7 Thrillers About Female Ambition
Andrea Bartz, author of "The Herd," on the most fantastically ruthless women in suspense
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Thriller plotlines with a female protagonist often revolve around a child or primary romantic relationship (it’s right there in the subgenre’s name: domestic noir). And while I, too, love reading about the sweet-seeming husband you don’t know as well as you think, the marriage that seems just a little too perfect, or the infant snatched from a cradle at night, my own life doesn’t revolve around that kind of drama—and the same is true of my books.
In my novel The Herd, Eleanor, the glamorous founder of an exclusive, all-female co-working space, goes missing the night of a glitzy news conference; to find her, her closest friends must risk their careers, their friendships, and maybe even their lives. Eleanor’s crew—pragmatic, competent Hana, blunt, quick-witted Katie, and artsy, bohemian Mikki—has ambition in spades, but the women have wildly different approaches to getting ahead..and deep, dark secrets they’re eager to hide as they work to bring the truth to light.
In an airy, light-filled workspace devoted to successful career women, these superstars (please, don’t call them ladybosses, HBICs, or fempreneurs) come face-to-face with the dark side of the societal pressure to Have It All—and learn what really happens when women’s “perfect” facades begin to crumble. These seven thrillers explore how far women will go to succeed in a culture that tries like hell to hold them back… and not one of their heroines needs a man to make her mark.
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
In high school, ambition brought best friends Kit and Diane together: They were both overachievers, excelling at everything and competing over a renowned chemistry scholarship. Now, Kit is at the top of her game as a chemist, and after years of hard work and unimaginable sacrifice, she’s finally on the brink of achieving everything she’s ever wanted. She won’t let anything stop her. Or anyone—not even Diane, the one person from her past who knows what Kit is really capable of…
Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak
After years of living in her best friend Stella’s shadow, Violet is finally in the spotlight, working her way up from intern to assistant producer at a fast-paced cable news show. Envious of Violet’s success, Stella reappears and charms her way into a job at the same network: in front of the camera, as the face of Violet’s stories. But Violet doesn’t shrink; instead, she rises to the challenge and kicks off a dangerous game in which the only path to success just might be destroying the other woman.
Temper by Layne Fargo
Chicago actress Kira Rasher believes working under a volatile director is a small price to pay in exchange for the role of a lifetime. Theater co-founder Joanna Cuyler, however, sees Kira as a threat to be removed at any cost. As opening day approaches, the pursuit of power brings each woman’s dark side to centerstage.
The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Journalist Marina Tourneau is about to be married—but she doesn’t let that stop her from taking on a dangerous new assignment when her mentor dies. Her investigation takes her inside the lives of the financial world’s most powerful figures… including a few villains too close for comfort.
She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop
Laila Lawrence’s new life begins when her parents’ lives end. At her mother’s funeral, the 23-year-old orphan meets three cousins from her father’s wealthy, long-estranged family. After learning why her parents were cut off from their relatives’ fortune, Laila becomes determined to reclaim what she sees as rightfully hers—even if it means inciting scandal.
The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora
Films are Abby Graven’s escape from a solitary life as a supermarket cashier in Michigan; she aspires to a life like that of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet. Those dreams feel closer than ever when Elise returns for their high school reunion and invites Abby to Los Angeles. In California, however, Abby begins to see that Elise’s professional success cloaks personal isolation—a realization that doesn’t stop Abby from fighting for the fame she desperately desires.
The New Girl by Harriet Walker
Plucky freelance journalist Maggie jumps at the chance to fill in for Margot Jones, Haute Magazine’s stylish fashion editor, who’s away for a year-long maternity leave. But when an online troll threatens to expose Margot’s secrets and ruin her reputation, the new mother begins to view her ambitious replacement as less of a helping hand and more of a hidden threat.