With a taut, twisty plot that has the uninitiated screaming “no spoilers!” and a stellar film adaptation that hit the big screen last fall, Gone Girl is the novel of choice for thriller junkies, book clubs, and anyone who thought they’d read just one page at the bookstore. Once you’ve zoomed through it, you’ll want to try these page-turners next. Each one is dark and disorienting in the best possible way.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Rachel is the definition of an unreliable narrator: an alcoholic still reeling from the end of her marriage, she’s prone to blackouts and rages, and has a dangerous obsession with her ex-husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. Though unemployed, Rachel gives shape to her days by taking a commuter train into London—and every day she watches out the window for “Jason and Jess,” attractive strangers whose lives she likes to fantasize about. Meanwhile, “Jess,” whose real name is Megan, is less happy than she seems, treating her suburban ennui with a secret life outside of her marriage. Megan’s sudden disappearance kicks off a police investigation and gives Rachel an opportunity to lie her way into Megan’s life. The two women’s voices, plus Anna’s, entwine in a time-jumping narrative that will leave you breathless.
Her, by Harriet Lane
When successful artist Nina sees struggling new mother Emma in a London park, she feels an unexplained shock of recognition, and begins a slow-burn campaign to insinuate herself into Emma’s life. Emma views Nina as a glamorous stranger, arrived to deliver her from a colorless routine of nappies and tantrums. As the two women become more and more involved, their shared history—and Nina’s true intentions—come slowly to light. Emma’s corseted home life is particularly well drawn, making the whirlpool of Nina’s dangerous allure all too easy to understand.
The Silent Wife, by A. S. A. Harrison
Jodi is a good wife, a quiet wife, an obedient, in-denial wife who counters her husband’s dalliances with willful ignorance while keeping up the appearance of contentment in their hermetic Chicago home—until the day one of his affairs goes too far. When the surprisingly fragile life they’ve built together threatens to fall apart, another version of Jodi emerges, one that’s ready to go to any extreme to hold onto what’s hers.
The Dinner, by Herman Koch
A warning: Koch’s blunt, visceral prose, first introduced to an English-speaking audience in this translation of his sixth novel, is not for the faint of heart. In The Dinner, two brothers and their wives sit down to a restaurant meal, the purpose of which emerges as the night goes on. Our narrator’s true character is uncovered bit by bit through tense snippets of flashback and the evening’s increasingly sharp-edged conversation. You’ll question your assumptions, your morality, and the locks on your doors before the night is through.
Summer House with Swimming Pool, by Herman Koch
You’ll want to take a hot shower after spending a few hours with Koch’s sleazy characters, including Marc, a sociopathic celebrity doctor who practices medicine despite his crippling distaste for the human body, and Ralph, the predatory actor who invites Marc’s family for a stay in his summer home. At the book’s start, Ralph is dead by Marc’s hand in an apparent case of medical malpractice. But as Koch traces the vile events of the summer, even darker possibilities emerge.
The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
With a “What would you do?” setup that grips you by the throat on the first page and never lets up, The Husband’s Secret is the kind of book you really shouldn’t open till you’ve got four uninterrupted hours to kill. On its first page, type-A supermom Cecilia has found a sealed envelope in the attic—to her, from her husband, marked “to be opened only in the event of my death.” Meanwhile, a woman reeling from her own husband’s affair returns to Cecilia’s Australian suburb with her young son, and an elderly school secretary battles her suspicions about the long-unsolved death of her daughter. The three women’s stories combine in unexpected ways in a taut, brainy thriller that excels at presenting moral dilemmas in shades of gray.
Elizabeth Is Missing, by Emma Healey
Maud is an aging woman living alone despite the advancing creep of dementia, which causes her to stock her shelves with canned peaches she can’t remember buying, forget her daughter’s visits, and paper her house with confounding notes meant to jog her own memory. For reasons at first unclear, Maud is convinced her friend Elizabeth is in danger, despite the insistence of Elizabeth’s son and her own daughter that all is well. The decades-old disappearance of Maud’s beloved sister combines with her concerns about Elizabeth in an astonishingly constructed mystery that also serves as a moving character study of a woman losing control of her life.