6 Psychological Thrillers With Clever Heroines

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Hello, fellow bookworms! Today we’re not only exploring the best, most well-plotted psychological thrillers but also the badass female protagonists that have shown an incredibly high degree of intelligence in thriller fiction history, as well as some of their most unpredictable decisions that have allowed them to survive the most precarious situations and psychopathic perpetrators. If you’re curious to see who these clever heroines are, read on to find out…But just a little warning: disclosing the clever aspects of these characters means that there will be a few spoilers that I will be including in a “Spoiler Alert” paragraph, which you are welcome to skip if you spot a book that you’ve yet to read!


Lucy, Gretchen by Shannon Kirk (2019)

The new tenants have a terrible secret. So do the landlord and his daughter…

In Gretchen, Lucy and her mother have been on the run for thirteen years, and the rules are clear: never lock eyes with strangers, and always be ready to move on. What exactly are they running from?

Except, now they’ve found their perfect hideaway: an isolated, fortresslike place in the woods. The landlord and his daughter Gretchen, however, are the most bizarre people they’ve ever met. Gretchen has an obsession with puzzles that draws Lucy into a terrifying game of hide-and-seek. Lucy soon discovers that…it might be a little too late to escape.

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SPOILER ALERT

Shannon Kirk is well-known for her intelligent female characters. Now in this psychological thriller, we have Gretchen, a psychopathic teenager who has locked our other teenage protagonist Lucy inside her house, and has left her with a puzzle of human bones to solve in addition to a collection of Grey’s Anatomy editions. Lucy has had enough: she needs to find a way to escape this creepy, claustrophobic habitat, though she also knows that Gretchen can’t resist a puzzle challenge, so what she does is silver-scissor all of the Grey’s Anatomy hardcovers and cut them all in the shape of puzzle pieces. When Gretchen comes back, she’s horrified at what Lucy’s done. Lucy explains that she just scattered these new hand-made puzzles all over the house and that she’d better start collecting them. Gretchen, like the demented girl that she is, finds this fascinating: she sees this as a creative challenge she needs to win and starts running towards the depths of the house to look for the puzzle pieces. And now Lucy’s plan has worked, because in a state of excitement, Gretchen has forgotten to turn off the front door panel that will allow Lucy to use it and therefore escape.

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Chyna Shepard, Intensity by Dean Koontz (1995)

Chyna Shephard decides to spend the weekend with her best friend Laura in the Napa Valley home that her family owns. On the first night, Chyna hears a scream…and that’s when the heart-thumping cat-and-mouse games between her and sociopathic killer Vess Edgler begins.

Perfect for fans of the final girl trope, Intensity maintains increased suspense in every. single. page. We follow both of Chyna and Vess’ narratives and easily get sucked into the storyline as the author crafts each of his characters’ traits and personalities so meticulously. Will Chyna Shephard be able to survive?

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SPOILER ALERT

In the final pages, after a deadly car crash between the protagonist and the killer, the protagonist struggles but succeeds to lead herself – and the perpetrator’s latest abduction victim – away from the tarmac and towards the woods. Our heroine lets go of her friend in order to help her escape and then turns to face our killer, who’s coming towards her with a loaded gun. There’s a moment where you go, “what the heck is she doing?” The killer can easily shoot the girl to death, except…in a split second, the girl remembers that explosive car crash was powerful enough to soak his clothes with gasoline. So what she does next is flick the cigarette lighter she’s been holding onto since earlier in the book, throws it as hard as she can the killer’s way, and burns him to death. The villain is so evil that readers get to see him die a horrible death.

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Aimee Sinclair, I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney (2019)

In Feeney’s latest, I Know Who You Are, Actress Aimee Sinclair comes home one day to discover that her husband is…gone. Leaving his wallet, keys and phone behind. As a result, Aimee instantly becomes the prime suspect in her husband’s disappearance. This isn’t your typical domestic thriller, the final reveal is one you won’t be able to forget. As you read this book, just remember…nothing is as it seems.

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SPOILER ALERT

Our protagonist’s final clever move is not only smart, but also completely disturbing. When she discovers that her husband is actually her own brother (and also her psychopathic stalker) in the final confrontation, she doesn’t attempt to escape from his hold because she knows that will instantly get her killed. So instead, she proceeds to seduce him and even let him start making love to her so she can buy herself time to, eventually, get access to an axe that will help her kill him for good.

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Sara Hall, Escape Room by Megan Goldin (2018)

Escape Room by Megan Goldin is one heck of a ride. When four investment bankers find out that the corporate team-building exercise that they were supposed to be participating in turns out to be an escape room, dark secrets of their team begin to be laid bare. The biggest mystery to solve here is: What happened to their former colleague Sara Hall, once a young shining star—”now gone but not forgotten”?

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SPOILER ALERT

After she got fired from the firm, Sara Hall went away for a long time and then faked her own death as an elaborate plan to avenge herself and her dead colleague Lucy (who was murdered by one of the employees after attempting to come clean about her assault). She altered her appearance, then came back to the firm to work in the back-office’s network-support department, which allows her to gain all access to all the information on the firm’s computer system and therefore set up the deadly “Escape Room” elevator plan for her evil former colleagues. As a bonus, she decides that she should also drain all of their accounts into her own.

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Cassandra Anderson, The Breakdown by B. A. Paris (2017)

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed: Jane. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman – the woman she might have saved. Or the silent calls she’s getting, or the feeling that someone’s watching her

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SPOILER ALERT

The moment Cassandra discovers that her husband and best friend are conspiring against her, and just right before Matthew was supposed to come back home, she calls the police and asks them to come to her house because she’s found a big knife hiding in the shed. When the police officer arrives and starts asking questions, she acts as if she’s completely clueless about what’s going on while purposefully incriminating her husband with her answers, speaking about his strange recent behavior as if there was nothing suspicious about it. And then, with perfect timing: her husband arrives…just in time for the officer to start suspecting him and take him to the station as the main suspect in Jane’s murder. She later phones the police again and tells them that the tea towel that the knife was wrapped in looked strikingly similar to one that her best friend Rachel owns: all the more reason the police were compelled to test the knife for Rachel’s fingerprints, which eventually leads to her husband’s *and* best friend’s arrest.

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Daphne Parrish, The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine (2017)

Amber Patterson is tired of being a nobody. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the Parrish family’s life. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

You can always rely on Liv Constantine to provide you with the wildest twists. The Last Mrs Parrish sounded like a fun, light beach read until it turned from sexy and cunning to shockingly sinister. That’s when I knew I wouldn’t be putting the book down until I’d reached the final page and found out what’s going on!

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SPOILER ALERT

Daphne’s husband’s mistress turns out to be her golden ticket out of her abusive marriage. So now that he and his new wife are together, Daphne orders her husband to terminate his parental rights as a father to her daughters. If he doesn’t, she will alert the police to his wife’s criminal background, and of course, he wouldn’t want that kind of legacy for his unborn child, being the son of a convict, so he doesn’t really have a choice. And that’s not all; she’s also set in motion a plan to make sure her husband loses everything and goes to jail.

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Are you familiar with any of these characters, fellow readers? Which character (from a book that you‘ve read) do YOU think is a clever protagonist?

11 thoughts on “6 Psychological Thrillers With Clever Heroines

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