50 Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time (By Year)

best psychological thriller books of all time

I love a good mystery-thriller novel and psychological thrillers books are probably my favorite within that genre. There’s just something uniquely delightful about those twisty plotlines and the multitude of suspicious characters that populate this genre. Psychological thrillers are also the perfect pairing for a full-bodied glass of red wine.

This list of the Best Psychological Thriller Books of All Time is ordered reverse chronologically by publication year.

This list is based on a combination of a) my opinion, b) my friends’ opinions, c) reviews I’ve read, d) online ratings.

Hope you find something to read here that will keep you on your toes! And please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you’d like to suggest a book to add to this list!

The Housemaid (2022)
Freida McFadden

What It's About: An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

Don't miss the New York Times and USA Today bestseller and addictive psychological thriller with a jaw-dropping twist that’s burning up Instagram and TikTok–Freida McFadden’s The Housemaid is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware, Lisa Jewell, and Verity...

Publication Date: April 26, 2022
thriller mystery physical tbr

The Push (2021)
Ashley Audrain

What It's About: An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had...

See the Full Summary and Review of The Push (2021)

Publication Date: January 5, 2021
thriller mystery mystery thriller

The Guest List (2020)
Lucy Foley

What It's About: An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

It's the wedding of the year. But someone won't survive it.

On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate the wedding of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. Will is a rising television star, handsome and charming...

See the Full Summary and Review of The Guest List (2020)

Publication Date: February 20, 2020
mystery thriller mystery thriller

Home Before Dark (2020)
Riley Sager

What It's About: What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors...

See the Full Summary and Review of Home Before Dark (2020)

Publication Date: June 30, 2020
horror thriller mystery

The Sun Down Motel (2020)
Simone St. James

What It's About: The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel...

Publication Date: February 18, 2020
mystery horror thriller

The Silent Patient (2019)
Alex Michaelides

What It's About: Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word...

See the Full Summary and Review of The Silent Patient (2019)

Publication Date: February 5, 2019
thriller mystery physical tbr

The Last Time I Lied (2018)
Riley Sager

What It's About: Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips...

Publication Date: July 3, 2018
thriller mystery mystery thriller

The Death of Mrs. Westaway (2018)
Ruth Ware

What It's About: On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.

Publication Date: May 29, 2018
mystery thriller mystery thriller

The Broken Girls (2018)
Simone St. James

What It's About: A breakout suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare.

Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted...

Publication Date: March 20, 2018
mystery thriller historical fiction

The Wife Between Us (2018)
Greer Hendricks

What It's About: When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle...

See the Full Summary and Review of The Wife Between Us (2018)

Publication Date: January 2, 2018
thriller mystery mystery thriller

The Good Daughter (2017)
Karin Slaughter

What It's About: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind.

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn's happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father—Pikeville's notorious defense attorney—devastated...

Publication Date: July 13, 2017
thriller mystery mystery thriller

The Last Mrs. Parrish (2017)
Liv Constantine

What It's About: Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale...

Publication Date: October 17, 2017
thriller book club mystery

Stillhouse Lake (2017)
Rachel Caine

What It's About: Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake...

Publication Date: July 1, 2017
thriller mystery kindle unlimited

Sometimes I Lie (2017)
Alice Feeney

What It's About: My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea...

Publication Date: March 23, 2017
thriller mystery mystery thriller

Behind Closed Doors (2016)
B.A. Paris

What It's About: Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all...

Publication Date: August 9, 2016
thriller mystery mystery thriller

The Dry (2016)
Jane Harper

What It's About: In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier...

Publication Date: November 8, 2016
mystery thriller crime

The Girl on the Train (2015)
Paula Hawkins

What It's About: Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect...

Publication Date: January 13, 2015
mystery thriller book club

The Kind Worth Killing (2015)
Peter Swanson

What It's About: A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder. Fans of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train will love this modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train from the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart—which the Washington Post said “should be a contender for crime fiction’s best first novel of 2014...

Publication Date: February 3, 2015
thriller mystery mystery thriller

Pretty Girls (2015)
Karin Slaughter

What It's About: Twenty years ago Claire Scott's eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went - no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.

Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one...

Publication Date: July 2, 2015
thriller mystery mystery thriller

Big Little Lies (2014)
Liane Moriarty

What It's About: An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

From the author of Truly Madly Guilty and The Husband s Secret comes a novel about the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

A murder...A tragic accident...Or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead...

Publication Date: December 25, 2014
mystery book club contemporary

I Let You Go (2014)
C. Mackintosh

What It's About: A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever...

Publication Date: November 6, 2014
thriller mystery mystery thriller

In the Blood (2014)
Lisa Unger

What It's About: Liar, liar, pants on fire . . .

College senior Lana Granger has told so many lies about her past that the truth seems like a distant, cloudy nightmare. But she meets her match when she begins babysitting for a volatile, manipulative eleven-year-old boy. Soon after Lana takes the job, her close friend Beck mysteriously disappears...

Publication Date: January 7, 2014
mystery thriller mystery thriller

Gone Girl (2012)
Gillian Flynn

What It's About: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. As the police begin to investigate, the town golden boy parades a series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior...

Publication Date: December 6, 2012
mystery thriller book club

Defending Jacob (2012)
William Landay

What It's About: Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life: his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob. Then Andy's quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park...

Publication Date: January 31, 2012
book club mystery thriller

Before I Go To Sleep (2011)
S. J. Watson

What It's About: Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life.

Publication Date: October 1, 2011
thriller mystery book club

Dark Places (2009)
Gillian Flynn

What It's About: Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother's? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day...

Publication Date: April 25, 2009
mystery thriller mystery thriller

The Likeness (2008)
Tana French

What It's About: Still traumatised by her brush with a psychopath, Detective Cassie Maddox transfers out of the Murder squad and starts a relationship with fellow detective Sam O’Neill. When he calls her to the scene of his new case, she is shocked to find that the murdered girl is her double. What’s more, her ID shows she is Lexie Madison – the identity Cassie used, years ago, as an undercover detective...

Publication Date: July 17, 2008
mystery crime thriller

The Snowman (2007)
Jo Nesbo

What It's About: Internationally acclaimed crime writer Jo Nesbø’s antihero police investigator, Harry Hole, is back: in a bone-chilling thriller that will take Hole to the brink of insanity.

Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone...

Publication Date: August 19, 2007
mystery crime thriller

In the Woods (2007)
Tana French

What It's About: As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours...

Publication Date: May 17, 2007
mystery thriller crime

Into the Darkest Corner (2007)
Elizabeth Haynes

What It's About: When young, pretty Catherine Bailey meets Lee Brightman, she can't believe her luck. Gorgeous, charismatic, and a bit mysterious, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true.

But what begins as flattering attention and spontaneous, passionate sex transforms into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon discovers that Lee's dazzling blue eyes and blond good looks hide a dark, violent nature...

Publication Date: February 13, 2007
thriller mystery mystery thriller

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006)
Stieg Larsson

What It's About: The Expose
Millenium publisher Mikael Blomkvist has made his reputation exposing corrupt establishment figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with an investigation into sex trafficking, Blomkvist cannot resist waging war on the powerful figures who control this lucrative industry.

The Murder
When a young couple is found dead in their Stockholm apartment, it's a straightforward job for Inspector Bublanski and his team...

Publication Date: July 28, 2009
mystery thriller crime

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005)
Stieg Larsson

What It's About: Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander...

Publication Date: June 23, 2009
mystery thriller crime

Shutter Island (2003)
Dennis Lehane

What It's About: US Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to find an escaped murderer named Rachel Solando.

As a killer hurricane bears down on the island, the investigation deepens and the questions mount. How has a barefoot woman escaped from a locked room? Who is leaving them clues in the form of cryptic codes? And what really goes on in Ward C?

The closer Teddy gets to the truth, the more elusive it becomes...

Publication Date: April 13, 2003
mystery thriller horror

Gone for Good (2002)
Harlan Coben

What It's About: הנעלמים הוא סיפור סוחף ועוצר נשימה על סודות, שקרים ובגידה גורלית,
שנפרש תוך כדי מצוד אחר אח נעדר, אהובה שנעלמת במסתוריות, רוצח סדרתי,
ובעיקר אחר האמת, שעתידה לזעזע את חייהן של כל הנפשות הפועלות.

Publication Date: March 4, 2003
mystery harlan coben thriller

Mystic River (2001)
Dennis Lehane

What It's About: This New York Times bestseller from Dennis Lehane is a gripping, unnerving psychological thriller about the effects of a savage killing on three former friends in a tightly knit, blue-collar Boston neighborhood.

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends...

Publication Date: January 5, 2021
mystery thriller crime

Kiss the Girls (1995)
James Patterson

What It's About: In Los Angeles, a reporter investigating a series of murders is killed. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a beautiful medical intern suddenly disappears. In Washington D.C. Alex Cross is back to solve the most baffling and terrifying murder case ever. Two clever pattern killers are collaborating, cooperating, competing - and they are working coast to coast.

Publication Date: January 11, 1995
james patterson mystery thriller

Along Came a Spider (1993)
James Patterson

What It's About: What have we got? A missing little girl named Maggie Rose . . . a family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C. . . . the thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher . . . a psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him - even after he's been captured...

Publication Date: February 1, 1993
mystery james patterson thriller

The Secret History (1992)
Donna Tartt

What It's About: Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last—inexorably—into evil.

Publication Date: September 16, 1992
physical tbr dark academia favourites

The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
Thomas Harris

What It's About: The Silence of the Lambs is a psychological horror novel by Thomas Harris. First published in 1988, it is the sequel to Harris's 1981 novel Red Dragon. Both novels feature the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, this time pitted against FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling.

Publication Date: July 31, 2002
horror thriller mystery

Misery (1987)
Stephen King

What It's About: Bestselling novelist Paul Sheldon thinks he’s finally free of Misery Chastain. In a controversial career move, he’s just killed off the popular protagonist of his beloved romance series in favor of expanding his creative horizons. But such change doesn’t come without consequences. After a near-fatal car accident in rural Colorado leaves his body broken, Paul finds himself at the mercy of the terrifying rescuer who’s nursing him back to health—his self-proclaimed number one fan, Annie Wilkes...

Publication Date: June 8, 1987
horror stephen king thriller

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)
Shirley Jackson

What It's About: Shirley Jackson’s beloved gothic tale of a peculiar girl named Merricat and her family’s dark secret

Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate...

Publication Date: September 21, 1962
gothic mystery audiobook

Strangers on a Train (1950)
Patricia Highsmith

What It's About: In Patricia Highsmith's debut novel, we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith's perilous world - where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder...

Publication Date: March 15, 1950
mystery thriller crime

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
Patricia Highsmith

What It's About: Now a Netflix Series

It’s here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith’s five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a “sissy.” Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy...

Publication Date: June 17, 2008
mystery classics thriller

And Then There Were None (1939)
Agatha Christie

What It's About: First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate...

Publication Date: November 6, 1939
mystery thriller crime

best psychological thriller books of all time

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