Currently, the book market is saturated with psychological thrillers (think Girl On The Train, Gone Girl, The Girl Before etc). It is difficult for authors to come up with something unique for their readers and provide them with something that will shock. Over the course of the last couple of months, I have read quite a selection of books from the psychological thriller genre and I thought I would share my response to these novels.
First up is my most recent read, Dear Amy, by debut author Helen Callaghan. This gripping story is based around Margot, a Cambridge schoolteacher, who also moonlights as an agony aunt, under the alias “Dear Amy” for a local newspaper. When a haunting letter comes into Margot’s hands as Amy, from a person claiming to be Bethan Avery, it is a shock. This is because Bethan Avery was a young girl who went missing 20 years earlier and has never been found. The letter has the schoolteacher debating as to whether the letter is simply a coax, or it is authentic. When Margot hands the letter over to the police, they seem disinterested. But when a student at her school goes missing, a connection between this current girl’s disappearance and Bethan Avery forms. Margot is drawn in deeper, while dealing with her own problems, including the breakdown of her marriage and her difficult past. Dear Amy had a promising start, the first half locked me in and I enjoyed the use of the letters via an agony aunt that kick started this thriller. It did make the novel stand out from the many offerings in this genre. However, I did feel there were lags in the narrative, some open plot holes and obvious twists. These points aside, Dear Amy is worth investigating if you are a fan of the genre. (Published in 2017, Penguin Books Australia)
Continuing on the theme of missing girls is another debut of sorts. Megan Miranda, an established author in the young adult market, makes her adult fiction debut with All the Missing Girls. I read this one while on holiday and I can safely say this was the perfect holiday companion. It offered a good combination between a haunting setting and a roller coaster story. It revolves Nicolette (Nic) Farrell, who makes the journey back home to North Carolina to sort out the sale of her family home, after a ten year absence. Cooley Ridge, Nic’s home town, is a place that holds deep and painful memories. Corrine, Nic’s best friend, disappeared at a local fair they attended, soon after their high school graduation. The case has never been solved. Now another girl, known closely by Nic’s family and friends has disappeared and old wounds are reopened. What was most interesting about All the Missing Girls was the structure, which offered something a little different. The book is told in reverse, each chapter takes the reader from the present day, back in time. For some, this form of narrative may cause a sense of confusion, but for me it worked well in building a strong line of suspense. All the Missing Girls is well worth your time if you appreciate a resourceful approach to storytelling, in the packed psychological thriller genre. (Published in 2016, by Simon & Schuster)
In The Bones of You by Debbie Howells, a peaceful village in the heart of the British countryside is shocked to the core when eighteen year old Rosie Anderson disappears. Time passes and soon Rosie’s body is found in nearby woods, where it appears she has been stabbed to death. This shocks the village in which horse mad Rosie hails from. In particular Kate, a local gardener who befriended Rosie and her family, feels terribly guilty. Her guilt leads her to seek out the truth behind Rosie’s murder, as so far, Rosie’s murder has baffled police. It is a truth that rips apart an ideal family unit, revealing dark and ugly truths. The story unfolds across three narratives, revealing the how and why of Rosie’s death. One of these clever and compelling narratives is Rosie’s voice from the grave, revealing aspects that lead up to her death, which was reminiscent of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. When I finally cracked this one, I was left to wonder why I didn’t see the blinding obvious clues earlier. The Bones of You is a tense read, that leaves us to wonder about the construction of the family unit. It fits nicely into the domestic thriller genre, looking at how a marriage can appear perfect on the outset, but can quickly spiral out of control. (Published in 2015, by Pan Macmillan)
Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant is a little different, but I would say this novel still fits snugly into the domestic thriller genre. The narrator of Lie With Me is utterly appalling, so appalling that I couldn’t help but turn away from this book! The central protagonist in this psychological thriller, is not the usual (a damaged young woman) but a middle aged man. Paul Morris is the main character in Lie With Me. Paul is an arrogant, self centered has-been. As the book opens, he has hit rock bottom, he is completely out of funds and is forced to move back in with his mother. Paul is jobless, after his only hit novel, published some twenty years earlier, has failed to engender any further success. With no prospects and a string of broken relationships behind him, a chance meeting with an old university pal sends Paul into the arms of a complicated and wealthy widow, named Alice. It doesn’t not take long for Paul to worm his way into Alice’s life and he invites himself on a two week family holiday in Greece. It turns out this trip is more than just a family vacation. It is to continue the search for the daughter of Alice’s friend, who disappeared without a trace some 10 years earlier. It is a case that has never been solved. As Paul immerses himself in the lives of this family, his lies grow bigger and bolder. Eventually, his untruths catch up with him and he finds himself implicated in deeds he believes he did not commit. The big question is whether or not Paul is actually suffering from a form of amnesia, or has his compulsive lying addiction got the better of him? Lie With Me is a novel packed full to brim with nastiness, manipulation, self-preservation and cover-ups. It will leave you in the dark for the bulk of the novel, with ambiguity high in the agenda. Lie With Me was an interesting enough thriller that sent some conflicting emotions my way. (Published in 2016, by Hachette Australia).
I hope you enjoyed my bumper issue thriller round up! I would love any psychological thriller book suggestions if you have any to share!
Mrs B 🙂