The world is in a state of disarray right now. It won’t last forever, but at the moment it feels neverending. Right now, I’m on paid leave from one job and working from home with the other, but even though I’m working, my brain has a lot more free time than usual. And with a global pandemic, free time means that my brain can get itself into trouble a lot easier. So, what better way to escape the problems in our world than diving into a thriller with problems of its own?
I’m a huge fan of thrillers and horror, both movies and books alike. I don’t know what it is about a good scare that entertains me so much, but I’m attracted to the high-stakes nature of these stories over anything else. Because of this fact, I made a list of the best thrillers I’ve come across over the past couple years. Reading these guarantees to put your mind onto something other than COVID-19 for at least a few hours.
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Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
This book begins with an affair and ends with a bang you’ll never see coming. When things started to ramp up, I couldn’t put it down. Literally, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page. When the big twist hit, I had to go back and reread it a few times because I couldn’t wrap my brain around the craziness. This is probably my favorite thriller of all time.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
This was McCreight’s debut novel, and it is a powerhouse. Main character Kate gets a phone call while at work from her daughter, Amelia’s, school, requesting her to come pick Amelia up immediately because she’s been suspended. But when Kate gets to the school, Amelia has just jumped off the roof. Overcome with shock and grief, the desire for justice comes into play when Kate receives an anonymous text stating “She didn’t jump.”
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
This one is borderline horror, but it does such a wonderful job in world-building that I couldn’t help but add it to this escapism list. Most are familiar with the story already; a 12-year-old girl becomes possessed and must be exorcised by a priest dealing with his own demons. But those who have seen the world-famous movie don’t know everything there is to know. As with most adaptations, plenty was left out of the film and the book has an ending that’s much more uplifting. Instead of focusing on evil like the movie, the book focuses on the presence of good.
Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline
This book has points of view that trade off between characters, but it never gets confusing. The story centers around a secret that’s 20 years old and is begging to be let free by the group of friends that keep it. They all come together at home for the first time in two decades and can’t help but be reminded of the atrocities they committed as teens in the same small town.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Told in varying perspectives of then and now, Laurel is still dealing with the abduction of her daughter, Ellie, ten years ago. The “THEN” portions are told from Ellie’s point of view, and her experiences with being taken and surviving in captivity. The “NOW” portions are told by Laurel, about the man she meets who’s new in town. Floyd has a daughter called Poppy, nine years old, who’s the spitting image of Laurel’s stolen daughter, and she can’t help but think what this might mean.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
After The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins came back with this home run. Into the Water regales the story of women who’ve been lost, drowned in a river that flows through a small town in the British Isles. Some went in willingly and others didn’t, but too many have died in the drowning pool for it to be chalked up to coincidence. There is a large cast of characters, but after you see how they’re all related to one another, it’s not hard to keep track of them.
Don’t Be Afraid by Rebecca Drake
This book was a thriller through and through. It not only kept me on the edge of my seat, it kept me awake at night and gave me genuine anxiety. Maybe not the best book to read if you’re on pins and needles with current affairs, but it could be good to worry about someone else’s strife rather than the virus for a day! Don’t Be Afraid is about a serial killer who targets a small town in Connecticut, making home itself seem unsafe. The descriptions are grisly and visceral, and not for the faint of heart.
Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
I’ll be honest in saying I didn’t expect much from this book. For some reason, I thought it would be a supermarket melodrama, but I was very wrong. It tells the tale of Lindsey Nash, who escaped her abusive husband eleven years prior and now lives alone with her teenage daughter. But when all seems well, Lindsey starts to get the feeling once again that someone is watching her. Her daughter is being followed, too. It comes to the point where Lindsey doesn’t know who to let into her life and who to keep out.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
It’s hard to describe this book without doling out spoilers. But the premise is this: a young man and his girlfriend head to the country to visit the man’s parents—it’s his girlfriend’s first time meeting them. Everyone behaves strangely and she’s put off by this more than she’s able to disclose. During the car ride, she’s having an internal debate on how to end things with her boyfriend. After the visit with his parents, the couple ends up at an abandoned school where debauchery occurs and treachery happens. After reading this, I had to read quite a few analyses online. I had no idea what to think after I turned the last page.
If you’ve read any of these, let’s talk about them! Our world is topsy-turvy right now, and there’s no better place to lose yourself than within a book. But these picks are only for those who can handle a scare or two… proceed with caution, and happy reading!