7 Dark Thrillers About Friendships Gone Wrong
Leah Konen recommends books that center women’s complicated relationships with each other
I braved the dating scene for nearly five years in New York, but it was a friend breakup that hurt me the most during those tumultuous early-20s. It felt so sudden, so cataclysmic, so altogether unexplainable. I found myself wanting so badly a chance to have another conversation—to get some sort of closure. A years-long friendship was over in a flash over what felt at the time like a big miscommunication. It all blew up over email on a Tuesday morning, and I found myself in my boss’s office, failing to hold back tears, before I could even step out for lunch. The end of my romantic entanglements were relatively tame and healthy in comparison.
When I set out to write my first thriller, All the Broken People, I knew I wanted to center the intricacies and intimacies of female friendship. The book follows Lucy, a Brooklyn woman who flees to the country and gets more than she bargained for when she helps her new best friend, Vera, fake her husband’s death. The blossoming codependent friendship between the two women has all the tension, intrigue and betrayal of a complex love affair—and the circle of women and friendships that surround them add plenty of interconnected drama to the mix. Kirkus even highlighted many of the friend-to-frenemy imbroglios, noting the “webs that slowly contract, strangling characters in the threads.”
Here are a few of my favorite thrillers about friendships gone wrong:
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
It’s your classic girl meets boy but the boy is her boss and his wife is about to become her new best friend story. Though the love triangle is firmly set-up between single-mom Louise, her boss David, and David’s beautiful wife Adele, the true sparks and tension come through in the battle of wits between these two unlikely friends. Add an ending that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read in a suspense novel, and you’ve got a manically modern and inventive read.
The Herd by Andrea Bartz
Two sisters. Four college friends. One elite women’s coworking space. One dead body. What could possibly go wrong? Andrea Bartz’s follow-up to The Lost Night is rife with the complexities of female friendship—she expertly turns up the tension with long-hidden secrets, jealousies, blackmail, and betrayal.
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
Everything changes for scrappy, barely-scraping by Louise when the wealthy, enigmatic Lavinia hires her as an SAT tutor for her younger sister. A one-off job quickly morphs into a wildly toxic and codependent friendship—and obsession—that opens doors, both financial and literary, for the increasingly manipulative and dangerous Louise. It’s a lavish New York City novel that ushers in a new brand of millennial-centric noir.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
This classic closed-door murder mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Ruth Ware follows a group of 30-something Oxford alums on a snowed-in New Year’s getaway at a rugged estate in the Scottish Highlands. When one of them turns up dead, tensions rise as these friends are forced to come to terms with decades of secrets and betrayals, from adultery to stalking. The drama between the self-absorbed and manipulative Miranda and her reserved best friend Katie is particularly juicy.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
A corporate retreat in remote bushland goes awry when one of five women turns up missing on a days-long hike. Detective Aaron Falk is on the case, as the missing woman is a whistleblower set to help him take down her corrupt company. As this slow-burn mystery unfolds, we get a look into the complicated friendships, secrets, and duplicities that keep tensions simmering among this quintet of women.
The First Mistake by Sandie Jones
When Alice, the brains behind a successful interior design firm, suspects her husband, Nathan, of cheating on her, she turns to her best friend, Beth, for solace and comfort—but while her husband has plenty of secrets of his own, Alice will soon discover her confidante does, too.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
In Lisa Jewell’s compelling domestic suspense, 25-year-old Libby inherits a multi-million dollar estate in London’s tony Chelsea neighborhood. The catch? 25 years ago, the police were called to the house with reports of a baby crying. Downstairs, three people were dead and the four other children were gone. Though family drama dominates this who- and whydunnit, the catalyst is a toxic friendship that manages to tear apart a family from within.