Too Close for Comfort: B. P. Walter Recommends his Top 5 Domestic Thrillers
I have always been fascinated by the idea of the home - a place of familiarity and safety - being turned inside out. It was the thought of exploring this idea that inspired me to write my debut thriller, A Version of the Truth. Within that book, I focus on a woman and her son discovering something terrible about their husband/father and how this suddenly turns their home into a place of far-reaching secrets threatening to bring the lives they know crashing down around them.
Like many writers, I adore reading new fiction and have been very excited about the wealth of new thrillers arriving in bookshops in recent years. I could have easily made a list of 20 - maybe even 100 - psychological thrillers (or, as they’re sometimes more appropriately called, ‘domestic noirs’) that I’ve enjoyed, but for this piece I’ve kept it down to five seriously strong, and seriously gripping, books I would encourage any fan of the genre to pick up.
In many ways Ruth Rendell practically invented the psychological thriller in its modern form, and this 2013 novel, published under her Barbara Vine pseudonym a couple of years before her death, is one of her best. The story follows two siblings, Grace and Andrew, moving into a house they’ve inherited from their grandmother. When Andrew’s boyfriend moves into the house, the dynamic between brother and sister inevitably changes - and then shifts into very serious and emotive territory.
Goodness, this stayed with me. It all begins when newlyweds Jake and Alice are given a strange wedding gift - a gift which promises to make sure couples will never break up or divorce. With remarkable skill, Michelle Richmond takes the idea of the ‘perfect marriage’ and turns it into something extremely sinister.
I find it hard to overstate how good this book it. It was my favourite novel of 2018 and I just can’t stop recommending it to people. It follows a young British woman who befriends - and then falls in love with - a man on death row in the US. They send letters across the Atlantic, then, after his conviction overturned, she sets off to start a life with him. Before long, the cosy life she imagined with the man of her dreams fails to materialise. And in the place of the kind, sensitive person she’d written to is in fact a mysterious character exhibiting behaviour that steadily becomes very troubling. Shot through with menace and unease, this is one of those books you inhabit rather than read.
Lisa Jewell is an absolute marvel. Having started her writing career with the enjoyable blockbuster Ralph’s Party twenty years ago, she has recently pivoted her writing towards the thriller genre - and this is the darkest yet, breathtakingly so, at times. I won’t give too much of the plot away, as it’s one of those books that works best the least you know about it, but I can tell you it’s the story of Laurel, the mother of a missing daughter, who is given a tempting new chance of happiness - until one astonishing coincidence sends her world spinning out of control.
Cuckoo by Sophie Draper
This recent novel from debut author Sophie Draper is a really chilling piece of work. Set in the middle of winter in a creepy remote house, it features a young woman named Caro sorting through belongings in her childhood home when her stepmother dies suddenly. Whilst there, she begins to confront what happened there as a child - and what may be happening in the present amidst the snow-covered community surrounding her.
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