While some may be loading up on classic romantic comedies in light of Valentine’s Day, I’ve taken a slightly different approach to this holiday season.
In January, I committed to the Harper Collins’ 50 Book Pledge, which means that I will attempt to read fifty books this calendar year. My reading tastes tend to vary. I like books meant for ages 9-12, fantasy, true crime, basically anything teen, historical fiction – anything save for romance. Recently, I found myself drifting back to one of my favourite genres: thriller. This is a list, in no particular order, of five thrillers that I really enjoyed because they put me on edge for days.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
This book, released January 2nd, 2018, has quickly become one of my favourites in this genre. Replete with an unreliable narrator similar to the desolate Rachel in The Girl on the Train, Anna has a penchant for mixing red wine with prescription medication and spying on her neighbours. The story follows Anna Fox, who has becomes agoraphobic, and thus afraid to leave her house, after an automobile accident involving her estranged husband and young daughter. Thus, she has shut herself away in her home, only speaking to her family by phone, and conducting nearly all other interactions over the internet.
By happenstance, Anna encounters a new neighbour, Jane, and develops a tentative friendship. Before Anna and Jane become close, Anna spies Jane through her window with a metal barb impaled in her chest. Although Anna contacts the police, it only serves to confuse Anna more seeing as the woman she knew as Jane is another woman entirely.
2. Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
If I had to pick out my first favourite thriller, Her Every Fear would have to be it. Similarly to The Woman in the Window, this book deals with the concept of voyeurism. Perhaps the concept of being unwittingly studied is a deep-seated fear of mine that I only dwell upon through books of this genre.
Swanson’s novel features Kate, who is suffering from intense anxiety brought on by her past experience being kidnapped by an ex-boyfriend. When her distant cousin, Corbin, suggests they swap apartments from London to Boston, Kate accepts, in order to pursue a change of pace. Upon arriving at Corbin’s apartment, Kate discovers that his next-door neighbour, Audrey, has recently been murdered. Kate begins to question whether her cousin could be a killer after encountering a man claiming to be Audrey’s ex-boyfriend, who insists Corbin committed the murder before leaving for London. Enmeshed in a murder investigation and able to provide very few answers to the police’s questions about her cousin, Kate also meets Alan, who secretly lusts after Audrey, and often watches her through her window. This book is an excellent way to creep yourself out while enjoying masterful writing.
3. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
I first became aware of Mackintosh when her big seller I See You hit the shelves in 2016. After reading both of her books, I decided that the less popular I Let You Go was more my taste.
The book begins with a lead up to a fatal accident. When walking with his mother, five-year-old Jacob lets go of her hand and runs ahead of her into the street, where he is fatally hit by a car. Racked with guilt, his mother tries to determine whether she could have prevented the accident. Shortly after the accident, Jenna flees Bristol and creates a new life in a remote Welsh village, choosing reclusivity instead of facing the media circus around Jacob’s death. Meanwhile, detective inspector Ray Stevens and detective constable Kate Evans investigate the crime scene, and attempt to locate the perpetrator.
Though the plot of this book may appear simple, it kept me on my toes through every chapter, probably more than any other book I have read. As soon as I thought I was on solid ground, Mackintosh managed to pull the rug out from under me.
4. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
It wouldn’t be a list of books curated by yours truly without at least one teen book on the list.
Stephanie Perkins, of Anna and the French Kiss fame, stepped outside the world of teen romance and has created an eerie, supernatural-seeming serial killer who enjoys toying with his victims. Recently relocated from Hawaii after exercising poor judgement, Makani finds herself under her grandmother’s care in small town Nebraska. The book opens with a secondary character named Haley, as she returns from school. One day, she finds her egg timer poised on her front porch. Thinking nothing of it, she returns it to its spot, cooks, and leaves a dirty knife in the sink. Haley leaves the kitchen when she receives a phone call. Upon returning, she finds the knife has moved from the sink into the dishwasher. Exhausted, Haley thinks she is imagining things, and goes to take a nap. Soon after, she is awoken by the trill of the egg timer, now on her bedside. The next day, news of the discovery of Haley’s body is all over town. Perkins’ book not only packs a significant body count, but also made me tense every time I put something down, imagining that since my phone was no longer by my bedside, that I would be next on this deranged killer’s list.
5. The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
I was hesitant to add this book on the list because I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. I picked The Hypnotist up because it was recommended to me by a co-worker whose judgement is usually spot on about books. However, the first hundred or so pages really irked me. The pacing is slow — “Lars Kepler” is the name of a husband-wife writing partnership from Sweden, so this might be the reason — and though the concept was interesting, I wasn’t always convinced to continue reading.
Kepler opens the book by inviting the reader to the scene of the murder of a woman and her daughter. Rescued from the scene is the 15-year-old son Josef, who obtained severe wounds and is now unconscious and in the hospital. The attack upon this family is savage; blood covers every surface in the room, and the mother’s C-section scar is cut open. Later, the father’s body is discovered, with the same kind of violence inflicted on his body. To help retrieve information from the boy, the detective in charge of the case, Joona, calls in a trauma specialist who, until recently, practiced hypnotism. Once cleared by the boy’s doctor, he is hypnotized which reveals key facts about the case. More than any other on this list, The Hypnotist is a downright strange book, but one that I cannot stop thinking about.
Remember that sometimes a good scare can keep life interesting. Happy reading!