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5 Domestic Thrillers: Terror at Home

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The characters in “you can’t go home again” novels discover that going back home can often be a mistake because the secrets, lies, and betrayals they had hoped to leave behind are still there waiting to suck them back in. 

The characters in domestic thrillers often share backgrounds similar to their counterparts in “you can’t go home again” novels. But instead of venturing back home, they have tried to construct a fortress in a different home to protect their families by shutting out past events. 

But even characters who don’t have significant pasts to hide discover that, no matter how hard they try, they can’t always protect those they love from trouble, because sometimes trouble enters the seeming stability of home through the front door (or the back door, or a window. . .).

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Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Jackson, Joshilyn. Never Have I Ever  
Harper Audio, 2019  
Narrated by Joshilyn Jackson  
ISBN 9780062933546

Recommended

cover: Never Have I Ever

This is the novel that prompted me to make this list. It’s the story of Amy Whey, who has built the perfect life: a loving husband, a burbling baby boy, a young teenage stepdaughter with whom she shares a loving relationship, a best friend named Charlotte, and a close-knit neighborhood social network. 

Then one night, just as the monthly book group gathering is about to start, Amy’s doorbell rings. A sultry, fashionably dressed woman offers wine and asks to join the book group. She’s just moved into the empty house on the cul-de-sac, she explains. Her name is Angelica Roux: “Just call me Roux.”

Roux makes sure all the wine glasses stay full and engages the group in “never have I ever,” a party game that involves the spilling of secrets. Everyone else sees the drunken game as harmless fun—except for Amy. She realizes that Roux’s questions are aimed at her. When the two women are alone together, Roux warns that if Amy doesn’t give her what she wants, Roux will make her pay. 

Who exactly is this woman, and what soes she know? More importan, what’s her endgame?

When Roux’s teenage son, driving a red sports car, begins to hit on Amy’s stepdaughter, Amy comes to rue the day she opened her front door to this intruder. For, Amy realizes, Roux’s threats apply not only to herself, but also to those she loves—her family, her friends, the entire life she’s built for herself. The only way to protect it all is to beat Roux at her own dangerous game of digging up past secrets and answering threats with even bigger counter-threats.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


The Wife by Alafair Burke

Burke, Alafair. The Wife   
HarperAudio, 2018  
Narrated by Xe Sands

Recommended

cover: The Wife

Angela met Jason Powell while catering a party in East Hampton. She assumed their romance would be just a summer fling, like most other affairs between locals and the wealthy summer visitors. But the relationship blossomed, and they were married a year later.

The marriage to Jason, a well-known economics professor at NYU, allowed Angela a new start. She and her son moved to Manhattan, and the three of them built a happy life together. But six years later, Jason’s best-selling book brings them media attention. When a college intern accuses Jason of inappropriate behavior, another woman, Kerry Lynch, steps up with her own allegation. Jason insists he’s innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry Lynch disappears, Angela must rethink her position. 

But this is not just a case of a woman having to decide whether to stand by her man, because Angela has her own reasons for needing to avoid the spotlight. The strength of this novel lies in the way Angela weighs her moral options as her situation changes.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

Kubica, Mary. Every Last Lie  
Harlequin Audio, © 2017

cover: Every Last Lie

Clara Solberg, holding her four-day-old infant in her arms when she answers the door bell, can’t believe what the police are telling her: her husband, Nick, has been killed in a car crash, though their four-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat, is unhurt.

As Clara faces the first few days of a life without Nick, paranoia threatens to overwhelm her. She can’t believe the investigators’ conclusion that Nick simply took a dangerous curve too fast. Another car must have been chasing Nick. Who? And why? There must be some explanation for what happened. Random accidents don’t simply happen and shatter one’s world, do they?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Finn, A.J. The Woman in the Window  
HarperCollins Audio, 2018  
Narrated by Ann Marie Lee  
ISBN 9780062678430

cover: The Woman in the Window

Anna Fox is a child psychologist recovering from a personal trauma. She drinks heavily and suffers from agoraphobia so crippling that she can’t even step outside her front door. One day she looks out her window and sees a confrontation taking place in the window across the courtyard. When the teenaged boy who lives in that house visits her to bring a gift, she begins to sympathize with him.

So she begins to monitor what goes on inside the house across the way. As long as she stays inside her own house, nothing can harm her. Right?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Jewell, Lisa. Then She Was Gone  
Dreamscape Media, 2018  
Narrated by Helen Duff  
ISBN 9781520098289

Every book I’ve written has been about family, in one form or another. . . . family forms the skeleton of every story I want to tell. And the backbone of every family is, as we all know, the mother.

Lisa Jewell
cover: Then She Was Gone

In this novel Lisa Jewell puts her own spin on the standard missing child trope. Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together 10 years after the disappearance of her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie. In those 10 years Laurel and her husband have divorced and Laurel has grown distant from her other daughter.

What Jewell does so well is flesh out the characters so that readers become engaged in their lives. Jewell is also adept at creating plot points that go beyond the standard bare-bones formulas to produce surprising but credible events. It’s impossible to say much more about this novel without spoiling it, so sit back and appreciate how Lisa Jewell pulls off this domestic thriller. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown