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20 of the Best New Psychological Thrillers in 2021 | Book Riot

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Over this last year of reading slumps, the one genre keeping my reading habit alive is psychological thrillers. You might think that sitting in the viewpoint of a psychologically stressed character would…add stress, but there’s something about trying on someone else’s stress that allows you to forget yours. Luckily, I’m not alone in my desire to consume more of this sub-genre. There are tons of great books that came out in 2020, and even more to come this year, so I’ve put together this list of ten psychological thrillers from 2020 and ten psychological thrillers coming in 2021. 

2020 Psychological Thrillers

Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

In a windowless cabin in the woods, Lena is held captive with her two children by their father. All of their meals, bathroom trips, and study time are scheduled and monitored under the guise of protection from the dangers of the outside world. But when Lena finds a way to escape, suddenly there are more questions than she originally thought. Like, is she actually the woman called “Lena” who disappeared 14 years ago? 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a letter from her newlywed cousin frantically begging someone to save her, Noemí Taboada heads to the distant house in the Mexican countryside where her cousin resides. Noemí, a fearless debutante, begins uncovering the secrets that reside within the house and the family’s dark past. 

Lakewood cover

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

When her grandmother passes away and the depths of her family’s debt is revealed, Lena Johnson drops out of college to support her family by getting a job in a small and mysterious Michigan town. The job pays well, covers medical expenses, and offers her a spot to stay…and in return all she has to do is participate in a secret research program that is kept secret from her friends and family. But as the truths of the program reveal themselves, the Black millennial has to ask how much she’s willing to sacrifice for family.

The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

When Arden was a young girl, she was swept away while sleepwalking during a storm, disappearing for several days. Found alive and clinging to a storm drain, she was considered a local miracle. But what followed were hundreds of fan letters, stalkers, her mother’s book, and a fame she didn’t want. So when she was old enough, Arden disappeared once again — on her own terms. But as the 20th anniversary of her disappearance approaches, she begins sleepwalking again, eventually jolting awake…in front of the dead body of someone from her past life.

The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

Alexa Wú is a darkly self-aware young woman whose life is controlled by a series of alternate personalities. The only people who know of their existence are her therapist, her stepmom, and her best friend Ella. When Ella begins working at a Gentleman’s Club and becomes involved with its owner, Alexa finds herself the unwilling keeper of a dark secret. With no one else to turn to, she follows Ella into London’s underbelly on a rescue mission. In this thriller written by a real-life psychotherapist, one girl will find out whether her personalities are her greatest asset or her most dangerous obstacle. 

The Shadow by Melanie Raabe

Norah is just getting settled from moving from Berlin to Vienna to leave her old life behind when a homeless woman stops her on the street to say, “On February 11 you will kill a man called Arthur Grimm. Of your own free will. And for a good reason.” Norah is understandably freaked out, but dismisses it…until she meets a man named Arthur Grimm. She soon begins to wonder if maybe she does have a reason to want revenge on this mysterious man. 

Little Secrets cover

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Married to her college sweetheart and owner of her own chain of salons, it appeared that Marin had the perfect life…until their son Sebastian is taken. A year later, after the FBI case has gone cold, Marin hires a private investigator to take on the case. But instead of finding information on her son, the P.I. uncovers secrets about her husband that Marin isn’t so keen to find out.

Santa Monica by Cassidy Lucas

The beachside town of Santa Monica is rocked to its core when heartthrob fitness coach Zack Doheny is found dead on the floor of his gym. The narrative hops back in time to the months before Zack’s murder to reveal his perfectly curated life is not as glamorous as it seemed. 

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Brooklyn born and raised, Sydney Green is devastated by the rapid change happening in her beloved neighborhood as condos pop up and her neighbors move away. In an attempt to hold onto her community’s past, Sydney goes on a walking tour where she meets an unlikely accomplice — her neighbor Theo. As the two dive into their neighborhood’s history, they realize something much darker is going on…and their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all.

The Swap by Robyn Harding

After signing up for a local pottery class, Low falls under the spell of the shop’s owner, former social media influencer Freya. The two grow close, sharing their deepest and darkest secrets, but when Jamie moves into town with her husband, suddenly Freya’s attention is turned towards Jamie and her husband. After a night of drinking with their husbands, Freya suggests they swap partners. But what should have been a night of harmless fun gives Low the perfect opportunity to strike back for her betrayal.

2021 Psychological Thrillers

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth 

From the outside, twin sisters Fern and Rose seem as close as two people can be. Rose has always been the protector of Fern, who has a sensory processing disorder and saw the best in their sociopathic mother. Years ago, Fern did something terrible that Rose has never told a soul about. But now, Fern starts to realize that she’s more capable than Rose has led her to believe. And in fact, Rose has been keeping quite a few secrets…

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

As girls, twins Cat and El came up with Mirrorland, an imaginary place under the pantry stairs of their Edinburgh home full of pirates, witches, and clowns. Now, Cat lives in L.A., far away from the childhood home which El and her husband now reside in. But when El disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat returns home to find a series of clues that lead back to Mirrorland. 

The Dinner Guest by B.P. Walter (One More Chapter, May 27) 

Four people sit down to dinner: Charlie, his husband Matthew, their son Titus, and a stranger named Rachel. Charlie was skeptical about inviting Rachel to book club, but Matthew insisted. And now Charlie finds himself slumped next to his husband’s body while his son sits at the dinner table and Rachel calls 999…the bloody knife still in her hand. 

The Serial Killer’s Wife by Alice Hunter (Avon, May 27)

It starts as these stories often do: Beth and Tom Hardcastle are the envy of the neighborhood with the perfect marriage house and family. But when the police knock on her door one evening before Tom gets home, she fears the worst — or at least what she thinks is the worst. As the night unfolds, Beth begins to question everything she knows about her husband, the man they’re all calling a monster. 

Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke

Now the host of a popular true crime podcast that helps find missing kids, Elle Castillo was once a social worker specializing in kids who were victims of violent crimes. After two seasons of successfully solving cases, Elle decides it’s time to tackle The Countdown Killer, who kidnaps and murders three girls over seven days. After receiving a tip from a listener, Elle plans a visit to interview him, only to find him dead. As Elle delves deeper into the case, she begins to question whether her podcast is stirring up new victims. 

These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall (Thomas & Mercer, September 1)

Mickie creates digital scrapbooks for clients, ensuring their souvenirs aren’t lost. When her latest client dies by suicide, Mickie honors her last wish and begins curating pieces from her past. But someone isn’t thrilled with Mickie poking around in Nadia’s past. In fact, she’s begun to get threatening messages from a dormant serial killer to leave Nadia’s past alone. 

Who is Maud Dixon? By Alexandra Andrews

When Florence Darrow stumbles into the chance to become an assistant to famed-but-anonymous-novelist “Maud Dixon,” she is thrilled. She’s always dreamed of becoming a writer and can’t wait to soak up all she can. Maud, AKA Helen, invites Florence on a research trip to Morocco, where her new novel is set. But on their trip, Florence wakes up in the hospital following a terrible car crash, and Helen is dead. Suddenly, Florence begins to wonder what it might be like to step into the shoes of the celebrated, but anonymous, author. 

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

On her bachelorette weekend, Abigail Baskin had a one-night stand before marrying her millionaire husband. To her, it was a one-time slip up before spending her life with her true love. But on their honeymoon, Abigail’s mysterious fling shows up and she’s left with the decision of whether she should tell her new husband or not. But when strange things start to happen on the island, including a scared woman in the night, she’s forced to face the situation head-on. 

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse 

Taking time off from being a detective, Elin is in no position to avoid her estranged brother’s engagement party at sanatorium-turned-five-star-hotel, Le Sommet. Elin feels on edge as she arrives in the midst of a storm, but things go from bad to worse when they discover the bride-to-be is missing the next morning. With the hotel closed off by the storm, guests begin to panic the longer she stays missing and Elin is forced to step in before another woman goes missing… 

The Other Black Girl

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria, June 1)* 

Nella Rogers is a 26-year-old editorial assistant who is tired of being the only Black woman at her publishing house, so she’s thrilled when Hazel begins working in the cubical next to hers. But just as they begin bonding, a series of events leads to Hazel becoming the office favorite while Nella is left behind. It’s not long after that Nella begins to receive threatening notes on her desks, and she begins to wonder if her new office-ally is behind it.


Want more recent psychological thrillers? Check out these fall 2020 thrillers

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