The best thrillers where women win

The Books I Picked & Why

The School for Good Mothers

By Jessamine Chan

Book cover of The School for Good Mothers

Why 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.

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Don't Turn Around

By Jessica Barry

Book cover of Don't Turn Around

Why 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.  

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The Plot

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

Book cover of The Plot

Why 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. 

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Survival Instincts

By Jen Waite

Book cover of Survival Instincts

Why 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.

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Eyeshot: A Gripping Edge-Of-Your-Seat Suspense Thriller

By Taylor Adams

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

Why 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.

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