By now most people know about Gone Girl, after Gillian Flynn’s wickedly amazing bestseller was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster – if you don’t, where have you been? It’s a satisfyingly twisted, shocking story and there’s just something about these types of suspenseful books that dig their hooks into you and reel you in, leaving you unable to stop turning the pages. I’m not American so, for me, November is usually just the buffer month between Halloween and Christmas where nothing really happens. If you’re like me and suffering from post-Halloween and -October blues, here are three books like Gone Girl – full of murkiness, mystery, terror and twists – that are guaranteed to keep you entertained and alert in the run-up to the holidays.
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Dangerous Girls is the kind of book you read in one sitting because you can’t bear to put it down once you start (fact: I started reading it around 11pm one night and had it finished by 3am). Never before has a book given me movie-style jump-scares like this one has – there were parts of it where I could genuinely feel my heart beating faster. Abigail Haas (pseudonym for writer Abby McDonald) has created a suspense-filled murder mystery book that is expertly-crafted from start to finish and will have you turning the pages as fast as you can.
Dangerous Girls begins with the transcript of a 911 call that reveals one of the main characters has been killed during a spring break trip with her friends. What follows from there is a murder mystery that is thrilling, twisted, impressive and deeply unsettling – this book isn’t for the light-hearted. Masterfully interwoven throughout the classic first-person narrative are phone calls, text messages, newspaper clippings, TV segments, police interrogations and court hearings, which take you through the entire novel and murder trial as if you were the detective examining the case and trying to piece together what’s happened or a curious and watchful spectator glued to a news story. It’s hard to praise the brilliance of this book without revealing too much about it, because it really is a book where you have to experience as you read, but it does a fantastic job of taking the reader through a modern murder case, tainted by media coverage and affected by contemporary social media and the internet. It’s unfair to compare Dangerous Girls to Gone Girl, because they’re both brilliant thrillers in their own separate ways, but it’s equally wicked and will definitely leave you anxious about what the next page will bring.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Like Dangerous Girls, Donna Tartt’s bestselling and debut novel, The Secret History, also begins with a murder of a main character. This time, the protagonist and our narrator, Richard Papen, reveals he was somehow involved in the event and what’s unravelled in the following chapters is a sordid murder mystery – only this time, the reader is led down a twisted path to find out why it’s happened, not who’s committed it.
Heavily influenced by and infused with Greek and Roman myths, this is a story set in a fictional college in Vermont in the 1980s and revolves around a small group of elitist Classics students. The cast of characters are fascinating and intoxicating, if at times unlikable. They are mysterious, suspicious, addictive and intellectual, much like the novel itself. Through Tartt’s tale, we get an insight into the lives of very bright, wealthy, arrogant students and their debauched and decadent lifestyles. Obsessed with classics, aesthetics and beauty, their elegant and eccentric personalities are wonderfully captured by the author and will draw you into their close-knit world of academia, indulgence and grandeur. Despite the calm tone of the narration, which quietly recalls stories of melodrama and fantastical events, we’re led into a world where selfish, dangerous and destructive games are played and you’ll be left wondering what’s real and what’s not. Every bit as twisted and wicked as Gone Girl, this novel is exceptional in its storytelling and often reads like a psychological study. The Secret History is a bewitching and wonderfully written novel that will have you eagerly turning the pages to uncover the roots of a terrible tale.
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
I read Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied from cover to cover as a teenager and it’s certainly a novel aimed at that group. But it’s a story that’s always stuck out in my mind for its insight into a mysterious fictitious world and an era distanced from pretty much everything I knew. Because it’s a book aimed at younger teenagers, the story is quite a bit tamer than Gone Girl and the books outlined above, but it has its own twists and terrible events and is perfect for those getting into mystery novels.
Set in post-war 1947 America, What I Saw and How I Lied is a coming-of-age story full of post-war bliss, wealth, glamour, red lipstick, cigarettes and mystery as well as the more ugly parts of that time, including misogyny, discrimination and anti-Semitism. What I Saw and How I Lied is an elegant and intriguing novel which vaguely outlines that something serious has happened in its first chapter and the reader has to unfold the mysterious story by turning each page. The narrator, Evie Spooner, a teenage girl obsessed with growing up, recounts the story of a family holiday with her glamorous mother and authoritative step-father that ends in disaster as past events catch up with the characters. Blundell’s novel is a sinister, seductive story concerned with loyalty, betrayal, lies and sins in shadows. You’ll be drawn into the time period and atmosphere of the novel which is effortlessly captured. Blundell creates an engaging and intricate insight into a different era and you’ll feel as if you’re right there in late-1940s Palm Beach watching What I Saw and How I Lied‘s events play themselves out like an old Hollywood film.
If you’ve read Dangerous Girls, The Secret History or What I Saw and How I Lied, feel free to discuss them in the comments section below! (And make sure you label any spoilers properly!)