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10 Great Psychological Thrillers That Are As Good As Gone Girl

by Rebecca Whitney. What is it about Gone Girl that has us all COMPLETELY hooked? In Nick and Amy’s unhinged marriage, an evil strong-arms its way into the heart of the living room and detonates a bomb. Underpinned with this principle, and building on to the vast heritage of flawed female leads, here are ten more books whose characters you will obsess over as you try to unpick the truth of their story.

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1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Set to be one of the big thrillers of the year, The Girl on the Train follows Rachel Watson, a deeply flawed and unreliable divorcee with a drinking problem. Her life has shrunk to the train journey she takes to and from work, and she lives vicariously through the fantasies she creates about the people who live in the houses she sees from the train. One couple, Jess and Jason, become her obsession, but she witnesses something which alters everything she believed was good about their lives.
Doubleday / Via randomhouse.co.uk

Set to be one of the big thrillers of the year, The Girl on the Train follows Rachel Watson, a deeply flawed and unreliable divorcee with a drinking problem. Her life has shrunk to the train journey she takes to and from work, and she lives vicariously through the fantasies she creates about the people who live in the houses she sees from the train. One couple, Jess and Jason, become her obsession, but she witnesses something which alters everything she believed was good about their lives.

2. The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

The extraordinary and terrifying story of Beth Wakeford and her ethereal daughter Carmel, who is abducted. Both Beth and Carmel narrate their own chapters, and we watch as grief and powerlessness tear the mother apart, and witness the horrific ease with which Carmel is lifted from one life and placed into a strange and difficult new world. Carmel has gifts which her abductor has spotted, and these could offer the clue to her whereabouts, if only her mother was looking in the right place.
Faber / Via faber.co.uk

The extraordinary and terrifying story of Beth Wakeford and her ethereal daughter Carmel, who is abducted. Both Beth and Carmel narrate their own chapters, and we watch as grief and powerlessness tear the mother apart, and witness the horrific ease with which Carmel is lifted from one life and placed into a strange and difficult new world. Carmel has gifts which her abductor has spotted, and these could offer the clue to her whereabouts, if only her mother was looking in the right place.

3. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Not strictly a thriller, but this spectacular debut from Jill Alexander Essbaum has dysfunction and deception at the heart of this family unit. Anna Benz, an American ex-pat, has relocated to Zurich with her husband, and is bringing up three children in a stifling and alien Swiss society. Do others deliberately isolate her or is Anna unable to adapt? To distract her from her soulless marriage, she embarks on a series of affairs in an attempt to feel anything other than the void she inhabits, taking ever more desperate risks.
Pan Macmillan / Via panmacmillan.com

Not strictly a thriller, but this spectacular debut from Jill Alexander Essbaum has dysfunction and deception at the heart of this family unit. Anna Benz, an American ex-pat, has relocated to Zurich with her husband, and is bringing up three children in a stifling and alien Swiss society. Do others deliberately isolate her or is Anna unable to adapt? To distract her from her soulless marriage, she embarks on a series of affairs in an attempt to feel anything other than the void she inhabits, taking ever more desperate risks.

4. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Dark, thrilling and witty, The Secret History meets Blood Simple in a story that makes you question who to trust, who to root for, and which character is the baddest of them all. Ted Severson meets a magnetic stranger in an airport bar, and in the netherworld of international travel and an excess of martinis, he confesses his darkest marital secrets about his wife’s infidelity, and how he wishes her dead. Instead of rejecting the drunken ramblings of a desperate man, the strange woman offers to help him carry out the task.
Faber / Via faber.co.uk

Dark, thrilling and witty, The Secret History meets Blood Simple in a story that makes you question who to trust, who to root for, and which character is the baddest of them all. Ted Severson meets a magnetic stranger in an airport bar, and in the netherworld of international travel and an excess of martinis, he confesses his darkest marital secrets about his wife’s infidelity, and how he wishes her dead. Instead of rejecting the drunken ramblings of a desperate man, the strange woman offers to help him carry out the task.

5. The Book of You by Claire Kendal

Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won’t leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there. Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand. Realising that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have imagined.
Harper Collins / Via harpercollins.co.uk

Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won’t leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there. Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand. Realising that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have imagined.

6. Second Life by S. J. Watson

In a bid to discover who killed her sister, Julia creates an online persona and trawls the same dating and internet sex websites her sister used to inhabit. But Julia begins to enjoy the new character she has invented for herself, sparking her own hidden desires, and her safe and happy marriage becomes something from which she wants to escape, at least for half of the time. Maintaining two personalities soon cracks her veneer, but like an addict, she is unable to quit. As she gets closer to discovering her sister’s murderer, the murderer gets closer to her.
Doubleday / Via randomhouse.co.uk

In a bid to discover who killed her sister, Julia creates an online persona and trawls the same dating and internet sex websites her sister used to inhabit. But Julia begins to enjoy the new character she has invented for herself, sparking her own hidden desires, and her safe and happy marriage becomes something from which she wants to escape, at least for half of the time. Maintaining two personalities soon cracks her veneer, but like an addict, she is unable to quit. As she gets closer to discovering her sister’s murderer, the murderer gets closer to her.

7. Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Catherine Ravenscroft has a stellar career and an affluent lifestyle, but dropped into the heart of her home comes a book written by a stranger depicting events in her past she has worked hard to forget and keep secret from her family. Stephen Brigstock is the author with an axe to grind, and as he seeks to dismantle Catherine’s world to atone for crimes he believes she has committed against his own family, her world crumbles. As the main characters slug it out, the stakes get higher, and we are left wondering whose version of events it is safe to trust.
Doubleday / Via randomhouse.co.uk

Catherine Ravenscroft has a stellar career and an affluent lifestyle, but dropped into the heart of her home comes a book written by a stranger depicting events in her past she has worked hard to forget and keep secret from her family. Stephen Brigstock is the author with an axe to grind, and as he seeks to dismantle Catherine’s world to atone for crimes he believes she has committed against his own family, her world crumbles. As the main characters slug it out, the stakes get higher, and we are left wondering whose version of events it is safe to trust.

8. The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

Melody Pieterson is provided with everything she needs by her husband-to-be, but she hides behind the prison-like security of her sumptuous home in an attempt to block the horror of having been attacked and left for dead six years ago. After Melody’s attacker, David Alden, is released from prison, another woman, Eve Elliot, is murdered in remarkably similar circumstances. As Melody struggles to orientate herself to renewed fear, she begins to question whether it really was David who harmed her or if the real perpetrator was someone closer to home.
Headline / Via headline.co.uk

Melody Pieterson is provided with everything she needs by her husband-to-be, but she hides behind the prison-like security of her sumptuous home in an attempt to block the horror of having been attacked and left for dead six years ago. After Melody’s attacker, David Alden, is released from prison, another woman, Eve Elliot, is murdered in remarkably similar circumstances. As Melody struggles to orientate herself to renewed fear, she begins to question whether it really was David who harmed her or if the real perpetrator was someone closer to home.

9. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Written by an ex-policewoman and inspired by real life events, I Let you Go follows Jenna Gray, a talented artist whose life is forever changed by a tragic accident she believes she could have prevented. Her only option is to leave everything of her old life behind and start afresh - if only she could wipe the slate clean and become a different person altogether. As she begins to settle into her newfound happiness, an old, dark enemy creeps near, but Jenna is bound by a secrecy no one can understand.
Sphere / Via littlebrown.co.uk

Written by an ex-policewoman and inspired by real life events, I Let you Go follows Jenna Gray, a talented artist whose life is forever changed by a tragic accident she believes she could have prevented. Her only option is to leave everything of her old life behind and start afresh - if only she could wipe the slate clean and become a different person altogether. As she begins to settle into her newfound happiness, an old, dark enemy creeps near, but Jenna is bound by a secrecy no one can understand.

10. The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

Alison lives a safe and anonymous life; no one gets too close or knows about her past. When she falls for academic Paul Bartlett, she is coerced into revisiting the place where all her secrets lie buried. There we discover that Alison used to be Esme Grace, a young girl who years ago survived a horrific and bloody event. Alison picks through the many stories of the shady characters who inhabited her childhood in an attempt to unravel the terrifying secret that tore her family apart. The Crooked House is an intricate and thrilling study of what it is to spend your life running from your past.
Sphere / Via littlebrown.co.uk

Alison lives a safe and anonymous life; no one gets too close or knows about her past. When she falls for academic Paul Bartlett, she is coerced into revisiting the place where all her secrets lie buried. There we discover that Alison used to be Esme Grace, a young girl who years ago survived a horrific and bloody event. Alison picks through the many stories of the shady characters who inhabited her childhood in an attempt to unravel the terrifying secret that tore her family apart. The Crooked House is an intricate and thrilling study of what it is to spend your life running from your past.

11. The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney

OK OK, shameless plug, and this makes eleven, but my own psychological thriller also fits the genre. Set in and around Brighton, The Liar’s Chair follows the story of Rachel Teller, a powerful, affluent, and seemingly happily married woman, who runs over and kills a homeless man in a drunken hit-and-run accident. With the aid of her controlling husband David, Rachel covers up the crime and returns to her upstanding life. Guilt begins to unravel her, and she becomes obsessed with discovering the identity of the man she killed. In the process she falls back into old secret habits of addiction and self-harm as a means to atone.
Pan Macmillan / Via panmacmillan.com

OK OK, shameless plug, and this makes eleven, but my own psychological thriller also fits the genre. Set in and around Brighton, The Liar’s Chair follows the story of Rachel Teller, a powerful, affluent, and seemingly happily married woman, who runs over and kills a homeless man in a drunken hit-and-run accident. With the aid of her controlling husband David, Rachel covers up the crime and returns to her upstanding life. Guilt begins to unravel her, and she becomes obsessed with discovering the identity of the man she killed. In the process she falls back into old secret habits of addiction and self-harm as a means to atone.

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