From government corruption in Sweden, to the feeling of being watched, here’s a list of psychological thrillers that will keep you in the spooky mood.
Millennium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) by Stieg Larsson
This psychological thriller series is one of my favourites. The first novel follows Lisbeth Salander, a talented hacker as she assists Michael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist into the disappearance of a young girl. The series continues to follow the anti-social Salander as she exposes a corrupt Swedish Government and Security Services. Translated from Swedish, these crime novels are skilfully composed. It’s not a light read due to the many complicated Swedish names and intricate details, but the plot is expertly written. The novels cover a sequence of traumatising, serious issues so it’s not one for the faint-hearted. The first instalment has been made into both an original Swedish film and an UK version starring Daniel Craig. There’s now an upcoming release of The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On their wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing, leaving husband Nick as prime suspect. Amy’s disappearance spurs a huge police enquiry with fingers pointing at the husband, along with all the evidence. Written from the perspective of both characters, the reader is shielded from the whole truth. Gradually, details of their fake marriage are exposed alongside Amy’s skilfully manipulated scheme. This New York Times best seller was the first thriller I read and it triggered my fascination for the genre. The unreliable dual-narrative along with the mysterious suspense and unsettling ending makes Gone Girl a definite one to read. The film adaptation with Ben Affleck and Rosamund pike is satisfying to watch, but without the alternating chapters the multiple narrative novel has, the film naturally can’t have the same dramatic affect.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
What’s a parents’ worst nightmare? Baby gone missing? This is what happens to Anne and Nico after leaving their 6-month-old baby, Cora, next door whilst they went to a dinner party. It starts out like a standard crime thriller with controlled suspense, but the novel spirals out of control. It should finish a chapter before, leaving out the dramatic, unrealistic conclusion that causes it to lose its respectability. It’s a easy read but one with an unsatisfying ending.
The Girl on the Train and Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train received a lot of praise, but for me, it didn’t live up to the standards of Gone Girl. Whilst it fulfilled its thriller potential through suspense hooking the reader, the plot didn’t have as much depth and intricate details as the previous. The lead is desperately hopeless, compared to Flynn’s Amy who is unquestionably psychotic and surreal. The film adaptation starring Emily Blunt was successful in portraying suspense and the despairing character. However, the change in setting from the UK to the USA was unnecessary, especially when the novel focuses on the London commute. Into the Water was Hawkins next full-length novel told from multiple perspectives. The focus on the past and memories gives it a spooky feel, however I still wasn’t excited. It gave me an urgency to read but a thriller that fails to do this can hardly pass as a thriller.
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
This is my most recent read and I definitely recommend it. But if you take the tube everyday then approach it hesitantly, as it takes on a contemporary Big Brother concept. This idea of being watched whilst on the London commute is unnervingly realistic and Mackintosh tackles this subject expertly. The novel has you questioning all the characters motives alongside the lead, Zoe. This contemporary outlook on the media and public transport puts a modern twist on this 2016 psychological thriller.
If you’re prepared for a psychological journey, then give some of these a go. Yet, if all you want is to be full on terrified then pick up a copy of IT. But don’t come running to me when clowns fill your nightmares.