The best thrillers where women win

Who am I?

I've always been obsessed with justice, but as a five-foot, zero-inch woman, I can't exactly kill a bad guy with my bare hands. So I right wrongs in my books, which always end on a note of triumph, and where people who do dread, nefarious things tend to meet with rightful ends. Before I became a writer, I worked as a psychotherapist, and one day I was assigned the case of this adorable five-year-old who had just killed the family pet. Drilling down into the reasons behind the acts people commit helped me save this child, and has come to consume me. It also happens to be something every author on this list does brilliantly well.

I wrote...

The Second Mother

By Jenny Milchman,

Book cover of The Second Mother

What is my book about?

Opportunity: Teacher needed in a one-room schoolhouse on a remote island in Maine. Certification in grades K-8 a must. 

Julie Weathers isn't sure if she's running away or starting over, but moving to a remote island off the coast of Maine feels right for someone with reasons to flee her old life. She finds friends in her nearest neighbor, Ellie, and in Callum, a man who appears to be using the island for the same thing as she: escape. As Julie takes on the challenge of teaching the island's children, she comes to suspect that she may have traded one place shrouded in trouble for another, and she begins to wonder if the greatest danger on Mercy Island is its lost location far out to sea, or the people who live there.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The School for Good Mothers

Why did I love this book?

A fascinating peek at our own potential near-future, this book presents Frida, whose emotionally arid childhood drives her into needy, combustible relationships. When she has a child, someone who needs her even more than vice versa, Frida winds up leaving the little girl alone in the house one day, entombed in an exer-saucer. She either ignores or is unwitting to how the vaguely totalitarian – at least in terms of child-rearing culture will mete out punishment, which comes in the form of a sentence at a school designed to retrain moms, immersing them in the fires of penitence along with horrifyingly creative object lessons until they emerge reborn as the mothers of a 1950s (forbidden) wet dream. The question of whether Frida does in fact triumph in the end, versus the state, or the patriarchy, could fuel many a book club discussion.

By Jessamine Chan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'A taut and propulsive take on the cult of motherhood and the notion of what makes a good mother. Destined to be feminist classic - it kept me up at night' PANDORA SYKES
'A haunting tale of identity and motherhood - as devastating as it is imaginative' AFUA HIRSCH
'Incredibly clever, funny and pertinent to the world we're living in at the moment' DAISY JOHNSON

'We have your daughter'

Frida Liu is a struggling mother. She remembers taking Harriet from her cot and changing her nappy. She remembers…

Don't Turn Around

By Jessica Barry,

Book cover of Don't Turn Around

Why did I love this book?

This is the second-scariest book I have read in a while (and the first-scariest doesn’t belong on this list as the female lead can’t exactly be said to triumph; she is dead for the whole thing). In this story, Cait Monaghan is in charge of squiring women safely to an abortion clinic, driving under cover of night through the darkness to avoid detection by abusive biological fathers, red state protestors—and one unseen, shadowy threat. The novel proceeds in a cat-chases-mouse-mouse-turns-on-cat series of twists and turns through the wilderness of an endless Texas highway, taking places as seemingly banal as a diner and transforming them into scenes you’ll read with the light on and one hand on your phone.  

By Jessica Barry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Turn Around as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An addictive, fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of LISA GARDNER and CLARE MACKINTOSH.

'A novel like razor-wire' AJ Finn, author of #1 bestseller The Woman in the Window
'A nerve-shredding book' Rosamund Lupton, bestselling author of Three Hours

Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America.

Cait's job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca's secrets put them both in danger? There's a reason Cait chooses to…

The Plot

By Jean Hanff Korelitz,

Book cover of The Plot

Why did I love this book?

It's inarguable that a woman triumphs at the end of this sly, sneaky inside look at the publishing industry and the life of an all-but-failed writer. What's delicious and debatable is whether the woman in question – whom I won't name to avoid spoilers – should triumph. Jacob Finch Bonner has penned a book that is about to take the world by storm. From the dust of a promising debut novel published years ago — an eternity in author terms--he is going to rise phoenix-like to the heights of literary fame and success. How did he get there? Through an act that torments him at night, gives his artist's soul unrest – and which the rest of the world has no idea ever took place. At least, they have no far. 

By Jean Hanff Korelitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

** NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! ** The Tonight Show Summer Reads Winner ** A New York Times Notable Book of 2021 **

"Insanely readable." ―Stephen King

Hailed as "breathtakingly suspenseful," Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student,…

Survival Instincts

By Jen Waite,

Book cover of Survival Instincts

Why did I love this book?

Three generations of women act victoriously throughout this white-knuckle tale. Anne, who met the man of her dreams – slash the man of her nightmares – right out of college; her daughter, Thea; and the tough matriarch to them all. When these women thread their way through the winter woods to hole up in a cabin, they don't know the identity of the man who has chased them there, or the threat they will face. They only know their fierce love for each other, a bond too strong for any man to break. Told in the voices of these women, with interlocking timelines, there is an ageless, fairy tale quality to this thriller. It will raise your heart rate even as it tugs at your heartstrings.

By Jen Waite,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By the bestselling author of A Beautiful, Terrible Thing, a haunting thriller about a mother and daughter who must draw strength from each other when they find themselves trapped in a cabin with a stranger who wants to either control them--or kill them.

FOURTEEN YEARS BEFORE THE CABIN: Twenty-something Anne meets the man of her dreams right out of college, but after they get married, Anne notices that her husband begins acting differently. Why is Ethan suddenly so moody? And will their marriage endure?

A WEEK BEFORE THE CABIN: Ten years later, Anne and her twelve-year-old daughter, Thea, are safely…

Book cover of Eyeshot: A Gripping Edge-Of-Your-Seat Suspense Thriller

Why did I love this book?

In case you thought a male author wouldn’t be included on this list, I raise you Taylor Adams, whose entire backlist is worth reading. (That scariest book I referred to in my list? Another of his). This one is described as “the most gripping suspense thriller you will ever read,” and as overblown as that sounds, I have to agree. Elle and James Eversman—whose surname is apt—break down on a lonesome stretch of desert rubble, led there by a highway detour. What follows underneath the broiling desert sun is an encounter with one sick and highly skilled antagonist. That this every-couple proves equal to outmaneuvering him, mostly by power of their wits, although with a few badass moves as well, makes for one of the most stunning showdowns ever seen on the page—one in which you’ll be cheering every inch of Elle’s crawl toward victory.

By Taylor Adams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gripping, thrilling, unputdownable suspense. In the middle of the desert a couple are pinned down by a ruthless sniper

“Heart-stoppingly tense, this is a brilliant page-turning thriller.” Chris Child

“Gripping and beautifully written, with sharp dialogue and a real feel for the desert landscape. I couldn’t stop reading it.” Beth Boyd

“A remarkable debut novel, the couple are realistic, and the killer dark, dangerous, and sometimes very funny.” Ann Abrams

"An intelligent thriller as unstoppable and exacting as its villain, with heroes who are human and engaging. Riveting." T.J. Brearton (best-selling author of Habit)

James and Elle Eversman are a…

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