This month’s best psychological thrillers have a wide variety of settings and a focus on characterization. There’s also several on this list concerned with upending and evolving tropes in the genre, a valuable goal as the psychological thriller’s heyday continues.
Shubnum Khan, The Djinn Waits 100 Years
Shubnum Khan has written a lush, romantic gothic novel set in a crumbling seaside estate in South Africa. A century before, the house bloomed with an doomed romance; now, a young girl wanders its halls, finding ways to bring new joy to the strange residents, and getting closer to discovering the secrets that first shattered the home’s happiness and led to its present day haunting by a mournful djinn.
Abbott Kahler, Where You End
Abbott Kahler wowed me with the nonfiction book Ghosts of Eden Park, so I’m really psyched for this pivot to thrillers. Where You End explores the twisted relationship between two mirror twins, each a perfect replica of the other in reverse. When one twin has amnesia, the other decides to fill in the details of their childhood with an imagined happiness that doesn’t mesh with the ongoing dangers both sisters are facing.
Kate Brody, Rabbit Hole
Kate Brody’s much-awaited debut Rabbit Hole is a fascinating romp through the internet’s true crime boards as an aimless and depressed young woman seeks answers in her sister’s long-sensationalized death after their father’s suicide makes clear that he never stopped looking for a culprit. She teams with a quirky reddit-fanatic named Mickey in her investigation and the banter between them is a highlight in the book. Brody’s novel continues the ongoing trend of psychological thrillers that become smart critiques of true crime culture.
Nishita Parekh, The Night of the Storm
Houston during a hurricane is the setting for this thriller featuring a South Asian family trapped in a fancy suburban home with a dead body and a lot of petty resentments. Along with various other storm-set novels coming out lately, The Night of the Storm reminds us that locked-room thrillers are the only true beneficiaries of climate change.
Araminta Hall, One of the Good Guys
Araminta Hall’s novel Our Kind of Cruelty showcased her ability to depict toxic masculinity with both deep understanding and righteous judgement. One of the Good Guys continues to explore these same contradictions between how people excuse their own actions and what those actions really mean, channeled brilliantly through her selfish and clueless narrator; a contrast that is additionally highlighted through Hall’s careful examination of media depictions and bias. Highly recommended!
Cate Quinn, The Clinic
I’ve been getting a little tired of crime novels in which people drink, and drink, and NEVER EAT, so I was pleased to read this twisty tale set inside a rehab facility with innumerable secrets (and very balanced cuisine). When a casino detective with her own addiction issues finds out her famous sister has been found dead in an exclusive rehab facility, she decides to check herself in and discover what really happened. She’s shocked to find herself embracing the treatment plan and her damaged cohorts. Also there’s a lot of conspiracies and a really nice spa. I want to go to the spa now.
Alex Michaelides, The Fury
Alex Michaelides stunned us all with The Silent Patient and his new one is just as diabolically clever. In The Fury, an aging actress and her host of frenemies descend upon a Greek island to celebrate Easter by sniping at each other while wearing delightfully breezy clothing, and of course, things take a turn for the murderous. Of particular note is Michaelides’ playfully knowing narrator, who is as unreliable as he is entertaining.