The best thrillers with incredibly spooky atmosphere and mood

Who am I?

I was born on Halloween, so I’m officially a card-carrying member of all things creepy, right? However, I’m definitely drawn to books with mood and atmosphere over outright horror and gore. I find the subtle aspects of fear so much more interesting—how is it that one person’s reality can be so different than another’s? I write domestic suspense because I think the people we are closest to and the places we think are safest are often the ones that can hurt us the most. Where a story takes place is so very important. I need to know the geography, the feel, the history of a place—then I can put people in it and make bad things happen.

I wrote...

One Night Gone

By Tara Laskowski,

Book cover of One Night Gone

What is my book about?

One sultry summer, Maureen Haddaway arrives in the wealthy town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. There, she finds herself lured by the promise of friendship, love, starry skies, and wild parties. But Maureen’s new life just might be too good to be true, and before the summer is up, she vanishes.

Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach during the off-season, it seems like the perfect chance to begin fresh after a messy divorce. But when she becomes drawn into the mysterious disappearance of a girl thirty years before, Allison realizes the gorgeous homes of Opal Beach hide dark secrets. And the truth of that long-ago summer is not even the most shocking part of all…

The books I picked & why

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The Widow's House

By Carol Goodman,

Book cover of The Widow's House

Why this book?

I will never look at apples the same way again after reading The Widow’s House. Set in the Hudson River Valley in Upstate New York, this winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award is a modern Gothic suspense filled with atmosphere. From snakes in mailboxes, to rotting apples, to a creepy old professor and a suspicious husband, this book will give you goosebumps and keep you guessing. Read it on a rainy dark night—but make sure the doors are locked.

They All Fall Down: A Thriller

By Rachel Howzell Hall,

Book cover of They All Fall Down: A Thriller

Why this book?

I’ve always been a sucker for books that make glamour and glitz appear sinister, and this book is jam-packed with that. Set on a remote island in a gorgeous mansion with dream vacation vibes, this book quickly turns all that on its head. It’s a delightfully evil book filled with despicable characters, and you’ll enjoy watching them…all fall down. 

Strangers at the Gate: A Novel

By Catriona McPherson,

Book cover of Strangers at the Gate: A Novel

Why this book?

Ever been to a bad dinner party? I can bet it wasn’t as bad as the one in this book! I adored the spooky small-town insular setting in this book, and the mood contributes to the claustrophobic feel of the plot. As you read to try to figure out who did it, you realize that everyone has secrets—and no one can be trusted.

The Secret Place

By Tana French,

Book cover of The Secret Place

Why this book?

Honestly, any Tana French book could go here—she’s such a master of mood and atmosphere. But I particularly love the world she creates in The Secret Place. When a boy is found murdered on the grounds of an all-girls boarding school, Detective Stephen Moran is called in to investigate. It just gets more and more eerie as we are drawn into the world and rules of this school and the teenagers who inhabit it. Nothing is creepier than the power and cruelty of teen girls. Nothing. 

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

By Iain Reid,

Book cover of I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Why this book?

Before it was a Netflix movie (psst! The book is way better), this slim little book creeped me the hell out. It’s a simple premise: A woman is driving with her boyfriend to meet his parents for the first time, only she’s not really sure the relationship is going to work out. However, this psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat from the very beginning—only you won’t know why until the very end. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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