Recommend a good psychological thriller

One of the people on my XMas list enjoys psychological thrillers, so that is what I get him every year. (Yeah, I know, it is August. This is when I shop.)

I’ve given him several over the years but some recent ones that he enjoyed was the first Dexter novel (he didn’t like the second one) and Shadow Man. He also enjoyed the sequel to Shadow Man, but I can’t recall what it is. (Of course he has read the Red Dragon and the others.)

So, can you recommend some good Psy Thrillers?

Not exactly sure what a “psychological thriller” is but “Wait until dark” is great whether it is or isn’t.

I can’t define “psychological thriller” either, but if you really like this guy, give him the Blue Rose Trilogy by Peter Straub. The titles are Koko, Mystery, and The Throat. I think they’d qualify as psychological thrillers.

John Connolly would be another good author to check out.

Does your friend know that Dexter was filmed for Showtime? The DVD is probably available. I think it comprises the first two books.

Secret Smile by Nikki French. Came out a couple of years ago, has been made into a TV movie (British).

Anything by Thomas Harris, who wrote Silence of the Lambs.

Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels.

You could try Peter Spiegelman’s books:

Death’s Little Helper
Black Maps
Red Cat

Would someone care to take a stab at defining “psychological thriller”? What’s the difference between a psychological thriller and an ordinary thriller?

Heck, what’s a thriller?


Five strangers are trapped in a labyrinth of cube rooms. Paranoia. Claustrophobia. Definitely a psychological thriller. One of the best of its kind. Don’t bother with the sequels. This is the original cult classic.

Since I don’t feel up to taking a stab at the definition, I’m just going to recommend a couple of things I think your friend would really like based on his other choices. Both by Scott Smith:
The Ruins From the review by Stephen King:

A Simple Plan

I prefer A Simple Plan over The Ruins; however, your friend may have seen the movie.


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The Red Dragon is a perfect example of this. Thomas Harris focuses on the characters of Francis Dolarhyde and Will Graham and the way their minds work as much as on the plot. The one that I linked to in the OP The Shadow Man is another good example (although someone lesser in quality, in my mind.)
The Dexter books pit one insane killer against another. In some ways it is a little lighter or if you prefer, offbeat.

It is an amazingly common term, with some books even putting it in the title:
The Disappearance of Lyndsey Barratt: A Psychological Thriller by John Wilson
The Yeare’s Midnight: A Psychological Thriller by Ed O’Connor
Deadly Visions: A Shocking Psychological Thriller Based on Actual Events by Richard Baron
Transfers: A Psychological Thriller by erna Olinger
Find Courtney: A Psychological Thriller by Melissa Clark
Heck, I could find dozens more.

Why did I think you weere talking about movies? I guess I think of Hannibal Lecter as a move character first, sorry. But “Wait Until Dark” is still a great movie.

I can see where the text didn’t call it out specifically and only hinted at the fact that I was looking for book recommendations.

But Silence of the lambs, the book, is so much better than the movie, and focuses on the mental gamesmanship between Clarisse, her boss Jack, and Hannibal.

Likewise Red Dragon focuses on the tortured soul of Will, who can empathize with serial killers to the point that he is physically sickened by examining crime scenes.

John Connolly’s a great recommendation. His Charlie Parker novels start out as pretty good thrillers, then take a turn towards the fantastic. Start with Every Dead Thing and proceed from there.

Almost any of Ruth Rendell’s books, particularly the one’s she writes under the name of Barbara Vine.

Interrobang!?, John Connelly sounds familiar, but when I read the synopsis on Amazon I couldn’t recall having read any them before. I would be bummed if I gave him one that I had already given him (that would show just how sad my old memory has become) so I have to look more closely. But it looks like a good prospect.

Find a copy of Bob Randall’s The Fan. Avoid the movie.

John Fowles’ “The Collector” pretty much fills the bill.

And toss in the 2nd & 3rd season DVDs of “Criminal Minds”