- Post by Molly Odintz
Ever since Gone Girl flew off the shelves quickly enough to convince publishers that a bestseller can include an unlikable female protagonist, we’ve seen a flurry of excellent reads exploring the darker side of female psychology popping up in the mystery section. As part of my New Year’s resolution to embrace the subgenre of domestic suspense, I’ve been catching up on some of the many psychological thrillers to star complex and sometimes less-than-likable female protagonists.
The women in each of the novels discussed below may be smiling as much as the rest of us, but their interior worlds are dark, brutal, and confused; marred by competition, and healed by solidarity. Each of the following novels uses mystery conventions to tell stories about the pleasures and complexities of womanhood, and about the ungendered struggles of life. Each is entertaining, and each is quite different.
- Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll Ani FaNelli has a charmed life. She works as a successful sex columnist for a prestigious women’s magazine, has snagged a blue-blooded fiance appropriate to her carefully crafted persona, and possesses the competitive skills to climb to the top of high society. She also has a dark secret, and a documentary crew delving into her past may stir up enough memories to crack her well-crafted facade. This novel has enough twists and turns to keep the reader racing to the end. Knoll also includes enough detailed analysis of social competition, this book could almost be a self-help book – if it wasn’t a violent and shocking thriller, that is. You can find copies of Luckiest Girl Alive on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The Ghost Network by Catie Disabito Molly Metropolis, a Lady-Gaga-esque superstar,
disappears in the middle of her New Vogue Riche concert tour. Her fans and entourage become obsessed with either finding her or thwarting her mysterious ambitions. This book is fun, cool, and basically a mystery version of Society of the Spectacle, which is perfect for me, since I like my philosophy in small doses, explained by fictional characters. The closest thing I can think to compare this to is Michael Moorcock’s sci-fi punk noir novella, The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle, available in the anthology Send My Love with a Molotov Cocktail, but for pop-age millenials. You can find copies of The Ghost Network on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware This one’s not quite as dark as the cover design may lead you to think, but it will take you to some dark places. Crime writer Leonora hasn’t kept in touch since changing schools abruptly at 16. She’s astonished to receive an invitation to a Hen Do, the British equivalent of a bachelorette party, from one of her old schoolmates. With a little prodding, she agrees to make the trek. Not only does the hen do take place in an absurdly creepy mansion, but events far more sinister than the usual strippers and liquor are soon to follow… You can find copies of In a Dark, Dark Wood on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh Lady noir at its best! Eileen is one of those books set in a time of censorship (the early 60s), that reads like it was written in the early 1960s, and then hidden for years until its salacious material could finally be published. The novel follows an extremely repressed young woman, living in a depressing Midwestern town, and working in an even more depressing juvenile prison. When a young and glamorous new therapist arrives at the prison, the two women form an intense connection. What they achieve together could either be their salvation, or their doom. Also that ending was insane. You can find copies of Eileen on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Disclaimer by Renée Knight I’ve just gotten started on this psychological thriller, but I’m already sure from the premise that I’ll love it. A woman receives a package containing a novel with every detail of her life – even her darkest secrets. I recommend this to those who like their tales of marital life thrilling and possibly, disturbing. You can find copies of Disclaimer on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.