Monday, July 2, 2012

Novels that Go Bump in the Night: Psychological Suspense

While most psychological suspense novels have a crime or a mystery as the plot, they also mix in an element of horror.  You’re not quite sure who is insane and who just has major psychological issues.  I have read some really good psychological suspense novels lately that really make you question not only the characters sanity but how reliable is the narrator.   So if you’re looking for mystery or crime novels that can give you a little scare or make you uneasy, try some of these.

What a rollercoaster ride!  If you like dark twisted stories that seem torn from the headlines then try the new novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  To the outside world, Nick and Amy seem like they have the perfect marriage until Amy disappears on their 5th anniversary, and there are obvious signs of a struggle.  Like a Lifetime movie, Nick and Amy’s marriage is far from perfect with secrets and well-hidden obsessions.  Nick’s creepy smile, odd behavior, and lies make him the perfect suspect.  In he-said, she-said fashion, the novel alternates from Nick’s point of view to Amy’s disturbing diary.  Flynn’s writing will keep you hooked as the plot twists and turns into to an ever tightening spiral of heart-pounding suspense until the final creepy ending.  As the reader knows what happened halfway through the book, Flynn’s novel is less about solving the crime; it is about the dark paths that love, obsession, and marriage can take.

Another good book about a twisted relationship is HeartSick by Chelsea Cain. Five years ago, Detective Archie Sheridan was kidnapped, tortured, and then released by beautiful serial killer Gretchen Lowell.  Gretchen turns herself in and continues to psychologically torture Archie by slowly releasing names and burial places of her victims if only Archie visits her every week in prison.  Now addicted to painkillers, divorced, and haunted by his unwilling attraction to Gretchen, Archie is called upon once more when another monster starts killing young teenage girls.  A reporter, Susan Ward, is allowed to profile Archie as he tries to catch this new serial killer.  Gretchen, however, is never far from the story, and a deadly game begins with Gretchen pulling the strings.  A thrilling start to the Gretchen and Archie series with enough twists and turns to make this a really “sick” book.

In a small village in Ireland, 3 children go missing; only 1 is found, gripping a tree in terror, covered in blood, and he has no memory of what happened to him.  This is how In the Woods by Tana French begins.  Now that found child, Rob Ryan, has grown up and is a detective on Dublin’s Murder Squad, still with no memory of the traumatic events of that long ago day.  Rob and his partner, Cassie Maddox, catch a case that hurls him right back to that small village as a 12 year old girl is found murdered and placed on a stone altar.  The case has strange and chilling ties to the older case, and Rob is hiding his connection to the older case from his bosses and the town.  Part psychological thriller and part police procedure, the books pacing and tone allow the reader to feel Rob’s and Cassie’s emotions as their lives come off the rails. 

Other recommended psychological suspense
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith  
The Likeness by Tana French
Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain
The Breaker by Minette Walters
Die for You by Lisa Unger

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