How much should we trust a spouse? Can we ever know anyone, really? Marriage thrillers trigger our deepest fears because they deal not with far-fetched themes and plots, but those all too close to home. In the books below, husbands and wives face off in the kind of gladiatorial combat that’ll give you a whole new tolerance for your honey the next time he or she leaves dishes in the sink, or forgets to pick up the dry cleaning.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Arguably the granddaddy of all marriage thrillers. With the much-buzzed movie version starring Ben Affleck due out Friday, there’s not a moment to lose—if you haven’t read Gone Girl, pick it up now. No one does dark better than Gillian Flynn, and in her hands Nick and Amy’s relationship less resembles a marriage than a prolonged con-artist scam. But just who is scamming who? That’s the (guilty) question. One morning Nick goes off to work and Amy vanishes; the police naturally make him their prime suspect. But as the story seesaws between the couple’s points of view, we soon realize that getting at the truth will be anything but simple.
Before We Met, by Lucie Whitehouse
Hannah is single, living in New York, and enjoying a successful advertising career when she meets Mark, an expat Brit like herself. It feels like a fairytale when their whirlwind courtship leads to marriage and a move back to England. Then one rainy night Mark fails to return from a business trip, and as Hannah’s calls to his cell go unanswered, she starts to wonder if perhaps she married too soon. When she wakes up to find her bank account emptied, she realizes her nightmare is only beginning.
You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz
As a therapist with a thriving practice and a superstar doctor husband, Grace would seem to have it all. Certainly she thinks so: she’s just written a self-help book that tells women in bad marriages they have only themselves to blame. Lousy husbands leave plenty of clues, she scolds, so why weren’t you paying attention? But poor smug Grace is riding for a fall. Jonathan, the superstar doctor, often works all night, too busy helping sick kids to come home. Then Grace runs into one of his colleagues from the hospital, and with a single cheery question—“Hey, what’s Jonathan been up to?”—she realizes her husband has secrets of his own…
The Silent Wife, by A. S. A. Harrison
“She is deeply unaware that her life is now peaking…that her notions about who she is and how she ought to conduct herself are far less stable than she supposes, given that a few short months are all it will take to make her a killer.” Unlike the first two titles, where suspense lies in finding out what happens, The Silent Wife tells us the ending from the get-go; the mystery is how a bright woman like Jodi (another psychotherapist—physician, heal thyself!) can be driven to murder. She and Todd have been happily together for twenty years, his many affairs papered over by her denial. All of that changes when Todd gets a friend’s daughter pregnant. Now, like corrosive acid, Jodi’s silence begins to eat away at her, until tragedy is only a matter of time.
The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
Weaving an intricate web, The Husband’s Secret takes us into the lives of three women connected by a school in Sydney, Australia. When Cecelia finds a letter her husband has marked “to be opened in the event of my death,” she knows that, like Pandora, she should leave well enough alone. But she opens the letter anyway, letting out a secret that could destroy her family. Meanwhile, Tess leaves her cheating husband and returns to her mother’s home in Sydney, where she falls for hunky Connor, a coach at the school. Little does she know the school secretary suspects Connor of murdering her daughter, Janey: after all, he was the last one to see Janey alive. Each shadowed by secrets, the women are on a collision course.
What’s your favorite marriage thriller?