Thrillers and Darker Reads

'cause this is thriller, thriller night...and we've got some chilling BDS reads for those of you want to indulge your more sinister side. From an intriguing mystery set on the West Coast of New Zealand to a menacing read about a wife held captive on a remote farm in the UK, it's 'reader beware' before dabbling in this list of dark, but gripping reads.


The Push

Ashley Audrain
Fiction, 2021

A twisty psychological thriller/character study, The Push is a story told from the point of view of first-time mother, Blythe, who is struggling to connect with her newborn daughter. Blythe herself didn't have the rosiest childhood, so maybe that's why she feels this way? Or is there something seriously wrong with her daughter? 

An immersive and compulsive novel, The Push will keep you turning pages even as your discomfort grows — and with themes of motherhood, neglect, relationships and intergenerational inheritance your book group will have plenty to discuss!

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The Tally Stick

Carl Nixon
NZ Fiction, 2020

An "urgent and evocative" read, The Tally Stick is described by BDS reviewers as "extremely chilling with very harrowing undercurrents". No wonder, with a premise that involves the discovery of a child's remains which show evidence that he lived for four years after he and his family first disappeared. And what of the tally stick discovered alongside the boy, indicating that he owed a debt? Difficult to put down and with lots to discuss, this is a great pick for clubs who would enjoy a gripping NZ mystery.

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The Last Thing to Burn

Will Dean
Fiction, 2020

A claustrophobic thriller about a woman held captive by her 'husband' on an isolated farm in the UK. BDS reviewers warn that it's "not for the squeamish" or "those who have suffered abuse", but also note this story "although dark and hard to read at times, is gripping — a real page-turner." Will the woman escape her menacing captor? You'll have to add it to your book list to find out!

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With No One as Witness

Elizabeth George
Fiction, 2005

Scotland Yard is on the defensive, scrambling to apprehend a serial killer, while avoiding accusations of racism after the fourth (but first white) victim is discovered. This is a long read (over 600 pages) but groups "appreciated the twists and turns" and found the insight into the criminal psycopath's mind interesting. This horrifying and heartbreaking detective novel is also part of a larger series...if you want more, that is.

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In the Clearing

J P Pomare
NZ Fiction, 2019

A psychological thriller from NZ author JP Pomare, In the Clearing is a compulsive read about a cult in the Victorian bushland. Combining narratives and characters from past and present, readers will be kept guessing until the very end. BDS reviewers note that "while it is dark and at times disturbing, there is hope for the heroine". Echoing many aspects of real-life Australian cult, The Family,  this story lingers unsettlingly in the mind all the more for its similarity to actual events.

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The Night Swim

Megan Goldin
Fiction, 2020

Heavy with emotions and disturbing content, but also with an important message for society, this contemporary mystery-plus-legal-thriller follows a true-crime podcaster as she unearths secrets in a small town at the centre of a rape trial. BDS reviewers called it "intriguing and informative" and "hard to put down" but due to its subject matter of rape and murder it's "not for the faint of heart."

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Picnic at Hanging Rock

Joan Lindsay
Fiction, 1967

An eerie, atmospheric read that starts with the disappearance of three boarding school girls and their teacher while on a picnic, but then turns its focus to the unwravelling of the characters left behind. Set in 1900 against an expertly described Australian landscape, the environment itself joins a varied cast of characters. But who is really to blame for the women's disappearance?

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