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Leave the Lights On: Five Bestselling Psychological Thrillers

Red and gold leaves are falling to the ground, days are growing shorter, and our collars are turned up against the crisp autumn air. For many of us readers, it’s also a perfect time to stay up late into the night with a fire, a beverage of choice, and a psychological thriller designed to force uncomfortable questions. The following five books should compel an examination of those closest to you, and inspire a nervous suspicion of everything unexpected...

5. Sara’s Game by Ernie Lindsey.

Despite being released in 2014, this opening salvo in the three-book Sara Winthrop Series remains a bestseller and sits at the top of its genre.

Two years ago, Sara's husband left for the gym and never came back. Police found his car, but not him. Their report absurdly proclaimed, "No foul play suspected." A few unreliable sightings came in over the following months, but little else. Now, on the last day before summer break, her three children have simultaneously disappeared from their schools. A note under Sara’s windshield wiper poses a cryptic, terrifying question: “Are you ready to play the game?”

4. Lying Next to Me by Gregg Olsen. 

Even though this novel by New York Times bestselling author Gregg Olsen released last May, it’s already accrued more than a thousand four- and five-star reviews on Amazon alone and STILL remains a genre bestseller. 

Adam and Sophie Warner head to Washington State’s Hood Canal for a weekend getaway to unplug and work on their uneasy marriage. On his first day out on the water and a hundred yards from shore, Adam watches in horror as a stranger abducts his wife. Sophie disappears, and Adam can’t intervene to save her. 

After the police finally arrive, Adam’s relieved to learn the investigating detective, Lee Husemann, is an old friend who’ll do everything possible to help. But as Adam’s fears about his missing wife escalate, Lee begins unraveling the mystery. She interviews a couple staying in a nearby cabin who claim to know only what they’ve seen on the news. As the couples’ lives converge in unexpected ways, an unsettling picture forms, and Lee suspects someone’s lying about what they know—or they’ve never been truthful with the strangers they married.

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3. Missing Daughter by Rick Mofina

Missing Daughterby acclaimed bestseller Rick Mofina, proclaims that families with nothing to hide don’t have to keep track of their secrets. 

Life changed the instant Ryan and Karen Lane discovered their beloved daughter Maddie missing and her bedroom window open. The police investigation engulfs the neighborhood in suspicion. Maddie’s thirteen-year-old brother, Tyler, heard voices in her room the night she vanished. A teenage boy admits he was outside her bedroom window that night. A halfway house for ex- convicts recently opened in the neighborhood. 

The Lane family is thrown into turmoil, even before detectives turn their sights on them. Karen’s argumentative past and Ryan’s violent streak are called into question. Not even Tyler is above police suspicion. Days become weeks and months, until agonizing years pass without answers. 

The Lanes fear Maddie is gone forever…until a shocking revelation threatens the very foundation of their lives.

2. Under the Water by Paul Pen

Under the Waterby Paul Pen, is translated from his original Spanish manuscript. Having only been out in the US since October 1, this psychological tale is burning up the sales chart on both sides of the Atlantic with its premise that the most dangerous thing to a perfect family is the introduction of a perfect stranger. 

From the outside, Frank and Grace seem to have the perfect family. He’s a loving husband, she’s a devoted wife, and their two children seem happy. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. A strange series of misfortunes has them reeling: an unexplained break-in, a catastrophic accident, and a bizarre poisoning that’s left Grace feeling especially unnerved. Packing up their RV to move across the country, they’re hope to leave all their problems behind. 

Then one night on the road to a fresh start, a young woman’s figure suddenly appears in the darkness, causing them to swerve off the road. Miles from help, they invite the injured stranger to stay. She calls herself Mara, and she’s not the only one hiding a secret. Was this meeting just another accident, or will this chapter of their family nightmare tear their perfect world apart?

1. Under Lying by Janelle Harris

Under Lying by Janelle Harris doesn’t officially release until November 1, but it’s already the leading seller on Amazon’s Psychological Fiction chart. Harris’ previously published works include the psychological thrillers No Kiss Goodbye (2015) and See Me Not (2016). If you enjoy British and Irish fiction, this could be right up your cobblestone alley.

Susan has everything she ever wanted: a loving husband, an angelic daughter, and a lovely cottage in County Cork. Her picture-perfect life is just too good to be true. At a housewarming party with their new neighbors, Susan’s daughter Amelia goes missing. Friends become suspects as Susan’s life spirals out of control. When Amelia’s yellow cardigan is dredged from a local lake, every parent’s worst nightmare suddenly seems horribly real. In the hellish aftermath of Amelia’s disappearance, it becomes clear that Susan and her husband haven’t been completely honest with each other. While some secrets are best left buried in the past, they’ll have to uncover the ugly truth if Amelia has a chance of being found alive.

THRILLERFIX ALL-STAR REVIEWER: A former law enforcement officer, Gavin Reese wrote his first six crime thrillers between patrol shifts. An author, thriller aficionado, and podcast host, Gavin has interviewed some of the top names in the genre.  If you enjoy novels with authentic cops, crimes, and criminals, you'll want to follow Gavin Reese's book recommendations here on the Thrillerfix blog.

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