9 Intense Mysteries and Thrillers That Explore The Dark Side of Human Nature

Not all mysteries are light and cozy. Some delve into the darkest corners of the human psyche. The nine books listed here feature twisted criminals who are motivated by more than just greed or rage, victims struggling to survive, and brilliant minds working to crack the case before the culprit can strike again. If you love the excitement of a twisted crime story, one of these novels deserves a place on your shelf. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Dark Mystery & Thriller Books: Our 9 Picks

Title Author
1. Shattered Angel Carrie Beckort
2. The Liar's Girl Catherine Ryan Howard
3. The 7th Victim Alan Jacobson
4. Jar of Hearts Jennifer Hillier
5. The Mentor Lee Matthew Goldberg
6. The Advocate's Homicides Teresa Burrell
7. One Last Lie Rob Kaufman
8. The Measure of the Moon Lisa Preston
9. Scared to Death Rachel Amphlett

The History of the Mystery Genre

Some of the world's oldest known stories used the same elements that make modern mysteries so enticing. Homer's famous epic poem The Odyssey is something of a prototype of the genre. The hero's life is in constant danger as he uses his cunning to solve problems and overcome his enemies. But the genre isn't exclusive to Western culture. One of the stories in One Thousand and One Nights (commonly known as Arabian Nights) is considered to be the oldest known murder mystery. This tale, The Three Apples, is full of plot twists and revolves around a mysterious death. Centuries later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle popularized the genre with his stories about the now-famous Sherlock Holmes. Eventually, of course, mystery made its way from the pages of books to the big screen. Some of the most well-known of these movies were directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who worked on several classics throughout his career, including Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window.

What Is a Mystery?

In Depth

Many old-fashioned mysteries and suspense novels revolve around killers who are opportunists, committing murder for financial gain or to cover up an indiscretion. The titles on our list go a bit further, haunting readers with tales of truly twisted and frightening individuals. With that said, here, in no particular order, are nine intense mysteries and thrillers that explore the dark side of human nature.

First up, at #1, we have Carrie Beckort's "Shattered Angel." When she was a child, Angel's mother sold her to a man who spent the next few years grooming her to become a prostitute. Now, after over a decade of torture, she manages to escape with the help of her captor's son. Unfortunately, her freedom is short-lived, and she's given a choice: a lifetime of slavery, or death.

Next, at #2, is "The Liar's Girl" by Catherine Ryan Howard. During her first year at St. John's College, Alison Smith falls in love with a boy named Will Hurley. When her best friend is murdered by the notorious Canal Killer, her boyfriend turns himself in and is sentenced to life in the city's Central Psychiatric Hospital. Ten years later, another woman is found dead in what appears to be a copycat killing, and when detectives enlist the help of Will, he says that he has useful information that he's only willing to share with Alison.

When her best friend is murdered by the notorious Canal Killer, her boyfriend turns himself in and is sentenced to life in the city's Central Psychiatric Hospital.

At #3 is Alan Jacobson's "The 7th Victim." With the Dead Eyes Killer terrorizing Virginia and taunting the local authorities, FBI profiler Karen Vail is determined to bring him to justice. As she struggles to deal with her failing marriage, shocking revelations link her with the killer and threaten to ruin her entire career. Will Karen be able to uncover the murderer's identity, or will he get to her first?

Next up, at #4, we have "Jar of Hearts" by Jennifer Hillier. Sixteen-year-old high school student Angela Wong disappears one night without a trace. Fourteen years later, her body is found, and her best friend Georgina Shaw is imprisoned for helping cover up the murder, which was carried out by a man named Calvin James. After serving her sentence, Georgina is surprised to learn that more women are being killed in the same manner as Angela Wong, leading her to believe that someone's trying to send her a message.

Next, at #5, is "The Mentor" by Lee Matthew Goldberg. When Kyle Broder, an editor at a major publishing house, learns that his old college professor, William Lansing, is writing a novel, he agrees to help his former mentor and look over his work. He soon finds out that William's book oddly resembles a cold case from his college town, making him wonder if it's a confession disguised as a fictional story.

He soon finds out that William's book oddly resembles a cold case from his college town, making him wonder if it's a confession disguised as a fictional story.

At #6 is Teresa Burrell's "The Advocate's Homicides," the eighth entry of her "Advocate" series. When attorney Sabre Brown is called to defend a fourteen-year-old who's accused of murdering his abuser, she loses the case because of the mountain of evidence against her client. Three years later, two more abused juveniles are accused of the same crime. Convinced of their innocence, Sabre must find the real killer before more boys are wrongfully imprisoned.

Next up, at #7, we have "One Last Lie" by Rob Kaufman. With her biological clock ticking, Angela offers to help her college friend Philip and his partner Jonathan have a child through artificial insemination. After the overly trusting couple accepts her offer, they slowly realize that she has dark ulterior motives, and with Angela now pregnant, they must figure out what she's really after before she ruins their lives forever.

At #8 is "The Measure of the Moon" by Lisa Preston. After falling off his horse in the Washington wilderness, young Greer Donner witnesses a man beating a woman. When he steps in to stop the assault, the man threatens to kill him and his family if he tells anyone about this encounter. As the boy struggles to cope with traumatizing thoughts of death, a photographer named Gillian discovers an old photo from World War II that harbors secrets that will lead her to the Donner family, which rekindles memories of her troubled childhood.

As the boy struggles to cope with traumatizing thoughts of death, a photographer named Gillian discovers an old photo from World War II that harbors secrets that will lead her to the Donner family, which rekindles memories of her troubled childhood.

Finally, at #9, we have Rachel Amphlett's "Scared to Death," the first entry of her "Detective Kay Hunter" series. After the authorities find the body of a missing teenage girl in an abandoned building, they conclude that her death was the result of a kidnapping gone wrong. Unconvinced by this theory, Detective Hunter digs deeper into the case and realizes that a deadly serial killer is on the loose. Now, she rushes to unravel the killer's identity before he can strike again.