The 13 Best Suspense Novels by Women: From Agatha Christie to Gillian Flynn
From Gillian Flynn to Agatha Christie, some of the best-loved authors of the greatest dark psychological thrillers have been women. Yet until recently, the works of female authors were often overlooked in favor of their male compatriots. We want to celebrate our favorite women behind the most ominous and suspenseful novels with this list of shivery thrillers. Be sure to read these with the lights on.
1The Woman in Black
A modern classic of Gothic horror, Susan Hill drew upon the rich tradition of British ghost stories to craft this atmospheric tale of a mysterious specter whose appearance heralds the death of a child. Who is the terrifying woman in black and why does she haunt the halls of the isolated Eel Marsh House?
A terrifying novel that defies genres, BROKEN MONSTERS is a murder mystery where nothing is what it seems. Detroit is sent into a panic when bodies that are half human, half animal begin appearing. Is the paranormal at all involved, or is a truly disturbed serial killer stalking the city of Detroit?
3Strangers on a Train
From one of the masters of crime noir, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is the classic tale of the danger that lurks beneath the ordinary and introduced us to the concept of “trading” murders. Suspenseful, influential, and later adapted into a classic film by Alfred Hitchcock, this novel will remind you not to talk to strangers.
An evocative tale of gaslit Victorian London, MAYHEM is based on a true but overlooked series of ghastly murders that took place at the same time as the Jack the Ripper killings. With breathless pacing, sinister suspense, and plenty of shocking twists, this is a perfect read for historical fiction and true-crime fans.
5The Woman in Cabin 10
In this nightmarish story of paranoia, Ruth Ware expertly weaves a tense and unsettlingly claustrophobic mystery. Lo witnesses a woman being thrown overboard on a luxury cruise—but all the passengers are accounted for and no one seems to believe her. Is she losing her mind or is something more sinister at play?
6The Mysteries of Udolpho
A young French orphan imprisoned by her uncle in a crumbling medieval castle must survive the advances of a cruel suitor and the psychological terror that threatens to overwhelm her. Considered the quintessential Gothic romance, Ann Radcliffe’s masterpiece has influenced everyone from Jane Austen to Edgar Allan Poe.
When a reporter returns to her hometown to cover two murders, she does not expect to confront her own demons—or her damaged family. A brutal mystery of paranoia, familial abuse, and the secrets we hide within ourselves, Gillian Flynn’s first novel is a thriller that haunts long after the last page is read.
YOU is a hypnotic tale of obsession, the dangers of social media, and murderous manipulation. When a bookseller encounters a beautiful customer, he tracks her down via her credit card and quickly insinuates himself into her life. A thoroughly unsettling, addictive, and brilliant debut, this is an ultimate page-turner.
From one of the greatest voices in science fiction, FLEDGLING is a vampire story unlike any other. The lead vampire, Shori, is genetically modified and appears to be only 10 years old, but is in fact over 50. Overwhelmed with hunger, Shori embarks on a stunning and complex journey that will change how you view these classic monsters forever.
10Don’t Look Now
The incomparable author of REBECCA wrote numerous macabre and psychologically thrilling stories during her career and finally, in one chilling collection, comes her best. Featuring classics such as “The Birds” (which was turned into a horrifying film by Alfred Hitchcock), DON’T LOOK NOW also includes many out-of-print and unpublished tales of nightmarish terror.
11Dead in the Water
Nancy Holder won the Bram Stoker Award for this terrifying tale of psychological horror and madness. When the H.M.S. Pandora picks up the passengers of a shipwrecked freighter, they have no idea that their nightmare is only beginning. This is a truly eerie tale that grips you tight from the first sentence and never lets go.
12And Then There Were None
Considered the greatest murder mystery ever written, Agatha Christie’s masterpiece is the atmospheric and heart-pounding tale of 10 strangers on an isolated island—who all happen to have blood on their hands. Featuring ingenious, shocking murders and a twist ending that will leave you breathless, this thriller solidified Christie’s identity as the Queen of Crime.
13The Haunting of Hill House
When a scientist invites people to live in the allegedly haunted Hill House, disembodied voices and mysterious writing on the walls terrorize the guests. Every clue points to one character—but is she responsible, or is the house possessing her? The greatest haunted house novel of all time, you’d be wise to read this during the day.