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5 of the Best Psychological Thrillers for Fall

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Rachel Brittain

Contributing Editor

Rachel is a writer from Arkansas, most at home surrounded by forests and animals much like a Disney Princess. She spends most of her time writing stories and playing around in imaginary worlds. You can follow her writing at Twitter and Instagram: @rachelsbrittain

Chills, thrills, and existential dread—these five novels are chock full of them! If fall is the perfect time for a bit of spooky reading (and I certainly think it is), then these five psychological thrillers might as well be your fall 2020 reading list. With supernatural twists and all too realist turns, these books will consume your waking hours without keeping you up all night. Well, they might keep you up all night…but only because you’ll be unable to put them down. Grab your reading glasses and clear your schedule, because these psychological thrillers are here to take up your fall.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

There is a long and horrific history of medical experiments performed—often without the patient’s knowledge—on the Black community in America. And in Lakewood, a young college student, struggling to keep up with encroaching bills after her grandmother’s death, enrolls in a study in a small town called Lakewood. Lena believes she’s helping discover breakthroughs in the understanding of memory and neurodegenerative disease. But the more she learns about Lakewood, the less she seems to know. What is the true purpose of the study? And why are the observers so determined to see how far they can push the participants with the promise of a paycheck?

This horror novel leaves you with more questions than answers.

Mexican Gothic cover

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This is a 20th century gothic novel about a young woman sent to rescue her cousin from a troubling marriage in a small, defunct mining town only to find herself ensnared by the white European family controlling it. Noemí is more of a debutante than a detective, but the more she digs into the strange ailment—supposedly Tuberculosis—her cousin is said to have, the more she questions everything she’s being told. Is her cousin truly being haunted by ghosts? Or is something even more sinister going on behind the walls of High Place?

Experience true psychological horror alongside Noemí as her experiences become increasingly removed from reality and the savagery of High Place is revealed. It’s a modern classic in the making.

The Need by Helen Phillips

Who are you when you lose everything? And what would you become when confronted with the worst version of yourself? Molly thinks she’s losing her grip on reality when she hears footsteps, alone with her sleeping children in the house. But when an intruder in a deer-mask makes themself known, the situation proves even more horrifying than she ever could’ve imagined. Who is this person who knows far too much about her family? And what lengths is she willing to go to in order to preserve the life she’s built and the children she loves?

This book is existential dread incarnate. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as uncomfortable in my own skin as when I read this book and realized Phillips had me feeling exactly what Molly feels—including all her thoughts of vengeance and hate. *shudders*

Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar

A surgeon fleeing scandal sets up shop in a village clinic where he has to squash roaches in addition to mending wounds. But then the unimaginable happens: a murdered family shows up one night. They’ll be granted another chance at life if he can fix their injuries before sunrise. Saving them will change his outlook on life and the corruption of the medical system entirely…but also grant him knowledge no mortal should have.

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark (October 13 from

This dark fantasy novella from the author of some of my favorite stories—The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015—brings a supernatural twist to the horrors of the Ku Klux Klan. Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword, bootleg whiskey, and a mission in life: taking out the monster-made-manifest she calls the “Ku Kluxes.” But a sorcerer drawing on the hate at the heart of America and the Ku Klux Klan are bent on raising hell—literally. It’s up to Maryse, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter, and a Harlem Hellfighter to stop it.

Add even more thrillers to your TBR with these edge-of-your-seat thriller novels from 2020, 9 addictive new thrillers, and the best psychological thrillers of 2019.