What I love most about well-rounded psychological thrillers, whether it be a movie, TV show, or book, are the growing conflicts that arise alongside the characterization of each individual. It can almost be addicting: the electrifying rush that accompanies the rising buildup, followed by the even more spellbinding conclusion, which usually reveals the most elegant picture of the pieces you have collected throughout you read. That is, if it's truly thrilling and psychological.
In literature, psychological thriller books are often on par with the likes of mystery in terms of story and premise. They even tend to blend together—which is why a distinction between the two must be clarified. Mysteries, while full of thrilling and often compelling stories with likewise struggling characters, are marred with far less emphasis on these character's mental states. In that case, psychological thrillers draws its elements from mystery, horror, science and more, resting on one principle, defined in a word: psychological. As for the following titles, all possible themes, components, and characterization tactics have been employed to engineer the most detailed and inspiring psycho thrillers of 2018. Plots with deep, compelling dramas, weaving a bit of perfection from all sides of the genre pool, these here tomes will have you gripping the armchair long after the last page has been read.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
I kick this story off with mention of the very last book I read, Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It's not a story for the faint of heart, nor is it for unimaginative minds. In over 500 pages, this non-stop, edge of your seat chronicle twists through a berth of different genres, yet comes out on top as a classic.
In typical Murakami fashion, the story is multi-dimensional adventure both through the mind and across heartstrings as a man at the end of his wits struggles with the disappearance of his wife and visitations from many interesting strangers. Though it was published back in 1997, I mention it here merely for the benefit of reading the author's Men Without Women, which was released this May. Wind-Up Bird is an easy step into Murakami's eccentric style and, together, they're among the most well-crafted psychological thriller books ever written, and are in the running for becoming some of the most frightening horror books of the decade.
The Elizas by Sara Shepard
If you've read similar psychological thriller books, like S.J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep and Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10, then the unbound complexity of The Elizas is right up your alley. Sara Shepard is well-respected in the literary field, with her New York Times bestseller Pretty Little Liars as an outlier.
With her parents' slight scrutiny and disbelief hanging over her shoulder, Eliza Fontaine has to brush off her most recent dash with death by searching for the individual who had pushed her into an empty hotel swimming pool. Years of somewhat frequent and failed suicided attempts have led Eliza's claims into the wind, and no less helpful is her employment as a debut writer. Mounting suspicions arise all throughout The Elizas, from the self-doubts she herself struggles through, to the questionings of her own novel being fictional or real.
Believe Me by JP Delaney
Reminiscent of movies like Unfaithful and A Perfect Murder, JP Delaney's Believe Me is one of the best new psychological thriller books that takes elements from two of the most unforgettable marriage crime films. Delaney isn't new to literary genius, as The Girl Before is a nonstop thrill ride. Believe Me is even more edgy, suspenseful, and, most importantly, thrilling than anything before it.
A British actress suddenly gets caught in a police investigation involving a husband who murdered his wife. As a side job to pay for the rent of her New York City apartment, the actress plays the decoy wife for divorce lawyers to entrap straying husbands, but this latest target of hers has only intensified. Now playing cop, she's been asked to lure the husband into confessing. Thing is, fighting all the many roles she's meant to play has only just now begin to unravel in her mind, and the actress' mental state may very well be a cause for concern.
The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
I know it's happened to some of us before, waking up in an unknown place is rather startling, to say the least, but when a couple drinks go too far, anything's bound to happen, unfortunately. The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian, takes this theme and seriously runs with it, aided by realistic dialogue, tangible characters, and a bed of woven mysteries to solve. It's definitely a contender for the best edge of your seat psychological thriller books to appear this year.
When Casandra Bowden, a binge drinker and flight attendant, wakes one morning in the wrong bed and hotel, she's not all that entirely stunned. As it were, blackouts are an off and on occasion for her, who's employment only allows for a consistent adventure, but this time is different. With nothing but a male corpse for company, Cassie's binge drinking and adventurous life slip into madness, and all she can turn to for protection are a concoction of lies. The book is especially heart pounding for the author's twisting employment of a rather distrustful, or even somewhat dislikable main character.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
I've had and still remember some of the baby sitters from my ancient past; none of them created such a tense environment as that of Louise from Leila Slimani's The Perfect Nanny. When I say this book can't be put down, it's much more than that; you're almost struggling with yourself to keep the mystery alive in tandem with a need to see this teeth chattering suspense to its climax.
In the wake of settling down with her husband and raising her two young children, Myriam decides it's finally time to return to her profession. The only obstacle in her path is finding the right—or, should I say perfect—nanny to watch her kids. Fortunately, Louise enters the picture. Her jovial nature, pristine care of Myriam's home, and zero complaint for long hours only make Louise the more necessary for Myriam; a dependency that grows into a tense and very frightening addition to 2018's best psychological thriller books.
All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
You may know this author from Her Every Fear and The Kind Worth Killing, as he's in the running to become one of the best horror authors of all time, but Swanson pulls all the stops in his most recent hit among psychological thriller books: All the Beautiful Lies. It's lathered with intrigue, mystery, and an arguably perverted yet intelligent main character, Harry Ackerson.
With his college graduation rapidly approaching, sparking the end of parties and the beginning of real world responsibilities, Ackerson mulls over somewhat unintentional thoughts of his stepmother being sexy. His life, however, takes a nosedive when Alice calls him to report of his father's death. Despite the police's theory of suicide, Ackerson comes to find Grace McGowan, a newcomer in his father's neighborhood, mysterious, albeit attractive. Spelling tragedy herself, Alice grows closer and closer to her stepson, and as these revolving relationships take root, Ackerson soon finds a berth of malicious oddities hiding under the surface of both pretty faces.
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Its release isn't until July, but The Last Time I Lied to You is one of the psychological thriller books you won't want to miss. At Camp Nightingale, Vivian, Allison, Natalie, and, newest of the group, Emma Davis, played no other game than Two Truths and a Lie. This was until Emma watched, one fretful night, as the three other girls crept out of the cabin into the late night and disappeared without a trace. This 15 year old tragedy is far past Emma's mind now that she's a renowned young painter in the New York art scene.
Until, like destiny, the camp's wealthy owner, Francesca Harris-White, sweeps in to pressure her back as a painting instructor. Emma allows this tug from time to pull her back to the past, if nothing else to find an answer to this frightful memory. Simultaneously, though, in digging into the unknown, our character begins to lose pieces of herself along the way, and a mounting paranoia intensifies the more her time extends at the camp.
Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Arriving in Tangier with a new husband and the expectations for building a new life, Alice Shipley is almost immediately thrown off course when she discovers her once close friend and roommate, Lucy Mason. While the comfort of a familiar face may be more beneficial for her, Alice is weary of Lucy ever since the Bennington accident and that following year of silence between them.
Despite herself, Alice still accepts Lucy's amends and is taken under her wing in the discovery of this new and foreign land. Everything feels and seems like it's heaven, but Alice soon feels the familiar signs come creeping back, and the disappearance of her husband doesn't help. Christine Manga's debut novel, Tangerine, is among the most profound psychological thriller books by a new and upcoming writer.
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
They say love never dies, and if there's any doubt to that statement, Mackintosh has buried it with characters Tom and Caroline, who together commit suicide out of sheer need to be together. Though 2 years following the suicide, Let Me Lie is a tale filled with many levels of thrill, almost organically growing from each character and new reveal.
The story follows the daughter of Tom and Caroline, Anna, who has slowly taken in their deaths with intense agony and confusion. These emotions, coupled with the arrival of her own daughter, compel her to search for tangible answers—answers that, it soon becomes apparent, someone doesn't want her to find. Anna, looking over her shoulder at all times, leaps headlong into the twisting, turning makeup of her past, wherein everything she has believed will come into direct conflict. That's what makes Let Me Lie the most interesting psychological thriller books of 2018, and it could end up being one of the most disturbing books ever written.
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
We all have secrets. Most, more often than not all, we keep to ourselves, but there's a few we like to share with others from time to time, releasing either guilt, pain, or simply compassion with our peers. Give Me Your Hand draws on this concept, where bonds built by secrets, even small ones, can keep people glued like kin—but, as seen emulated in a host of other psychological thriller books, the bond can shatter from within as if built from glass.
Diane Fleming and Kit Owens are, in simple terms, opposites. However, as their athletic bond suddenly starts to grow into a deeply friendly one, the two no sooner become an eccentric duo, founded by the secret Diane shares with Kit. Advancing ten years into the future, Kit's scientific fervor has been exponentially rebuilt, only a snag of destiny seems to get in the way: Diane. Coveting a scientific position that will make them immediate influencers and well-respected in the industry, both women strive to no end for the role—even if it kills the other.