The science of psychology is still very young and in the earliest stages of its development, but it has nevertheless attracted massive interest from people all over the world from all walks of life. Even though we have been observing human behaviour for the totality of recorded history, we’ve only been able to truly start explaining it in the modern era. More than anything, we saw in this field the opportunity to explore the darker aspects of the human mind, to define and confront the feelings and sensations which keep us awake at night.
After a host of experiments conducted in the second half of the twentieth century, we discovered something a little more alarming than the fears we’ve been facing: human beings are manipulable beyond belief. As the field of psychology become more evolved and pronounced in our daily lives, the number of fiction books relating to the subject also increased quite drastically, with psychological thrillers being one of today’s most widely-read genres, more often than not mixing elements of mystery, drama and paranoia.
In this category we will be examining the numerous psychological thrillers which have positively caught my attention, whether simply due to the escapism they provide or their more profound insights into human behaviour.
“Rock of Ages” by Timothy Hallinan – Geriatric Boogaloo
Timothy Hallinan has doubtlessly created one of the more unique investigators in Junior Bender, a man who generally serves the other side of the law. In Rock of Ages, Timothy Hallinan sends his protagonist on a weekend-long investigation for an old gangster, Irwin Dressler, who fears someone might be using the rock tour he put together as a front to steal his money.
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“The Housemaid’s Secret” by Freida McFadden – The Woman Behind Locked Doors
Freida McFadden has made a lot of fans for herself when she published The Housemaid, and now she returns with a tour-de-force of a sequel, titled The Housemaid’s Secret. This time around, we follow Millie as she finds a job working for a wealthy man living in a stunning penthouse, with a permanently-locked door where his ill wife allegedly resides.
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“Verity” by Colleen Hoover – The Art of Manipulating the Truth
Colleen Hoover has evidently more than enough talent to take forays outside her comfort zone in terms of genre, and her 2018 novel Verity stands as a testament to that. It tells us the story of Lowen Ashleigh, a struggling author who takes on a job to finish three books for another famous writer, now incapacitated following an accident. However, during the course of her work Lowen runs into an autobiography never meant to be read, opening a real Pandora’s Box of terrifying family secrets.
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“The Housemaid” by Freida McFadden – A Victim with Thorns
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes Short Summary Freida McFadden is a singular voice in the psychological thriller genre, able to concoct extravagant and offbeat scenarios almost faster than we can read them. In her latest offering, titled The Housemaid, she tells the story of Millie, a recently-paroled woman who takes on a live-in job out of pure necessity, in spite of the torment it might bring her. As the days go by her mistress seems to become increasingly unhinged, the strange occurrences multiply, and it seems to Millie as if she might have to bring her dark past back to life in order to survive the ordeal. Read more …
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“These Silent Woods” by Kimi Cunningham Grant – No One Runs Forever
Kimi Cunningham Grant has found her entry into the club of noteworthy thriller writers when she published her first novel, and with These Silent Woods she further cements her foothold in the genre. It tells the story of a father living in the mountains with his daughter in near-complete isolation, until one day an unfortunate series of events leads the demons of his past right to their doorstep.
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“The 7 She Saw” by Elle Gray – A Sleeping Darkness
Elle Gray has been dishing out novels at a record-setting pace since her entry onto the literary scene, and with the recent publication of The 7 She Saw, Gray began her second series, the Blake Wilder FBI Mystery Thriller books. The story introduces us to Wilder, an FBI agent tasked with investigating the murders of three women in Briar Glen, an affluent and idyllic coastal town in Washington.
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“The Last Flight” by Julie Clark – Strangers in Shackles
Julie Clark has managed to shoot her way to literary stardom with only her second published novel, titled The Last Flight.
In it, we are presented with the story of Claire, controlled and domineered by her powerful husband at every turn. She concocts a plan to escape, and through a strange twist of fate involving another woman named Eva, the world believes her dead, and she ends up having to live a new life under an assumed identity.
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“Home Before Dark” by Riley Sager – The Ghosts in the Walls
Riley Sager has proven himself to be a new powerhouse in the thriller genre, having already penned numerous bestseller in the last few years. His latest novel, Home Before Dark, tells the story of a woman who returns to her childhood home, made famous in her father’s horror memoir. Things take a turn for the strange upon her return, and she begins to wonder if the place is truly haunted, or if something more sinister is afoot behind the old walls.
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“Street Music” by Timothy Hallinan – The End of the Line
Timothy Hallinan has accomplished the great exploit of creating characters many of us have grown attached to over the years with his Poke Rafferty Thriller series, and in the ninth novel, titled Street Music, we’re finally reaching the terminal station. In this last outing of his, we witness Poke investigating into the disappearance of a cantankerous old gang member, all while contending with the puzzling trials of being a father and seeing his daughter maturing into a woman.
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“Last Night in Montreal” by Emily St. John Mandel – Searching for a Vanished Memory
Emily St. John Mandel has made a splash with her recent novels, but the start of her career was no less impressive, when she published Last Night in Montreal. Following a woman by the name of Lilia Albert, we discover she was taken from her mother as a child and is left with no recollection of her childhood. Determined to somehow find it, she moves from one city to the next looking for any links, shadowed by a private detective… and after a long time searching, she’s on the cusp of making a discovery.
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“The Glass Hotel” by Emily St. John Mandel – From Swindlers to Ashes
Emily St. John Mandel isn’t one to tread the simple path in her novels, often favouring layering her works in complexity, as she once again masterfully did in her latest novel, The Glass Hotel. Taking place in modern times, the book follows a sister and her half-brother as they find themselves caught up in a massive Ponzi scheme which ruined many lives, with far-reaching consequences they are both about to experience.
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“The Unrepentant” by E.A. Aymar – Nowhere to Run
E.A. Aymar may not be a huge name in the literary crime genre, but he is certainly getting up there with his recent novel titled The Unrepentant. Following the eighteen-year-old Charlotte Reyes, we witness a story taking us to the darkest corners of the human mind as she is first forced to run, and then finally make a stand against the kidnappers relentlessly pursuing her, willing to take her in dead rather than alive.
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“The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware – The Imperfect Victim
Ruth Ware’s career may not have started long ago, but she has so far maintained a high standard for herself, one she does her absolute best to live up to in her fifth novel, The Turn of the Key. In it, we follow the story of Rowan Caine who took up a “too good to be true” nanny job at a luxurious estate, only to end up being accused of murdering a child. From her prison cell, she writes to her lawyer, trying to unravel to complexity of all she has been through, consistently adamant she is no killer… but then who is?
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“Nighttown” by Timothy Hallinan – The Great Doll Heist
Timothy Hallinan has made Junior Bender into a real staple of the satirical thriller genre, and in Nighttown he embarks on yet another ridiculous adventure which begins with him breaking his most important rule: never accept a job which pays more than it’s worth. Hurting for cash as he is though, he accepts fifty thousand dollar mission to steal a doll from a deceased woman’s collection. Needless to say, he soon finds out he’s not the only one after whatever might be inside of it, and things start to get a bit too serious when an old friend of his ends up murdered.
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“The Death of Mrs. Westaway” by Ruth Ware – The Devil’s Inheritance
Ruth Ware is capable like very few others of weaving together complex, somber and wholesome murder mysteries reminiscent of the Agatha Christie days. After writing numerous bestsellers which are now being made into movies, she continues her body of work with The Death of Mrs. Westaway , following a professional tarot reader, Harriet Westaway. One day she inherits a fortune from a recently deceased woman, seemingly by total error. Upon arriving at the funeral however, it dawns on her something might be terribly wrong and rotten in this situation.
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“Saigon Dark” by Elka Ray – The Forge of Lifelong Retribution
Life seldom gives us what we want, and when it does it seems there is always some sort of perversion attached to the deal. In Saigon Dark, Elka Ray shows us just how curious the unexpected twists of fate can be as we are presented with Lily Vo, a young single mother of a boy and a girl living in Saigon. On a tragic night, her infant daughter wanders off into the backyard and drowns in the small pond. Desperate, in shock and grief, Lily decides to bury her daughter on her own, and at that moment fate throws the most unexpected wrench in her plans as she ends up taking in the abused infant daughter of her neighbours, marking the beginning of her painful odyssey.
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“The Flight Attendant” by Chris Bohjalian – Dead Man from Thin Air
Chris Bohjalian knows how to use the thrill of mystery to its fullest and puts his talent to use in The Flight Attendant. A riveting novel largely set in the world located forty thousand feet above the ground, it follows the titular attendant, Cassandra Bowden, as she wakes up in a Dubai hotel room with no recollection of what happened… a situation made far worse by the dead man laying besides her. As the web of lies she weaves chokes her tighter and tighter, it becomes obvious that only facing the truth will bring peace to anyone.
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“Fields Where They Lay” by Timothy Hallinan – It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief
Timothy Hallinan has proven himself to be one of the most creative and entertaining writers today, with his ability to infuse side-splitting humour with profound mysteries. In Fields Where They Lay he takes us inside the rather dysfunctional Edgerton Mall where our hero, Junior Bender, a burglar extraordinaire, has been hired by the homicidal Russian mobster owner of the place to put a stop to the shoplifting problem. Unfortunately, when dead bodies start popping up one after the next, the whole thing turns into a murder mystery rather than routine crime prevention.
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“Fools’ River” by Timothy Hallinan – The Art of Bleeding Dry
Timothy Hallinan takes us back into the beautiful, mysterious and sometimes seedy land of Bangkok in Thailand, following once again the rather difficult adventures of Poke Rafferty, a man whose name is the least strange part of his life. In Fools’ River, Poke finds himself in a race against time as it becomes apparent that the father of his daughter’s boyfriend, Buddy, has been kidnapped by a pair of killers who are now bleeding him dry of all his money, eventually preparing to kill him like they have so many others… but in a place like Bangkok, finding such people can be like looking for the right needle in a haystack full of them.
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“Conclave” by Robert Harris – The Holy Election Behind Closed Doors
Robert Harris takes us behind closed doors into the secretive world of the Church as we follow the thrilling proceedings of 118 cardinals who must elect a new pope after the last one’s death, all while being completely sequestered from the outside world. However, the minds of men are easily distracted and corrupted by other worldly pursuits, and this most holy election turns more and more into a contest of cunning and intelligence. These men of God are, after all, nothing but men, and while the allure of power may drive a few to self-discovery and enlightenment, there are many who become dangerously corrupted by it.
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