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Five of the best psychological thrillers by women

Five of the best psychological thrillers by women

Over the last decade there has been a boom in psychological thrillers written by women – to the extent that some male authors have adopted gender neutral pen names to attract publishers and readers.

In many ways the field has become oversaturated, with “page-turners” filling supermarket shelves and sacrificing good writing and character development for tired plots and cheap twists. But novels that excavate the depth of the human psyche have enraptured readers since long before “grip lit” arrived. At their heart, they are deliciously wicked and mysterious, with characters who range from the damaged to the deliberately devious.

Whether they’re starstruck students, scorned housewives or fraudsters, these characters’ moral conflicts and dissolving senses of reality will have you questioning who to trust – all the way to the final page.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This 1955 novel is a classic of the genre and has been adapted numerous times for screen including Purple Noon (1960) starring Alain Delon, The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) starring Matt Damon, and most recently as a new Netflix Ripley series starring Andrew Scott. Highsmith’s central plot follows Tom Ripley, a small-time confidence scammer who obsesses over his wealthy friend, then murders him and assumes his identity. Despite his immorality, we find ourselves cheering on the suave and meticulous Ripley as he evades police capture across Italy.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s gripping tale of a group of mysterious, Greek mythology-obsessed classics students who become involved in the murder of a classmate has become one of the most beloved psychological thrillers of the last 30 years. Sinister and suspenseful, this book expertly examines the human capacity for violence, social and intellectual ambition, beauty, class and identity, and how one decision can alter the course of your life for ever. By introducing the murder in the first page, Tartt effortlessly masters the “why-dunit”.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Du Maurier’s gothic mystery starts with one of the most famous opening lines in English literature: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”. Our unnamed narrator, a young, naive woman falls for a much older, wealthy widower who whisks her away to his isolated Cornish manor, where she is tortured by references and reminders of his first wife, Rebecca. The novel has it all: an eerie setting, a sinister housekeeper, and a husband who becomes increasingly harder to trust. It’s no surprise that it was quickly adapted into a film by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

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Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Many will have come to this book recently, after watching last year’s film adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie. Narrating the story, protagonist Eileen recounts her youth in provincial 1960s New England. Her enchantment with a glamorous new counsellor at the prison where she works takes a twisted turn when she becomes embroiled in a shocking act of violence. In this taut, psychological noir, Moshfegh doesn’t shy away from detailing Eileen’s peculiar and disturbed habits, including her profound sense of self-hatred. It’s a tense and macabre read – and one Mosfegh has said was inspired by Du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

No list of psychological thrillers is complete without Gone Girl. Flynn’s 2012 novel has become a staple of the modern suspense thriller and a reference point for the entire publishing industry. Both of Flynn’s narrators – Nick Dunne and his wife Amy, who write alternating accounts of their stricken marriage – are unreliable. It’s dark, funny and unexpected, and the twist hits you like a gut punch. It’s a testament to its ingenuity that the book has spawned an inexhaustible list of imitators.

Source: theguardian.com