Independent editor and travel writer Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma pens a list of ten must-read thrillers by women authors.
Crime stories, thrillers, and spooky tales are no more exclusive to the boys’ clubs. It isn’t that women authors haven’t written books in the genre earlier, but there has been a steadfast increase in women authors writing varied genres, and doing a very good job. As someone who grew up fangirl-ing over Agatha Christie’s books and wishing I could write like her, it has been a pleasure to grow up and get to read more excellent women authors writing about crime, and even spooky tales.
The fact that writing thrillers has been picked up by women authors in India too is a matter of immense joy for me. I wouldn’t be giving a partial feedback if I say that Indian women authors write some kickass, spine-chilling novels. This gradual and complete change of scene has been happily welcomed by Indian readers as well.
As someone who grew up fangirl-ing over Agatha Christie’s books and wishing I could write like her, it has been a pleasure to grow up and get to read more excellent women authors writing about crime, and even spooky tales.
While reading one brilliantly crafted tale of deceit, horror, and crime I decided to make a list of ten women authors who have written thrillers that every lover of this genre must-read. Here goes –
You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
Based in New Delhi, and the story moves from the plush society of the city to the slums, and back. It begins as a story of a single mother Anjali, and her autistic, teenage son. It develops into her relationship with a married man Jatin and then moves towards both their works. While Anjali and Jatin grapple with their personal and professional challenges, slum women in the city are going missing to be found dead inside trash bags with their faces and bodies disfigured by acid. This begins an investigation that takes the protagonists down the path they never thought they will have to, and where the path ends, leaves the readers baffled. The story is not just of a crime and its investigation, but also about why the crime happened. A gripping tale of Delhi’s underbelly which takes down the city’s privileged criminals down with it.
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House of Screams by Andaleeb Wajid
For an author who is famous for writing romance, writing a thriller must have been a different experience. First of all, full marks for the cover – it’s spooooooky. House of Screams reminded me of tales my father and his siblings would tell us kids of growing up in old mansions and living in haunted hostels. Who doesn’t love thrilling tales of spooky things happening in old bungalows, I myself had so many experiences to recount. But when one is reading a well-written book, one might forget that its a story and not real. Which is what had happened to me when I was reading House of Scream well into the middle of the night, home alone!
Munira, Zain, and their son move into a large bungalow left behind by her uncle, in a prime location of the city. However, soon afterwards they realise that life there was not to be how they had envisioned it to be. Every house has a history, as this did one and, Munira’s family is about to be embroiled into it.
The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
I doubt there is another who loves thrillers, and reads in English, but hasn’t read Flynn. If you are one, then this is just for you. Gone Girl had made a lot of noise because of the movie, and it was undoubtedly an excellent story but have you read The Grownup?
A short story of about 100 pages, The Grown Up gave me all sorts of unexpected chills. Glynns trademark of creating characters nobody would suspect anything of and then dropping the bomb in the climax, brings the story to an astonishing surprise. This book can be read by young adults too.
Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd by Richa S Mukherjee
Crime and comedy happen to be quite an entertaining pair, and Richa S Mukherjee has worked with them together in a very fine manner. Set in the city of Kanpur, this is the story of Prachand Tripathi, his detective agency and his (lack of) cases. Despite fair amount of resistance, Prachand continues to run a detective agency with his wife, Vidya. They get cases very rarely, and are barely able to stay afloat. The author has described life in Kanpur in a very entertaining manner, pulling the reader right inside the story, while the main plot develops.
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One day, Prachand and Vidya get an anonymous intimation which promises a hefty fee, and an order to report activities of actress Shailaja Kapoor. However, Shailaja gets kidnapped from right in front of their eyes, and now, police has its eyes on Prachand and Vidya. Not heavy as most thrillers are, this book is a fun read while one helps solve the case along with the Tripathis.
Nobody’s Child by Kanchana Banerjee
A woman whom the world knew to be dead, is back. She is beyond recognition – but she is back. Written in a manner that it makes the reader imagine the plot unravel like it would be in shows and serials, Nobody’s Child is a tale of deceit, hunger for power, ego, and crime. The narrative moves back and forth in time with absolute ease and the author builds momentum and curiosity of the reader gradually. One of the signs of a good crime thriller is that every character falls under suspicion and the readers cannot conclude who did it for a long time! Nobody’s Child manages that well. Every prime character has a grey shade to it, and that character trait is spun into the plot very cleverly.
Dashing Through The Snow by Carol Higgins Clark
Daughter of the renowned Mary Higgins Clark, Carol has written some wicked thrillers in the Regan Reilly series. Dashing Through The Snow which Carol co-authored with her mother Mary, this story takes you through a journey of unknown in a picturesque town preparing for its annual festival. People go missing, and further digging unearths a not-so-serene side to the seemingly tranquil village in New Hampshire.
Daughter of the renowned Mary Higgins Clark, Carol has written some wicked thrillers in the Regan Reilly series.
The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Known for her heart-stopping, nail-biting thrillers, Slaughter doesn’t disappoint in any title one picks up. She is the kind of author, other authors take notes from. The Good Daughter comes highly recommended for being a bold, fierce thriller. 28-years ago, an attack left a family devastated and broken. One of the family members is faced with similar violence years later and it starts to go spiral for her. Secrets get unearthed and truth about a crime committed almost three decades earlier comes to light.
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The Face at the Window by Kiran Manral
A story set in the hills automatically has a sense of eerie to it. I hope you all agree, and I am not the only one who thinks so!
It is said that the secrets of the past catch up with us when we are towards the end of our lives, and that is probably true. The Face at the Window is about Mrs McNally, and her grand-daughter, Nina. Connecting them both, yet quite disconnected with them too, is their daughter Millie. Mrs McNally’s life from a young woman to now, an old one has had its share of twists and turns. There are burdens she is carrying and secrets she has kept.
A story with many layers, The Face at the Window delves in Mrs McNally’s past which creates a picture of who she is, and why she is such. In between, living alone in her house with two servants, a house guest, and a grand-daughter, she feels an odd presence in the house. A kind of presence she is unable to explain and put a finger too.
The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
It is said that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but a lot of times it is the cover that tempts readers to pick the book. A fantastic cover to sell it at first look, Miranda’s The Last House is a page-turner. Recommended by Reese Witherspoon to her book club earlier this year, the novel is a riveting tale in which when a rich young woman dies and all suspicion fall on her best friend. Everyone thinks that the best friend is the murderer while the actual killer is at large.
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The First Mistake by Sandie Jones
Some people believe that the moment everything is going right in life, it is an indication that something very bad will happen. True or not, that is what happened in Alice’s life. In her second marriage, Alice has a perfect life and the best, best friend she could ask for. So when she suspects something to be wrong in her life, it is obvious who she turns to for help. Was she foolish to have trusted her best friend? What is a best friend if not someone you can trust your life with? A domestic drama with unexpected twists and turns, The First Mistake has some shocks which keep the reader glued to it.
Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite thrillers by women authors that you’d want to share with fellow readers who love thrillers?
Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma is a former journalist, who currently freelances as a lifestyle writer with various print and online organisations. She is also a professional manuscript editor, travel writer, speaker, and a social media manager. The views expressed are the author’s own.