8 Mysteries And Thrillers About Dysfunctional Families

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Dee Das

Staff Writer

Trying to live, love, and say it well in good sentences. Pronouns: she/her. Contact:

Literature centered around dysfunctional families has always intrigued its readership. Those who grew up in less than ideal households have found solidarity and comfort in knowing that they are not alone. And mysteries and thrillers featuring dysfunctional families have their own unique charm, as they add to the creepiness and sometimes horror quotient. What does a meticulously mown lawn signify? What actually happens behind the freshly painted walls? Is a marriage as happy as the couple involved tries to project? The length to which family members go to maintain the illusion of order is always fascinating to read in mystery novels.

These kind of novels can tell us that the monster is not always the other, but rather someone we know and love. This increases tension, thus keeping the readers on their toes. Personally speaking, I have always preferred mysteries revolving around dysfunctional families the best because they do in fact confirm Leo Tolstoy’s famous quote: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Digging deep into the world of others and how they go about their days keeps me turning the pages late into the night. Here I have curated a list of eight such mystery novels that will definitely keep you up late!

Cover of The Push

The Push By Ashley Audrain

Blythe is determined to be a good mother. She never found any comfort in her own mother and she is bent on rectifying this situation by giving all her love to her daughter, Violet. However, Violet hates her mother and her malice takes a much crueler form than anyone ever anticipated. Will Blythe be able to save herself as well as others or will Violet’s destructive habits ruin everything?

Cover of He Started It

He Started It By Samantha Downing

Beth, Portia, and Eddie’s grandfather dies leaving them a cryptic message. The siblings and their partners must come together now to unpack this message and also secure their inheritance. But families are complicated and hide deep and dark secrets. What memory are the siblings trying to bury? As they head out on a road trip, who is the man stalking them? Despite all the muck they are stuck in, will they ever manage to get to their destination?

Cover of The Illicit Happiness Of Other People

The Illicit Happiness Of Other People By Manu Joseph

Ousep, a journalist and failed novelist, is barely getting by. He has recently lost his elder son and his wife spends most of her time talking to the walls. Unable to bear the grief of such an insurmountable loss, Ousep sets out on a journey to uncover what made his son kill himself. Joseph’s novel explores grief, mental illness, suicide, failed ambitions, and how families that exist at the intersection of these are doomed from the start.

Cover of Carolina Moonset

Carolina Moonset By Matt Goldman

Joey returns to South Carolina to take care of his father, who suffers from dementia and needs care. His short-term memories evade him but, as if to compensate for that, his past memories have come back stronger. At first, this seems like a blessing as now he can resort to the warmth of his childhood days. But soon Joey realizes that his father’s past holds deadly secrets. Is his past life still capable of wrecking his present?

Cover of My Sister, The Serial Killer

My Sister, The Serial Killer By Oyinkan Braithwaite

Ayoola murders her boyfriends and then Korede, her sister, is asked to dispose of them. While she is not very happy with this, she will do anything to protect her sister. Family always comes first, regardless of its dysfunctionality quotient, and so Korede is ready to help Ayoola the night she interrupts her dinner with a sudden call. But what happens if Ayoola harms someone Korede loves? How far is Korede willing to go and who will she save at the end?

Cover of Saving Ruby King

Saving Ruby King By Catherine Adel West

When Ruby’s mom is found dead, the cops dismiss it as another act of violence in a Black neighborhood. Now Ruby has to live alone with her aggressive father. Her best friend, Layla, is the only person who understands how serious her situation is. But Layla’s father wants her to stay away from Ruby. While trying to rescue Ruby, Layla discovers horrifying secrets that connect both their families together.

Cover of Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects By Gillian Flynn

Camille has to move to her hometown for an assignment, much to her displeasure. She doesn’t really know her teenage sister and her mother has never been much of a positive influence on her life. Since she is a reporter, she is being asked to investigate the murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. However, as time passes, Camille finds herself relating with the other victims. What will she uncover that will change her life and her understanding of her mother forever?

Cover of The Last Flight

The Last Flight By Julie Clark

Claire has a perfect life. But if one delves deeper, they will see that she is stuck in an abusive marriage. Her husband has anger issues and tracks Claire’s every move. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire is planning on vanishing. She meets a woman at an airport whose life seems equally exhausting. They exchange their tickets, so as to have a go at a different life. But what parts of this strange woman will Claire learn in the process? How will she protect herself?

For more recommendations on mysteries and thrillers, please check out 8 Missing People Thrillers That Will Keep You On The Edge Of Your Seat.