7 British Psychological Thrillers You Might Have Missed

Claire Handscombe

Do you love to be creeped out, but with the slight comfort of a British acent as a soundtrack? If so, these psychological thrillers published over the last couple of years might be for you.

Anatomy of a Scandal, by Sarah Vaughan

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This book is that rare thing—a book that wholly merits the buzz it got. Every sentence is skillfully put together, and it’s a thoughtful if heartbreaking and, at times, hard-to-read exploration of the complexities of the emotions surrounding sexual violence. If you liked The Party by Elizabeth Day, with its damning indictment on the British Establishment and atmospheric Oxbridge flashbacks, you’ll definitely want to dive into this one.

The Crime Writer, by Jill Dawson

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If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, you’re in for a treat with this one. The Crime Writer is a fictionalisation of Patricia Highsmith’s life. The American writer retreats to Suffolk, in England, in order to write and to protect her privacy as she maintains an affair with Sam, a married woman who lives in London. But a visit by Sam has deadly consequences, and Patricia discovers what it’s like to live like a character from her own troubling novels.

Friends Like These, by Sarah Alderson

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“Lizzie hasn’t thought much about Becca since the accident. She remembers the blood though. She can see how you wouldn’t be the same again after something like that.” And then Becca swipes right on Lizzie’s ex on Tinder…

Friend Request, by Laura Marshall

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This novel was shortlisted for two major UK prizes for unpublished novels before it was picked up by an imprint of Little, Brown, and now it’s getting major buzz — with good reason. What happens when you get a Facebook friend request from someone who died years ago? Cue the creepy music...

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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If you like reading about toxic friendships, you will probably want to pick up this novel. After all, it doesn’t get more toxic than murder, and murder is exactly what happens when a group of university friends gather for their annual New Year’s Eve celebration in a hunting lodge. Like Book Riot’s Rebecca Schinsky, I’m a fan of the-band-gets-back-together books, and I loved reading this wintery thriller curled up on the sofa and watching the snow fall -- but would have loved it on a beach or by a pool, too.

The Perfect Nanny, by Leila Slimani, transl. Sam Taylor

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Myriam and Paul become increasingly dependent on their ideal, hard-working nanny, Louise. “But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…” Called Lullaby in the UK, this psychological thriller won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in France but had become a stand-out bestseller even before then. It was translated by British author Sam Taylor -- hence its inclusion on this list of "British books" -- .and named among the best fiction in 2018 by The Guardian.

The Rival, by Charlotte Duckworth

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After Charlotte Duckworth became a mother, she looked for novels that reflected her experience, but she couldn’t find any. So she wrote one. The Rival is the thriller of the autumn in the UK, and it’s about two ambitious women and what happens when one of them gets pregnant and one of them will stop at nothing to further her own career. It’s a page-turner, and also has important things to say about maternal mental health, the ways that a baby can change a woman’s sense of herself, and how torn some mothers feel between their previous life as a career woman and a new life at home with a little one.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

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