. But for thriller authors, the rarified world is also a treasure trove of danger and intrigue. The ultra-rich are a notoriously private bunch and their penchant for concealing skeletons in their curated closets only adds to the allure. Throw in the assumption that money can make problems (and sometimes people) disappear, and we’re itching to know more about what goes on behind the doors of those elegantly appointed penthouses and beach homes.
Exploring the underbelly of privileged enclaves is captivating, and it’s a theme that I delve into in my latest suspense novel, No One Needs to Know. In the book, the residents of Manhattan’s exclusive Upper East Side turn to an anonymous neighborhood forum called UrbanMyth to unburden their conscience and share their deepest secrets. The forum’s anonymity is like truth serum and they divulge it all, from steamy affairs to shocking betrayals. But when UrbanMyth is hacked, threatening to expose the true identity of each poster, the repercussions echo down Park Avenue with a force no one could’ve anticipated. And with platinum-plated reputations on the line, someone ends up dead.
If you enjoy your thrillers with a side of opulence, then pour yourself a glass of champagne, sit back, and see how the other half lives (and dies) with one of these six thrillers set in ultra-wealthy neighborhoods. Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy a compelling thriller.
Nanny Needed – Georgina Cross
Who could resist the seductive combination of dark suspense and the glitz of New York City? Certainly not me! Georgina Cross’s Nanny Needed delivers the perfect dose of intrigue and glamour to scratch that itch. When struggling Sarah Larsen stumbles upon a job posting for a wealthy family in the lobby of her building, she thinks it’s her entrée to a better life. Sure, there are “special conditions,” but one look at the sky-high salary and the Bird family’s dazzling penthouse and she’s smitten. Not even the mandatory NDA could dampen Sarah’s enthusiasm. As she settles into the role, though, she realizes something is off with the Birds. Very, very off. Something creepy is lurking beneath their perfect façade. But their immense power and influence allow them to go to extreme lengths to protect their secrets, making sure no one, especially the nanny, ever talks. With its gripping and wholly original plot, Nanny Needed is a delectably twisted read.
Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
There is no more old money setting than that of the prestigious private school, and Ace of Spades is a standout in this subgenre. A mix of Gossip Girl and Get Out, Ace of Spades follows Devon and Chiamaka, two Black students in the running for valedictorian at Niveus Private Academy. But when a bully who goes by the name of “Aces” begins using anonymous text messages to reveal disturbing secrets about the two of them, it threatens to turn their lives upside down. What seemed like a twisted prank at first quickly morphs into a dangerous game. Masterfully navigating themes of bullying, racism, and classism in the private school setting, this page-turner is both thrilling and thought-provoking.
Good Rich People – Eliza Jane Brazier
With a title like that, you know you’re in for some ruthless rich people antics. In Good Rich People, Lyla and her wealthy husband Graham play a twisted game to stem the boredom of their privileged existence. To keep themselves entertained, they open up their Hollywood Hills guest house to self-made success stories, then take sinister pleasure in scheming to destroy their lives. After all, nothing is more appalling to those with generational wealth than a bootstrapper. But the pair get more than they bargained for when they set their sights on Demi, a homeless woman masquerading as a tech company executive. Because Demi has spent her life struggling to survive, and she just might have some tricks up her sleeve too. Good Rich People is a skillful mixture of dark humor, social commentary, and brilliantly devious suspense.
Stone Cold Fox – Rachel Koller Croft
If you’re not born into wealth, why not marry into it? In Rachel Koller Croft’s debut, Stone Cold Fox, the protagonist Bea is hell-bent on doing just that. She’s learned from the best, thanks to her mother who groomed her from childhood on how to deceive men. Determined to put her dark past behind her and secure a life of old-money domesticity, Bea sets her sights on the blue-blooded Collin Case. Sure, he’s a little dull, but Bea is playing the long game. While getting the diamond ring from Collin proves to be easy, winning the approval of his family and childhood friend Gale Wallace-Leicester presents a challenge. What ensues is an entertaining cat-and-mouse game that quickly turns dangerous. Stone Cold Fox masterfully plays with the ideas of good and evil and will keep readers guessing who’s the hero and who’s the villain.
One of Us is Dead – Jeneva Rose
Bless their hearts, nobody does over-the-top opulence like the South, and Jeneva Rose’s latest thriller nails it. One of Us is Dead immerses readers in the world of Buckhead – an upper-crust enclave in Georgia filled with expensive cars, huge houses, and competitive friendships. If you live here, you’d better watch your back because the Real Housewives have nothing on the women of Buckhead. The Queen Bees convene daily at Glow, the most exclusive spa in town, where they multitask salon services and social climbing all under the eye of the owner, Jenny. When someone ends up dead, Jenny’s wealth of knowledge about her regulars may be the key to solving the murder. But how much is she willing to tell? One of Us is Dead combines juicy drama with breakneck suspense and could well launch a new subgenre: the glam thriller.
The Club – Ellery Lloyd
Where do the ultra-wealthy spend their days when not at one of their many homes? At exclusive vacation spots! In their latest thriller, The Club, husband and wife writer duo Ellery Lloyd take us inside Island Home, a celebrity members-only paradise where the rich and famous can party in style before retreating to their five-star suites, far from the prying eyes of fans and media. Scoring a coveted invitation to the three-day launch party is a bigger challenge than an invitation to the Oval Office, and for Island Home’s CEO and his team, nothing less than perfection will suffice. But beautiful people sometimes have ugly secrets, even in the most serene of settings. So, when the body count begins to pile up, Island Home’s members will begin to wish they’d never made the guest list. Glitzy and twisty, The Club is a superb locked room (locked island?) mystery for those of us who like our protagonists flying private.