October is thriller season

I know that October/Halloween is horror season for most people, but I’m a scaredy cat and not a huge fan of horror. I do really enjoy psychological thrillers and mysteries though, and I’ve been reading and watching a bunch of those this month. Here are some thrillers I enjoyed, some I didn’t, and some I’m really excited to read soon!

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix series)

Behind Her Eyes (TV Mini Series 2021) - IMDb

I hadn’t read the book before I watched this series, so I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. The atmosphere was really creepy and all three main characters definitely need a good therapist (ironic, considering the main guy is a psychiatrist), but there was something compelling about all of the characters even as they made bad decision after bad decision. I thought the acting was amazing, especially in the last episode. There was a major twist in the middle that made me really angry at first because it seemed like it was asking me to suspend more disbelief than I was prepared for with a psychological thriller, but in the end I thought the story used the extra element really well and the ending couldn’t have been as satisfying without it. Personally I would have liked to know the genre of the show beforehand, but I know some people would consider that a spoiler so I’ll leave it out.

Trigger warnings: drug abuse, suicidal ideation/self harm

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs

This was a really interesting modern take on Jane Eyre, with some clever updates like Jane being a dog-walker instead of a governess and Adele being a dog instead of Rochester’s ward. I thought the thriller formula with morally questionable characters and lots of secrets was a good fit for a gothic novel. I especially liked how much more agency and complexity the ladies in this story have than the original; Bertha is especially magnetic. There’s none of that “Reader, I married him” nonsense where Jane is happy to be in a marriage with a toxic, lying man. This Jane has a plan and goes into her relationship with Rochester with eyes wide open (and maybe a metaphorical knife in her pocket…). The ending seemed a little abrupt but very fitting, I think.

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House

I’m one of the oddballs that doesn’t really like dark academia books (I didn’t even like Secret History very much, which is the poster child for the genre). I’d heard good things about this one though, and I was excited to read a thriller written by and featuring BIPOC. I stopped reading about a third of the way in, just after the first big bombshell was revealed. I felt like the story was really slow, the characters weren’t very compelling or interesting, the writing style wasn’t grabbing my attention, and the atmosphere wasn’t creepy or mysterious enough to make me want to know the secrets of Catherine House. I really was only invested in one friendship in this book, and once it ended I just felt like I didn’t need to continue.

Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building (TV Series 2021– ) - IMDb

I wasn’t sure if this was going to be more of a serious murder mystery or more of a comedy, but I thought it did a great job of balancing both. For once I had no idea who the murderer actually was, and I’m usually a good guesser! Even though the show sends you on a very chaotic wild goose chase, it was a lot of fun. All the characters are endearing, and it’s great to see how Mabel, Charles, and Oliver’s friendship brings out the best in each other.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Sometimes I Lie

This book seems to have very polarizing reviews, and unfortunately I’m in the “this was a hot mess” camp. This book has literally every psychological thriller trope you can imagine, from a tragic accident where someone’s parents die in a fire to an obsessive stalker ex to secret diaries full of dark secrets. I thought it was just too much, and after a while the twists stopped feeling like twists and more like annoying new reveals that were added just for shock value. After a certain point, I just felt overloaded and wasn’t even surprised anymore. There are no sympathetic characters here, so if you are in the mood for a super plot-twisty thriller with messy characters, maybe you will enjoy this one.

Trigger warnings: graphic rape scenes, miscarriage

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper's Daughter

It was really cool to read a book set in Michigan, featuring landmarks and places I recognize. It was also really nice to see a contemporary story of an Ojibwe young woman, told by an Ojibwe author. Some of the events in this book were hard to read, and as the author notes, although this is a work of pure fiction, a lot of the events are based on real challenges that the Native community faces. I thought this was a powerful book, as well as a good mystery/thriller where you kind of know who the bad guys are but you just don’t want to believe it.

Trigger warnings: gun violence, drug abuse and addiction, rape

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Velvet Was the Night

I’ve read a couple of books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia so far, and each one is so different and yet so good. I’m very excited to read Velvet was the Night, and I just got my hands on a copy at the library yesterday. I can’t say I’ve read any other noir mysteries set in 1970s Mexico!

If We Were Villians by ML Rio

If We Were Villains

I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, and a Shakespeare play that ends up in a real life tragedy sounds like the beginning of a very good thriller. I’m planning to read this one very soon!

1 thought on “October is thriller season”

  1. Oooooo thanks for the recs and reviews! I love a good psychological thriller, too, and am getting back into them recently. I enjoyed how tongue in cheek Only Murders was, with tons of easter egg nods to true crime (and crime podcast, and murder mystery) tropes and reveals. I’ve just started Bent Heavens, which I hope is twisty and creepy….If We Were Villains sounds great, and I can’t wait to see what you think of it!


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