In These Thrillers, “Best Friends” Are the Biggest Threat
There’s a reason domestic thrillers are perennially popular: fearing the person sleeping next to you every night, realizing too late that the call is coming from inside the house, is enough to send chills up anyone’s spine.
But to me, the idea that your closest friends might be the real threat is easily as terrifying as a villainous partner. Friendships can be just as important as romantic relationships, forming a trusted support network and shaping your core identity. If you’re wrong to trust your friends… what else might you be wrong about?
In my new thriller, Scenes of the Crime, a group of former friends reconvene at the luxurious winery where Vanessa—their college queen bee—disappeared 15 years ago. While their relationships have changed significantly, the toxicity that was always baked into the group’s dynamic is still going strong.
In some of my favorite recent thrillers, “best friend” feels less like a safe space and more like a threat. With friends like these, well… you’d better watch your back.
Dirty Laundry – Disha Bose
In her small Irish village, Ciara Dunphy’s wealth, looks, and substantial online following turn her every pronouncement into parenting gospel for the mum clique she reigns over. But beneath the polished surface, Ciara’s pristine life is very, very messy.
Ciara takes Mishti Guha under her wing, enjoying the cachet Mishti’s “difference” gives her, while readily taking advantage of the unequal power dynamic between them—as a recent transplant struggling in her arranged marriage, Mishti’s only too grateful for the lifeline Ciara offers. But when Mishti befriends Ciara’s rival Lauren—whose crunchy, disheveled family life feels like an affront to everything Ciara embodies—Ciara’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble. And when Ciara turns up dead in her family home, the question isn’t “how could this have happened?” but “which of the many people she’s tormented finally snapped?”
A razor-sharp exploration of toxic female friendship and the bloodsport of modern parenting, this stay-up-all-night-to-finish-it book had me guessing until the last page.
We Were Never Here – Andrea Bartz
You would think killing a man together would be a major “AHA!” moment in a friendship, that inflection point where you realize “hey… maybe we’re not such a dynamic duo…”
And for Emily it is… the second time it happens.
We Were Never Here is a mesmerizing book that delves deep into the dark underbelly of female friendship, forcing readers to question where the line is between love and control, and between support and complicity. The allure of the friendship between Kristen and Emily is palpable, but the danger they pose to each other (and anyone who dares to get too close) is just as potent. I was left questioning who and what I could trust at every turn. No spoilers, but the final twist was delicious.
You’re Invited – Amanda Jayatissa
When you learn that your glamorous childhood best friend is hosting a lavish wedding in your mutual hometown in Sri Lanka, there’s really only one thing you can do: fly halfway around the world to try to stop the marriage from happening.
At least that’s Amaya’s plan; things quickly spin out of control once she arrives in Colombo, intent on keeping her friend Kaavi from walking down the aisle with her ex, Spencer. From that delightfully messy start, things only get more complicated. No one seems to have actually invited Amaya, for one thing. When the bride goes missing on her wedding day, Kaavi’s presumed-jealous ex-bestie is the prime suspect… but as this twisty narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that anyone could be behind the disappearance.
With a fabulously luxurious setting, class tension, an insightful exploration of the cultural tug-of-war between Sri Lankan tradition and modern western life, and a huge dose of the quicksilver ‘reality’ that appears on social media, this book is both thoughtful and bingeable.
Counterfeit – Kirstin Chen
I’m a complete sucker for “they’re not who you think they are” stories, and this cleverly constructed novel takes that concept to the next level. Not only are the friends at its center waging a zero-sum battle to determine which of them will walk away from the crimes they committed together, those crimes—producing and selling near-perfect counterfeits of luxury handbags—are a sly wink at the question of who, and what, you can trust.
As much as I loved the gleeful heist that drove this book, the complicated friendship between Ava and Winnie (and its criminal consequences) was what stuck with me. Leveraging the stereotypes people assume about them for their own gain—in particular the idea of the “model minority”—Ava and Winnie bring out the worst in each other (at least legally speaking) in the best possible way.
Am I Being Unreasonable?
As a writer who draws as much inspiration from the world of film and TV as from books (see: the screenplay sections in my latest novel), I had to include at least one binge-watch option. And frankly, if I had to pick just one television show to recommend this year, this would be it.
An intensely dark comedy out of Britain, Am I Being Unreasonable doesn’t limit itself to just one brand of toxic relationship; it’s a practical buffet of brokenness. Affairs, obsession, lies, and indifferent parenting form the warp and weft of this tightly plotted dramedy, and each of its six episodes left me gasping… and completely rethinking what I “knew” about the characters and how they all related to one another.
While the show packs an astounding amount of relationship drama into every episode, the eye of the gleefully dark shitstorm is the friendship between Nic and Jen. As their lives spin out of control, their bond only grows stronger… which should leave the people around them very, very worried.