There has been a jump in the publication of domestic thrillers over the last few years. At its core, this type of thriller focuses on interpersonal (familial, more often than not) relationships. After the year that was 2020, this sudden surge makes sense. By fall, most people have become a bit more aware of how important interpersonal/familial relationships are. If nothing else, it sure showed how much we rely on that type of interaction to help keep us sane. Even my most introverted of introverted friends were like, “I wish to go into the out now.”
As mentioned, the differentiation in this type of thriller is the specific focus on interpersonal relationships. Now, it can be any kind of relationship, although familial binds tend to be the primary one. Anything beyond that is up to the author’s discretion. It can be a psychological or a murder mystery. Or, it could even have a hint of dark comedy which, frankly, is a tough tightrope to walk. Whatever the extra additions to the story may be, at its core it’s about the functional dysfunctionality of relationships. That does leave a lot of room for creativity when it comes to writing these types of books.
Again, I think after the last few years, we can all agree those types of relationships are important. By now you may be going, “But then why not read about happy functional relationships?” Which is a fair point. There is a certain level of schadenfreude at play here. Think about it; you may not always get along with your sibling. But, at least you don’t always have to help clean up after their murders, amirite? At least I hope not. And if you do, you can keep that to yourself. No need to share with the rest of the class.
While we’re on the subject, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it takes place in a home. When I see the word domestic, I automatically think of a locked room or weekend house party situation. So, this is something that required me to think outside my own designated box. While there are books like that, it is not always the case.
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Youngest sister Stacy always pales in comparison to the shining star that her older sister Rikki is. So no one is really surprised when Rikki finds the perfect husband in Matt. The community just thinks that it is the natural course of action for the fairytale that Rikki’s life is. Only Stacy knows about the deep levels that are below the surface of Rikki’s persona, secrets she’s been forced to keep by herself. When Matt mysteriously disappears, the secrets behind Rikki’s nature threatens to be revealed, taking Stacy and the rest of her family with it.
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Jane is a professional dog walker for Thornfield Estates, a place that allows her to fly under the radar under her assumed name and lift a few knick knacks and trinkets for her trouble. One day, she literally runs into the newly widowed Eddie and from there a whirlwind courtship happens. Or so it seems. While the chemistry between the two is undeniable, it appears both are hiding things from the past, and there’s more that may be working against them than the ghost of Bea, Eddie’s dead wife who designed the house that the couple now lives in.
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Sydney Green is desperately trying to fight back against the gentrification that threatens her historically Black neighborhood. She is hoping that the historical walking tour they come up with helps to keep the roots that her blood and found family have placed here firmly in place. However, despite her effort, FOR SALE signs keep popping up, families that have been there for generations seemingly have disappeared overnight, and she doesn’t know what to do to make sure that she doesn’t become one of those statistics.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaithe
Korede is a big sister who goes way above and beyond the call of loyalty when it comes to younger sister Ayoola. While most sisters may help their sisters pick out outfits or decide on hair styles, she helps dispose of Ayoola’s boyfriends after sister kills them. This is even harder to deal with when Korede knows that Ayoola is the sister that everyone prefers, including the doctor that Korede has had a crush on for as long as she can remember. When the doctors asks her sister out, Korede wonders if she has to face the reality of who she would choose if it came down to two of the people that she cares the most about?
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
Karen and Tom seem to have the perfect life in upstate New York. This illusion is shattered one day when Tom returns home to find Karen and her car gone, leaving her purse and, by extension, her ID and phone behind. The cops show up later with Karen in tow, who has no memory of why she left or the car accident she was in, much to the cops suspicion. As Karen tries to get back into the routine of her life, she begins to feel like she’s not in her house alone. Especially when she notices things getting moved from where she last left them. With that, the cops continuing to question her, and wondering if there is someone in her house who is determined that she not remember, even if means killing her, when Karen ever be able to recover those lost memories?
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After a concerning letter from her cousin is sent to her father, Noemí is tasked with going to find out what is wrong with her. This leads her to the High Place, the eerie ancestral home of the family that Catalina married into. There she founds that the family’s wealth has been vastly over-exaggerated and that they appear to be using Catalina in more ways than just monetarily. It also appears that they have plans to make Noemí part of their family as well, whether she wants it or not.
New England White by Stephen L. Carter
University president Lemaster and his wife Julia are driving home one icy night when they suddenly slide off the road. When they get out at the site of their near accident and inspect the area, they are shocked to find the body of one of Julia’s past lovers. As she works to solve the mystery of who could have killed him, she begins to see the cracks in the polished veneer of the university town that threaten to shatter entirely as all kinds of secrets begin to be revealed.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
When housekeeper Frannie is accused of the double murder of her employers and, as a Black woman in 1800s England, is quickly taken into custody. Even though she was found covered in their blood, she professes her innocence and through her confessions, tells the story of her life. A story that took her from a Jamaican plantation to England, where she found herself entangled in passionate relationship with the woman she is on trial for killing.
Hopefully you find a new thriller to pick up and help keep you on the edge of your seat. Be sure to let us know over on social media if you’ve read any of these. You can also tell us about any of your favorites that were left off. Until our path cross again, happy reading!