Whether inspired by real-life true crimes like the 1931 trunk murders or the high-stakes world of competitive gymnastics, Megan Abbott’s hardboiled crime thrillers are interested in the dangerous truths about being female. As she writes in her novel Dare Me, “Ages fourteen to eighteen, a girl needs something to kill all that time, that endless itchy waiting, every hour, every day for something—anything—to begin.” Here are six excellent Abbott novels, for every kind of thrill seeker.
Give Me Your Hand
Abbott’s most recent novel begins with a quotation from poet Sylvia Plath: “The blood jet is poetry. There is no stopping it.” Blood is Kit’s business, too. After years of hard work, she’s made her way into one of the most prestigious labs in the country, studying women who suffer from a lethal form of PMS. (Literally, they murder people right before their periods.) But then Kit’s arch-frenemy from high school, Diane, turns up and she’s after the same job. Kit must decide if the secret of Diane’s she’s kept all these years if worth keeping.
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You Will Know Me
As we all know from watching the Olympics, women’s gymnastics is one of the most intense, highly competitive sports in the world. In this novel, Katie and Eric’s daughter Devon has that dream of Olympic gold. But then someone in their tight-knit community is murdered. Rather than being repulsed by the crime, Katie becomes obsessed as she realizes there’s nothing that would stop her or her daughter from rising to the top.
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It started the same way in Salem in 1692. A group of teenage girls suddenly possessed by some demonic force. Deenie is a star-student at her high school, her family one of the most respected in town. Then one day her best friend suffers a seizure at school, and, within minutes, rumors of some kind of disease have spread throughout the community at large. In Salem, they pointed their fingers at the women they claimed were in league with the Devil—and in Abbott’s novel, the assignment of blame is not so different.
The End of Everything
David Lynch’s Laura Palmer might’ve seemed like your typical sweet teenage girl, but she was harboring a dark secret—darker than anyone could have imagined. The secret lives of teenage girls are also at the heart of this novel. Lizzie and Evie are best friends. Then one day, Evie disappears. Was she kidnapped? Lizzie thought she knew everything about her friend, but she’ll have to dig even deeper if she wants to find her.
Bury Me Deep
Inspired by the infamous true crime “trunk murders” of 1931, Bury Me Deep tells the story of a gruesome discovery of two abandoned luggage trunks at a train station in LA—and the dismembered remains inside. But it’s the story of three female friends, bonded together by hardship and yearning for independence, and the man who becomes between them that makes Abbott’s early novel a feminist deconstruction of the classic noir thriller.
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The Song Is You
Drawing directly from the real-life (and never solved) disappearance of actress Jean Spangler, Abbott’s The Song Is You imagines the crime from the perspective of Hop, a down-on-his-luck Hollywood publicist who becomes obsessed with the case. Taking notes from other Hollywood noirs like Dorothy B. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place, Abbott’s novel is another prime example of a feminist turn on a classic genre.
Featured photo via cover of "Bury Me Deep," by Megan Abbott