This list of thrillers about siblings is sponsored by The Lost Man by Jane Harper.
Two brothers meet for the first time in months in the Australian outback; their third brother lies dead at their feet in this stunning new standalone novel from Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry.
As an only child, my fascination with siblings is second-hand, BUT this value was instilled in me from birth: you can fight with your family all you want, but when someone else comes in, y’all are on the same team. I know that’s not the case with every family—and it’s definitely not the case among siblings in thrillers.
More often than not, the reader is expected to have the ideal of family comes first, whether the characters share that sentiment or not. What’s cool about thrillers with siblings in them is that the actual siblings in the novels themselves have various takes on the alliance that many consider family, and part of what builds the suspense is wondering whether those loyalties will hold…and what that loyalty requires. Here is a non-exhaustive list of 9 thrillers about siblings.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
You’re probably familiar with the HBO limited series even if you haven’t yet read the thriller Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. The entire plot revolves around a crime journalist, Camille Preaker, and her relationships with her family, namely her sister who died in childhood, her mother, and her younger half-sister, Amma. When several girls of Amma’s age go missing, the small town panics that the killer is among them, and they spring into action to protect the other adolescent girls.
Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones
Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones is a thriller novel written in literary form as a horror film script. Its protagonist, Hale, and six of his friends, return to his childhood home, the site from which his sister disappeared six years ago.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
In the classic thriller tale The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, when Mrs. Grose becomes governess to the orphaned and somewhat abandoned siblings, Flora and Miles, she never suspects that she will have to compete for their attention with a ghost. Although the siblings claim that they do not see any such spectre, Mrs. Grose is left to her own devices to figure out the source of the horror that haunts the children.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Although this novel, too, is typically known as horror or literary, Beloved by Toni Morrison features a baby ghost, the child of the protagonist, Sethe. Each of Sethe’s children runs away in fright of this dead child’s spirit, or what killed her, except the daughter closest in age, Denver. Denver stays for her mother, because Beloved, the baby ghost, returns in full body to haunt the family. The reader is left to wonder, why? And will any of the family survive it?
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Although typically categorized as the southern gothic novel, As I Lay Dying by William Faulker chronicles the death of the Bundren family’s matriarch and the trek toward her burial. Each of the five sibling has his or her own chapters written from their perspectives, and each deals with their personal battles within the frame of Addie’s burial, whether it’s how to abort their illegitimate pregnancy, how to come to terms with their mother’s death when they feel as though they caused it, how to endure the pain of the raw cement that set the leg they broke fishing the mother and her casket out of a river, how to understand they could be the child of Satan, or how to prevent their father from sabotaging the whole family. The thrill of it comes from wondering whose timeline will succeed, and the multiple perspectives are fascinating.
Bird box by Josh Malerman
You’re likely to have seen this horror thriller in its Netflix original form if you have not yet read the book Bird Box by Josh Malerman. Although the children are not biologically related, Malorie (our protagonist) raises them as siblings, constantly protecting them against the demons of the apocalypse, demons that the readers must conceptualize for themselves. The thrill comes from their survival against these demons which convince humans to complete suicide on sight.
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
If you’ve heard of Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, your likely knee-jerk reaction was, “Oh, yikes.” While this young adult novel deals with seriously adult concepts like neglect, abuse, and the concept of family, it also deals with the very connotatively “adult” aspects of family, such as the will-they-won’t-they sexuality of the two elder siblings.
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani
The Secret History of Las Vegas: A Novel by Chris Abani chronicles a murder from the perspective of the detective attempting to solve it. Like many whodunnits, we learn outside of our protagonist, but UNLIKE many detective thrillers or mysteries, the main suspects are conjoined twins.
The Quelling by Barbara Barrow
The Quelling by Barbara Barrow is a literary thriller about Addie and Dorian, two sisters who go violent and nearly feral in their early childhood. The novel starts when both of them are at a residential clinic receiving treatment into their young adulthood for “attachment disorder,” and the reason they were ever admitted? They made a body. More specifically, they killed someone. The thrill comes from not knowing how they murdered the person, who the person was, or what exactly caused the girls’ violent interactions with one another.
What are some of your favorite thrillers about siblings? Let us know in the comments!