The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides brought a modern edge to old-school mystery in the spirit of Agatha Christie. One of the reasons for its success is the way Michaelides wears his love for Christie and other classic mystery writers on his literary sleeve. His story of a traumatized woman who hasn’t spoken since the suspicious death of her husband and the psychiatrist who tries to reach her is packed with explosive twists, but never loses control. If you love intelligent, shocking thrillers dripping with old-school cool, here are 10 books like The Silent Patient.
1. The Woman in the Window, by A. J. Finn
A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window revels in its influences. A reclusive woman named Anna Fox spies on the Russel family—Alistair, Jane, and their son Ethan—living across from her apartment, becoming involved in the wordless dramas she observes. Anna strikes up a surprising friendship with Jane Russell, only to later witness Jane’s savage murder at the hands of her husband. But when Anna calls the police, Alistair produces Jane. However, the woman he introduces as his wife is not the same woman that Anna met. Like Michaelides, Finn explores how trauma can distort our perceptions, and manages to detonate several world-class twists so perfectly that you’ll immediately want to re-read to spot all the clues.
2. The Wife Between Us, by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks
Part of the thrill The Silent Patient offers lies in how expertly Michaelides fools the reader, using your assumptions against you. Pekkanen and Greer’s 2018 thriller The Wife Between Us is another master class in deception. Vanessa is obsessed with her ex-husband Richard’s new fiance, the sweet and seemingly perfect schoolteacher Nellie. Nellie appears to be a younger version of Vanessa, almost as if Richard, who is controlling and secretive, was literally replacing her. Vanessa begins to stalk Nellie even as the younger woman teases a dark secret in her past. You know there’s trickery afoot with a story like this, but Pekkanen and Greer construct an intricate puzzle with a terrific resolution that will remind you in all the right ways of The Silent Patient.
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Everyone loves an unreliable narrator when the technique is handled well. It’s a trick Paula Hawkins manages to repeat in her modern classic The Girl on the Train. It works because she makes the questionable nature of the main character, Rachel, front and center. Rachel’s alcoholism and traumatized psyche are always there, yet you’re lulled into believing her version of events because she’s a sympathetic character. Just as in The Silent Patient, every piece of the story gets re-interpreted and re-evaluated as more information comes in. What starts as a straightforward story of a woman who thinks she’s seen something terrible slowly morphs into a twisty psychological tale of loss, guilt, and horrifying violence. And at every twist, you think you’ve figured it out—but Rachel’s unreliability keeps you delightfully off balance.
4. Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
The Silent Patient is built on two fundamentals: Shocking twists and characters whose true motives are kept hidden for much of the story. Flynn, a modern master of the twisty thriller, uses these same tools to build Sharp Objects. Camille Preaker is damaged and in denial about much of her life. As she travels back to her hometown on assignment from her editor, she must confront her past and her relationship with her monstrous mother and her much younger half-sister, Amma. But Flynn expertly distracts the reader with the overt horrors that are out in the open. It’s when Camille begins to slowly peel back the veil of her past that the true nature of her own story—and the true villain—is revealed.
5. Behind Closed Doors, by B. A. Paris
One aspect of The Silent Patient people find incredibly compelling is how it presents a version of reality and then slowly introduces reasons to doubt it. B.A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors works similarly. Jack and Grace, a seemingly perfect couple, live a gracious, affluent lifestyle. They are dedicated to each other—and rarely seen alone. But a good thriller weaponizes your assumptions against you as you read. Details begin to pile up that imply not everything is as it seems. If you love the way Michaelides slowly reveals the dark center of his story, this is an ideal book for you.
6. The Guest List, by Lucy Foley
The Guest List is another thriller that takes its inspiration from old-school mysteries. Just like The Silent Patient, the main reference point in Lucy Foley’s novel is also Agatha Christie. The obvious comparison is to Christie’s classic And Then There Were None, but Foley merges the classic premise of a group of people witnessing a murder while gathered in a remote location with a narrative told from multiple points-of-view. This technique gives the story an extra twist of mystery because every character has their own secrets and motives. At the same time, Foley conveys the suffocating isolation experienced by the characters in a place shrouded by fog, cut off by weather, and lacking a reliable cell signal. The gradual, slow-burn revelation of what’s going on will keep you turning pages.
7. Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
In Night Film, a washed-up reporter investigating a death connected to a legendary underground filmmaker slowly reveals a much larger—and much darker—universe. The mythology surrounding the work of Stanislas Cordova, whose films are rumored to have strange effects on the viewer, is fascinating. But for every piece of information gained, there’s a price as your certainty about what’s true and what’s false erodes. Interestingly, Pessl doesn’t utilize an unreliable narrator in her story. It’s the nature of reality itself that slowly becomes unreliable.
8. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware
One of the aspects of The Silent Patient that resonated with readers was the way it echoed classic mysteries. The way Michaelides changes your entire perception of what’s happened by revealing key details is very similar to how Agatha Christie structured her novels, for example. If that classic aspect of the story is what appealed to you, Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 is an ideal next read. Ware combines the classic Christie approach with a modern edge in the story of travel writer Lo Blacklock as she embarks on a cruise ship adventure while still dealing with the trauma of a violent home invasion. When she becomes convinced the woman in the cabin next door to hers has jumped—or been thrown—off the ship, she’s told the cabin was never occupied. As Lo struggles to determine what’s real and what’s gaslighting—and to maintain her mental health—the reader is right there with her.
9. The Widow, by Fiona Barton
Fiona Barton’s The Widow is another world-class exercise in being lied to in the most entertaining way possible. Jean Taylor’s husband was accused of horrific child abuse, and she’s remained silent about what really happened for years. When her husband passes away, she’s free to speak up and tell her side of the story. But can you trust the story she’s telling? The delicious sense that the truth is peeking out between her words gives this terrific thriller the same energy as Michaelides’ book. It’s safe to say you don’t know where the story is going, and that this is a book you want to re-read to see all the clues sprinkled throughout the narrative.
10. Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough
If you’re a lover of great twists that fry your brain in a good way, you’ll adore Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes. Part simmering love triangle, part bonkers out-there mystery, Pinborough somehow combines those two elements into a compelling thriller. Louise is David’s assistant—and she is falling in love with him. At the same time, she’s befriended by his confident, beautiful wife, Adele. As Louise begins to see the cracks in their perfect marriage, the truth of Adele’s intentions will definitely catch you by surprise, but Pinborough makes it work with skilled writing.