The best psychological thrillers that force readers to expand their minds

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in how people change, and how trauma and difficulties hasten change. After all, if we have to grow and gain new skills to stay alive, we find a way. Originally, personal transformation was a priority because I was terribly unhappy, scared, and had shielded myself from direct contact with the world around me in an effort to stay “safe.” Don’t do this. It doesn’t work. So I asked myself, as an author, how would murders, deception, and sanity-threatening events affect a depressed therapist? Murder For Liar is the product of exploring this.


I wrote...

Murder for Liar

By Verlin Darrow,

Book cover of Murder for Liar

What is my book about?

Private investigator-turned-psychotherapist Tom Dashiel doesn’t know it yet, but he’s hurtling towards discovering where his threshold lies—the point of no return for his sanity. So begins a surreal spiral when George Arundel enters Tom’s Santa Cruz office on a Tuesday afternoon in April.

How is Arundel related to the uncanny coincidences Tom begins to encounter? Are these mere coincidences…or something else? Could a young woman named Zig-Zag really be an angel? How could a dog—a rather cute one at that—reveal one of the most important clues? What’s the deal with that alluring, albeit mercurial, woman named Dizzy? And what’s Arundel’s connection to the escalating spate of unsolved murders plaguing the typically calm but always colorful Santa Cruz community? 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Neighbors

Verlin Darrow Why did I love this book?

I found this book deeply disturbing, despite the seemingly normal content of the story.

Like the protagonist, I could never tell what was real, what was paranoia, and what the hell might happen next. We’re inside the head of a confused, scared man dealing with disturbed characters who hide in plain sight as mere neighbors. I relate to this, as does the protagonist in my book.

Decades ago, I was seduced by a guru to become the first disciple of a small, relatively benign cult. Serving as an assistant guru of sorts—manning a branch office of our organization, so to speak, I experienced both sides of the coin—being manipulated by someone with confounding abilities, as well as manipulating others myself.

By Thomas Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Neighbors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEIGHBORS is a black comedy about Earl Keese, a regular suburbanite whose world is overturned when Harry and Ramona move into the house next door. Harry and Ramona instantly unsettle the staid Earl with their abrupt mannerisms, their disturbing wolfhound and their dangerous schemes. Earl's suspicions about the couple's lack of stability and normalcy are ignored by his wife, Enid, and his daughter, Elaine, even while he is concerned that they are all being negatively affected by their relationships with the neighbours. Ramona is by turns seductive and manipulative with Earl while Harry is threatening and confrontational, upending Earl's carefully…


Book cover of Sleeping in Flame

Verlin Darrow Why did I love this book?

Carroll is simply a great writer—more on the literature end of the book spectrum.

Nonetheless, this book gripped me as if it were a best-selling thriller. Sleeping in Flame confounded my expectations at every turn, and at times it seemed as though it couldn’t possibly end with any sort of resolution. But it does—in mind-expanding fashion.

I also try to take readers on the same sort of mysterious journey that Carroll’s protagonist hazards. Sometimes it’s challenging to imagine what would be a realistic reaction to a truly extraordinary event. Then I remember some of the stories I’ve heard in sessions as a psychotherapist.

By Jonathan Carroll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sleeping in Flame as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Confused by his past, actor Walker Easterling falls in love with model Maris York, but his past lives threaten their safety and that of their unborn son


Book cover of The Hunter

Verlin Darrow Why did I love this book?

Westlake gets into the head of a successful career criminal, making available the kind of attitude and thinking that most readers would normally abhor.

Somehow, we don’t in the Parker series. Even as the clever, convoluted plot unfolds, we never stop caring what happens to Parker and we root for him against creepier crooks.

I especially like the authentic feel of the techniques and procedures Parker employs. It’s almost as though Westlake was a criminal himself. His work inspired me to write about what I don’t think most authors have directly experienced—what happens in a therapist’s head.

So I think my books also feel real.

By Richard Stark,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Hunter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You probably haven't ever noticed them. But they've noticed you. They notice everything. That's their job. Sitting quietly in a nondescript car outside a bank making note of the tellers' work habits, the positions of the security guards. Lagging a few car lengths behind the Brinks truck on its daily rounds. Surreptitiously jiggling the handle of an unmarked service door at the racetrack.They're thieves. Heisters, to be precise. They're pros, and Parker is far and away the best of them. If you're planning a job, you want him in. Tough, smart, hardworking, and relentlessly focused on his trade, he is…


Book cover of And Then There Were None

Verlin Darrow Why did I love this book?

I’ve been recommending books that readers may not already be familiar with, but I can’t leave out the mistress of puzzling mysteries.

In this one, it seems as though there can be no solution to the murders, although there’s no shortage of suspects until they start getting killed off, one by one.

Christie maintains suspense continuously, which made it hard for me to put the book down. The complex plot always hangs together and the denouement is thoroughly satisfying.

As a writer, I can only aspire to what Christie created—and not just in this one book. Her craft amazes me.

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked And Then There Were None as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Agatha Christie's world-famous mystery thriller, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.

The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but…


Book cover of Get Shorty

Verlin Darrow Why did I love this book?

Leonard taught me that writing spare prose, and depicting a likable protagonist who isn’t clearly moral or immoral could be made to work.

Before I read this fun, somewhat satirical novel, I felt that I needed to make my characters likable by infusing them with salutary traits or making them funny. Leonard opened my eyes to what was possible, which made this novel quite entertaining for me.

As with Westlake, the author gets in the head of the protagonist, explaining his internal process in a way that doesn’t alienate the reader, even as his enforcer is slugging someone. This isn’t an easy trick.

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Get Shorty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thriller filled with Leonard's signatures - scathing wit, crackling dialogue, twisted plot, mad scams - and set in the drug sodden world of Hollywood.


You might also like...

A House on Liberty Street

By Neil Turner,

Book cover of A House on Liberty Street

Neil Turner Author Of A House on Liberty Street

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Traveler Inquisitive Family guy Writer

Neil's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Meet Tony Valenti. His high-flying corporate law career just cratered. His society marriage blew up in a bitter divorce. He's returned to the Chicago suburbs to lick his wounds and regroup in the haven of the Valenti family home. But time to heal isn't in the cards.

Tony's elderly father inexplicably shoots a sheriff's deputy on their front porch. Nobody knows why, and Papa isn't talking. Then their house becomes an unlikely target for condemnation and expropriation by corrupt local officials and their cronies.

With money and hope dwindling, Tony steps up to defend his father and take to city hall, and quickly finds himself in peril when he unearths sinister connections between the cases. The audacity of the plot against them fuels a gritty determination to get to the bottom of what really happened—regardless of the risks and ultimate cost to himself. To win, Tony must earn his father's trust and outwit his wily opponents.

A House on Liberty Street

By Neil Turner,

What is this book about?

A father. A son. A murder.

Meet Tony Valenti. His high-flying corporate law career just cratered. His society marriage blew up in a bitter divorce. He’s returned to the Chicago suburbs to lick his wounds and regroup in the haven of the Valenti family home. But time to heal isn’t in the cards.

Tony’s elderly father inexplicably shoots a sheriff’s deputy on their front porch. Nobody knows why, and Papa isn’t talking. Then their house becomes an unlikely target for condemnation and expropriation by corrupt local officials and their cronies.

With money and hope dwindling, Tony steps up to defend…


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