Psychological thrillers are suspenseful narratives that plunge the depths of the human psyche. In these books, the characters own distorted perceptions of reality form a core aspect of the plot. Literary devices utilized in psychological thrillers often include the unreliable narrator and red herrings. Throughout psychological thrillers, the audience is left wondering what is truly going on. Take Shudder Island by Dennis Lehane, in which the arc of the story is distorted by the protagonist’s delusions. Or consider the classic short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in which the narrator herself is not able to discern between reality and her own inescapable descent into madness.
One of the reasons why psychological thrillers are so popular is because it’s so easy to become entangled and engrossed within the story. You keep turning the pages because you want to finally have answers—and your own sense of reality becomes a little warped along the way. The satisfaction really comes with the ending, when all the pieces finally fall into place and you realize how many little clues you missed along the way.
If you’re a fan of this intoxicating sub-genre, here are some enticing stories to start with:
And when you’ve finished those, peruse the stories below to discover the best the psychological thriller world has to offer.