Gone Girl is widely regarded as one of the best thrillers of all time and with good reason. It’s a psychological thriller written from the alternating perspectives of Amy and Nick Dunne.
From the outside, they look like the perfect couple, but both are deeply flawed individuals and their marriage takes a rocky turn with dark consequences.
Following Gone Girl’s popularity (both in print and on-screen), the book market became flooded with similar psychological thrillers. In this post, I list some of the best psychological thrillers featuring women as protagonists.
Let’s get going with other books similar to Gone Girl that will have your flipping through those book pages like crazy.
Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson
Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle-aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.
Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more unbelievable it seems.
Before I Go To Sleep is a chilling psychological thriller about a woman who suffers from a severe form of amnesia. Every time Christine falls asleep, she loses most of her memories and wakes up having lost years of her life.
She has absolutely no recollection of the accident that caused her amnesia or that the man she wakes up next to every day is her husband, Ben.
Ben explains the situation to her every morning and Christine then occupies herself in the house until he returns from work. But everything changes when she receives a call from a doctor who tells her they have been working together to regain her memory and that she keeps a secret journal at the back of the closet.
It’s obvious from the get-go that something is seriously amiss in Christin’es life but obviously as the book is written from her perspective and she is an amnesiac, the reader spends most of the novel in the dark.
Having a main character with memory issues is a very clever device and S J Watson totally pulls it off in this book where you find yourself desperate to find out what happened in the past and what’s going to happen in the future.
Before I Go to Sleep was made into a film in 2014 produced by Ridley Scott and starring Nicole Kidman.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed.
If you’re looking for books like Gone Girl and the Girl on the Train then Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff should be on your radar. The difference is that this novel focuses a lot more on the secrets between a man and wife rather than the psychological thriller aspects.
Fates and Furies is a novel told in two parts, the first from the perspective of the husband, the second from the perspective of the wife. Whilst the first half is a pretty average story, the second half is what makes this a truly amazing work of literary fiction.
Like Amy and Nick, Matilde and Lotto are seen to be the perfect couple from the outside but the reality is a different story. Everything you learned in the first half is turned on its head in the second half when you see the wife’s spin on the husband’s memories and you will be shocked by the revelations.
Lastly, Obama himself chose this as his book of the year in 2015 and if that’s not a good enough endorsement to convince you to buy this then I don’t know would be.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking.
It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…
The Girl on the Train is usually the first book that springs to mind when people think of books like Gone Girl. It’s one of the most widely known thrillers today, in part because of the popular film that was released in 2016 starring Emily Blunt.
How often do you see something on your commute or pass something happening on the bus and wonder whatever happened there or who those people were? I think everyone is familiar with that feeling. For Rachel, however, that feeling of curiosity turns into something much more when she sees something she can never forget.
The book jumps between past and present to keep you on your toes so you see glimpses of where the story is headed from the outset. It’s told from the perspective of Rachel, a woman who is a borderline alcoholic, close to an emotional breakdown and definitely does not have her life together. Pretty much the exact opposite of Amy Dunne.
However, Rachel is an equally unreliable narrator who keeps the reader second-guessing throughout. The Girl on the Train is a really quick read as you’ll be desperate to find out what the truth is and whether Rachel’s version of events is accurate. Heck, even Rachel doesn’t know if Rachel’s story is true.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. She comes with a mysterious past and a sadness beyond her years. These three women are at different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal.
Big Little Lies seems like a mash-up between Gone Girl and Desperate Housewives. It centres around a number of stay at home mums, the sort that are obsessed with keeping up appearances. We know from the beginning that someone is dead and the rest of the story is working up to how exactly that happened.It’s a book like Gone Girl since it is written from multiple perspectives and you know from the outset that something is off. Amy Dunne would’ve hated all these women but I imagine that after the events in Gone Girl that she turned into one of these mum characters. If you can still remember how Gone Girl ends then perhaps you’ll see the connection.
Liane Moriarty scrutinises marriage, school mums, friendship and more in this surprisingly humorous and dark tale. This book was also made into a TV show on HBO in 2017. It stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley and I’d highly recommend it
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.
Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.
And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?
The Silent Patient is about a woman who brutally murders her husband and then never speaks another word. Nobody knows what truly happened that night and what her motives may have been. She was a famous painter, he was a renowned photographer. Their friends think that they were a couple still very much in love so what went wrong?
I absolutely tore through this one and it kept me second-guessing until the very last second. The Silent Patient plays with perspectives and timelines to convince the reader of one version of events before completely pulling the rug out from under you. Even after the twist was revealed, there were a couple more surprises in store.
It’s the perfect book for fans of Gone Girl – there are unreliable narrators, intrigue, extreme personalities and more. It’s addictive and a quick read too!
The Silent Patient film rights have already been sold so pick it up now to see what all the fuss is about. What’s more, this book is the author’s (impressive) debut so look out for more gripping thrillers from Alex Michaelides.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate.
When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a hefty book and one for fans of thrillers, action and crime novels. It features tense family dynamics and an argument over money and power.
The main plot involves an investigation into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a young girl who was part of the incredibly powerful, rich and influential Vanger family. She went missing years and years ago but her uncle has never forgotten her or stopped wondering what happened to her. He hires disgraced journalist Blomkvist to help investigate her disappearance in secret.
There’s a whole cast of characters and a number of different subplots to wrap your head around but one of the most interesting has to be Lisbeth Salander, an intriguing young woman and excellent hacker who helps Blomkvist unravel the mystery of this girl’s disappearance. She is the “girl with the dragon tattoo” and she has her own dark story which is slowly unravelled in this book.
It can be a little hard to wrap your head around the different subplots at first, but when you get into this story, it’s addictive. These stories are all expertly weaved into one another and it’s not until the very end that I realised who was responsible for what.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is both intelligent and complex so it will require a bit more brainpower than some of the other pacy titles on this list of books like Gone Girl.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in a series of books by Stieg Larsson and after the first, you’ll be reaching for book two.
Lullaby by Leila Slimani
When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.
The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…
This story is one that is every parent’s nightmare. To come home and find your children dead. Their death appears to be at the hands of the beloved Nanny who you yourself hired.
Whilst Gone Girl, and many of the other titles on this list, focus on marriage, Lullaby’s focus is on the family and one woman’s desperate attempt to become part of that perfect family unit.
The story is an interesting look at womanhood and motherhood, the internal struggle that a woman faces as she chooses to go back to work after having children, and the trust that she must put in another woman to take care of those she holds most dear.
The parents and the nanny become increasingly dependent on one another, snowballing to the point of obsession, which is when things start to go horribly wrong.
Lullaby by Leila Slimani is the second piece of translated fiction on this list and one of few popular thrillers that was not originally written in English. I read and compared the first few chapters of Lullaby in both French and English and the translation is very good. So good that lots of readers don’t seem aware that this is even a translation!
The writing in French is lyrical and the English translation carries that across well making this an amazing story and translation. Read it!
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town.
Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.
The first thing I do when I discover a new favourite book is look up what else that author has written. Gillian Flynn has written a number of thrillers and whilst none of the others are quite as famous or as pacy as Gone Girl, they are still very, very good reads.
If there’s one word to describe Sharp Objects it would be disturbing. Sharp Objects is a psychological thriller that also focusses on women – the two dead girls, our female protagonist, Camille, and her mother and half-sister. There are two main plot points, one being the investigation into a murder and the other being family dynamics, and arguably, the latter is the more important.
Camille’s past is dark and there are a number of passages which make for very uncomfortable reading. As such, it’s hard to say that I “enjoyed” this book and it won’t be for everyone.
Like Amy Dunne, Camille is a complex character and you find yourself really drawn in by her. Flynn is brilliant at writing about women, though usually in the most disturbing of ways, and I’d highly recommend this book if you loved Gone Girl.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage – and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
Set in New York, The Wife Between Us explores marriage and the breakdown of it in a way that makes this book similar to Gone Girl. Vanessa marries Richard (rich, sophisticated, yadda yadda yadda) thinking that they’ll have the perfect life and marriage together, but things go awry when Richard starts sleeping with his assistant. Clichéd I know, but what happens after is anything but!
The beginning is a little slow but when it gets going, it really gets going. This story doles out plot twist after plot twist as it reveals more about each character’s past and present.
Each character harbours a lot of baggage from their younger years which shape who they are today. Like in Gone Girl, it can be hard to tell who’s in control at some points and who has the upper hand, which keeps the reader on their throughout.