Learn about authors like Gillian Flynn to add to your shelf. Discover novels with the right mix of psychological horror and thrill with our comprehensive list.
What’s more disturbing than in-your-face gore and horror? One that comes from within, your brain, specifically. That’s where Gillian Flynn’s talents lie. Plus, this American novelist is also a producer and screenwriter.
One of her most famous works, Gone Girl, easily demonstrates that this genre is her playing field. In this novel, she offers the readers an unreliable narrator who talks of the marriage of Nick and Amy. It became a 2014 movie starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck and won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Other works Flynn worked on are Sharp Objects and Dark Places.
Authors like Gillian Flynn aim to draw their readers in with puzzling, sometimes bizarre, stories. They want you to keep turning the pages until you uncover the mystery. Though she juggles many professions, she said that “…the novel is where the author has so much control.” With more than 15 million copies of her books sold over her career, it’s obvious that Flynn’s love for writing oozes through her novels.
Interested in true crime? Check out our list of the best true crime books.
- Best Authors Like Gillian Flynn Ranked
- 1. Paula Hawkins, 1972 –
- 2. Tana French, 1973 –
- 3. B.A. Paris, 1958 –
- 4. Megan Abbott, 1971 –
- 5. Wendy Walker, 1967 –
- 6. S.J. Watson, 1971 –
- 7. Stieg Larsson, 1954 – 2004
- 8. Alex Michaelides, 1977 –
- 9. Greer Hendricks, 1968 –
- 10. Christine Carbo
- 11. Laura Lippman, 1959 –
- 12. Simone St. James
- 13. Riley Sager, 1974 –
- 14. Karen M. McManus, 1969 –
- 15. Karin Slaughter, 1971 –
Best Authors Like Gillian Flynn Ranked
1. Paula Hawkins, 1972 –
Interestingly, Paula Hawkins first became a rom-com writer named Amy Silver. Soon, she tried the opposite direction, penning psychological thrillers instead. That’s when her success scaled up. Her fans love the chilling, unreliable narration of Hawkin’s writing.
Through the pages, you, as a reader, will question the characters’ reality.
Her 2015 The Girl on the Train, for instance, sold 3 million copies. It eventually became a 2016 film led by Emily Blunt. Hawkins’s second thriller, Into The Water, quickly made the Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller list, too.
“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
2. Tana French, 1973 –
Tana French made a remarkable start with her debut novel, In the Woods. A psychological thriller and a crime novel that takes readers into — you guessed it right — a dark forest—a place in need of the investigation of not just one but two or more murders of children.
The novel’s success earned her many awards. Some are the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, Macavity Award, and Barry Award for Best First Novel. French’s achievement paved the way for her six-novel series, Dublin Murder Squad, and two standalone novels to become New York Times bestsellers. Not only that, but she also won many national and international recognition for her contribution to the world of crime fiction.
“For a moment, I felt as if the universe had turned upside down and we were falling softly into an enormous black bowl of stars, and I knew, beyond any doubt, that everything was going to be alright.”Tana French, In the Woods
3. B.A. Paris, 1958 –
Another lucky starter, B.A. Paris earned a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller with her first novel. Her 2016 story, Behind Closed Doors, introduces a couple with a seemingly perfect life. They are inseparable and deeply in love — or are they?
Behind Closed Doors gained significant recognition for its themes. It won Gold and Platinum Nielsen Bestseller Awards in the UK, selling 3.5 million copies worldwide. The story was even optioned for a film. Paris finds inspiration from day-to-day events or from people she meets.
From there, her imagination goes wild. Later, she uses these inspirations to write and create suspenseful plotlines.
“Pretending to be broken would be much harder, simply because it was in my nature to fight back.”B.A. Paris, Behind Closed Doors
4. Megan Abbott, 1971 –
A crime fiction and non-fiction author, Megan Abbott is a recognized figure in the literature and film industries. Aside from being a novelist, she is a journalist, blogger, screenwriter, and producer. With these many experiences, she became an Edgar-winning author as a mystery writer for her 11 crime novels.
Abbott’s most notable work, Dare Me, succeeded as a novel and a TV series. It even earned recognition from Gillian Flynn. It’s a psychological thriller within the world of a competitive high school cheerleading squad. Here, a new coach sets an intense standard that manipulates the girls’ emotions.
When something serious happens, Addy Hanlon, an outcast, has to uncover the truth. But will she be able to navigate the power struggles and fight the intense emotions of her withering friendship?
“People will always try to scare you into things. Scare you away from things. Scare you into not wanting things you can’t help wanting. You can’t be afraid.”Megan Abbott, Dare Me
5. Wendy Walker, 1967 –
As a former child and family attorney, Wendy Walker’s novel inspiration comes from the stories and experiences of the people she learned about, as well as the insights of experts in different fields. This allows her to learn and grip the intensity of how they feel — giving her the narratives she shares with the readers. Before, Walker thought life was rule-bound and straightforward. Rather, life is mysterious and ever-changing and will always be influenced by expectations and social norms.
She imbues this realization in her suspense novels. In turn, they become top bestsellers both locally and abroad. Her famously Amazon best book, Emma in the Night, is a kidnapping thriller with a twisted story. How? It may be because of the sister, the narcissistic parent, or the missing character.
This unreliable narration can make or break the case and keeps readers guessing.
“It requires far more strength to experience emotion than to suppress it.”Wendy Walker, All is Not Forgotten
6. S.J. Watson, 1971 –
S.J. Watson’s debut novel is the 2008 Before I Go to Sleep. It was a resounding success, earning multiple awards, including Dutch Crimezone Debut of the Year, French SNCF du Polar Prize for best crime novel, and many more.
Before I Go To Sleep became such a phenomenon for its interesting perspective. It follows Christine Lucas, a 47-year-old woman who loses her memories every night. She’s confused, and she only has herself to trust. The people around her are only telling her half-truths.
Everyone seems to have hidden secrets, to try and keep her sanity, she keeps a journal. Here, she writes about what she does and who she is. In 2014, it became a movie starring Nicole Kidman. It immediately got the media’s attention, becoming the talk of the Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal.
“There are memories I am better off without. Things better lost forever.”S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep
7. Stieg Larsson, 1954 – 2004
The late Stieg Larsson — writer, journalist, and activist — was best known for the Millennium Trilogy, a crime fiction series. His stories were published after his death and continue to gain massive success, earning a Glass Key Award and being a Best Nordic Crime Novel book.
The three novels were translated into English. The first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, garnered multiple awards. He became the first author to sell more than 1 million e-books on Amazon.com and was the second-best-selling fiction author worldwide in 2008. His wife, Eva Gabrielsson, a notable writer, continued the series with the sixth book published in 2019.
Owing to his success worldwide, Larsson has by far sold a total of 80 million copies.
“Impulsive actions led to trouble, and trouble could have unpleasant consequences.”Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
8. Alex Michaelides, 1977 –
Drawing from his experience as a psychotherapist, Alex Michaelides wrote his debut novel, The Silent Patient. The story has sold over 6.5 million copies worldwide since its publication in 2019. His first novel’s fortune made it easy for his second book to be just as successful. Michaelides’ The Maidens was published in 2021, involving Cambridge College and many murders.
The Silent Patient is a testament to his power of storytelling and curating a gripping psychological thriller. What is it about? It’s about a perfect couple and a heinous crime. A crime that can’t be solved because the alleged criminal slash witness isn’t saying anything. But why is the female protagonist biting her tongue after shooting her husband? That’s what the readers, along with the book’s psychotherapist, want to know about.
“There’s so much pain everywhere, and we just close our eyes to it. The truth is we’re all scared. We’re terrified of each other.”Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient
9. Greer Hendricks, 1968 –
Unlike many authors in this list, Greer Hendricks is primarily recognized as a coauthor of four New York Times Bestseller novels. She worked and collected a Goodreads Choice Award alongside Sarah Pekkanen.
Their teamwork was highlighted in their most famous work, The Wife Between Us. It’s a love triangle — but not just any love triangle. It’s about a woman, her fiance, and his ex-wife. Here’s the catch, though: The ex-wife is obsessed with her ex-lover’s new woman. The plot is filled with moral questions — of when it’s right to turn a blind eye to uncomfortable truths in the name of love.
The Wife Between Us is a must-read for its slow-paced narration that only keeps you gripped as you turn the pages. If you’re a fan of Gone Girl, then this is one of our top book recommendations.
“The truth is the only way to move forward.”Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, The Wife Between Us
10. Christine Carbo
Christine Carbo taught writing, linguistics, and literature courses — no wonder she’s talented in creating novels. She started writing long before and even completed two novels that were never published. But alas, she was not ready to focus on being a novelist. Not when she had a son or was in the middle of a divorce.
When she finally found footing in her life again, with experiences that made it easy to transform her hardships into words, Carbo knew she was ready. Her most notable work within the Glacier Mystery Series is also her debut novel, The Wild Inside. A book that achieved recognition as a finalist for the High Plains Book Award. Inspired to write your own novel? Check out our guide on how to write a thriller novel.
“Some people are the world’s best at being alone in the company of others.”Christine Carbo, The Wild Inside
11. Laura Lippman, 1959 –
Many applaud Laura Lippman’s mysterious detective novels, including Gillian Flynn. She’s a massively celebrated author with major awards in her category. Lippman’s pride and glory is her Tess Monaghan Series, which consists of 12 novels and three short stories. Her success in the field will only continue as she plans to release new books.
Besides her series, her standalone novels, including Sunburn and After I’m Gone, are worth readers’ attention.
“All life is hindsight, really, stories informed by their endings.”Laura Lippman, After I’m Gone
12. Simone St. James
Simone St. James is one of the many authors that have cross-genre stories. She describes it as “… a creepy ghost story (not gory) with a side of romance.” And thus, her plots can be encapsulated into two words: romantically thrilling. Other than these themes, she also enjoys writing historical fiction, with her stories set in different timelines ranging from the 1900s to the 2000s.
Her career as a novelist didn’t take off as much as she would like to in the beginning. Even with her experience as a TV producer, she encountered rejections. Until The Haunting of Maddy Clare — it’s a book that earned her two RITA Awards and an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel. Out of her eight novels, five received multiple accolades.
Her most famous work is The Sun Down Motel. It’s about a young woman, her missing aunt, and the twisty, sleepy town of Fell, New York.
“The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s own thoughts — that person was stronger than anyone else.”Simone St. James, The Sun Down Motel
13. Riley Sager, 1974 –
In an interview, Riley Sager reveals his fondness for complicated characters, specifically those haunted by their dark pasts and regrets. It makes his stories more complex and thrilling as readers can either sympathize with the character’s regret or be satisfied with the consequences they face.
Sager is a bestselling author of seven novels that garnered praise from acclaimed authors, including Stephen King, Rachel Hawkins, and Megan Abbott. His most famous works — perfect for mystery thriller fans — are The Only One Left, Lock Every Door, and Home Before Dark.
“But that’s not what you’re most curious about, is it? You want to know if I’m as evil as everyone says I am. The answer is no. And yes.”Riley Sager, The Only One Left
14. Karen M. McManus, 1969 –
The author of the well-received Peacock Original and Netflix TV show adaptation, One of Us Is Lying, is the 54-year-old novelist Karen M. McManus. She is notorious for her young adult thrillers. One of Us Is Lying is about four students, a murder, and finding the killer.
McManus has published a trilogy and five standalone novels that have sold over 7 million copies worldwide.
“I know what it’s like to tell yourself a lie so often that it becomes the truth.”Karen M. McManus, One of Us Is Lying
15. Karin Slaughter, 1971 –
Karin Slaughter is one of the highly praised crime fiction writers today. She made history with her first novel, Blindsighted, the first installment to the Grant County Series. Almost every year, Slaughter receives awards and nominations, proving her ability to captivate readers. She also penned Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter — two novels high among many bestseller lists.
“Getting drunk was something for the weak, a crutch for people who were not strong enough to live their own lives, to stand on their own two feet. Drinking was running away from something.”Karin Slaughter, Blindsighted
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