One sure-fire recipe for an unputdownable thriller is to peel back the veneer on a character’s seemingly perfect life and see what dark and dangerous secrets are lurking underneath. These books do just that. They’re about women trying to reinvent themselves, and the trouble they run into along the way. They’re about couples with disturbing secrets, mothers who will go to any length to ensure their children’s success, friendships that aren’t what they seem, and glamorous relationships that are actually toxic (or downright murderous). Yes, the female leads in these crime novels are as beautiful as they come, but they each harbor secrets beneath their perfect veneer. If you’re looking for gritty suspense novels full of female characters who are a bit unhinged but will remain forever in your heart, these are the books for you.
Like any enterprising woman, Bea knows what she’s worth and is determined to get all she deserves—it just so happens that what she deserves is to marry rich. Filthy rich. After years of forced instruction by her mother in the art of swindling men, a now-solo Bea wants nothing more than to close and lock the door on their sordid partnership so she can disappear safely into old-money domesticity, sealing the final phase of her escape.
When Bea chooses her ultimate target in the fully loaded, thoroughly dull and blue-blooded Collin Case, she’s ready to deploy all of her tricks one last time. The challenge isn’t getting the ring, but rather the approval of Collin’s family and everyone else in their 1 percent tax bracket, particularly his childhood best friend, Gale Wallace-Leicester.
Going toe-to-toe with Gale isn’t a threat to an expert like Bea, but what begins as an amusing cat-and-mouse game quickly develops into a dangerous pursuit of the grisly truth. Finding herself at a literal life-and-death crossroads with everything on the line, Bea must finally decide who she really wants to be.
Like mother, like daughter?
The two protagonists of The Darkness of Others have little in common on paper—but they're both keeping deadly secrets. Imani Banks is a psychiatrist with a picture-perfect life: a Brooklyn townhouse, a restauranteur husband, and two beautiful kids. Tonya Sayre's life isn't so perfect: an underpaying waitressing job, a teen daughter to support, and a shattered Broadway dream. When Imani and her husband rent out a room to Tonya during the pandemic, it shakes up both women's lives in chilling ways.
You Will Know Me delves into the darkness that lurks in the most unexpected places and people—in this case, a tight-knight gymnastics community and the mother of a young gymnastics prodigy. Katie has always been willing to do anything for her daughter—but after a shocking death before a major competition, she starts to take "anything" a little too far.
It’s the week before her wedding, and all of Eliza’s meticulous planning is about to pay off. She’s become the exact type of woman who would marry into the prominent, blue-blood Walker family–Ivy League credentials, a high-powered PR job, and a designer label wardrobe.
But as the big day approaches, secrets from Eliza’s past attending an Evangelical college start to throw her true motives into question. Who exactly is Eliza Bennett and what does she really want?
There's something about the alluring veneer of a perfect life that lends itself to suspense and psychological fiction. In Luckiest Girl Alive, Ani FaNelli has completely remade herself after a public humiliation back in high school. But underneath the glamor, she's holding onto a secret that could get her killed.
My Lovey Wife offers another brilliant variation on the "not everything is as perfect as it looks" theme. It's about a seemingly ordinary couple with a decidedly unordinary secret, the reason they've kept their marriage happy for so many years: murder. It's definitely dark, but it's also deliciously fun.
If you're looking for a literary thriller with propulsive momentum and messy characters it's hard to look away from, check out Sugar Run. It's a searing, fast-paced story about a woman who's just gotten out of prison and the intriguing young mother she meets on the road as she flees toward—hopefully—a better life.
After every divorce, one spouse gets all the friends. What does the other one get? If they’re smart, they get the benefits. Alyssa Macallan is terrified when she’s dumped by her wealthy and powerful husband. With a devastating divorce looming, she begins to suspect her toxic and manipulative soon-to-be-ex is scheming to ruin her—leaving her alone and penniless. And when the FBI shows up at her door, Alyssa knows she really needs a friend.
And then she gets one. A seductive new friend, one who’s running from a dangerous relationship of her own. Alyssa offers Bree Lorrance the safety of her guest house, and the two become confidantes. Then Bree makes a heart-stoppingly tempting offer. Maybe Alyssa and Bree can solve each others’ problems.
But no one is what they seem. And the fates and fortunes of these two women twist and turn until the shocking truth emerges: You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes you get what you deserve.
On a winter night in Paris, a young woman is pulled naked out of the Seine. She has amnesia and bears no identifying marks apart from two peculiar tattoos. She is rushed to the infirmary of Paris police headquarters, but only a few hours later, she disappears.
DNA analysis reveals her identity. She is the famous pianist Milena Bergman. But that’s impossible, because Milena died in a plane crash more than a year ago. Raphael, Milena’s former fiancé desperate for answers, and Roxane, a cop hell-bent on proving herself after a recent fall from grace, spearhead the investigation. Their quest to uncover the truth quickly reveals secrets long buried, a web of impostors, and danger lurking in plain sight. Nevertheless, they are determined to get to the center of this mystery: How can a person be both dead and alive at the same time?
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Emily Hoang is a writer and editor, who is obsessed with haunted houses, ghosts, and dreams. More info can be found on her website.